Saturday, 6 January 2007

Life changing in Milford Sound

Oh ... my ... god ...

Milford Sound is one of the top 5 places on earth to blow your mind. Have just come back from an overnight cruise around the sound and it was completely and utterly insanely beautiful and breathtaking. Essentially it's a fiord where the mountains drop right down into the sea. So imagine a mountain 1692 meters high, with a sheer cliff face that drops down into the sea continuing a further 600 meters down. Just incredible. Then throw in waterfalls cascading down the mountains all around and the fact there are sheer cliffs either side and you start to imagine the place.

Ship next to a waterfall in Milford Sound

Moss clings to the rocks feeding off the mountain springwater cascading down the shining volcanic rocky faces. The endless waterfalls cascade down like the hair of a beautiful girl flowing in the wind, bright flowers intersperse every shade of green that seems to dapple each spare piece of inhabitable rock ledge available. Towering high above, snow peaked mountains strain their heads upward above the mist into the brooding clouds as if fighting for the precious sunlight. The water is the deepest green, sinking down into unimaginable depths below.

The sea entrance to Milford Sound

The wind tosses and curls the tops of the waves as if beckoning the casual observer into the deep. Dolphins cruise alongside the boat, surfing its wake and tilting to one side to make eye contact with those on board before throwing themselves into the air in a variety of spins, splashes and somersaults and diving down to hunt for the shoals of fish that lurk and dart under the hull. Seals call from ancient black rocks thrown up by volcanoes 120 million years ago, honking their greeting and diving into the water with graceful abandon. Birds fly between the cliffs getting doused with the white mist of the waterfalls, crying out to each other in their search for a place to perch. All around on the less severe cliffs, a forest of trees consumes the mountains like a dense leafy fleece wrapping it's way around and providing habitat and cover to the wildlife as well as the cleanest, sweetest air to those who breathe it.

Waterfall in the sound

I took the option of taking a kayak around the cliffs and rocky bays, poking the nose of the canoe into the caves that yawn their black mouths to the sea. You can't land around the sound, it's a conservation area, but it's so amazing you don't really want to. I spent a few hours paddling around the shoreline and rock faces, then saw a disturbance in the water and went over to find a ball of bait fish being hunted by two seals, the small fish leaping from the surface to escape the silky black mammals.

It looked too good to resist - it was time to go for a swim. The cool water stung at first and then mellowed into a pleasant, bouyant clean feeling with the water not as salty due to the endless stream of fresh water cascading down. Of course I fucking shit myself later when the nature matey decided to tell us all that several species of sharks (including great whites and hammerheads) use the sound to clean themselves in because the fresh water from the mountains helps them remove parasites. Bastard. Was pleased that all of us on this part of the trip decided to swim though, very rewarding and kudos to the family Narg braving the monsters of the deep. In fact, aside from one young american lad, we were the only ones in the water!

We stayed on and had huge dinner on the boat, had a few drinks and then settled into our lovely cabins to sleep with the sounds of inquisitive seals poking their noses against the port holes. An early start saw breakfast followed by more touring of the fiord, each scenery, each waterfall as breathtaking as the last, including the boat coming to within a meter of the side of the rock and staying underneath a waterfall 3 times as high as the Niagra Falls! Really spectacular.

I can't emphasise enough how much I'd recommed visiting this ancient, majestic place. The cliffs, waterfalls, trees, flowers and animals will totally blow you away but having the chance to kayak and swim amongst the dolphins and seals will make it unforgettable.

Just majestic