The Rough Guide to New Zealand suggests that the best time to visit Milford Sound is during a rainstorm. I suppose this is a good attitude to have since it rains 180 days a year (sound familiar) delivering around 7 meters (273 inches) of rain annually. During a rain waterfalls pop up everywhere, whole sides of mountains become waterfalls and then the mist rises when the water hits the surface. We saw Milford Sound in the sun, right after a rainfall and saw the strangest phenomenon, disappearing, or perhaps I should say, evaporating waterfalls. They start at the top of a high mountain but never reach the bottom, at least as a discrete waterfall, the wind catches some of the spray and blows it away, some evaporates into mist. But there is a point where you are following the water down and within a few dozen feet the waterfall just stops – vanishes into thick air.
Milford Sound is the “crown jewel” of Fjordlands National Park. It is not the longest fjord but it is narrow and steep and worth the trip. This is a really a fjord and not a sound. You go in and out the same way. This is one sound not named by James Cook, it was John Grono who named it after Milford Haven in Wales. Of course Gono did not “discover” the sound, it was well known to Maori who named it Piopiotahi. They didn’t settle here but collected greenstone (a form of jade) in this bay.
This is the most accessible of the fjords in the park. You can reach it by road, through a small airport, along hiking track or, as we did, by ship. It has a town, Milford Sound Village, which has about 250 residents. There is also an underwater observatory to study coral. As a result there is more traffic in this fjord than the others. We share the sound with flight seeing planes, helicopters, small excursion boats, kyaks as well as another large cruise ship. One of my cruise mates remarked that this overcrowding war ruining Milford Sound. If the sound is overcrowded our two cruise ships are the biggest contributors.
This post is the last form New Zealand. Tomorrow morning we sail into Sydney Harbor for a new country and continent for both of us. I have been working to get my thoughts and some pictures edited, to “catch up” before we hit shore in Australia. I’m writing this blog more for me than for anyone else. So much happens so quickly that if I don’t process it, in other words write it down and attach some pictures, I will lose some of it in the swirl of travel. On my first big trip with my grandfather to Ireland at the age of 14 my mother gave me a diary. She told me to write every day. She repeated this for other trips I took. I resented this because I wanted to do and not write, and when I wasn’t doing I needed sleep. But I did write some minimal comments each day. I’m glad for it because those comments trigger memories, good memories, that I might have lost. I wish I had written more because so much is lost over the 57 years since I (barely) kept that first travel diary. I treasure what I did write.
Tomorrow we reach the 1/3 mark of our cruise around the world. We have transited 9 of the planet’s 24 time zones. We enjoyed our week in New Zealand more than we anticipated, and we anticipated a lot.