When I arrived in New Zealand I had a rough idea of where I would go but something told me those plans would change.
Sure enough, I was right.
Within 48 hours of being in country I learned that a day trip to Milford Sound was an absolute must and when people from all walks of life and travel experience enthusiastically recommend one destination it probably is a good idea to jump on the opportunity right away.
With this thought in mind I wandered by the rental car company and decided to see what it might cost to make the suggestion a reality. Fortunately, it was not too expensive at all.
Booked it on the spot!
Ok, so now I have two adventures for the price of one: driving on the left-hand side of the road and seeing Milford Sound. I’ve got this!
What an adventure both were.
Alright, I have a 12:30pm cruise around the Sound and it’s about a 4 1/2 hour drive from Queenstown (give or take 30 minutes for stops or – in my case – if you have absolutely no idea how to drive on the left side of the road).
Fortunately enough I did not have to worry about waking up early enough since jet lag and I were still close friends during those days and 5am was a late morning.
Wide awake and excited, I set off on my journey around 6am.
What an incredible drive!
The first leg of the trip takes you out of Queenstown on a winding, lakeside road offering unobstructed views of rolling hills and the snow-capped peaks of The Remarkables.
How could it get any better?
After passing out of the Lake Wakatipu area you enter the expansive Otago countryside offering a seemingly endless sea of warm green grass that is only kept at bay by the massive mountains off in the distance.
Not easy concentrating on the road when you’re surrounded by such beauty.
Spoiler alert: no accidents on this journey so that is good.
The drive takes you through the incredible countryside for a few hours until, without warning, the world seems to turn from vast openness to dense, wooded pathways.
And then it happens.
You round one of the many bends in the road to catch your first glimpse of what looks like a forgotten world.
Dense forests climbing the length of mountains that seem to reach the sky, disturbed only by the occasional waterfall cutting down their face and emptying into a rushing river below.
I arrived in Milford Sound.
From the moment I laid eyes on the area I had no doubt as to why some refer to it as the 8th wonder of the world.
It is a place beyond description, where neither words nor pictures can ever come close to capturing its true essence.
My two-hour cruise took us through the Sound, out to the Tasman Sea and back to port. Aside from a quick fish n chips lunch break I spent the entire ride on the viewing deck, my eyes glued to the natural wonder around me and my finger never more than a centimeter away from the camera button on my phone.
I remember wondering how I was going to be able to accurately describe what I was seeing or feeling and knew, however hard I tried, I would fall short.
There is, however, one moment I would like to detail.
It was one that, for me, was the crux of my experience in Milford Sound and interestingly enough, it happened before I even stepped foot on the boat.
With some time to kill before 12:30pm I strolled around the docks taking in all the different perspectives.
I looked straight ahead, was amazed. Picture time.
I looked right, was amazed. Picture time.
I looked behind me, was amazed. Picture time.
Then I looked left. Of course I was amazed and ready to snap another shot but this was different.
To my left was a rocky pier that jutted out past the boats and into the sound. Several people were out there enjoying a new vantage point for their photos while I was closer to the terminal area.
From my position of only a few hundred meters away I could see the photo-takers but they were mere specks set against a towering mountain. The sheer vastness of the backdrop was what struck me.
Look how small people are in the grand picture.
A powerful wave of thought crashed over me at that moment for I realized, no matter how big I think anything in my life is, it really is microscopic in the grand scheme of everything.
I am grateful to have experienced such a moment in such a remarkable setting and hope to use the thought in times when I forget just how inconsequential the seemingly consequential can be.
For more pictures of my road trip and cruise in Milford Sound check out my Facebook page.
Take a look!