This isn’t easy for me to put into words. I feel the need to explain myself. Please read this post with an open mind. I know this is going to be very controversial. I can already hear the gasps; I can see the heads shaking in befuddlement; I can imagine you questioning my sensibilities. Deep breath. Here goes.
Milford Sound didn’t rock my world.
There. I’ve said it. It’s taken me over three weeks to share this with you. I wonder if this is how people like my sister, Debi, feel when they tell people they don’t like chocolate. “How can you NOT like chocolate?” I’ve asked that question myself. Now, I get it. Well, no. When it comes to chocolate, I’m still a little confused. Maybe she just hasn’t met the right one.
Don’t get me wrong; cruising the waters of the glacier carved fiord (not a sound, but a fiord, we learned), feeling the spray of the sky-high waterfalls, and seeing the young fur seals at play on the rocks was great. I’m glad we went, but it just wasn’t the breath-taking experience I was expecting.
The best way to explain this is to say that, for me, seeing Milford Sound was similar to finally seeing that movie that everyone has been raving about. There’s been critical acclaim, awards have been won, friends have seen it numerous times; it’s the must see of the year, the decade! You finally see it and end up thinking, “Hmmmh, yeah. That was alright.”
Aside: It’s very odd for me to make an analogy based on seeing movies, something I rarely do, but it’s the best I can come up with.
With all due respect to Rudyard Kipling who decided Milford Sound should be named the Eighth Wonder of the World, it just left me a feeling a little underwhelmed. While our friend, Rudyard, was extremely well-travelled, and had a lot to compare to Milford, he was in New Zealand in 1891. I’m guessing he missed all of the internet hype. I’m also guessing he witnessed the spectacle without waiting in line behind other cruise ships for a chance to approach Stirling Falls.
Fortunately, we were on a nice, small ship that wasn’t crowded at all. We had an excellent guide who was new to the game, very enthusiastic, and able to spout off a remarkable amount of information, considering his two week tenure.
We even learned what brilliant animals fur seals are. Apparently, this is a group of adolescent males. According to fur seal societal norms, they’ve been asked to leave the colony for awhile, set up camp on their own rocks, feed themselves, and basically grow up. When they aren’t acting like a bunch of 14 year old boys, they are welcome to return. I think we humans could learn a thing or two from this.
There had been record amounts of rainfall a few days before our tour, and the waterfalls were pretty spectacular. The Lady Elizabeth Bowen Falls are the highest in the sound. At 162 metres, that water is falling from more than three times the height of Niagra Falls. I know. It doesn’t really look like it, does it?
So, the beauty of the place is undeniable. The idea that the valley of the sound is, in places, 2,000 metres deep and was all created by moving glaciers is pretty astounding. There are even Maori legends surrounding Piopiotahi (the Maori name for Milford) that are pretty cool. I suppose 650,000 visitors each year, can’t be wrong. It’s a popular destination for a reason. It just didn’t live up to the hype.
After we disembarked, squeezed through the tourist-packed terminal (not exaggerating), and marvelled at the parking lot full of tour busses which had arrived while we were on the water, we wondered how long this natural wonder could sustain such activity.
On our trip back to our B&B, we took our host’s advice and stopped at the Lake Gunn Nature Walk. Here, among the towering red beech trees, in the silent, shady forest, my heart skipped a beat.
Surrounded by enormous ferns, brightly coloured lichens, soft, fluffy mosses, and plants so mysterious they were like something from another planet, I was in my happy place. Of course, Karen walked ahead, leaving me to stop and examine every wondrous plant at my own pace, alone with the lush, green beauty.
Eventually, I met a man walking the opposite way on the loop. Without any words, we exchanged smiles and nods and continued on in our own private worlds. This 45 minute walk was the highlight of my day. Different strokes for different folks, right?
While I’m in the Travel Blog Confessional, I might as well let you in on another dirty little secret: at this point, I have no burning desire to visit the Taj Majal.
Have I lost your respect forever?