Doubtful Sound Tour – Day 1.

Our picturesque views of snow capped mountains and still lakes has been replaced with horizontal rain and mist. No spontaneous helicopter ride today then, our wallets will be happy about that!

We head down to the dining room for a leisurely breakfast. I enjoy being able to watch a good storm when there is a roof over my head. From the large, panoramic windows we watch the day unfold. I am slightly nervous about the weather. Today we depart on a 2 night boat cruise in Doubtful Sound – an activity that has been plastered to my fridge on my bucket list wish list for the last few years. I am hopeful that it will all be OK and we will be rewarded with epic waterfalls from the amount of rain that is falling.

We make our way to Manapouri and stop at the little Manapouri store. It seems to be the town’s one stop shop. It’s a cafe, fish & chippy, dairy, general store and post office. We order some lunch and eat at the table while listening to the thunder storm rolling in. When we went to Milford Sound there was a thunderstorm. It was an amazing experience so I am still hopeful that all is still well with our trip.

We check in at Real Journeys and I take a look around at the other people who will be our fellow travelers for the trip. We always like meeting new people on these types of experiences. We board the boat that will take us across Lake Manapouri. To get to Doubtful Sound, you first have to cross Lake Manapouri and then take a coach across Wilmot Pass. All up, its around 2 hours of travel.

The ferry has large viewing windows and again we can watch the wild weather from the warmth of the boat. The engine makes a rumbling sound and then we are off. I actually head outside for a bit (I know, a bit crazy, but it’s covered and I enjoy inhaling the fresh, cool air.) It’s not actually as cold as I had expected, but when I move to the railing I get hit with the full force of the weather. Lucky the Captain had warned us about removing our hats first or I would have lost mine!

There are lots of little islands dotted about the place, they create layers of silhouettes. The close by islands look lush and green, the others fading into the distance. I wonder what lies beyond what the eye can see?

Our Captain provides some interesting commentary along the journey. There are 33 islands in Lake Manapouri. At 444m deep, it is the second deepest lake in NZ (Lake Hauroko is the deepest at 462m and is also found in Fiordland) Fiordland is also one of the wettest places in the world. As I watch rain flying horizontally across the land and then hit me in the face, I believe it!

As we approach the shore, waterfalls are everywhere, white lines twisting their way down the mountains. The Manapouri Powerstation is located here. It is the largest in New Zealand. A tour used to be included in the Doubtful Sound trip, they would take you on a bus deep underground. While the station is still in operation, the tours are no longer running due to Health & Safety reasons. You can still see the exterior of it though.

Our boat docks and we all make our way into the West Arm Visitor’s Centre. There is a lot of information in here about the history, marine life, and a detailed model of the power station which is rather impressive when you see what is going on under the ground.

We board the coaches, it’s an hours drive to get to Deep Cove where we will board the boat for our 2 night cruise. Rain is pelting down but our driver tells us he has just done a test run out to Deep Cove and the road was clear, but, it can change very quickly.

I think this has to be the most stunning coach ride I have ever done. The forest is unbelievably lush and so green. I am loving the colours, every shade of green you could imagine, layers upon layers of different textures and shades.

Our coach driver shares some interesting commentary on the trip. The road we are driving on is New Zealand’s most expensive road, at the time of construction (1960’s), it cost $3.00 per cm and the road is 22km long. Fiordland is New Zealand’s largest National Park, and as mentioned, it is very wet. In 1983 there was 17m of rain.

From my window I watch large waterfalls pouring down the cliffs. Trees are gnarled and dripping in moss. It feels like a ‘lost world’. If a Brontosaurus was to step out of the forest, it wouldn’t seem out of place here.

I am in love with this place.

And then the driver says 2 words that you don’t want to hear:

“Oh no”

I look out the front window to see the road washed out by a waterfall. We all clamber out of the coach to take a closer look. Our hearts all sink as we realise there is no way we are going to be crossing it. It is so disappointing, we are only 15 minutes from the Milford Marina, our floating accommodation for our 2 night adventure. We all climb back in the bus to head back. Somehow our driver manages to turn the bus around on a road barely wide than the bus itself. We are all pretty impressed with how he manages to navigate that!

The mood on the coach has changed. The excited chatter from before has dulled with families now discussing what they are going to do. There is no reception out here so we can’t even start looking for accommodation.

It’s a long wait for the ferry at the visitors center. We still have no reception, so I take the time to look around the center and read up on all the information. In the back of my mind I am wondering what we will do. Maybe head to Queenstown and enjoy the last 2 days of our holiday there? I step outside under the porch and watch the lightening flash and light up the sky, the booming thunder is so impressive.

On our way back to Manapouri, the Captain announces our 3 options: Get a full refund, rebook for another date, or, if they get 15 people, they will run a 1 night tour departing tomorrow at half the price of the 2 night tour. We decide to go for the 1 night tour, this is what we came here for and it’s quite a remote part of the country, it will take quite a bit of effort to get down here again.

The Real Journeys team were really helpful, booking us accommodation for the night. Now we just have to wait for a call from them to confirm they have enough people so the tour can go ahead. We settle into our hotel, it’s quite a change from the luxury lodge we had been staying at, but it’s warm and comfortable.

Our tour is confirmed so we decide to head out for a nice meal at The Fat Duck in Te Anau. If you are down this way, I highly recommend them. Great food and great service. Just what we needed after a long travel day where we ended back up at the start.

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