Monday, January 11, 2010

Chasing waterfalls

Our journey from Queenstown to Milford Sound was an exhilarating one. The trip is 4 hours one way from Queenstown, the closest “big” town. The steep, rugged topography coupled with dense forest and challenging climate results in a region that has shunned the development of roads and towns. Fjordland was designated a World Heritage Area in 1986 because of its unique natural features and its role in demonstrating the earth’s evolutionary history.
Fjordland is a cool temperate rainforest. So it is not surprising it was raining the day we were there. The area sees 250 days of rain per year. Milford Sound itself averages over 6 meters of rain per year. For comparison, Minneapolis receives about 2/3 of a meter of precipitation. The brochure pictures that are shown of Milford Sound are understandably taken on bright clear days. While stunningly beautiful, they are not representative of the typical day. The day we visited, the clouds were so low we could not even see the tops of the peaks rising out of the fjord. Of course, they do rise some 700 meters straight up out of the ocean. It rained the entire time and at some times it poured. The silver lining was that the combination of strong rain and the steep faced walls of the mountains rising out of the sea created so many waterfalls that it we grew numb to their physical beauty after a while. I am sure I saw more waterfalls in any 15 minute period of our fjord cruise than I had seen cumulatively throughout my life. So, while the fjord did not look at all like what we had anticipated, the beauty we experienced was equally impressive.

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