Trip Start Sep 06, 2004
70Trip End May 22, 2005
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I was very glad of the late start today as I was rudely awakened at 3.45am by the fire alarm going off. Somebody had been smoking in their room-great. 30mins later and the alarms were finally silenced
I was picked up by a very posh coach; I'm so used to doing things the backpacker way that it is a lovely surprise when you get nice things coming along. Although saying that I had paid a lot of money for this trip.
The doubtful sound is miles away from anywhere and there are no direct roads to it, so you are driven to Lake Manapouri booked in and board a small boat. There wasn't that many people on the tour, which was nice. I wanted to stay on the top deck in the hope of seeing some penguins came prepared with enough clothes to travel to the Antarctic, but I needed them all
The lake was beautiful and we were the only boat on it. We had a guided tour around the lake and we reached the other side about an hour later.
At the end of the lake sticking out like a backpacker in a five star hotel was a massive hydroelectric power station, it was really ugly.
Part of our tour was a guided tour around the station; we boarded another coach and were driven down into the station, which was 133 feet below sea level, so I really was in middle earth. We had a look around; I found it very boring sorry.
Back on the coach again and we were driven over the Wilmot Pass, the clouds were very low and at some points it was as though we were flying as we made our way above the cloud base. We were already seeing stunning waterfalls and beautiful forna.
We finally reached the Doubtful Sound in all its glory. We boarded another small boat and headed into the sound. I was outside again, I don't think you get the full advantage of the surroundings if you are sitting inside looking out of a window.
The sound lived up to every one of my expectations and then some, my words and pictures do not do it justice.
We were the only people out there and it felt like we were the first people in the world to be there.
The weather was perfect, all of it-the wind, rain, sun and clouds.
Because we had every form of weather the scenery kept changing, the colours too. When the sun was out you were dazzled by the intense greens of the forest and the brilliance of the different colours in the rock faces, when the rain and the clouds came in; it was like watching in black and white, so mysterious and atmospheric
We sailed out to the Tasman sea and then returned, I saw dolphin's and seals but no penguins-could this be because the other two are there and are penguin murders??!!
On the return journey the captain pulled into a small cove and explained that he was going to turn off all of the engines so that we could hear how quite it was, we were all asked not to move or take pictures, but just to listen.
It was incredible, nothing just the sound of the water gently lapping against the rocks, there cant be many places left in the world were you can do this, I felt very humble and privileged to be there and to experience it.
The one thing I found truly amazing was the fact that there is no topsoil in this area, it's just rock. As you can see from the pictures the place is surrounded by some of the most stunning forest ever, how the hell does it stay there without the help of soil?
Basically the lichens and the mosses take hold first, then the small plants and shrubs and they embed themselves into the other two. The trees and ferns then take root and by linking their roots together hold on for dear life. Looking around the sound you can see evidence of how vulnerable this system is. There are large bare patches across the rock faces where there have been tree avalanches
The boat cruise lasts about 3 hours and it is amazing, we retrace our steps back across the Wilmot pass, Lake Manapouri and then the coach back to Ta Anau. It was a very long day but well worth it. I just hope that New Zealand realize that this is a very special place and don't turn it into a free for all.
Milford Sound was beautiful but it was marred by the massive number of people on it, I hope that progress stays away from the so that other people can feel as though they are the first people ever to go there.
I got back to the camp sight and met up with Esther and we had dinner and swapped stories.
I had a great day and a great nights sleep.