I’ve been spending a lot of time on various boats lately, or more so than I ever have before. Why is this? I haven’t the slightest clue.
Two trips I would like to talk about on the previously mentioned vessels include the Milford and Doubtful Sounds. Oi, I’ve got some explaining to do.
Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are both ‘sounds.’ “WHAT IS A SOUND?” You may be asking yourself. According to the good people at Wikipedia, a sound is “a long, relatively wide body of water, larger than a strait or channel, forming an inlet or connecting two larger bodies of water, such as two seas, or a sea and a lake.” In short – it’s water that runs through some land and connects two big bodies of water. Now you know what a sound is!
…unfortunately, Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are both actually fjords, so I, uh, made you learn all of that for nothing. Now, I know you may be saying, “Jake! Why are you such a jerk? Why do you string us along and make us learn inapplicable definitions? Why? Why?! And what is this ‘fjord’ that you speak of? Did you make a typo? I’m not sure I can even pronounce that!” The reason, my dear tormented-reader, is that I wish to enrich you with knowledge, because that’s what I do. Also, everyone still calls these two particular places ‘sounds,’ and now, whether you are on Jeopardy or at your next dinner party, you will be able to tell everyone that these famous ‘sounds’ are actually fjords! Oh right. A fjord (pronounced f-your-d) is “a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity.” Basically, a big ol’ hunk of ice, over millions of years, cut through a chunk of land, so that humans could later squabble over definitions and geological. Glaciers are sort of jerks, huh?
So, regardless of what you choose to call them, they are both essentially (now) long stretches of water meandering through enormous mountains. These are also known as THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SCENES OF NATURE I HAVE EVER HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF SETTING MY EYES UPON.
Now, as I have mentioned, Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are different places (though not terribly far apart from each other), and I visited each of them on different weeks. It can take 3-5 hours to drive out to them from Dunedin, depending on the weather, as you don’t want to go careening down the windy roads on a rainy day. We were fortunate to experience these two unique places on two VERY different occasions.
We first visited Milford, the slightly smaller, but much more famous ‘sound’ (it was considered the world’s top travel destination in an international survey by the 2008 Travelers’ Choice Destinations Awards by TripAdvisor), on that same weekend that I tried bungy jumping and all of those other death-defying feats – but that’s a different blog entirely. I’ll save us all some time. It rained a whole lot. It rained as we boarded the boat. It rained as we took off into the yawning chasm between the mountains. It rained as we rounded the wind turbine, which pelted those fools (me) who decided to stand on the top deck of the boat with such a fury, that it’s a wonder how I held on to my glasses. Yes folks, it rained, and apparently, it usually does, as Milford Sound only sees about sixty days of sunshine in a good year.
Swinging in the rain.
Despite this deluge, our spirits were not dampened (pun intended), as there are waterfalls that stream down the mountains that are only visible when it rains.
In contrast to my visit to Milford, my trip through Doubtful Sound lasted over a full day, rather than a few hours. We stayed in cabins aboard the ship, and had several wonderful meals during our stay – it was a class act.
Also unlike Milford, our day on Doubtful Sound was absolutely beautiful, clear, and warm (by Dunedin standards).
One of my favorite parts about this particular cruise was that, since it was an overnight event, I was able to go outside and look at the stars. I have never seen them so bright and numerous as they were that night, on account of the absence of all man-made ambient lighting. Sam and I stared into the sky for hours, admiring for the first time what was always right in front of us. Perhaps that’s what it’s all about. I’d like for you to see this, but no picture I could take could capture that moment and all of its glory – I’d much rather you find it for yourself.