Last night was extremely windy, it was blowing a gale though the afternoon and evening and the wind was whistling around the windows when we went to bed. It didn’t keep us awake, though. Apparently it rained heavily through the night, but I didn’t know anything about that until we went outside this morning.
We headed over to Manapouri bright and early to catch our cruise across Manapouri Lake and being our Doubtful Sound tour. The trip across the lake took about an hour. We chose to sit up on the top deck where the view was great even though the wind was pretty fierce and the spray was at times pretty wet! Thank goodness for fleece jackets and GoreTex raincoats! I’m sure I looked a sight, but I was warm and dry (as long as I didn’t face into the wind) and I got to enjoy that fantastic view.
On arriving at the other side of the lake we loaded into a bus and went to the Manapouri power station. This is a hydro power station that’s built underground. We drove into the tunnel which is 2km long and just over 200m deep, and were taken into the viewing platform which overlooked the turbines.
Then it was back to the bus for the roughly hour-long trip over 671m Wilmot Pass – 20k along a dirt road. Everywhere you go in New Zealand seems to be down a dirt road! This drive is beautiful and there are lots of waterfalls at the moment.
On arrival at Deep Cove we climbed abourd another boat for the cruise out through Doubtful Sound to the Tasman Sea. Spectacularly stunning! We chose to be up on the top deck again and this trip wasn’t quite so windy and cold, though I was glad to have my warm and windproof gear. Magnificent scenery – snow-capped rugged peaks, mountains that go straight down into the water, thanks to being formed by glaciers, and waterfalls everywhere. These are really fiords and not sounds. There wasn’t an abundance of wildlife, but these tours aren’t sold for their wildlife value, it’s almost all about scenery. We did pull close to a couple of islands that are known to be home to Fiordland Crested penguins; there were none on shore but we did see a couple of them playing in the water. They were hard to see in the slight chop of the windblown waters – hopefully we got some reasonable photos.
The seas were calm enough (ha ha!) for us to go out into the Tasman Sea and get close to a New Zealand Fur Seal (Kekeno) colony. I laugh as I say that because while we call it the Tasman Sea it really is part of the Great Southern Ocean and was still pretty rough hang-on-tight-if-you’re-out-on-deck kind of water. With the wind blowing straight towards us it was easy to know that we were close to the seal colony even though I was looking the other way, back down the sound, as we approached. They stink! The rocks were dotted all over with seals, most of them just snoozing and only a few moving around.
The trip back to Deep Cove was even nicer, the sun was out and the wind lessened (it didn’t stop, it just lessened) and the scenery was gorgeous. Back on the bus for the trip over the pass again to go back to Manapouri Lake, this was a faster trip without any sightseeing stops. The boat trip back to Manapouri was quite pleasant except for the last 20 minutes which were extremely windy with lots of spray blowing up over the bow (we were up on the top deck again). The view was still worth the little bit of discomfort – we just turned our backs to the spray and watched where we’d been rather than where we were going.
It was a full day on the water and I’m sure we’ll both sleep well tonight.