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Milford Sound - A Must See (RT part III)

NEW ZEALAND | Friday, 24 May 2013 | Views [1193]

Milford Sound is truly a place of majestic beauty and tranquillity. Technically, as it was formed by glacier action, it should be Milford Fiord. Opting for the first tour of the day, a short trip down to the departure point and we are ready to depart at 9.45. Just out of season and early enough in the morning that the tourist busses have yet to arrive, the boat is far from full. We set out into the fiord and within a few moments, four dolphins have appeared and are swimming along with us. It is almost inconceivable but one of them, having satisfied himself of the full attention of his audience, begins to flip, roll and dive for us. You can almost believe that the others, accustomed to his antics, depart to leave him to his one-man show.  For a good 15 minutes we are thoroughly entertained.

The boat is completely dwarfed on either side by the mountains, as yet snow-free. The water is calm and clear. The trees of the rainforest hang precariously onto the mountain sides, held in place by moss and the interlinking of their roots. We pass a tree slide where a tree has lost its tenacious grip on life and slipped down the mountain side, bringing those linked to it along. Within moments hundreds of years of carefully fought networking and growth crash into the water leaving scarred rock behind and the process of regeneration must begin again.

A mother seal and her pup languish on a large rock in the pale morning sunlight. Others too laze nearby happy to conserve their energy as later they will eat the equivalent of their own body weight in one day. Eroded rock faces show hints of the minerals they contain, copper, quartz and possibly even a little gold. Waterfalls come and go with the rains. Very few are permanent features but one of those that is, is glacier fed and said to rejuvenate the skin, taking 10 years off. We inch closer until the spray covers us in a fine mist of icy water. We admit that although we now feel refreshed and a little more awake, with the best will in the world it would be hard to say that any of us actually looked any younger.

We edge out of the fiord and into the Tasmanian Sea, known for its turbulence. To my delight, the boat begins to dip in and out of the swell and we bounce along a little more slowly before turning around to begin the journey back. It is easy to see how Captain Cook entirely missed this fiord as from the open sea the entrance is well concealed. It was eventually discovered by a whaler who named it after his hometown of Milford Haven.

We stop at the Discovery Centre which has been designed to be as unobtrusive as possible and so floats in the water, attached to land by large steel arms. The real wonder is the viewing chamber which is 10m under the water. The small rock gardens created under the windows now team with coral, plant life, sea urchins and fish of differing shapes and sizes. We are told that sometimes dolphins and on occasion even sharks will come up to the viewing windows and peer in. The specialised thick glass of the underwater viewing area has been imported from Germany as unusually, it does not cause any magnification.

Numerous hiking trails exist and kayaking trips can be arranged to further explore and enjoy this magical place. I stand at the bow allowing the icy wind to sweep away any negative energy within, releasing it into insignificance to be replaced by the powerful serenity here. Luck has been on my side again as tomorrow the tunnel closes for 2 weeks and the only ingress will be via air. I only just made it in time. Disembarking I may not look 10 years younger but I feel rebalanced and vibrant.

To avoid the departing rush as Milford all but closes for 2 weeks, I head off early afternoon to Queenstown via Te Anau.

Tags: backpacking, discovery centre, dolphins, milford sound, new zealand, seals, stunning, tasmanian sea, vertical rainforest

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