Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Milford Sound

The far southwest corner of New Zealand's South Island is known as fiordland. If you take a look at a road map of the island you'll see that this is the place where all roads come to an abrupt halt. From Queenstown we drove to Te Anau, a small little town that serves as a way-station for the fiordland. From where we could either move down to Manapouri and get a boat-bus combination to Doubtful Sound, or else drive up and slightly east to Milford where boats could take us directly out on the waters. We opted for Milford Sound - it was further away and would involve retracing our steps to move on, but it was much less expensive than getting to the more isolated Doubtful Sound.

We never regretted our choice, both the drive there and the 3 hour catamaran cruise around the sound were spectacular. During our week's ramble around these parts we were very lucky with the weather. It's well into Autumn here in the Southern hemisphere, and we've had a lot of rain or cloud cover in Christchurch. On the road we had almost unbroken sunshine. Even though Milford Sound is one of the wettest places on the planet (6.5 m of rain a year; one day in two it rains; a drought is 9 days without rain), the only time we got wet was when the skipper one of the waterfalls that lines the steep sides of the sound. Autumn sunshine brings another great advantage in this part of the world - a variety of leaf colours that are hard to imagine. Every hue possible between gold and deepest red presented itself sooner or later, often as part of a breathtaking natural composition set into the steep mountainsides.

The cruise brought us out to the edge of the sound, to the Tasman Sea. The last time we looked on this body of water it was from the other side - from Sydney. I feel nostalgic for that city more than any I've ever visited, so much so that even looking at the Tasman Sea was a boost. On cue, more than a dozen huge southern bottlenosed dolphins came alongside and in front of the catamaran and surfed on its bow waves. The wild dolphins we fed in Tangalooma seemed even more delicate and alien when compared to these robust creatures. But the same mutual curiousity defined the 10 minutes or so we spend in each other's company. These individuals turned on their sides to look up at us, and reacted enthusiastically when we waved back at them.
From Milford sound

We got back into the car and made a dash south to get to Invercargill in good time for dinner. We would use this town as a launchpad for the Catlins Coast - the southern drive that takes in fossiled forests, and a place called Cannibal bay - on our way to Dunedin. More on that tomorrow.

Duncan from Sydney join us tomorrow for a few days, bringing our number up to 6! Letizia and I realised that in our trip so far we four have never really been alone for long periods. In Sydney and Brisbane we had friends around us (in Brizzy it was more like being part of a big family with the Petts!). China was the place where we relying most on each other's company. We will return to that state when Giovanna leaves us in a few weeks, and things are likely to stay that way until near the end of our trip when we meet up hopefully with Letizia's mum in Peru. We will see, by and by, what kind of challenges that isolation might present.

No comments: