Fiordland, in the south-west of South Island, is full of Sounds. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what a Sound (with a capital ‘S’) actually is, so I had to look it up. It turns out that a Sound is a large sea/ocean inlet, formed when the sea fills a valley, so it’s surrounded by hills or mountains – which makes it very picturesque.
In fact, it’s so pretty that it inspires even the most unlikely photographers –
What’s the matter with this child? Why isn’t he playing a game on his iPad?
There are some dramatic waterfalls, and the captains of the tour boats liven up their day by getting in as close as they can, to soak all the passengers –
– and I can attest to the fact that the spray is absolutely freezing.
We saw fur seals lolling around on the rocks, and then a pod of bottlenose dolphins came into view –
– and everyone got very excited.
Fiordland also has the world’s only alpine parrot, called the kea, which seems to spend all its time hanging around in the tourist car parks, begging for food –
They hang around humans for two reasons according to the information panel: firstly, they have a fondness for fast food and secondly, they like ‘to exercise their strong, manipulative beaks in the destruction of our unguarded possessions’ … bloody delinquents.
Fiordland is extremely wet – they get between 8 and 12 metres of rain a year. To put that in perspective, Kuala Lumpur, which seems very wet to me, gets 2.6 metres of rain a year, and London’s average annual rainfall is 60 cm.
In addition to the waterfalls, many of which are periodic, there are also rivers flowing at high speed down the mountains. They pick up hard, crystalline pebbles which get swirled around and around in the current and grind out weird and wonderful pothole shapes –
The rainwater in Fiordland is stained brown by tannin, and it sits on top of the sea water in the Sounds, making it very dark underneath, and allowing deep sea creatures to live much closer to the surface than they normally would. This means that scientists and divers love this area just as much as we daytrippers do.
We cruised around Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound on two different days, and these boat trips are quite expensive, so I sat outside on the deck and made sure that I got the most out of the experience. But not everyone shared my enthusiasm –
Oh well … more room on the top deck for the keenies.
And finally …
Q: What sound does a Sound make?
A: The Maori name for Doubtful Sound is Patea, which means ‘the place of silence.’ Perhaps, with a nod to accuracy, we should call them No-Sounds from now on.