Tales of a wandering lesbian

The Sound of Milford

The Divide, as it’s known, is the point where three major tracks come together.  Travelers who have been walking for days are dumped out at this shelter, a rest stop halfway between Queenstown and the Milford Sound to wait for their rides.  We had scheduled a bus pick-up to take us to the Sound and then back to our van in Queenstown, so that we wouldn’t have to doubleback in order to see one of New Zealand’s great natural attractions, Milford Sound.

The Milford Sound is on the Tasman Sea, and, as we learned on the bus ride, is misnamed.  It’s not a sound at all.  Sounds are v-shaped, underwater valleys created by flowing water.  Fiords, which the Milford is, are u-shaped and created by the movement of glaciers.  Whatever it was, it was a body of water surrounded by mountains rising directly out of the seabed, and we were excited to see it.

The bus that picked us up was full of clean, nice-smelling people who hadn’t been hiking in the same pants for three days.  We stowed our packs under the bus and climbed aboard, smiling at the honeymooning couples and families that were catching glimpses of us as we passed.

Like the trains in Peru, the bus had skylights running the length of the coach, allowing us views of the towering mountains and sheer cliffs around us.

Our driver rambled on about the history and geology, and we moved deeper into wild country.  The winding road we traveled was surrounded by steepness.  We learned that it is known as one of the most dangerous roads in New Zealand prone to long and unexpected closures due to landslides that happen throughout the wet season.

Every so often, the bus would stop, and we would hop out to look at the lilies, or to drink from a famous, clear stream, and eventually to wait for the traffic flowing out of an impossibly long one-way tunnel.

(Our driver informed us that there is an annual naked tunnel run.)

At the end of the road was the Sound itself.  Which was amazing.  Our boat tour took us out into the water to see the u-shaped glacial valleys and magnificent waterfalls falling from them.

The mountains really did come out of the sea, pushing up on either side of us.

We ate our picnic lunch inside the large cabin and dashed out to catch quick shots of seals basking in the sun.

And to feel the spray of Stirling Falls as the captain dipped the bow under its pounding curtains.

It was a beautiful clear day for us again.  After the incredible beauty of the Routeburn Tack, and the vast New Zealand wilderness, we were in overload.  The Sound was inconceivable – unlike anything we’d ever seen.  We knew that we would be unable to explain all that we’d seen and felt, and that even the memories wouldn’t do justice to it all.

We stepped back on the bus, headed for out little van, images flashing in our minds, and the Sound of Milford ringing in our ears.

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