I have never been anywhere with as much diverse natural beauty as New Zealand, and the Fiordlands are an incredible facet of that beauty.
If you don’t really know where I’m talking about, Fiordland is the name for the southwestern region of New Zealand’s South Island. The two major fiords that make it up are called Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. When people plan a visit, they often encounter the eternal debate of which of the sounds is better. My feeling is that if it’s worth arguing over, they’re probably both pretty great.
Having visited each once, I can vouch for the truth in that.
I also feel that they are both awesome enough to warrant their own stories in their own posts. Since I visited Milford first, let’s start there.
It was October when my friends and I drove out to the Fiordlands from our college town of Dunedin. We had decided to take a boat tour of Milford Sound, and honestly the drive from the east side of the South Island (where Dunedin is) to the west is a pretty incredible experience in and of itself. Here’s the route, in case you’re curious:
It crosses plains and mountains, skirts a huge lake, and ends in a fiord. Granted, it’s also a 5 hour drive — so we would have started in the dark and driven through a lot of fog as the sun came up (in other words, it would have started like all of our drives around New Zealand). We stopped around the Te Anau area, at the beginning of the Fiordlands, to stretch our legs and get some photos.
This one looks a bit small, but just click the image to see it bigger:
As we got closer to Milford Sound, the benefits of visiting on a rainy day became increasingly clear. So many waterfalls crop up in the rain where you’d otherwise just see a wall of rock.
And you can’t beat those low-hanging clouds. I even like them in a blurry photo from a moving car 🙂
Milford Sound, or Piopiotahi in Maori, is the result of as much as a million years of glaciers growing and receding. Over the course of several ice ages, glaciers carved out valleys and swept up everything from small particles of sediment to giant boulders, depositing them later in their wake. Accumulations of this sediment, called moraines, have come to define a lot of what we see in glacier-formed areas like this.
I bring this up mostly because I love thinking about how beautiful areas like this came to be. Sort of like when you read a really great book and get so lost in the story that you see images play across your mind in place of the words your eyes are looking at on the page. Just imagine speeding through the last million years of geologic history for this area, the enormous formations of icy world-shapers that come and go and take massive portions of land with them in some places while leaving piles of debris in others. Imagine the changes that life here has undergone in the turmoil of that changing climate, that changing topography, and how all of these changes are happening right in this moment and will continue on forever. Possibly they will soon be continuing on underwater, but let’s not think about losing New Zealand to the ocean yet ok?
Out on our rainy day-cruise of the sound, it was a sopping wet mess of waterfall wonderland.
We were basically cruising through a giant bowl of mist and rain.
Funny thing is, my only memory of the boat itself is that they served pumpkin soup. And that it was delicious.