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Middle Earth (aka Milford Sound)
February 6th, 2010 by Kate
The road to Milford Sound - we're pretty sure this shot was in the first Lord of the Rings movie

The road to Milford Sound - we're pretty sure this shot was in the first Lord of the Rings movie

The five of us have decided that New Zealand doesn’t look how we expected it to look.  All of us had visions of “The Middle Earth” (Lord of the Rings, duh!), and for 3 of our 4 weeks here, pretty much all we saw were lots of grassy rolling hills, with an occasional large swath of very evenly planted forest hillside.  Where oh where were the giant moody mountains covered in mist and the lush green forests?

Seems that back when the Maori people came here from the other islands, the only thing that had to hunt here were these big birds called Moa.  And it seems the easiest way to “hunt” them was to burn the forest around them.  So they burned, and they burned, until many of the mountainsides, and all of the lowland, were pretty much barren (and the Moa totally extinct).  Then the Europeans came over and logged whatever hadn’t already been burned.  So most, and I mean MOST of New Zealand looks like rolling pastureland.

Baa...

Baa...

Perfect for sheep.  And cows.  Did I mention yet in our blog that there are about 4 million people in NZ and 40 million sheep!  And that number is down from an all time high of 60 million – as many many farmers are changing over to cattle as their livestock of choice.

Thankfully, some of the milk from these happy cows stay here to make cheese, but the vast majority of it is made into milk powder for the Chinese market.  Very interesting…

So imagine our happiness when we drove from Queenstown to Milford Sound – and found our Middle Earth!!!  Great mountains, low lying clouds that shrouded the peaks and filled the valleys, forest floors carpeted with lichen and bursting with giant ferns, and soaring Dr. Seuss-like trees dripping with fog and moss.  Phoebe said 100 times in 2 days – oh yes, this is totally Org country.

Milford Sound as the mist moved in... if you look closely at the rocks on the right, the dark spot on the upper rock is a one month old seal baby - boy can they climb!

Milford Sound as the mist moved in... if you look closely at the rocks on the right, the dark spot on the upper rock is a one month old seal baby - boy can they climb!

Milford Sound isn’t actually a sound (sounds are created by rivers) it is a Fjord (which are created by glaciers).  During the last ice age a big boy glacier cut right through the granite on its way down to the ocean and left one of the most picturesque waterways in the world.  The only way to really experience the sound is to take a cruise on it, so we handed over our Master Card and selected the upgraded “Eco Tour” with the promise of an upclose and personal trip down the Fjord.  We weren’t disappointed!

                                      mil all 5 on boat

It was one of only a handful of days we haven’t had great weather, but it rains 290 days a year in the sound (and gets over 7 meters of rain!) so our expectations for sun were low to begin with.  Actually, a few people had suggested we get to the Sound as early as possible to avoid the tour buses, and we were on the first boat out in the morning – which turned out extra good as the weather got worse as the day went on.

Aside from the sheer walls of the fjord that are as tall in the air as they are under the water, the most impressive parts of the sound are the zillions of waterfall EVERYWHERE.  Some are always flowing, but most are dependant on the rainfall – and when it started to rain, they started to flow.  It was amazing.

After 15 minutes of rain, the waterfall came out of EVERYWHERE!  Sorry about the dots on the pic - rain drops!

After 15 minutes of rain, the waterfall came out of EVERYWHERE! Sorry about the dots on the pic - rain drops!


One Response  
Ed Childers writes:
February 6th, 2010 at 7:10 am

Great pics and travel tales, Kate.

First order of business each morning is to make coffee, flip on the laptop, and look in on Wells360. Just keep on truckin’ and writin’ – and we’ll see you in a few months.

If you haven’t heard, my little village of Dog Patch was on the receiving end of a nine inch rainfall a couple of weeks ago. The resulting flood made a huge mess and completely wiped out a low-end RV park which, unfortunately was home to mostly fixed income retirees and low-waged workers. Ergo, we’ve put in a lot of time trying to remedy their situation. I was not directly affected since I stayed warm and dry and live well out of the flood plain.

Happy Trails

Ed

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