Saturday, January 1, 2011
Good evening, everyone! Here we are just about through already with the first day of 2011. I'm sure we will all spend the next two months correcting ourselves as we continue to write 2010 on everything. Yasenoskys and Zuccas, we missed you Friday night!!!!!!
Shall we continue with the South Island tour? Yesterday we left off having just arrived in Queenstown and about to move southward to Te Anau, Manapouri, and Doubtful Sound. There's a part of New Zealand called Fiordland. It's a remote, mountainous, and inaccessible area carved by glaciers down in the most southern part of the country. Getting close to being the last stop before Antarctica, really. These next shots are from Lake Te Anau, the 2nd largest lake in NZ.
There's one sound (technically a fiord, there IS a difference!) that can be reached by car (Milford), but that's it. To get to Doubtful Sound (so named as Captain Cook sailed right past reckoning it was doubtful that he could get back out again given the narrow entrance and high winds), we spent the night in Te Anau in an apartment above a lovely woman named Helen's garage, took an hour-long boat ride across Lake Manapouri, and then swatted at sand flies in an old rickety van for another hour up and over Wilmot Pass on a narrow gravel road, then down into the sound at Deep Cove, where we boarded the 60-foot fishing boat, The Sea Finn, that would be our home for the next 24 hours.
As these sounds/fiords were created by glaciers and then flooded by seawater, they are disconcertingly deep. The surrounding mountains simply go straight down about 1500 feet. The boat could pull up right next to the rock walls and waterfalls and there was nothing beneath us even there at the edge. This made for some pretty good fishing, but we'll get to that in a bit.
Because the sound opens into the Tasman Sea, the water is an interesting mix of 3 meters of fresh water on top of salt water from the sea. They don't mix well and this provides for a unique ecosystem. The crested penguins had literally left days before after breeding season ended so we didn't get to see them, but there were blue penguins (tiny, the length of a shoe box), fur seals, and a pod of bottlenose dolphins. We traveled the entire 20 mi length of the sound into the Tasman, where it was pretty wild and rough. I'll do a separate post about the fishing. That place was just rocking with fish!
This whole boat trip deal was yet again a bit outside of our usual comfort zone and it worked out so well. We slept in small curtained-off cabins with 6 other people and shared two loos. Despite my fears of a group of drunken backpackers keeping us up all night, we were with a truly lovely Austrian family living in NZ for the year and a very nice German couple. The Austrian family has two children our kids' ages and they just had such a blast. They're already chatting on facebook and we hope that we'll see them again here or in Austria. Couldn't have planned it any better -- and yes that is a lesson to me, the constant planner. :o) You'll see more of them in the upcoming fishing post.
And man did we eat well! The captain, Chris, told us all of the interesting info about the area and Kirsten took care of the meals, etc. She had a cute little kitchen with a bigger pantry than I have at home and she cooked up the 15 or so lobster tails that had just been pulled up that morning for our lunch. I kid you not, Dennis ate at least 3 of them. He's kind of a fan. They had this enormous tea kettle. It needed two handles to lift it. Morning and afternoon tea times are strictly adhered to -- even on a boat. Dinner was a venison roast (omg, soooo good) and the fish we'd just caught hours before, including fresh sushi!
My favorite part was the kayaking. I've found recently that I really love the perspective you get being right down on the surface of the water in a kayak and I've been keen to give it a go any chance we get. Again the 1500 feet of water below me and my girl was a wee bit scary, but denial is always helpful in these situations. We saw seals and got right up next to the sides of the mountains as they plunged into the depths of the earth.
And the scenery there in Doubtful Sound -- just jaw-dropping. I feel that I have completely failed to capture the beauty that we saw. Good thing we're still fairly young and our memories are fairly intact.
And finally, as we drove back through the mountain pass to find our way again to civilization, the clouds had lifted enough that we could stop and see Doubtful Sound one last time from above.
Most definitely one of the more memorable experiences we've had here and ever. Be well friends, and we'll see you all soon, xo, K.