Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Magnificent Doubtful Sound

We stayed at the Manapouri Lakeview Motor Inn in Fiordlands National Park in southwest NZ last Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday we took a day trip to Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys (www.realjourneys.co.nz). Having only one full day here, we had to decide between Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound. We decided on the latter because we wouldn't have to do any driving (the departure pier being very close by), there are way fewer boats in the sound because it's less accessible, and no flight-seeing overhead. Milford is the one that tourists know about and thus with the most coach loads...even from Queenstown! More than a four hour drive each way!

To back up a bit, the winds that we endured to visit the albatross colony continued unabated on our drive across the country from Dunedin to Manapouri on Saturday. The wind speed became even greater with gusts up to 100 km/hr accompanied by pounding rain into the night. Around 4 am the rain had quit and we looked out to see most magnificent stars--what a treat. 

Rain clouds were still evident in the distance towards the sound...This was our early morning view from in front of the motel.

The boat left the dock on Manapouri Lake at 8 am for the 45 minute trip across to the other side. There is a power station at this end, built in the 60s. This is not a dam but the entrance. From here the water falls 176 metres below lake level to the turbines. 

We then loaded onto coaches for the 45 min trip along the Wilmot Pass, a narrow twisting road built to support the dam construction and now used solely by visitors to Doubtful Sound. This was our first view of the sound from the summit.

And then onto the Patea Explorer catamaran to explore the sound for the next three hours. On board was a very well-informed naturalist and historian. He pointed out clumps of blooming mistletoe, an indication of a healthy forest.

This is a fabulous rainforest that receives about three metres of rain per year (much like the Pacific Northwest, e.g. Ocean Falls, Prince Rupert and the Alaskan panhandle). Hence the multitude of greens in a variety of textures--trees, mosses and lichens--with abundant waterfalls! 

At the mouth of the sound, looking out over the Tasman Sea, we saw albatross again. The naturalist said these were "shy albatross " so named because they normally stay away from boats.

Captain Cook named this "Doubtful Harbour" because he didn't enter, doubting that it would be big enough to turn the ship around to sail out. Fourteen years later the Spanish rowed in with a long boat to chart these waters....the same ones that were in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1700s and early 1800s...hence some of the same names were assigned, e.g, Malaspina.

The back of our Volvo coach, obviously designed specifically for their NZ client.

Our last look outside our window towards the Wilmot Pass and Doubtful Sound before leaving Monday morning...every one of the 55 rooms in this place has a magnificent lake view.

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