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2024 - January - Day 8 - Doubtful Sound

Clouds greeted us this morning as I pulled back the curtains whilst making my porridge. The forecast was for it to get brighter and warmer and with that in mind I decided to go back to wearing shorts for our trip to Doubtful Sound. Would that though be tempting fate??


Fiordland is one of the wettest places on earth. Averaging almost 8m of rain annually with rain falling on about 200 days each year. When we previously went to Milford Sound the weather was good – we couldn’t strike it lucky twice could we?


Te Anau was not on our original route for this trip but Karen decided after I had booked all the original accommodation that she really wanted to visit Doubtful Sound. I was to paraphrase more ‘doubtful’ about the idea as it added another 300 miles to the total journey but gave in to Karen’s persuasion. The route was changed and this day trip was duly booked despite the eye watering cost. Remembering though the 12-hour day from the trip we had when we went to Milford Sound I was pleased that this was going to be shorter even if it did involve a few different modes of transport.


The meeting point for the tour was Pearl Harbour about 20 minutes away in Manapouri. The ticket said a start time of 10am with check in taking place 30 minutes beforehand. After finding the free car park (take note UK) and checking in, I was miffed to find out that boarding for the first boat was not going to start until 10.20am. Why? Apparently, we could wait in their café below where we could buy food and drink for the day. Seemed like a marketing ploy to me and made me grumpy. As did waiting with 70 other people that I knew I would then be stuck with for the rest of the day. I hate being in big organised groups like this. When at one point later in the day the headcount was one short, I was all for just leaving them. We felt positively young and spritely amongst the USA/Canadian/Aussie tour party who were all in the group.


The first journey along Lake Manapouri took a full hour. The scenery was very spectacular and the time soon passed by. It was then onto 3 coaches for a 45-minute journey up and over Wilmot Pass. This followed the only ‘road’ that led us to Deep Cove where the boat trip on Doubtful Sound would begin. The road had been built originally for the construction workers for the Hydro Electric plant on Lake Manapouri and was quite an engineering feat. It was a challenging 1:5 steep in places meaning that when we going downhill the front of the coach was 2m lower than the back.


Finally, we reached our actual boat for the 3-hour cruise around the Sound. Except as I finding on this trip some names are not entirely accurate. A ‘Sound’ is formed by a river, whereas where we were about to cruise upon was formed by Glacier. Therefore, technically it was a Fiord. The Doubtful part of the name is strange as well. When ‘discovered’ by Captain Cook as he sailed by, he declined to actual enter the area because he was ‘doubtful’ that the wind direction would allow him to sail out again.


We took our seats upstairs on the boat where it was quieter and we had full windows next to and above us. The views were marvellous as were some of the waterfalls we passed. We ate the bits and bobs we had brought with us for lunch watching the world pass by. It was very relaxing.


There was an intermittent commentary which was interesting and explained the history and about the flora and fauna as we went along. After 1 ½ hours we reached the Tasman Sea where the smooth sailing ended and it all became rather choppy. Fortunately, we were not in this long enough for my sea hating stomach to start churning. We headed out to a small island covered in seals who took no notice of us.


On the return journey the boat took a turn into one of the smaller ‘sounds’ and we were all told to go outside on the deck. We were all told to stand still in silence whilst the engine and generators were turned off. The sheer silence as the boat drifted against the backdrop of the magnificence of the natural surroundings was without ‘doubt’ the highlight of the trip. It was awe inspiring and thought provoking.


Back on the boat we were soon back at the dock where the coaches were waiting to take us back over the pass to the next boat waiting for us at Lake Manapouri. The captain on this leg put the pedal to the floor as it must have been knocking off time for him as well, meaning we were soon back.


It was a lovely trip and the ‘oldies’ had not irritated me too much. I still dislike organised trips but there is no other way to visit places like this which are so remote. Yet again we had been very lucky with the weather which kept dry and got warmer as the day had progressed.


After a walk up a steep path to the car, we were soon back in our room. For our meal tonight, Karen heated up a pie which I had with some boiled eggs. Then as Karen needed a wine top up, we walked to the supermarket for another bottle.


We had a glass of wine watching ‘The Amazing Race’ a variation on ‘Race across the World’ before retiring.

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