Friday, December 23, 2011


The drive from Queenstown was long and in parts straight and flat and boring so we were quite tired when we arrived in Te Anau. We checked into Fiordland Great Views Holiday Park and were really looking forward to three nights in the same place! We stayed in our room for that evening, cooking dinner ourselves.

The next day was our Doubtful Sound cruise. We were picked up from the gate and taken to Manapouri, where we boarded a boat to cross Lake Manapouri to the hydroelectric power station at West Arm. Our trip included a “tour” of the power station, so we got on our bus and they drove us down into the bedrock. Yes, the power station is deep in the rock; it’s a long drive down a steep (1 in 10) dark spiralling tunnel. The “tour” basically included a few minutes on the viewing platform and a short explanation of how it works. There’s actually not that much to see; the station is remotely operated from the surface. But the tunnels and stories were interesting and worthwhile.

After we climbed back out, the bus took us up over Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove on Doubtful Sound. The driver’s stories about the pass were very interesting. The road was built specifically for taking the machines to the power station; they thought that would be cheaper than taking everything to Bluff on the south coast and transporting it to by road to Manapouri and then across the lake. However, as our driver put it, “Fiordland had other ideas” and the road ended up costing about $2 per centimetre in today’s money! It’s a steep (1 in 5!) and winding gravel road but it’s actually very good (it had to be, to support the very heavy machinery they had to truck in). It was paved with gravel made by crushing the waste material from the tunnels dug out for the power station.

Doubtful Sound itself is actually a fiord (carved by a glacier), not a sound (carved by a river). Our boat took us along the fiord out to the Tasman Sea, then back again, with a couple of excursions around islands and into one of the arms.  We were able to get close to a fur seal colony on rock islands at the mouth of the fiord and saw rare dusky dolphins on the way back.

The weather was spectacular, sunny and breezy and warm. Apparently this is rather unusual; it’s more common to see four seasons in one day, and the average rainfall is 3m at Deep Cove and 8m at the mouth, with a record recently of 16m in one location. However when we were there it hadn’t rained for three weeks (the locals were calling it a drought) and the many waterfalls were just small trickles or not flowing at all. Nevertheless the views were spectacular and it was a lovely day out.

On our return to Deep Cove we took our bus back over Wilmot Pass, boat back over Lake Manapouri and then were dropped off back in Te Anau where we had left-overs for dinner before collapsing in bed from exhaustion.

The following day we drove north to Milford Sound. We stopped several times along the way and saw a range of landscapes including beech forests and lakes (all with many sand flies).
Ian especially enjoyed the Homer Tunnel, a 1.3km long tunnel carved through the mountain. (This next photo is a re-creation of one taken on his previous trip to NZ when he was a child. The tunnel is now controlled by traffic lights instead of signposted times.)

Milford Sound also looked beautiful, and we had a picnic lunch at the waterside (amidst a cloud of sand flies) before driving back to Te Anau. Dinner was another room-cooked meal.

We really enjoyed the accommodation and friendly hosts at Fiordland Great Views Holiday Park and the Doubtful Sound Cruise - both highly recommended!

No comments: