Saturday, November 09, 2013

Wednesday, 11/06/13 Fjordlands National Park, New Zealand

Wednesday, 11/06/13 Fjordlands National Park, New Zealand

Fjordlands National Park is an area of high mountains slashed by deep fjords carved by glaciers.  It stretches for 200 kilometers along the Southwestern coast of New Zealand and up to 42 kilometers inland, covering fully 5 percent of the total land area of New Zealand.  Rudyard Kipling once called this area the “eighth Wonder of the World“, and Fjordlands National Park was recognized as a World Heritage site in 1986.  Some of the fjords are wide enough for cruise ships, and more than 60 cruise ships navigate these fjords each year.  Although weather in the park often prevents entry, today was a beautiful, sunny day, making scenic viewing spectacular, despite very high winds at times.

The ship made three entries into the fjords, first at Milford Sound, where rainfall occurs more than 200 days each year -- but not today.  At the entrance, the winds were very high, and many passengers were not able to remain on the open decks; however, after the ship had fully entered the sound, the winds calmed, and viewing was spectacular.  The temperature was in the 50s, and the sky was clear with a few puffy, white clouds to add to the beauty.  The fjord is lined by high mountains and sheer cliffs, with Mitre Peak the highest at 1693 meters.  Many of the peaks were snow-capped.  A few waterfalls punctuated the high, green walls all along the fjord, although the waterfalls were mostly thin trails rather than full and gushing -- not at all as spectacular as those in the Norway fjords.  The ship entered Milford Sound at 10:30 a.m., sailed up to a turn-around place near the little town of Milford, and exited the fjord around 1:00 p.m.  Milford Sound is the location of a world famous hiking trail, the Milford Track, and numerous sightseeing boats also afford tourists the opportunity to view this fjord.  From the ship, passengers viewed numerous sightseeing boats and kayak excursions, as well as numerous sightseeing airplanes.

Sailing Southward, the ship entered the next fjord at Thompson Sound about 3:30 p.m., circled Secretary Island, and exited Doubtful Sound about 5:00 p.m.  These fjords were not as spectacular as Milford Sound, but still very beautiful.  Last, about 6:00 p.m. the ship entered Breaksea Sound, circled Resolution Island, and exited Dusky Sound about 7:30.  Again these fjords were not as spectacular as Milford Sound, but still very beautiful.  The winds through both of these sounds were much higher than in Milford Sound, sometimes making standing and walking very difficult.  The temperature also fell throughout the day.

My day was on deck from about 9:30 a.m. until the ship made its final exit about 7:30 p.m., although I did return to my cabin between fjords.  I spent the day going from side to side on the open decks, viewing spectacular scenes on both sides of the ship.  Because of the high winds, the day was very tiring.  It was a great day, and we were very fortunate to have excellent weather, even with the high winds.

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