New Zealand is a land well known for its natural beauty and spectacular scenery, but one of its most iconic locations is Milford Sound. This top tourist destination is a stunning, mysterious and secluded fiord* on the south island of New Zealand, deep within Fiordland National Park.
I recently spent a few glorious days at Milford Sound where I embarked on an unbelievable adventure on the water with Rosco’s Milford Kayaks. This is a must-do if you’re lucky enough to live or wander in the land of the Kiwis. The Morning Glory trip requires you to get up at the butt-crack of dawn, but the payoff is huge — I’m talking wildlife galore. You’ll find yourself up against sheer rock faces with massive waterfalls. It’s seriously awesome.
While I was eating, drinking and shooting the shit with the kayaking guides, I met with Adam Collier, who works as Rosco’s skipper by day and as a cook and beer brewing master by night. Collier empowers and uplifts his fellow instructors, friends and acquaintances, and, as an outdoorsman, he has a tremendous amount of respect for his surroundings and nature. He’s also a complete oddball, which is why I like him.
Collier has a love for the ocean that stems from his upbringing. He grew up in the quaint coastal town of Whitianga on the North Island of New Zealand, where his parents owned a diving and fishing store. Collier would go crate fishing and catch lobster with his lobsterman uncle, and his grandfather’s charter boat business took people out fishing and diving every year. “Every weekend we would be out on the water,” Collier recalls.
“I’ve got salt water running through the veins. I’ve got web toes and gills behind my ears because of that [and] I always need to live next to the ocean.”
After high school, Collier decided on a change of scenery and moved with his brother to Long Island alongside the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. He was soon working at the Long Island Resort where his cooking skills were tested and perfected. “I had to cook for 18 staff members every night,” he says. “For months working [at the resort] the chefs taught me how to cook, and I come from a very large family as well so I have a bit of experience there.” Later, as an Auckland University of Technology (AUT) grad, Collier worked as a laundry attendant to make some extra money. “I sold my soul working there for about three months,” he laments, “then I looked for something to revitalize the soul, and that was in Milford.” As Collier applied for sea tourism jobs, he was quickly offered a position at Rosco’s Milford Kayaks, and he has worked two winters and five summers at Milford Sound over the course of 4½ years.
Collier perfected his cooking expertise while residing at the Paddle Inn, where he feeds 14 kayaking guides and friends nightly in the peak summer season as well as all the random travelers that stop by. “I just enjoy it,” says Collier. “I just want people to be happy when they eat food [and to feel] that it tastes good and there’s enough to fill their bellies. That’s all it needs to be.”
It’s a challenge to find a spot for socializing in Milford because there are no major restaurants, pubs, liquor stores or supermarkets, so Collier picked up a new talent to ease the burden. “We learned to brew our own beer, which we found to be incredibly cheap, really easy and quite fun,” he says. “At a time we could brew up to 100 liters every two weeks, and we bottle it and keg it as well. We have a kegerator [with] seven different flavors, including lagers and ginger beers. I feel for my liver in 20 years time.”
Milford Sound is also known for its unpredictable weather, and Collier has experienced it all. “The weather changes everyday,” he says. “You can never predict it. We try our hardest but it will kick you in the ass if you don’t respect it. From up to 150-knot winds to lightning and thunder that vibrates your chest and so loud it sounds like an earthquake. Winters are spectacular [and] everything looks so much more dramatic with the snow on top the mountains, but in the summertime with the longer daylight hours you have much more time to enjoy the place. It doesn’t get dark till 10:30 p.m. so you can really go on more missions and adventures and embrace the wilderness even more.”
While nature is a great selling point, Collier’s favorite part of living in Milford is the camaraderie of his coworkers and friends and the constant turnaround of overnight travelers. “Apart from the wilderness itself, it’s the people and living here and having experiences together [that I enjoy],” he says. “You feed off new fresh eyes on the place. People are always reminding me of how fantastic it is to be here, and you suddenly are reminded that it really is [fantastic], which helps reignite the fire and love for Milford. Each season I come back and meet new people and get just as excited as the first time I came here, and it makes me love it even more so.”
If you’re heading to New Zealand to visit Milford Sound, an excursion with Rosco’s Milford Kayaks is not to be missed. And if your arms ever give out during your kayaking workout, there’s a good chance that Adam Collier will save you.
For more information on Rosco’s Milford Kayaks, visit: http://www.roscosmilfordkayaks.com
*fiord – a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs