New Zealand…you’re so beautiful by nature. You blew me away at almost every turn. At every road I drove down, you greeted me with stunning vistas – a snowy-capped mountain, a rugged beach, or vast expanses of rolling green hills.
Your diverse landscapes resembled those you’d expect to find on a whole continent, not a small country humbly lying in the South Pacific.
You never failed to impress and being in your presence for five wonderful weeks only confirmed everything I had heard about you being one of the most breathtaking places in the world.
But perhaps one of your greatest beauties is Milford Sound, a mystical fiord home to a thousand waterfalls.
This is the only place in the world where I wished for it to rain just so I could see you in all your magnificent glory. And again you didn’t let me down. Cascading waterfalls amazed me around every corner and tiny streams trickled down your cliff faces like tears.
But like many of your natural wonders, you have a fascinating story to tell. Legends that date back several hundred years to when the Maori people first settled on your lands. And Milford Sound is no exception. Its story is one of great achievement but also sorrow and loss – a feeling that can encapsulate anyone navigating around the sheer rocky cliffs that emerge out of your still dark waters.
The Maori Legends of Milford Sound
Milford Sound was known to the Maori as ‘Piopiotahi‘, which translates to ‘a single piopio’ – a native thrush bird which is unfortunately now extinct in New Zealand.
The name derives from the legend about the last endeavour of Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga – the great Polynesian demigod. Accompanied by his piopio he set off on a journey to win immortality for all mankind.
To achieve this goal, he challenged Hine-nui-te-po – The Goddess of Death – to a duel. If he won, he would be rewarded with the prize of eternal life. However if you hadn’t already guessed, he failed in his attempt and was brutally crushed to death by the goddess. It is said that his piopio, who witnessed this terrible tragedy, flew south to the fiords to mourn his loss – giving birth to ‘Piopiotahi‘.
Another Maori legend involves less suffering and one that celebrates great achievement. According to this legend, Milford Sound was created not by rivers of ice, but by Tu Te Raki Whenoa, a godly figure who was responsible for shaping the fiordland coast on New Zealand’s South Island.
His aim was to create waterways and safe harbours that would attract an abundance of fish and birds, breathing life and vitality into the mountains. Hacking away at the rocks with his axe, he made his way from the south to the north, ending with Milford Sound, his greatest masterpiece.
But the underworld goddess Hinenui-te-po plays a part in this story too. When she saw the fiord’s beauty, she feared that visitors would never leave so released sand-flies to chase them away (what a bitch!).
But however you believe Milford Sound or ‘Piopiotahi‘ was formed, there is no denying that it is a captivatingly beautiful place. It really is somewhere that makes you feel as though you are in another world. I mean, just look at it…
Have you every been to a mystical place with a story to tell? Let me know below!
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