It was a long day but a good one. We got up relatively early because we were going to drive down to Manapouri and do the Doubtful Sound cruise. It really is an all-day affair with 4.5 hrs of driving and about 6 hours touring the Sound.
Nobody was very happy we had to set an alarm, but at least it was a civilized 6:45 am. Had we chosen to do the kayak in the Sound, we would have had to get up at 3:45 am. Simply mentioning that fact to Jason was deeply distressful. Hence, we were not going to do the kayak.
The drive was down was pretty uneventful with only the first 30 km being the usual narrow, windy New Zealand road. Once into Southland, the road opened up into some farmland and was quite easy driving.
We got to Mossburn which made me reminiscent about my time here as a grad student. I did my master field work in the Takitimu mountains close to Mossburn and stayed on a sheep station while I was there. Often the dudes from the station would want to drive into Mossburn for some greasies and piss (fish & chips & beer) and I would tag along. They were always a hoot to hang out with, but holy cow they could drink a lot of beer.
We passed by the Takitimus on the way to Manapouri and I made Susanne take a picture for me and I bored my passengers with stories of my field work. It getting so long ago, it is almost hard to remember it, but it was very rough and dangerous work and I marvel every time I see them. No cell phone, no communication. Just being dropped off on the top of a mountain by a helicopter and then hoping they would come back in 6 days to pick me up. The pictures don’t do the ruggedness of the mountains justice and I still marvel I didn’t kill myself.
We got to Manapouri, got the car parked and got ready to get on the boat. Susanne and Cynthia checked us in. He told them we were top of the list. Yeah! Sadly, it was a meaningless title and we had to pile on the boat with about a hundred people including a number of young babies.
At 10:30, we pushed off and headed across Lake Manapouri. The boat was a catamaran and boogied along at a pretty good clip. It was chilly out on the deck but worth the view. Everyone was desperately getting their selfie-sticks and gopro shots. It was a bit annoying…plus they all were forgetting we were going to be at this for 5 hours. Plenty of time to get shots.
Once across Lake Manapouri you board a bus and drive up and over a pass down to Deep Cove where you board another boat. One German couple had a young kid that screamed the whole boat ride over. Ugh.
The vegetation in the area is very lush and dense as the get up to 9 meters of rain per year. Yes, 9 meters. For you imperial system folks, that is 354 inches. Almost an inch a day. The bus driver described one hiking track that went out to Dusky Sound. She should not be on their marketing team — wet, cold, muddy, and full of sand flies were the key takeaways.
We got to the boat launch and milled about until the boat showed up. There are some people that live out there full time, and a number of fishing boats. And lots of sand flies. Hence the lack of enthusiasm for hiking to Dusky Sound. 8 days of blood-sucking hell. Nope.
We finally headed out. The weather was perfect.
As completely dramatic as the mountains are, they are very difficult to photograph. First, they are huge and it is difficult to find a way to convey their immensity. There is very little to provide scale. Second, the colors are pretty monochromatic. The dull green of the beech forest and a dull gray/blue of the water. Without clouds it just all starts to be in a narrow saturation range.
I tried stitching together some panoramas to help.
The mountains are just sheer cliffs that go straight up about 5000 feet. Completely inaccessible. There was a huge cruise ship that passed by with a billion people on board. That provided some scale.
We mostly just hung outside and enjoyed the views.
At one point, we went into a small arm and the captain shut the boat off and we all floated in silence. That was totally cool. It really was a zen moment.
The German couple with their screaming kid seemed to be everywhere. It was annoying all of us.
There were a couple of kayakers out on the Sound that had a sail up and were getting pushed along at goodly clip. It was pretty cool. I would like to come back and do sea kayaking in the Sound.
As I was taking pictures, the stupid polarizer on my camera had manged to unscrew itself and went clattering down to the deck, balanced delicately on the edge for just long enough for me to get a full view of it as it then took a backward three and half into Doubtful Sound. Doh! Now, I’ll have to buy a new one. For about 10 minutes, I was contemplating how long it would take a polarizer to sink to the bottom of the 1250 meter deep Sound. RIP my friend — rest in peace.
We got back to the dock and we decided to mill about and be last off with the great hope that the annoying German couple would get on another bus. Sadly, we failed and they sat directly behind us. Ugh. By this point, the kid was in full melt-down mode and we got to listen to him wail at 115 Db for the 50 minute bus ride back. It was one of the longest 50 minutes of my life. We all agreed. That sucked and were super grateful we had driven ourselves to Manapouri. The thought of riding the 2+ hours on a bus with the kid back to Queenstown put shivers down all of our spines.
We made our way back across Lake Manapouri. Thankfully no screaming German kid was around us for that leg. We got back to the dock around 5 and we piled into the car for the peaceful drive back. I pushed the pace to make some time and we got back to the house around 7:45 pm. A very long day.
We made dinner, took a hot tub and chilled for a bit before bed. It was long but very special day. It is a very rare place to get to experience, even with a screaming German kid. The sheer size and inaccessibility of it is humbling.
I fell asleep right away, in case you were wondering.