With thirty foot seas by morning and winds topping out at 102 km as we sailed around the SW corner of Fiodland National Park, our Captain was not sure if we could make it into Milford Sound farther up the coast— both he and the harbor pilot onboard had abandoned the idea of getting into Doubtful or Dusty Sounds due to high wind and surf. But our Captain’s forecast was right and the mega swells began to settle— enough for us to duck into Milford Sound, albeit, under very misty conditions.
Entering Milford Sound was like entering the past— the face of these cliffs looking down on us, masked behind the trees that clung impossibly to the rock. Farther in, life began to rewind back to a time when these valleys had shed their glaciers and the Maori’s view of these fiords were the same as what we were experiencing today, a landscape moving in slow motion
The heavy grey clouds that had been pressing down on us like angry fists had moved through, their swollen bellies ripped open by the jagged peaks, leaving veins of waterfalls as far as the eye could see.
Waterfall after waterfall, the unbroken sound of falling water followed us into the narrows and we imagined the cool stone just beyond our finger’s reach, slick with lichen and a million years untouched.
While we gathered on deck, the Sr. Fiordland Park Ranger narrated our adventure from the bridge while clouds had settled in and the mist now too heavy began to fall. At one point we couldn’t see beyond the bow as the narrator described what was just out of view.
And then the cold uncoiled like ropes from above and it began to rain— what more could we have asked for— as the narrator carried on…. our laughter rising above it all.
When we reached the end of Milford Sound where tranquil waters nestled up against verdant slopes, we could see a scattering of buildings where the Fiordland National Park Rangers were housed and off to the side a waterfall roared down the canyon walls. It as then that the skies began to clear and our ship, centered in the cove, turned 360 degrees offering everyone onboard spectacular panoramic views.
Fiordland— our last destination in New Zealand. So with our ship pointing toward the Tasman sea we headed back the way we came.
And as if by design— a final test to see what we had learned from this beautiful land— I looked back as our ship was about to slip away from these cliffs and I smiled. For just at the mouth of the Sound, laid out upon the surface in foam was the answer to a question never asked. This is what the Maori saw, Moana, the symbol of the sea which is at the heart of their culture being a people of the ocean and masters of navigation under the stars.
It was time to say goodby to this magical land tucked away at the top of the world— Goodby for now New Zealand, your past is in front of us and our future with you, is behind.