Destination Milford Sound on the western side of the South Island of NZ, referred to as the eighth wonder of the world by Rudyard Kipling.
Depending on your propensity to pause for pleasure, it is a four to five hour drive from Queenstown. Lush, rolling green meadows enchanted us for the first half of the drive, endless sheep and… deer….yes, it turns out there are also a number of deer that have been domestically raised for years in NZ. Our first scenic stop was Mirror Lake, where we quietly strolled along the wooden ramps to a peaceful deck abutting the shore of a beautiful tranquil pond that reflects the majestic mountains nearby.
You can’t help but enter a peaceful meditative state in this quiet sanctuary, even though it abuts the main thoroughfare. The roads meanders to a several hundred-meter rough-carved single lane tunnel, after which we emerged into a breath-taking 360 panorama. We attempted to photographically document this place, surrounded by mountains of colorful granite and a plethora of waterfalls; however, it was difficult to capture entirely.
Milford Sound Lodge is as you would expect. Situated at the base of the mountains, nestled among the woods and adjacent to a river, the view was simultaneously cozy and wondrous.
Comfy couches offered a moment of relaxation and some board games before we retraced our path to linger in the beauty we passed too quickly on the drive. Upon arrival to the tunnel entrance, a stream, very active from mountain rain runoff, beckoned, providing rushing water so intriguing we recorded several minutes for future meditations.
Back to the lodge, we checked in to our communal room, with ten beds and guests. After a respectable lodge dinner from a limited menu, including some quaff-able NZ beer and wine, a night walk was offered by the friendly lodge guides. Intermittent bare vertical paths are on the mountainside, void of any vegetation were explained. The surrounding granite mountains are inhabited by various species, primarily beech trees. It takes several years for just five centimeters of moss to accumulate, which amazingly provides an adequate base for beech trees. However, when one tree loses its foundation and topples, it can cause a tree avalanche, resulting in a cannon-like explosion as it gathers momentum and collects more trees in its path.
Heavy rainfall came in the dark of night. An uncommonly bright day greeted us; this area is the wettest inhabited area in NZ and one of the wettest in the entire world! Ten inches of rainfall can come down in a single day.
After a refreshing night’s sleep, we enjoyed yoga and meditation amidst the surrounding waterfalls before the lodge began to stir. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast of spinach omelets and a couple of flat whites and we went outside and collected a few granite souvenir stones from the car park before heading down to the boat dock.
Storms were predicted, but we were quite lucky and had frequent bursts of sunshine. The wettest we got was from intentional forays our boat captain made directly underneath several waterfalls. He was gracious enough to pass out rain jackets so we could enjoy the hydro massage without having to wring out our shirts. Upper and lower decks offered numerous views of thundering waterfalls, thanks to earlier heavy rains, as well as many seals enjoying the sunshine on the surrounding rocks.
Milford Sound is natural and pristine in all of its grandeur; we relish pristine, preserved environments and are thankful that such magnificence remains untouched. Ironically, Milford Sound is not actually not a sound; it is an ocean inlet- a fiord. This entire area is called Fiordland, due to the abundance of fiords or fjords, which are long, narrow inlets with steep sides or cliffs, created by glacial erosion (thank you Wikipedia). Before our boat docked, we stopped to enjoy the Milford Discovery Centre & Underwater Observatory in Harrison’s Cove on the north side of the Fiord. The unique floating center allowed us to view the water at a depth of 10 meters; highlight included black coral, which is actually white!
Returning the way we came, we passed by Queenstown on our way to Lake Hayes where Douglas, Margie and dog Pringle (a shy Charpe) were our Air BnB hosts in their modest ranch home. We were provided a cute, private room (in a separate suite area) with a Queen bed and lovely big bathroom. A major storm visited during the night, taking trees down resulting in a loss of power. Able to heat water, Maggie was kind enough to make us a couple of individual French press coffees and we engaged in meaningful conversation about South Africa, their previous home, before journeyed on to Lake Wanaka.