While my sporty, white South Island Ford Focus and I could certainly share a few stories from the road, our stories would be dwarfed by the 50,000 year old ones of Fiordland.
Fjords (land masses that have been carved out by glaciers then back-filled with sea water) span the southwest corner of the South Island. This remote area of the country is essentially uninhabited, is mostly reached only by boat, and is home to some of New Zealand's beautiful national parks and unspoiled land. Imagine hear-a-pin-drop quietness, cascading waterfalls, and still, mirror-like water. Someone could write 50 Shades of Green about the steep, temperate rainforest-filled cliffs that line the sounds. I'm not aware that the Southland has one of those titles we've talked about, but I might deem it as the Peaceful Capital of the World.
Two of Fiordland's famous areas were on my agenda: Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound.
Doubtful Sound, reached via two bus rides and two boat rides, is about as remote as it gets. The area has a population of four and is one of the wettest places on earth (it rains two out of every three days). In fact, I was told that the number of waterfalls doubled on the day we were there due to the amount of rain over the previous few days. Looking like white threads woven through thick green wool, plummeting waterfalls were seen with every turn of the head. And when the boat's motor was turned off for a few moments of true silence (aside from the Asian party who clearly didn't understand the captain's direction and kept yapping away), the loudness of the bird calls made it apparent that you were on their turf.
Milford Sound, while a smaller area than Doubtful, is perhaps the most visited location in New Zealand. The fjords here are stunning. Snow-capped mountains peeking out from behind the sheer cliffs around the sound. Mitre Peak resembling a mini-Matterhorn. Fur seals sunning themselves on a rocky point. A pod of at least 20 dolphins frolicking in the calm waters ahead of us. Where just a few hours away in Queenstown you want to do everything, in Milford Sound you want to do nothing. Just look, listen, and let the beauty of the place envelop you.
Fiordland is wilderness at its best. Perhaps even The Capital of Wilderness!
Doubtful Sound fjords
Some of hundreds of waterfalls around Doubtful Sound after a few days of rain