184. Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park: There’s something to be said about a place that looks amazing when it’s rendered as patches of green and brown in your road atlas, before you’ve ever skidded to a stop at the first gravel turnout to bolt from your car and bask in its awesomeness. The Fiordlands of Southern New Zealand are that place, crooked fingers of the Tasman Sea reaching inland through snow capped peaks, thick with the remnants of the ice age glaciers that first carved the landscape. It’s the kind of thing we’re not used to seeing on maps, sounds next to inlets next to lakes next to islands next to rivers next to peaks with names like “Mt. Inaccessible” and “The Stopper.” On a related note, the parties responsible for naming most of New Zealand’s natural features had a fair and simple sense of humor, writing this as I am from the shadow of another mountain range called simply, “The Remarkables.” But back to the Fiordlands – It’s really impossible to know what you’re about to drive into, especially if you’ve successfully averted your eyes from every postcard or travel poster printed on behalf of this place.

And then you round the first big corner. The Fiordlands are spellbinding and we barely scratched the surface on the three hour drive into Milford Sound, a drive that passes in what feels like minutes and alternates between carnival ride and the floating sensation that accompanies those long sweeping establishing shots in Lord of the Rings. And then of course when you reach the end of the road – in this case Milford Sound – there is a Thing which you and every other slack jawed tourist is compelled to do, because you’ve just spent half a day on this road where every 30 seconds one of you says OH MY GOD PULL OVER and now you find yourself at a small cruise terminal that’s offering to take you even further, but with clean bathrooms, free hot tea and a tour guide who’ll make folksy local jokes and perhaps an uncomfortably terse statement about how the darling fur seals you’re photographing are ruining the livelihood of his fishing mates. Yes, we took that boat ride. And I’m happy to suggest that the rippling green blob hanging on the far southwest corner of your map of New Zealand is a place you might make an effort to see, while your heart is still strong.

Photos, left to right: Our first camping spot in the Fiordlands and a couple of Kiwis who kindly got us drunk; sheep being driven past us on Highway 94; Amy gets small; a fine lunch spot; fur seals; raisins, whisky and bad posture at a crackerjack camping spot on Cascade Creek.

 

  1. Basking in awesomeness. I love it. And, your photos are just beautiful.

  2. Anonymous says:

    When you gonna check out the barbershops?

  3. Sloan says:

    That's been the question of the week, although here I think they call them "shearing sheds."

  4. Deb says:

    Met Erich on a trail in Fiordland. Your photos are taking me back to the magic that is New Zealand! Sigh…