thomas m wilson

Imagination and Reality at Milford Sound

May 23rd, 2007

Yesterday I, and an English guy I picked up hitchhiking made our way to Milford Sound, in the bottom south-west corner of New Zealand. The route into the sound is through steep valleys covered in beech forests and alpine grasses. The amount of water falling from the sky around here is seriously large, and when it isn’t raining all this water tumbles down cascades and waterfalls, like this one…


After making our way through a tunnel through the guts of a vast grey, rocky mountain which looked like a war-lord’s castle, we came down in altitude to the sound.


Here you stand at sea level, and look up to cliffs and peaks that shoot up vertically to two thousand metres. With all this grandeur it can be easy to forget the smaller details…


Going out on a boat on Milford Sound was strange. Everywhere you look the scale of the cliffs and the lush hanging gardens on the cliffs, seems implausible. Another boat passes by a waterfall on the other side of the sound, and you realise how an otherwise quite large vessel is made to look like a grain of sand at the base of the waterfall. The boat came up to the face of the cliff at many points and upon looking upwards at the falling water and clinging trees I had the feeling that this was hardly real. A baroque reality.


After going out to the Tasman Sea the boat turned around and we faced the entrance. I imagined being a lost sailor and coming to this shore, not knowing this was New Zealand. What would I think? I’d scarcely believe that this amalgam of something out of Rober Louis Stevenson and Samuel Taylor Colderidge was actually planet earth.


Standing in the Sound and looking around the ampitheatre the hardest thing to fathom is that there are 13 other sounds, very much like this. Now that knowledge really makes one feel insignificant.

This morning I’m in Queenstown and today I’m heading down out of the high country, down to Geraldine, and hence to Samoa tomorrow.