John & Anne Wiley

2017/03/30

Milford Sound!

The first time (and every time thereafter) we told someone about going to NZ, they asked if we’d see Milford Sound. So of course, it was on our Second Is First aerial tour. You’ll recall that post before last ended as we descended from our meander among towering peaks and incredible waterfalls, and spotted a plane that had landed on the beach at Big Bay. Now after the More Mt. Aspiring pix post, we pick up the story again after the quick 25 miles to Milford Sound. (Yes, we have too many pix to share here, including those beautiful 25 miles of coast.)

1904 Milford Mouth

1904 Milford Mouth

We were happy to see that the clouds were scattered at the mouth of the sound, to hopefully enable a full view of the spectacular cliffs. Sure enough, a minute later we began to see clear air up the sound though the high clouds were thickening overhead.

1908 Clear Low, Not High

1908 Clear Low, Not High

That solid high overcast blocked the light for pix and made them look dull compared with the amazing beauty our eyes enjoyed. When will cameras be able to replicate what our brains do with such light? At least with some tweaking this next pic conveys a hint of how the far peaks peeked above those low clouds.

1910 Peeking Peaks

1910 Peeking Peaks

But as we cleared the last clouds entering the sound, the lower view of sheer cliffs plunging into the sea explained the numerous tour boats.

1928 Into Milford

1928 Into Milford

High on the flanks, the forest invisible from those boats was fascinating to us as we imagined the wildlife roaming there. How much had it changed in the last few hundred years, and what’s the story with those bare branches?

1937 Living Forest

1937 Living Forest

Also high on the flanks are some remarkable cliffs with an almost skin-like texture and strange color.

1940 Cliff Skin

1940 Cliff Skin

But a main attraction for boat tours is probably the waterfalls, though we saw far more of the falls. Not just those tumbling into the sound but countless more, far up on the cliffs. Like this intricately magnificent one in a deep ravine, invisible from the waters of Milford Sound far below.

1947 High Hidden Falls

1947 High Hidden Falls

In places there are high “meditation gardens” where a few wisps of water moisten bare stones surrounded by silent forest.

1949 High Sanctum

1949 High Sanctum

Many such wonders combine where thundering falls return to the seas of the sound.

1962 Falling to the Sea

1962 Falling to the Sea

All of the details we saw from our eagle’s eye view similarly combine in the vast panorama we were swimming in. Here’s a larger, though still narrow, section of that for perspective.

1963 Bigger Slice

1963 Bigger Slice

The texture of these damp cliffs etched with life combines with the bare ridges and snow-capped peaks beyond. Oh, to return and fly this all again in different seasons and clearer air! With enough time to hike, kayak, and then fly again! This landscape is so varied, looking in each direction seems like a different continent and epoch.

1982 Looking Back

1982 Looking Back

This angle back up Harrison River though similar, looked so very different. The major waterfalls are each quite different too of course, and Bowen Falls next to the bustling village was most surprising to me.

2006 Bowen Falls

2006 Bowen Falls

Surprising not just its beauty or the details we could see (insets) that may go unnoticed from the water, but for the fact we saw no people scrambling and swimming around the base.

Insets: Clockwise from top-left – pool at base of falls; top-right – pool above the falls; middle-right – high rock alcove.

Just out of view to the right are cruise boat docks where thousands of tourists are somehow kept from taking the short hike or kayak back to stand or bathe in the thundering mist. There’s even an airport beyond the boat docks as you can see in this wider pic.

2014 Milford Context

2014 Milford Context

Now rather than follow that highway past the airport up the Cleddau River we got this hazy glance back up to where it’s joined by the smaller Tutoko River going up to the left at the base of Mt. Underwood.

2016 Mt. Underwood

2016 Mt. Underwood

Rather than land or continue up those rivers, we were headed southwest up the Arthur River. Can you guess what the attraction will be there, coming in our next post?

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