Where two next?

Antipodean travelogue through the eyes of two - one textile and one building lover. It'll be hard to differentiate the two!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Doubtful Sound (2) Day 8 (Post No. 95)

This is our 95th post on this blog and Sharon has told me that the 100th post is a big thing. So from here on in until I reach the 100th I am including the countdown on the title of the post. Only five more to go........and it's in your best interest to pay attention!!!!

We got picked up outside the Top Ten Holiday park and were brought by bus 19km south of Te Anau to the little town of Manapouri, which gets it's name from the lake it is situated beside.

It was there that our tour guides welcomed us all and thanked an elderly couple for hanging on the extra day to take the tour. The tour being cancelled the day before due to the bad weather front that had followed us from the Catlins to Invercargill. It seems we were lucky in a way to have encountered the bad weather in Invercargill as we did not have the luxury of being able to hang around an extra day if our trip to Doubtful was cancelled.

After we had boarded the small fully enclosed boat I couldn't help but think that if our camper van was amphibious we could have saved ourselves a lot of money! The boat was small, fully enclosed and quite claustrophobic, a lot like the camper van after a few days it has to be said! While we were heading across the lake we were relieved when our guide confirmed that a bigger boat awaited us on our arrival to Doubtful Sound.

The guide explained the itinerary also, stating that after we had crossed the lake we would have a few minutes to look around the West Arm Visitor Centre, before being collected by coach and brought to the West Arm Hydroelectrical Power Station.

It was at the West Arm Visitor Centre that I first got acquainted with sand flies, Sharon & Annette having done so during their trip to the Abel Tasman. They are about the size of midges and look therefore innocuous enough but they bite and if you remain stationary for any length of time you will be swarmed with them! It was at the Centre that I also managed to get a nice picture of New Zealand's only parrot and one of the few alpine parrots in existence, the Kea.

After risking life and limb to get the pic, I refer to my encounters with the sand flies, it was onto a bus and onto the West Arm Power Station. The station was originally planned to power an aluminium smelter in the town of Bluff by, among other things, raising the level of Manapouri Lake by a staggering 30m! The proposal was to cause uproar throughout New Zealand and initiated NZ's first real environmental campaign on a grand scale. The campaign was successful and not only was the lake left unaltered but the company has to ensure that the water levels remain within pre set parameters at all times.

The trip around the station was very interesting especially the trip down the tunnel into the station itself. The tunnel winds its away under the mountain at a 10 degree slope and seems to descend for ever! The guide explained that the tunnel is so narrow that you have to drive on the right hand side when you enter because it is far easier to get tight to the tunnel wall on the drivers side. This is particularly handy when you meet on coming traffic. Here's a pic inside the station from a platform which has various interactive consoles etc. and tourist information and pamphlets.

After the station it was back into the bus and onto Doubtful Sound via Wilmot Pass. Wilmot Pass being the road that they had to build in order to get equipment to the power station and which is now utilised by tour company's to reach the Sound. Here's a pic taken from the mooring post where we waited for our boat to arrive.

Doubtful Sound gets its name from Captain Cook who was "doubtful" that the winds would blow their ship back out to sea" so he sailed on. If they had gone into the Sound they would have needed the rare NZ easterlies to blow them back out, which apparently could have taken days if not weeks, something they were not prepared to chance. His itinerary must have been almost as demanding as ours!

As I have alluded to in a previous post, this part of New Zealand is a sub tropical rain forest which gets a staggering 6-9 metres of rainfall per year. It basically never stops raining and that's exactly what it did the entire time we were there.

Ironically enough it's perfect weather for exploring the Sound as you see it as nature intended. Unfortunately it doesn't make for good photo's, especially with a small digital camera, but trust me the scenery was great.

This is a picture of a hut built by local fishermen. The area is under conservation by the Department of the Marine and when the fishermen requested permission to build the hut below they were refused. Being clever Kiwi's however they found out that the Department only have control of the areas between high and low tide so they built it above the high tide water mark! Here's a pic.

They say wet weather is the way to experience the Sounds as it makes the place misty and atmospheric. It also ensures that the multitude of waterfalls are in full flow which they were on the day of our visit. Here's some pics.

The guide took the boat into one of the side "arms" of the Sound so he could take the boat directly under some of the waterfalls. Here's a pic from underneath. The girls thought it was exactly like a Timotei advert. The highlight however of the trip was encountering a group of Bottlenose Dolphins which decided to follow the boat for a little while. There was about 10 of them but unfortunately I didn't get a photo. Here's one taken from a web site which is actually taken in Doubtful Sound, on what appears to be a finer day!

And because I am concerned that the pictures of Doubtful Sound are not doing it justice, at no extra cost, here's a video I took of the Dolphins the day we were there. Being male I couldn't take the video and pics at the same time. Sharon & Annette unfortunately wouldn't know what a camera looks like from the back! Strangely enough though they do know what to do when they see the front of the camera, fix the hair, strike a pose.......

The last picture was taken on our return trip.

So whats the difference between Doubtful and Milford Sound. Well the main two things are size and accessibility. Doubtful Sound is much bigger than Milford, a lot harder to get to and therefore far less crowded. The guide book states that the boat terminus at Milford Sound during the summer high season can resemble a busy international airport! It gets 14,000 visitors per year and is NZ's most popular attraction.

So if it's peace and quiet your after and you can only visit one then Doubtful Sound, despite it's name, is the one for you.


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