Yet more beauty!!
Trip Start Jan 13, 2010
26Trip End Mar 10, 2010
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We moved on from Queenstown to Te Anau, our base for exploring Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Park. This is the wilderness area of New Zealand on the south west coast of the South Island with some of the Southern Alps contained within it. Te Anau is beautifully situated on the south east shore of Lake Te Anau, the largest lake on the South Island.
The west coast is heavily indented with fiords which were carved by glaciers. Two of the more accessible are Doubtful and Milford, wrongly named ‘sounds’ by early explorers. I use the term ‘accessible’ loosely. To get to Doubtful requires a 30 minute bus ride from Te Anau to Manapouri, a 45 minute boat ride across Lake Manapouri, a hair raising coach ride over a mountain pass and down a 1 in 5 grade gravel road to Deep Cove, where we picked up the boat. All in, the return trip takes over 8 hours
Again the weather was brilliantly sunny and warm. As this is one of the wettest places in the world we were incredibly lucky! The chance of having a rain free day is 7 to 1 against. We had been advised to take warm clothing and waterproof gear so we were sweating bullets! As it had been dry for several days the waterfalls were much reduced but this did not diminish the grandeur of the scene. We saw dolphins and seals but no penguins.
Doubtful Sound is the second largest of the 14 fiords and the deepest (1,380 feet deep). On the return trip we visited a gigantic hydro electric power station which was literally carved out of solid granite. We drove in a coach down a 1.2 mile tunnel to the turbines. The water for the turbines drops through vertical shafts 700 feet from Lake Manipouri and travels 6 miles through tunnels carved out of the mountains to empty into Doubtful Sound.
The next day we went to Milford Sound. We are indefatigable!! This is easier to get to: it only requires a two and half hour drive to the Sound. It is only easier to get to because of the Homer Tunnel, 1.2 miles long, which has been dug through the mountains. We also went with a different tour company (Trips and Tramps) which specializes in small group tours. Let me say right away that I preferred Milford over Doubtful. The scenery was more intimate and, because of the smaller boat, we could get closer to the waterfalls, in one case going under it
The boat was small and new. There were only about 50 people in total on the boat. Now, I want you to reflect on the fact that there are six and half billion people in the world. On the boat, in the wilds of New Zealand, we met a couple who lived in the same town (Lichfield), as Mitzi - not only that, their daughter lived in the same small Staffordshire village (Alrewas), as Mitzi. Now that’s remarkable - but there’s more! Joan met a woman on the boat who is a member of Naperville Associates of the Art Institute. There are only 350 members! Joan is a member also!
Because of the brilliant weather we took a helicopter ride over the Milford Sound mountains and glaciers. We landed on the glacier on Mount Tutoko, sandals and all, and were delighted with the whole experience!! Well worth twice what we paid. The views were fantastic and the photo opportunities unbelievable.
The final excursion of the day was a short walk to a waterfall in the Hollyford Valley and a ‘brew up’ of tea at Mirror Lakes, which, as their name implies, reflect the mountains in the background, but, alas, there was a wind blowing so they didn’t.
We slept well that night!