I just spent almost an hour going through photos and wondering How exactly do I explain this?! I’m a writer, I should be able to find the words to properly describe the place, the feelings, the awe. What if I lost all the photographs – which aren’t even a half-way decent representation – and I have to? Then I just sat down and wrote.
I don’t know if my words will be good enough, but I’ll say this first: Milford Sounds (or, I’ve been told, even better, Doubtful Sound, if you have the time) is a must when you visit New Zealand. And also, go at dawn!
It’s overcast and still dark when we slide the kayaks into the water. The scrape of the plastic boats over the pebbly shore is loud and hissing in the morning stillness. We move quickly. We want to get going to warm up and, also, to get away from the swarms of sand flies that plague this area more than any other populated part of the South Island. Although “populated” is not exactly the right word. There isn’t constant population in Milford Sound, only seasonal workers, and most of them are not even New Zealanders. But even the Kiwis say that nobody could live in Milford Sound for too long. It’s too remote, to desolate, even if it is also a little too beautiful to be real.
Cliffs rise vertically from the bottom of the ocean, hundreds of metres into the sky above the fiord. Waterfalls plummet into the salty water with thunder and sheets of spray, making waves that toss up the little plastic kayaks, shooing them away. It’s powerful and loud, yet the sound seems to be devoured by the vast corridor between the cliffs, and it quickly fades as you paddle down towards the ocean.
At dawn, the smooth water surface is rippled only by the furry seals, who are still playful and curious about the clumsy tourists, who splash around with their oars. They swim and jump around the kayaks, some even wave with their flippers. Soon after the sun peeks into the cleft, left by the glacier, they’d be already sleepy and lazy after a night of fishing and playing. So when the day tourists come tearing through the fiord’s still waters with their big loud boats, the seals would only regard them with boredom from the sunny rocks, if at all.
We row and paddle and splash around and we marvel and we admire. We soak up the magnificence of nature in one of its most authentic forms.
You can’t tame this arm of ocean, reaching deep into the land, deeper than it should be able to. At best, you can ride it. You can swim in it and kayak, you can take pictures, draw and paint the scenery, but you can never capture it all. Believe me, I tried!
After about 13km, we reached the entrance of the fiord. Only then were we able to really rest and just enjoy the sun, waiting for a motor boat to pick us up and get us back to the land.
The way back was no less beautiful, even if it was a bit louder.
I didn’t want to overwhelm with words, and I hope the few I chose were good enough. What was left unsaid, I leave to the photos.