Have you ever had that feeling?
You know the one.
When you feel so miserable, you’re not even angry or upset.
You’re so miserable, you just feel sad.
That’s exactly how I felt in the middle of my kayaking tour in Milford Sound.
Located on New Zealand’s south island, the Milford Sound fiord is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful and popular tourist destinations.
Most tourists opt for a boat tour of this incredible place, but instead, I was sitting in a puddle of cold rainwater in a kayak, with the rain bucketing down around me.
I was freezing cold, miserable and my numb fingers struggled to grip my kayak paddle.
When I planned my first ever trip to New Zealand, I was excited to experience New Zealand’s incredible outdoors.
I never stopped to consider whether I would actually like said outdoor activities.
As a keen hiker, it turns out that yes, I would enjoy hiking in New Zealand.
But as someone who’s kayaked twice before – once in the Everglades National Park in Florida, where we kayaked only inches away from alligators, I thought “kayaking in Milford Sound? It’ll be a piece of cake”
It had the signs of an incredible holiday experience…
- 5-star reviews on trip advisor;
- A small, locally run tour company; and
- An “off the beaten path” type activity (most visitors to Milford Sound do not go kayaking)
What could go wrong, really?
Fast forward to the day of our Kayaking trip…
It rained all through the night, and continued the morning we arrived for our kayaking tour.
The rain continued as we changed into our warm thermals and waterproof gear.
And it continued as our tour guides instructed us on the best way to hold our paddles.
It still continued as we awkwardly climbed into our kayaks.
Turns out, when it rains in Milford Sound, it pours
What people don’t tell you before you go to Milford Sound is that it rains.
ALL THE TIME.
We’re not talking “oh there’s a lil’ bit of rain”.
We’re talking, bucket loads of rain, non-stop rain, is-the-world-about-to-end amounts of rain.
If you believe in a higher power, it’s like there’s somewhere up there… crying.
But just over Milford Sound.
For days on end.
It rains so much in Milford Sound that it rains an average of 182 days a year.
Yep, for nearly half the year it rains here. This makes Milford Sound the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand.
So when we got in our kayaks, there wasn’t really much hope.
There’s only so much waterproof gear and thermals can do when it’s non-stop raining.
The combination of rain and wind is a special kind of hell
I’m not going to lie, the combination of rain and wind is not exactly new to me.
After all, I’ve been hiking in the rain and wind.
But the difference is that when you’re hiking, you can move your entire body.
Therefore, your body is generating heat when you’re moving.
But in a kayak?
You can’t exactly move your legs.
So when my waterproof gear and thermals were dripping wet and I could barely grip my paddle?
Yep, you betcha, we were freezing.
Every time I tried to dip my paddle into the water, my muscles would freeze up.
But lastly? It turns out I’m not as fit as I thought I was
I exercise on a regular basis, I do weights at the gym.
(psst: gym visits are obviously paused for COVID-19)
So when I undertook kayaking in Milford Sound, I honestly had zero concerns about my athletic abilities.
Turns out being some-what active and the few times I’d been kayaking did not prepare me for this.
Remember the wind I mentioned previously?
It created little waves.
Whenever we’d paddle forwards the “little” waves would cancel our hard work.
So more often than not, we would go… a big fat NOWHERE.
But despite the misery that is the weather, my poor upper body strength and the need to be “towed” across the fjord by our tour guide...
I have zero regrets about going on this tour.
Despite my misery and freezing fingers, there were magical moments too.
We’d quickly kayak as close as we could to the waterfalls, squinting as the spray of the water hit our faces. The force of the waterfalls plummeting down stopped us from getting too close.
Mother nature was truly alive that day in Milford Sound.
And in a strange way, the rain was a blessing.
Normally, as a travel blogger, I’m snapping endless photos.
But the fear of drowning my DSLR in rainwater meant I was fully present in my misery and the glory of Milford Sound.
And when we had a brief 5-minute break from the rain?
So we saw a dolphin.
A freaking dolphin.
An actual dolphin.
Yes, I know I’ve written the word dolphin 3 times.
But we saw a DOLPHIN.
Even though our dolphin friend disappeared as quickly as he/she appeared, seeing a dolphin so close was so special that it topped all my complaints about being unable to feel my fingers.
It made sitting in a puddle of rainwater worth it.
It made being unable to feel my fingers and toes worth it.
It made my endless cursing when battling mini waves worth it.
There were moments where we felt the full force of Milford sound.
The horizontal rain, the choppy waters, the fog, and the waterfalls.
I won’t lie and say the experience was magical, but I guess in its own way it was.
The outdoors in New Zealand can be beautiful and brutal at the same time.
And while we didn’t capsize or have a disaster, we 100% felt Mother Nature in full force.
For those dolphins, I had zero regrets.
P.S. Are you dreaming of a trip to New Zealand? You can read more about my New Zealand adventures here, including tips for planning your own trip!