Part Six: Not a Sound
On the Western coastline of the glorious Southlands there is an opening in a long stretch of high rock-faced cliffs. It was some time ago, and estimations do range significantly with embossed capillaries signalling passionate opinions, that a series of glaciers carved out their passage from deep inland that reached out to sea through a mysterious outlet in the cliffs. It was Captain Cook who was the 1st foreigner to descend on the waters around New Zealand. The opening in the cliffs is at such an angle that from the bow of his ship, in the Tasman Sea, he and his crew sailed straight past Milford Sound. He landed on Aotearoan shores further south, but missed the beauty that lay inside Milford Sound, undiscovered. It was actually John Grono from Newport, Wales, who first sailed up Milford Sound and reached the shores inland.
Standing on the jetty there was an anticipation in the air. It had been almost 10 months since we cemented Milford Sound into plan for our New Zealand experience. We had researched again and again, seen most of what Google had to offer and talked to friends who had also travelled down the Homer Tunnel and continued West to this very same boat terminal.
Wondering what New Zealand’s most visited attraction would have planned for us had formed the cornerstone of our thoughts. This was no cityscape, no buzzing metropolis filled with mini coffee shops and parks where people merrily relaxed in the sunshine. The next two hours would be akin to scenes from James Cameron’s latest pictures. Well maybe excluding the 12 foot tall blue inhabitants, but there is an essence of a place unlike any other, wholly unfamiliar territory. It was as if we were leaving our earthern shores and exploring far off lands, unseen by human eyes.
Our boat had expectant admirers, leaning on rails with SLRs and smartphones at the ready, indexes hovering over capture buttons and the first 200 metres were sublime. It was as though we stood before a large painting or a huge tapestry draped from the high ceilings of a stately home. We were seeing the big picture view before being transported into another world.
As we moved out of the small bay where the marine terminal hugged the shoreline, the fjord opened up in grandeur. An expanse of deep connected pools and high walls surrounding us on either side.
Suddenly, we couldn’t believe our eyes.
Rushing over the cliff top, a thousand gallons with each blink, the first waterfall made itself known. It was spectacular.
An Oscar winning movie will often open with special effects and an impressive opening sequence, Milford Sound offered up an Oscar winning performance in these first moments. Scenes that would be difficult to recreate with CGI. An impressive display of power and force as miles of accumulated streams join and empty their contents into the fjord basin.
As we journeyed further toward the Tasman Sea the mountains look as though they have ben wrenched out of the sea. No shoreline, pebble beach or gradient, just highrise apartments for winged inhabitants whilst the New Zealand Fur Seals are confined to ground floor living. It is an ancient cooperative.
There were more waterfalls and our guide informed us that during the winter months there would be countless more as the winter snow melts in the hills above Milford. The proof was displayed on the rock face, as patches of bare rock stuck out amongst a thick green covering. In June these bare patches would be roaring with the sound of water. If there were one fall to make special mention of, it would be Stirling Falls. Stirling is the tallest of the Milford Sound falls and upon very close inspection, you are presented with spray and fine rain as this giant fall ends it’s descent. Stirling leaps away from the cliff face, so much so that the boat we were on was piloted under the waterfall so that we could meet the fresh, cool water in person.
As we reached the edge of the fjordland, it was a 180 degree change of course before heading to the Milford Sound boat terminal. The Tasman Sea was relatively calm that day, but as the boat moved through its turning circle there were a few moments of swaying in rhythm with Tasman’s tide. The sharp intake of breath from city dwellers and land lovers was palpable (myself included), but suddenly the sequence was disrupted and we were our own masters again, no longer moving to the Sea’s tune.
The journey back to land was a fusion of awe at our surroundings and capturing the beauty and powerful nature that we had travelled these 6 hours enjoy.
The Sound at Milford has always been known as such, but we were informed that Milford is actually a Fjordland, much like the Fjords in Norway, Europe.
Our journey through this wonderland was inspiring. It was peaceful at times and frantic at others. It will always remain unforgettable. And when the waves settle, the admirers are sleeping and the boats are moored, Milford Sound is silent. There is nothing to be heard…not a Sound.