05.07.2010 5 °C
We drive through the central Otago region with stunning scenery especially around Lake Dunstan. We have lunch in Cromwell which is famous for a (crappy) giant fruit salad at the entrance to the town. It is very small but it doesn´t really matter since we are only stopping for lunch in the old town. We´ve noticed that we seem to have quite a special atlas which sometimes includes/discludes/incorrectly charts places, this is not too bad as it has a special feature of including Lord of The Rings filming locations. At first we are very excited by this since we will get to see of all Frodo´s special places, this turns to disappointment as we realise we probably won´t recognise most locations due to the amount of CGI in the movie. How wrong could we have been? The movie comes to life as we drive past various locations and recognise them from the movie.
We decide to make the most of the fine weather and by-pass Queenstown for the time being to head out to Fjiordland. The road from Queenstown to Doubtful Sound is truly amazing, we pass the Remarkables (opening scene of LOTR) mountain range and what an apt name since they are truly remarkable. With the Remarkables on one side and Lake Wakatipu on the other we begin our drive to Te Anua just as the sun is beggining to set behind us. I know we keep going on about how beautiful and stunning everything is but that is the only way to describe it. It reminds us of Wast Water, a region in the Lake District which looks a little out of place with all its ruggedness. The other thing is that you do feel very small with the majesty of the mountains on one side and the serenity of the lake on the other. We stop frequently to take picutures especially as the scenery becomes more dramatic as the light changes.
The rest of the drive is a lot longer than we anticipated as we decide to keep going all the way to Lake Manapouri so we don´t have to drive in the morning for our Doubtful Sound cruise. We are up at the crack of dawn and it is truly freezing. The good weather spell unfortunately doesn´t seem to have lasted and after the long drive yesterday we are more than a little disappointed. Nonetheless we unwillingly book ourselves on a tour and set sail across New Zealand´s second largest lake - Lake Manapouri for Doubtful Sound. A little note about Lake Manapouri, there are absolutely no free-camping areas. We drive from spot to spot faced with signs saying no camping, after an eternity looking for a space we say f-it to the Nz rules and camp right under a no camping sign. A little naughty, sure, but we're tired and doing no harm to the environment. In the morning, the second showerless day, we feel thoroughly un-rested and icky. We end up using the public toilets in the harbour car-park. Ahhhhh, the traveller's life eh? Full of wonder, adventure and dubious personal hygiene!
The doubtful sound journey takes approximately 45 mins and we are determined to spend most of it outside to admire the views. The wind is so bitter and cold it feels like it is cutting through our faces and after a while we are forced to stay inside.
Once we get to the other side of the lake we board a bus to take us over the sub-alpine Wilmot Pass. We ohh and ahh as we go through the pass which has stunning flora at every corner - rainforest packed with ferns, palms, various beech forests and my favourite is the amazing carpets of moss in every colour imagineable. Add to that the waterfalls and slowly drifting low clouds and it is absolutely beautiful. We catch our first glimpse of Doubtful Sound and are stunned into silence by its beauty.
We board another boat on the other side of the pass to explore the sound. As we make our way it is impossible to ignore just how silent and peaceful the sound is. We are told that Doubtful is not really a sound but a fjord and the difference between the two lies in their origin. A sound is a river valley flooded by the sea following a rise in sea levels or depression of land, or a combination of both and a fjord is a glaciated valley which is typically narrow and steep-sided that has been flooded by the sea after the glacier´s retreat. Both of the most popular sounds in this area - Doubtful and Milford are fjords.
We try and spend as much outdoors as is possible with the biting wind as we are told that there is a possibility of seeing some superb wildlife - penguins, dolphins, fur seals and sea lions. The sound is so vast that on one hand you want to shout to break the silence and on the other hand you are facinated and want to take it all in - the waterfalls cascading down the rock faces, trees coming down in landslides, trees growing from rock faces and generally trying to get your head round how amazing nature truly is. Everyone on the boat is disappointed that we don´t spot any wildlife on the way to the mouth of the sound and further disappointment follows as the wind has really picked up stopping us short of the mouth and into the Tasman Sea. The view is amazing and it makes me think about how lucky Captain James Cook was to discover this amazing place. Captain James Cook named it Doubtful after his ship sailed past the sound without entering as he had doubts about whether the winds in the sound would be able to carry his ship back to the sea. I reckon he must have gone past on a quiet day as the wind is well and truly in charge today! Despite it being a miserable day there is a certain wow factor to the sounds, an eerie, stillness that is captivating...but that quickly dissipates as soon as a minus 15 wind chill punches you square in the gob.
Try as we might the spirits are well and truly low despite the Captain's effort to pep us up with some possibilities of seeing wildlife. Alas, it wasn't our day and we return to Deep Cove with dampened spirits. We continue onwards to the Manapouri Power Station, which we are reliably informed is the largest hydro-electric power station in the southern hemisphere. Not really sure what to say about a power station except it was very noisy and hot but Gav is fascinated by it, the tunnel was dug out through solid mountain by hand in the 1940s and a new tunnel dug out by the channel tunnel boring machine (I sound like a boring machine right now I know...). We head back to our starting point at Lake Manapouri, get Wilma going and head on down to Te Anau from where we'll do the Milford Track.
Thanks for reading loyal followers, we'll try to complete Nz asap for you all