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Published: February 5th 2008
Get up early to do my washing, have brekkie and pack my overnight bag. I'm a bit late checking out but they weren't worried as I said I would be. Bed had been nice - nice mattress/sheets, etc so slept pretty well. Shame can't come back (except to pick up my bag!) but never mind! Netty turns up so have a nice chat... Again. 1130 am picked up by Real Journeys and we head for Manipouri where we have 45 minutes of shuffling around and find out that we've all been told different things about room prices - I saved about $60, but someone else had managed to get not only the special price but the YHA 10%!d(MISSING)iscount. We asked at the desk but they just said the price varied by day/who booked it, and the extra discount shouldn't have been given - worth a try!
We get onto a couple of small boats and make our way on an hour's very windy journey across the lake. By the end I'm the only one on the top deck to see the power station at West Arm zoom into view. We're given 15 minutes at the information centre
then climb onto another bus to complete the 22k over Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove - the start of Doubtful Sound. This stretch of road is the most expensive in New Zealand as it was a difficult one to build and everything had to be brought across Lake Manapouri. There's only about 40 vehicles will ever use this stretch of road - tour buses/power station traffic, and 5-6 local cars. We're driving through some really old sections of wood, protected from the early European settlers. We stop at the top to view Doubtful Sound - how good does that look!
Onto the boat, after a briefing, it's a scramble for the bottom bunk in the quad rooms - rooms are allocated, and I get in there and find both bottom bunks gone already although am only the 5th person down! Get to know Martyn and Rachel properly later, and John a bit - and Martyn is a complete star and gives up base bunk - I'm not good even in hostel top bunks so on a boat...!
After an hour or so of sailing through what is undoubtedly beautifuł (and yes, at this point, like a quieter version
of Milford Sound), we 'pull up', and there's an opportunity to kayak. Not done this yet, so this was one of the attractions. I'm not very good at it, but give it a good go for 1/2 hour - definitely improving, but, boy, it's relly tiring - glad I didn't sign up for a 3 day trip on a kayak! By time get back to boat am pretty wet and am waging war on the sandflies which are eating away at me. Once they're sure the water is free of kayaks/small boats (that was the other option) we go back to the starting point and the gate is opened to jump into the lake from the boat. Find this fun and a great temperature (they say 16-20), and we have a great 1/2 hour or so. Lots of people are complaining that it's cold, but they should try Lake Wanaka, or that place Nick/Ollie took me to!
Quick shower, then up for some warm soup/bread which is essentially the first course of dinner. Time to wander round the ship, into the bridge, and then we head out to sea, where our nature guide points out rock formations/algae/cormorants, etc and
then the dolphins are spotted! Much manouvering to catch sight of them - saw them swim close but camera wasn't playing ball right then! Then we watched the sails go up... All motorised. Next sighting, a large seal colony - more seals just kept arriving!
Hear the ship's horn - signals dinner. Grab a seat with Rachel, Martyn, Tim and Chris, and we're sent up by tables. A really good spread and of course have to have a taste of everything... All good! Martyn and I share a bottle of wine... Nice. Before pudding we've turned back to sea as the sunset looks promising and get out at the perfect time. Getting pretty chilly, but nice to come back in for pudding - including of course pavlova - invented by the Kiwis if you're in NZ, by the Aussies if you're in Oz! Cheese and biscuits with port to finish off before we head to the Observtion Lounge for a nature/history talk on the area - interesting and entertaining. The boat has docked in First Arm for the night. A quick game and off to bed around 10 as the engines will start 645! Monday 4th
about 515 - slept pretty well. Rolled back over but wish I'd got up as missed the sunrise when got up 630ish/showered. Still, some beautiful early morning effects to be seen. Keep nipping to the top in between a lovely cooked breakfast. The boat starts off again about 7, and soon after we head past one of the few buildings around here - somehow has got around the regulations - something to do with no buildings above the high tide mark?!
Sails go up again, we just keep cruising down this beautiful area - stop at a waterfall, are given some information on some of the high walls - plants that grow on them, higher than the world's highest waterfall - but not constantly flowing so not registered as such. We then pull into another area (Full Arm?), and we've been promised something special, and this mirror pond effect seems to fit the bill, but no, that's not it. The boat stops - engines/generators are turned off. Everyone is asked to turn off cameras/phones, etc and not to move. For 10 minutes we stand in silence and slowly pick up on all the natural sounds - how often do
you get absolutely NO noise - could see people shuffling as we're so unused to it - but that was pretty special! Back into dock, say thanks, onto bus and back to Lake Manapouri, another hour's crossing, and back into Te Anau.
Have been given a half-price voucher for little cinema, so go and see the much-hyped local area helicopter film, lasts half hour and took 2 years to make - cinema was built to show it. Some amazing footage of the Fiords... Resisted buying it, wandered back through Te Anau to the hostel where used the internet again, wrote some postcards, finally collected my luggage and headed back to the Pop Inn waiting for the bus which has been to Milford Sound. Is 35 minutes late, but had a nice read whilst waiting, then had time for another chat to Netty who's staying in Te Anau again tonight, plus another ice cream, before back on the bus. Others say this bus has been struggling a bit - is an old one as other one is in garage - definitely taking its time getting uphill! Finally arrive in Queenstown shortly before 9 (instead of 8pm) - my hostel seems
a bit out of town, so shove a ready meal in and fall asleep after a great, but long, day!
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