29.04.2012 - 30.05.2012
After making full use of the campsites hot showers, we headed down to Lake Manapouri. The weather was dreadful... such dark, menacing clouds and by the time we were ready to board the rain was coming down like stair rods!
However this did not dampen our spirits and indeed our spirits were maintained as we heard the words “complimentary hot drinks” over the tannoy on the first boat – and so began 24 hours of constant tea and coffee! (If anyone has done one of these trips before you will know they are not the cheapest – we really felt the need to get our money’s worth here!) So, first boat trip was 45 minutes over Lake Manapouri – the rain continued and heavy clouds blocked out any sort of view, however it was explained this is the real Fiordlands we were experiencing and as they get over 200 days of rain a year I suppose this was true!
We disembarked at the other end of Lake Manapouri where there is a huge impressive power station which is fuelled by the sheer power of the water travelling from Lake Manapouri down to Doubtful Sound. A 45 minute bus journey took us over Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove at the end of Doubtful Sound. Here we boarded our overnight boat the Fiordland Navigator!
It was all very exciting! We spent the next 20 hours exploring Doubtful Sound, with an overnight stop anchored in one of the more sheltered arms of the fiord. In the afternoon we were able to go out in kayaks from the boat to get right up close to the shoreline – this was pretty amazing and the rain even eased for us during this time. The sheer rock faces of the valley are covered in rain forest and the forest can regenerate on even a bare face (after avalanche etc) as the mosses develop. It is amazing! Soon after kayaking was an opportunity for swimming...Doubtful Sound has an average temperature of 11 degrees Celsius....so obviously Joe leapt at the chance (quite literally) and dived off the side of the boat into the water...the look on his face as he emerged from his dive would suggest the water was perhaps a little chilly. Sarah obviously had to wait aboard with a towel so couldn’t go in herself. Shame.
One of the most exciting parts of the trip was heading out of the fiord towards the Tasman Sea....we weren’t able to go too far out as it was blowing a hoolie and the swells were huge but it was great to see! Now, although this cruise was obviously all about the scenery, it would be wrong not to mention the food.....hot muffins on arrival, a bowl of soup after kayaking followed by a buffet dinner serving roast beef and lamb, hot smoked salmon, mussels, king prawns, chicken with cashew nuts, filo pastry parcels, vegetables, salads, chocolate mud cake, pavlova, baked raspberry cheesecake and cheese and biscuits, a cooked and continental breakfast buffet....it was amazing! And so we got our money’s worth Joe ate so much that he was unable to move for the rest of the evening.
It would be lying to say it wasn’t mildly disappointing that the clouds didn’t clear for us so we didn’t see the view all around us, but even so Doubtful Sound was an amazing experience and we were so lucky to see all of the huge waterfalls come to life and sea the Fiord at it’s most natural and beautiful. We had a storm overnight and very cold weather resulting in the first snow of the year on the mountains so this made it extra special.
Back on dry land (it was actually still raining as heavily as we got back to our Campervan as it was when we left...) we got back to Queenie and made our way to Te Anau before deciding to drive up the Milford Road to Milford Sound. Deemed to be an unforgettable road to drive it wasn’t a disappointment with vistas aplenty as well as snow, rain, hail and even some sun! We’re camping on Lake Gunn tonight about 40 km from Milford Sound which is stunning but freezing!!