Doubtful Sound Tour – Day 3

My alarm goes off at 6:30am. I’m trying to decide if this was a good idea. I don’t think it’s raining, it’s starting to get light outside, but I don’t think I have missed the sun coming over the mountains just yet.

Yep, I’m going to do it. I get out of bed, throw on several layers of clothes, grab my camera and head out on deck to see who else has decided this is a good idea. Who knows when or if I will be here again, I want to see the day in.

The boat is still anchored, the morning is still and quiet. It is of course cold and fresh, but the lighting is simply stunning.

What a magical morning.

I stay outside for ages, a few people join me and we all wear a secret smile. Those of us who have been willing to endure the inconvenience of getting up early and face the cold have seen a perfect morning come into being. It’s a shame so many others missed out on this in favour of a warm bed and sleep in, something they can have on so many other mornings.

I watch the anchor be drawn up out of the black water. The sun is now tinting the clouds gold and the sea is mirroring the snow dusted mountains. Over the speakers, the Captain starts playing “Here comes the sun”. What a way to start the day.

I remain outside for as long as I can before heading back inside to defrost. It’s not long though before I am back out on deck. There are more people here now and we are joined by our nature guide. As we approach a small island, she points out a penguin. It’s another Fiordland Crested Penguin. I feel quite privileged to have seen 2 on this trip. I don’t have my zoom lens on me, so instead of rushing back inside to grab it, I take memory photos and enjoy the moment.

It is sitting on the rocks, just under the tree line. We get to watch it for quite some time, dipping its webbed feet into the water, looks around, sussing out the environment. With a quick graceful manoeuvre it slips into the water. I see it just below the surface of the water for a couple of seconds, then it’s gone.

Breakfast is next on the agenda. After a hot meal and a cup of tea, I have regained the feelings in my fingers. The Milford Mariner has taken us into Hall Arm this morning and we are surrounded by huge snow covered peaks. We learn that the rounded peaks would have been under the glacier. Most are rounded, very few are jagged. Looking around you get a sense of how massive the glaciers here were. Some of the rounded peaks are 1400m high!

We explore all the way up into the arm and then the Milford Marina parks up in the cove. The crew turn off the engine and the generator and we sit there in silence. Birds, waterfalls, that’s it. No other sounds. How rare and special it is to experience so much remoteness.

As the Milford Mariner slowly drifts around, the sun comes out. I can feel it on my face. Complete stillness and peacefulness, I even start to feel warm.

We begin making our way back to Deep Cover, the tour is nearly complete.On the way back, the crew raise the sails. There is barely any wind, they are just for show, but it’s still great to see. We dock and depart the vessel that has been home for the last 22 hours. The crew were amazing, so friendly, knowledgeable and went out of their way to make it a memorable experience. Despite the trip being cut short due to the weather, we still had a really rich experience. I feel like we have journeyed to the end of the earth.

Back in Te Anau, we have lunch at Sandfly Cafe. We sit outside in the sun, reflecting on the epic adventure we just had. It’s another scenic drive back to Queenstown through green pastures, snow capped mountains and vast lands of dry tussocks. We have some time before our flight, so we make a detour to Kingston. It’s a small town, right at the bottom of Lake Wakatipu. We have never been here before, but have driven past a few times. It always seems to be drenched in sunshine. We take a look at the Kingston Flyer, a vintage steam train that used to connect Kingston and Invercargill, before heading down to the lake for a short walk.

A woman is coming off the lake with her dog and paddle board. The water is so still, and there are just the sounds of nature. I quickly slip into fantasy mode dreaming about living here. What would it be like to live in this little slice of paradise with it’s relaxed lifestyle and space for our dogs to roam.

But the dreaming must come to an end, so we head to the airport to wait for our flight. Our flight is delayed, so we treat ourselves to an ice cream (and some sneaky chocolates I don’t tell Daniel about) from Patagonia Chocolates.

An overnight tour in Doubtful Sound has been plastered to my fridge on my bucket list for a number of years. It was such an incredible experience and was all I had hoped it would be. I think this tour should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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