step back
tallest fall

The tallest waterfall in this corner of the world comes down in three great sweeps. From the bottom you're not sure whether you can see the top.

Waterfalls rarely photograph well. The magic is in the movement.

At the base of this one stands an altar of granite, upon which the torrent sacrifices itself moment after moment, year upon year. When the wind catches the water it can bend it away from this huge stone, causing it to crash instead amongst the smaller plunge pools and eroded scree.

The spray billowing out is constant. Strange to think of that pounding mist still there at night, freezing regardless of the season or the moon. Much of the region's water comes from glacial melt. When you stand in the rivers you feel your shins binding up, painfully dense, clenching under and away from the cold.

If you focus on a single point of falling water you can track its progress all the way down, or nearly all the way down, until it splits and disappears just above the ground.

I keep thinking about that granite altar, drenched in worship, endless falling particles saying 'We're here, we're here! We're gone, we're gone!' as they collide with the hard surface and vanish, although of course nothing can ever truly vanish, only transform. Everything moving forever downhill, until it reaches the sea or is lifted up by the sun to fall somewhere else.

I watch the falling water long enough for the green cliff walls to warp and swim beneath my vision when I move my eyes.

I question whether an endless waterfall, one in which the torrent never reaches the stony floor, never splits into different forms upon impact, would hold people's interest. It's the changing of states that holds our gaze, not just the journey down.

The Milford Track 090323