This story hails from one of the best days of my first ever backpacking trip back in 2009.
Today we are headed to Milford Sound in New Zealand. Probably the most mystical place I have ever been to, which are huge shoes to fill. Today, we are being a little more serious. This recount was such an amazing experience of my life, there is no reason to throw in funny stories or conjecture. Enjoy the day!
We awoke early. We had high aspirations for the day that followed a drunken foray into Kiwi vandalism and sport. We were headed to the promised land of the Kiwi, Fiordland and Milford Sound. We had a four hour ride through the rolling farmland and bizarre scenery. Today’s diet of scenery, strange mutli-colored shrubbery that resembled the cracked, sun-baked earth of the Southwest US, except this was flourishing vegetation. We fueled ourselves through on our typical backpacking meals of meat and tomato sandwiches. One thing I have learned from last summer’s road trip, and backpacking, is that in the absence of a kitchen, you somehow find a way to reduce costs and stay well nourished. Last summer was a healthy diet of peanut butter, bread, and more peanuts. This trip we were consuming a balance of grain, meat, and tomato.
We had the funny feeling that once we reached the frontier of the Fiordland Park, it would be a while until we witnessed any more unnatural amenities. As we refueled our brains, and car, we chanced upon another American who was hitching her way into the park and then onto Queenstown later that night. Lucky for her these were our same plans. Judging by the lack of cars and civilization here, she would be royally stuck had she never came upon us. She told us she had been couch surfing her way through the South Island after having spent the semester studying up north. The night before she was recommended by her proprietors to head for Fiordland, where she was bound to find a ride in, and then back to Queenstown. I shiver to think what would have came of this girl had we not picked her up. The guys she stayed with the night before had taken her Eel and Possum hunting, which consists of sitting in a car, drinking beers, and I am assuming catching these unsavory characters with your bare hands. This put into perspective how moderately tame those from West Virginia compare to these country-folk.
I think my heart melted only slightly more than it had been as we made our way through the Fiordland. At the risk of the being redundant, I was lost in a blissful sensory overload. Once again at the risk of being redundant, I am at a loss of words to truly convey how incredible this place was. I could tell you how imposing these mountain lied lakes and rivers were. I could tell you how perceptually stunning the lush, green mountainsides, and thick colored rocks were, but could this really cover the canvas for you. The Fiordland is a place that begins esthetically pleasureful, and only becomes more mind-blowing as you proceed through the interior. I do not know if you could ever consider sex foreplay, but that is the best way to describe the progression of awesomeness the Fiordland is. You weave your way through these tight mountain passes that open into stunning valleys, that then rest into more mountain passes. At one point we stopped to essentially catch our breaths and I almost collapsed. We were in the heart of nowhere. It surprises me that a place like this really could exist on a map with a road cutting through it. Actually, this is the only truly tramped part of the Fiordland, the only road in and the only road out. Everything else must be experienced by foot or by plane. I thought I was reached my fifth climax as we rocketed out of this unsupported, primitive mountain tunnel. As we propelled outward, we were shot into the lost world. We were staring down a mountain valley, choked by sheer mountains whose size our brains could not conceive the true size of. In the valley, an eerie mist hung over the flourishing array of decadent green fir trees. To say the feeling inside was as monumental as the first time man realized that thing hanging down from their pelvis should be inserted into that tunnel in the pelvis of a female is an undershot. I am a sucker for existential moments, and this was one.
The best was still yet to come. We made it to Milford Sound. On the map it was denoted as a town. The town consisted of an office selling ferry tours and a few parking lots. If you were stranded here past working hours, you would be left alone with Velociraptors and all the other prehistoric animals that have been hiding here to escape Westernization. The Milford Sound is a channel of water that was left as a glacier receded into the Tasman Sea, carving out this picturesque place that once again, probably did not really exist. I had to still be on that mushroom trip from Koh Pha Ngan. This has all be one elaborate dream and I will wake up, mouth foaming in my bungalow on the beach, with James blabbing about how he needs to go home because he is afraid a Lady Boy is going to rob him. I know this is true because looking out to sea from the head of the sound, there are five peaks in successive order that vary slightly in size and orientation. These peaks create a boggling optical illusion as your optical lobe can not comprehend which and where to focus, bringing the peaks to life. I swear it is true and not just the mushrooms.
Our female hitchhiker decided that we would go on a cruise of the sound. This was singularly the best idea of the day. To put that in perspective, it would be like finding a couple million dollars in an unclaimed sack in the middle of the street, and then investing it in a little known computer company called Apple. Despite frigid winter temperatures on the water, my body was warmed with views that made me climax for the tenth time in an hour. I was well past my record. I usually need at least thirty minutes to recharge the boys. The sun was low at the entranceway to the Tasman Sea, projected a low-light across the green and black crevice we were drifting through. My head spun as I gazed at splashing waterfalls, cascading thousands of feet down the smooth cliff sides that lined the sound. We returned to our car shaking. I do not know if in my life my brain had undergone such an experience before. It loved and hated me at the same time. It was such an experience that all ten percent of my brain was firing, trying to compute. I knew I had just seen something incredible, but I could not wrap myself around it at the time. The more you travel, the more places like this lose their overt significance. You know how it incredible is, your body shuts down because it knows how incredible it is. Still, it is yet another phenomenal place that looks fake. You take pictures of yourself in front of the backdrop, but that is all it looks like, a green screen or painted backdrop. You become immune to beauty. It is those truly extraordinary moments that find their way to pierce through and hit you well before you look back on it. This was one of them. My body and mind may not have had gained the full capacity of what I had witnessed, but reflecting back on it now has revealed its true identity. Maybe it was because Milford Sound does not really exact. It is some parallel universe where beauty is true, life us true, alcohol does not give you hangovers, illicit sex is not taboo, economies do not crash, and people do not blow themselves up in the name of religion. It is the only true place I had been to, where nothing matters except for life, and isn’t that why we are all here, for life. Just as quick as the moment came, it whisked away into the quiet retreats of the sound. Just another moment in time where you discover the true meaning of life and forget all the petty baggage that comes with living. Just like that I was on my way back to civilization, fish and chips in hand, pushing the adrenaline experiences that awaited in Queenstown.