Most amazing place: The 8th wonder
My first ever trip to Milford Sound was towards the end of a glorious week driving down the South Island with my girlfriend.
It was the first time on the mainland for both of us. Even though I had grown up in Wellington, I'd departed New Zealand a good 15 years prior and had just never made the ferry trip across.
It was the day after an excellent New Years Eve in Queenstown. Up until then we were stunned by the beauty of the South Island during summer, from the snow-capped mountains to the deep blue and turquoise lakes, from the gorgeous little towns to the abundant and beautiful roadside wildflowers. Oh, and those beautiful dark nights underneath a glorious canopy of stars and galaxies.
We'd had superb weather the entire journey, until the morning we were scheduled to drive down to Milford Sound. As we got nearer the destination the grey closed ever inward. That said we were still in awe of the magnificent sights on the way to the tunnel, where we stopped and made the acquaintance of some cheeky keas until we were all clear to drive through.
When you come out of that tunnel at the start of the drive down to the sound, what greets you is nothing less than impressive. However, by the time we'd hit the carpark it was hammering down with the wet stuff. We'd been booked in to an overnight boat stay which, after we'd sailed out to the open sea and almost done a tragic powered dinghy sidetrip, ended up berthing in a little inlet halfway up the sound. The rain had by then settled in to a light drizzle.
Next morning we rose to the now familiar sound of rain heavily hitting the deck. It was cold, it was grey, it was wet. It was also spectacular. Where there was sheer mountainside the day before, now there were waterfalls everywhere. Cascading off mountain peaks (some still snow-topped), crashing in torrents in to the fjord below. It was amazing.
My mouth was agape the entire trip back out to the Pacific and heading back in to port. Though for me the piece de resistance was on leaving the valley, driving back up to the tunnel to go out. It was like sitting at the bottom of a washbowl looking up towards the edges and being surrounded by waterfalls for 270 degrees. I shall never forget the sight. To this day I consider it the eighth natural wonder of the world.
If you are a New Zealander, you owe it to yourself to see it. It's your heritage. Whilst I am aware that it's just as stunning a place in the dry, go when it's raining.
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