Middle Earth Day 9: Milford Sound

I had plenty of time till my 11:30 bus to Milford departed so I was able to sleep in and enjoy a slow relaxed breakfast of leftovers composed of canned chickpeas, cheap feta cheese, unripe tomatoes, and a loaf of bread. I’m starting to really hate chickpeas and bread but they are just too cheap. You may be wondering why I am not treating myself to the cuisine of New Zealand and Australia. With the exception of a few well-known items, I can easily eat this food in the U.S. Australia and New Zealand don’t have the unique and authentic cuisines of say Italy or France. I got into the packed coach bus as rain began to fall down us. I sat with a group of Americans who had studied abroad in Sydney and were here to get a taste of New Zealand. They were a cool group of family, a bit of an odd family sort of mix. Up above, the clouds continued to look threatening. I grew weary about the upcoming sights in Milford Sound, praying the sky would clear up just a bit for our expected arrival. The road from Te Anau to Milford Sound is a roughly two hour stretch of pavement that ended at the Sound and along the way we were able to get out of the bus to take in some of the beauty of the land albeit in rain jackets. Although I was unable to see the utmost peaks from the valley, I was treated to an all-encompassing display of waterfalls. Due to the consistent rainfall, streams of water gathered into arrays of waterfalls following the etched rock face. At one point, we stopped at a stream seemingly without the fanfare of what we enjoyed earlier. The bus driver told us that this water ran off from the glaciers and snow capped mountains above and could be drank. Not wasting any time, I jogged over to the stream to fill my water bottle with the freshest, purest, and coolest water I have ever had. Sure enough, once we reached the boat docks of Milford Sound, all I could see were clouds, mist, and the unforgiving rainfall. I got onto the boat pissed off that I hadn’t arrived a day prior as I should have when the sky was much clearer. I had to shield myself within the boat from the downpour to have any hope of seeing the Sound. Peering out, I caught glimpses of the literally thousands of waterfalls cascading from the mountains that lorded over the Sound. Sick and tired of hiding within the comforts of the boat, I braved the top deck of the boat wishing to see more than what I saw through the window. The rain continued ferociously and the boat rocked and cradled while I tried to gain some footing. Looking up, the mist relented a bit allowing me to see the width of the Sound. In case you are unaware, Milford Sound and all other Sounds in the world are valleys connected to the sea that have been flooded by the salty waters of the sea and glacier water of its mountains. I could see seals bunched up on a mixture of boulders off to the edge while some skipped through the water. Milford Sound has been known to be the home of whales and penguins but I had no such luck. I had to convince the group of Americans to join me so as not to miss out on this type of beauty that could only be enjoyed while standing wobbly on the precarious upper deck. We went as far as the Tasman Sea and from this vantage point, I saw the most waterfalls I have ever had the joy to see in my life. With all the moisture in the Sound, the mountain rock boarding this solution of salt water from the sea and the cleansed water of the glaciers is covered by a lively green furry coat of trees. These trees have very little to grab ahold. With the exception of a thin layer of dirt, their roots work in unison weaving themselves together tightly to prevent any single tree from plunging into the water. This root system puts the entire forest of trees in danger as you might be able to figure out. If one tree gets loose, a large group of them will take the plunge along with it, creating a tree avalanche. From this utmost point in Milford Sound where the boat steadied itself for a brief moment, I could fully absorb what I was witnessing. Milford Sound was the reason I chose to devote my time in the South Island. Although I wished the weather could have been, better, I enjoyed the moment without any regrets for what it was. Something about trying to balance on an unstable boat deck while hoping to not get flung over the rails and off the edge of the boat and into the cold glacier waters as rain pours onto you created that rush of emotions and liveliness that felt so pure and real. If we weren’t drenched enough by this point, the boat captain pulled us near a powerful waterfall that left me without a dry spot to call my own. After completing the entire spectrum of the Sound, we departed the boat fully wet and fully energized by what we had just witnessed. The long bus ride back to Queenstown was a tiresome one but much easier than by way of hitchhike. Since I had no hostel booked for myself, I followed the group of Americans to try and check into theirs. With luck, I found a room and tried to change into something a tad bit drier before went out to get something to eat. We went back to Fergburger which I wasn’t overly excited about since the last visit was an overpriced disappointment but I was willing to give it a second go. I ordered the Chief Wiggum which comes with a standard beef patty topped with slow roasted pork belly and hash browns among other savory ingredients. The pork belly made me a believer; mmmh was it yummy! After that we went to a bar to listen to some live music and dance. It wasn’t quite my type of music but I still managed to dance awkwardly on the dance floor as I usually do, throwing my limbs around in a mistaken display of moves. It was a great day and solid night. I got back and asked the hostel reception about bus times up to Franz Josef Glacier, the next stop on my itinerary, but they said at 9 a.m. the tourism desk would be glad to help me. I could have paid for the wifi but I thought that would have ridiculous. Where I am getting my energy to keep chugging along I will never know.

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