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Published: March 24th 2010
The End Of The World
A desolate, beautiful place.
It had to be the best cup of tea ever. I was cold and wet, and the tea was hot and wet. What’s more it was made with real milk instead of the powdered stuff I carry with me, and l was drinking it in the warmth of a ship’s saloon.
How I came to be aboard was thanks to the crew - in particular Carol, who’s the nature guide aboard the tourist vessel, “Fiordland Navigator” operated by Real Journeys.
It was tied up at the wharf when I arrived at Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound. The crew were farewelling their overnight guests, and my timing couldn‘t have been better. As the bus pulled away, I swung in on the Beast of Burden and asked, “where‘s the coffee shop?”
Cue Carol, who invited me aboard to have morning tea with her and the rest of the eight or nine crew. She said they didn‘t get too many cyclists coming over Wilmot Pass. I think that, and my bedraggled appearance swung it for me.
Before long, I had removed my dripping wet weather gear and was clutching my cuppa and digging into some delicious little chocolate numbers. Perfect!
Serious Mountain Bikers!
Matt and Marcus were two mountain bikers I met on the boat going across Lake Manapouri to West Arm. Instead of simply going over Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound, they were choosing a much harder ride over Percy Saddle to Lake Monowai. They knew they were going to have to carry their bikes for part of the way.
Carol explained the crew works seven-days-on and seven-off, and long hours. The chef, John, for example, starts at 6.30 in the morning and sometimes doesn’t finish until 9.30 at night. Despite the hours, the crew seemed a happy bunch and quick one-liners flowed back and forth along the morning tea table. Soon they excused themselves and returned to their tasks. Each day they have only a few hours to prepare the ship for its next guests.
I thanked Carol and headed off into the cold and wet, feeling much better prepared for the 22k ride back to the West Arm of Lake Manapouri.
On the road, the sound of water was everywhere. Rain bounced off my helmet, rivulets ran past me, streams rushed by out of sight in the bush and waterfalls roared off the mountainsides. It gave me the feeling that I was at the end of the world - a desolate, beautiful place where only the hardiest of souls chose to live and work.
But I felt warmed, not only by that cup of tea but also by the kindness shown to me by the crew of the "Navigator". They were clearly busy, but welcomed
Manapouri Power Station
Most of it is built well below ground in the granite rock. Its construction led to the argument over whether to raise the level of lake Manapouri by up to 30 metres to generate more power. 265,000 signed a petition against the proposal and when Labour got into power in 1972, it honoured its election pledge not to raise the lake. The issue is regarded as the one which gave New Zealanders a sense of "conservation awareness". Now guardians of the lake advise the government on its management, and levels are maintained within their normal range.
me into their lives for that short while. It was a small thing - offering a cup of tea to a stranger - but it was hugely welcome and it meant a lot to me.
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