Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Water that falls up

Milford Sound - hard to appreciate from this, but it was incredible

An early start out of Queenstown today. I did like it, for such a small place there's loads going on. It's a bit too backpackery for me (slightly rich I know), summed up by something I overheard in our hostel. A group of young lads were drinking wine in the corridor before going out. As I walked by them, one of them cheerfully turned to his mate and said "I'm not a fan of wine - but if you put a bit of Red Bull in, it takes the edge off"

Milford Sound is one of New Zealand's biggest tourist attractions. A 22km long glacial fjord (or fiord as they call it), it's very popular with us sightseers. After today, I can see why. Firstly the weather was absolutely shocking - the sunny weather of the last three days gave way to heavy downpours. But that's to be expected - Milford is one of the wettest places in the world, averaging 8 metres of rain a year. Most of it seemed to fall today, as we took a two hour cruise down the fjord in the company of dozens of Chinese bus trippers. The Sound is famous for it's sheer cliffs - the highest of which (Mitre Peak) plunges almost 1700m straight into the water. It was awesome - I went on the roof in a howling gale and stood there getting soaked, open-mouthed at what I was seeing. Massive waterfalls tumbled over the cliffs, the water falling less than a third of the way to the fjord before the wind blew it away and up into the clouds. You could actually see this - a circular pattern of water falling, spraying sideways, and then becoming finer and rising back into the cloud. Larger waterfalls crashed into the black sea, sending us through huge plumes of water like you see at Niagara. All around there were vertical walls of rock hundreds of metres high, all being blasted by water - either as white falls, grey mist or black seas. It was utterly mind blowing - and after the Grand Canyon, Milford Sound is the most stunning thing I've ever seen.