Saturday, March 19, 2016

Good trip? No doubt!

In between Wanaka and Queenstown, we stayed in Manapouri, way down south, in order to visit the Fiordland National Park and, in particular, Doubtful Sound. One of our plans had been to take a helicopter to Milford Sound and then do a boat trip there. Sounds pretty awesome, but awesome came with a steep pricetag of over $800 per person. Which would be fine if it was a once in a lifetime, magical experience, but when we saw the forecast as far as the app could see was for rain, we decided we weren't willing to splurge so much money on something that would probably be cloudy at best and drizzly at worst (or cancelled).

So, a simple boat trip (well, ferry, then coach, then boat trip) in Doubtful Sound it was. We stayed close to our starting point in Manapouri to be ready for our 5:45 alarm call the next day. The woman at the campsite wasn't what you would call welcoming. She seemed to be convinced that we were plotting to somehow scam her by leaving our motorhome in the park while we visited DS. We got to pay her back in smug self-satisfaction though when she asked "iconic or trailblazer?", and we didn't understand the question. She was asking what rental company our motorhome came from. Oh no, we don't have a rental motorhome, darling, how vulgar of you to ask.

As mentioned, DS is pretty inaccessible, so step one was a ferry trip across Lake Manapouri. The decision to take the early morning trip paid off with a beautiful sunrise over the lake. The forecast had been for rain, or at least clouds in Doubtful Sound as well, but we had figured rain is less fatal to a boating expedition than a helicopter trip, so took our chances. We got really lucky - the morning started off with a lot of low-hanging clouds in the sound, but mixed in with a lot of sun and blue skies. Apparently it rains a lot in DS - one guide said 200 days a year, the other 2 days out of 3. Whichever stat, or somewhere in between, you have more chance of getting rain than not. The rain the previous day was also a bonus in boosting the number and volume of waterfalls around the sound, so we really had great timing.

On the ferry
After the lake, we got on a bus for a short drive to the sound, over a 670m mountain pass, the lowest in the Southern Alps. Fiordland is a huge national park, covering about 10% of the land mass of the South Island, at 1.2 million hectares. Then it was on to the second boat for the Doubtful Sound itself. 

In the distance, you can just see the "gap" i.e. the gap between the islands which leads out to the Tasman Sea

A "hanging valley" caused by glacier action

Battling with the wind

Turned out the hoody wasn't much help

Stripey hills
It was named by Captain Cook, who came to the inlet into the sound but "doubted" he could sail in and out again safely, hence the name. I say sound, but unlike the ones at the top of the South Island, it's actually not a sound but a fjord. The difference being a U shape rather than a V shape.

At the end of the fjord, after the "Shelter Islands", which help keep the sea within the fjord calm, we saw a whole island full of native NZ fur seals. And, as though the god of blogs (I call her Glog) was literally smiling down upon us, there was a full rainbow too. Can't do any better than that.

Glog giveth and Glog taketh away, and she was not kind to me, however, once we turned back into the fjord. The sea had been very calm, but it got a bit rougher when we were out in the Tasman, and then, although it subsided into a gentle rocking, the damage was done. We were on the top deck, looking at some of the waterfalls lining the edges of the fjord...

Getting a close up

... when I felt I had better go to the back of the boat and lean over the railings for a bit. No-one else was back there, since everyone was up front looking at the waterfall, except for this one young dude who came and stood right next to me just as I let out a huge burp. I suppose you could be charitable and call it a retch, but yeah, pretty much a massive burp. I said sorry, he said it was okay as he rapidly backed away from me, and when I next turned around his girlfriend was laughing at me :( Ironically, he got sick later on the bus back, SERVES YOU RIGHT!

He must have told some of the crew, because next thing I know, one had appeared with a sick bag for me. It wasn't really required for its key function, but there was quite a bit of gurgling over the side followed by a retreat inside and a hot drink. Probably quite a good thing, since I took a million photos on the way out, so that stopped me taking any more on the return trip!

Jules caring for me from a distance

Sad panda
We then had the rest of the trip in reverse - back on the bus, stopping at a few notable sights, and then the ferry again.

Moss-covered tree

Doubtful Sound from above
Even with sea-sickness, I give it 5 stars, would cruise again.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Good account. Fab photos again. Wonderful rainbow. Like you with the wild hair! xxx p.s. HA to the campground woman - how very dare she!


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