Milford Sound

I’m not sure that my words and pictures are going to do Milford Sound justice. The magnitude and majesty of snow capped peaks above hanging glacial valleys that pour waterfalls into deep blue waters, is well, undescribable.

The shuttle bus picked me up from the hostel. True to form, it was raining, and I piled in, we picked up a couple more folks at various hostels and left town. It was the tour driver’s last day on the job, and he was in a great mood.

Most of the bus was filled with Japanese tourists who didn’t seem to speak any english, or if they did, they didn’t really respond to his questions and comments. “Quiet bunch; that’s the way it goes on some trips.” he said. I was riding shotgun; most of the trip we listened to Bob Marley, and chatted about life in New Zealand. I feel terrible that I didn’t write down his name, and I’ve forgotten it.

The driver was worried with the weather and low clouds that we wouldn’t be able to see much, but what could we do? The weather was going to be what it was going to be. We made a few stops to check out waterfalls, a reflecting pool, crystal clear streams of snow melt, and even a swimming hole,but given the rain and nip to the air, sticking my foot in was as close as anyone on the bus got to going for a dip. The rain occasionally slowed a bit, but view of anything taller than several hundred meters was obscured by clouds.

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We went through a tunnel, cut through the mountain, and found less rain on the other side. By the time we arrived in Milford Sound, the rain had stopped, and blue sky seemed to be approaching from the coast.

Milford Sound is actually a fjord, rather than a sound, but the name has just stuck, and no one seems interested in changing it.

Sound:
a narrow stretch of water forming an inlet or connecting two wider areas of water such as two seas, or a sea and a lake.

Fjord:
a long narrow deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs, as in Norway and Iceland, typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley.

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Valleys cut by glaciers hava a characteristic U-shape. The walls of the fjord dwarfed the tour boats that cruised out to sea and back. Earlier rain, and melting snows combined to create waterfalls that poured out of valleys and over cliffs down to sea level in thundering rumbles and crystal mists. Because the walls of the fjord which rose straight up out of the water continued almost vertically below the water, the boat could get within a few meters of the walls, drenshing us in the spray.

The boat moved along one wall of the fjord all the way out to the ocean, then returned following the opposite wall back to shore. My jaw was tired by the end of the day from dropping open so many times.

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The “small” boat that you see just to the right of the waterfall is roughly the size of a three or four story building.

We drove back through temperate rainforests, sheep pastures, lupine fields, and marshy farmland to Queenstown. My evening was spent playing pool at one of the local pubs. Just a heads up to fellow travelers: New Zealand rules, English rules and US rules are all different with regards to scratches / fouls.

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