If you stay perfectly still, don’t speak, and sit quietly, what do you hear? Voices from the office next door or desk nearest yours? The tick of a clock? The hum of your computer? Perhaps you’re outdoors and hear insects buzzing, birds squawking, waves lapping, or leaves rustling in the breeze. Wherever you are, imagine you’re here:
Standing near the bow of a boat with its engines off, the passengers and crew motionless, speechless for a few brief moments, even the wind has died down. You can hear the call of birds, the gentle gush of a small waterfall, and the occasional rustle of someone nearby shifting his weight or tucking a hand in her pocket. You are free to let your mind wander, to reflect on any subject of your choosing, or to simply inhale the beauty of your surroundings.
This is Doubtful Sound, the second largest fiord in Fiordland National Park (Dusky Sound is larger). Getting here requires crossing Lake Manapouri and the nasty Wilmot Pass, a drive I happily left to a professional.
After enjoying the much smaller Milford Sound on a dive boat, we splurged on an overnight cruise of Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys. And as many locals and travelers assured us it would be, the expense was well worth it. We kayaked, made new friends, ate well, drank good wine, enjoyed the seals, birds, borrowing binoculars in hopes of seeing little Blue Penguins, and stared at the Milky Way at midnight. We learned about the mountainside forests that grow without deep soil and the common tree avalanches that result. The onboard nature guide, a friendly woman with a wealth of knowledge about New Zealand flora and fauna, identified bird calls and recounted local legends. She and the captain recounted histories of the sound’s early exploration including Captain Cook’s naming of Doubtfull Harbour (doubting he could maneuver his ship safely into the sound), and the sealing era of the early 1800s. Anchored at night, we slept deeply and in the morning, reveled in our luck of two sunny days in this typically rainy environment.
When we stopped for that moment of silence, I stood in awe of the beauty around us, overjoyed at being present in this spectacular world. I hope each of you, wherever you are, have had such moments in your life and have many more ahead.