The Sound Of Silence - Plush Ink The Sound Of Silence - Plush Ink

The sound of silence

Fiordland, the rugged indented south-western coast of New Zealand’s South Island has a pristine, calming feel that wafts one back in time. This was the very last piece of Earth to be colonised by people, and here, a sea captain told us, “Very little has changed since the end of the Ice Age 15,000 years ago”. In this protected National Park and World Heritage Site of breathtaking natural beauty, everything smells and looks freshly washed. The rainfall here is measured in metres. As the moisture-laden westerly winds crash against the tall Southern Alps, a theatre of moving clouds, waterfalls, rainbows, snow and ice is created around the deep inlets of sea.

Our first glimpse of this pulse-raising topography was from above, as an AS 350 ‘Squirrel’ helicopter piloted by Ben took off at a rakish tilt from Fiordland Helicopters’ base Te Anau, a tiny town by a massive lake of the same name. The famed Milford Track was just below us, with backpackers threading their way towards the sound. As we arose past the tree line, dark forests gave way to bright-green grasslands. We skimmed rocky, peaked ridges that resembled the backs of tuatara lizards and we traced waterfalls upwards to the hanging lakes they poured out of. A secret landscape had opened to us, revealing the privilege of the peregrine falcon.

Landing by the glassy stillness of Lake Erskine in a bowl, we hopped off and explored the area, climbing rocky outcrops, noticing the minuscule flowers and the clutches of clouds that had been ensnared at eye level. We peered over the sheer, heart-stopping drops. The lake had its very own waterfall slipping over its lip at a narrow point. Anyone foolhardy enough to step into its steely calmness would be sucked into its steep frothy pour. We took off again to fly directly over Milford Sound, from inland to the open Tasman Sea and back. We could see the sharply rising mountains on its sides. Holding on to my iPhone tightly against the tug of the wind, I took pictures from the small openable window of the helicopter.

Back on terra firma, my cousin Simi, our engaging guide Jaap Van der Greest and I drove two hours along the scenic road to Milford Sound. The leafy branches of beech trees meeting overhead created a fetching tree tunnel. We crossed braided rivers and the savannah-like grasslands of Eglinton Valley. Stopping at Mirror Lakes, we walked the wooden deck, enjoying views of mountains and grasses reflected perfectly on the still waters.

A road leading over a bridge in Milford Sound in New Zealand.MADImagingSF

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