Well the Doubtful Sound trip we went on last Saturday was amazing but we were a bit too hungover and tired for my liking! We got picked up from our hostel at 6.45am and got the coach to Manapouri. From there we cruised on the crystal, clear waters of Lake Manapouri (2nd deepest lake in NZ after the nearby Lake Hawoko) and then got on another coach which drove along Wilmot Pass, stopping along the way to experience some of Fiordlands most dense rainforest and to view Doubtful Sound far below. On reaching Deep Cove we boarded the Fiordland Navigator for a 3hr cruise.
Doubtful Sound was named 'Doubtful Harbour' by Captain Cook, who did not enter the inlet as he was uncertain whether it was navigable under sail. It was later renamed Doubtful Sound by whalers and sealers. It is unusual in that it contains two distinct layers of water that do not mix, the top few meters is fresh water, fed from the high inflows from the surrounding mountains, below this a layer of cold, heavy, saline water from the sea. Doubtful Sound is one of the most beautiful fiords in New Zealand ten times larger than Milford Sound it is an unspoilted wilderness. You are surrounded by magnificent rugged peaks, dense forest and waterfalls. The weather wasn't the best but due to the complete silence (we were the only boat on the sound) and the mist, it all looked very mysterious.
On the way home we stopped at West Arm, at the end of Lake Manapouri, and travelled 2km underground by coach to see Manapouri Underground Powerstation Machine Hall. We got back to Queenstown at 7pm so it was a long day but worth every minute.
On Sunday we picked up our hire car from Queenstown airport (8km out of town), said bye to everyone in our hostel (Lucy, Lee, Rob, Sam and Laura) and drove to Gibbston to check out the Central Otago Wine Region. First stop was Peregrine Winery followed by a free cheese tasting at the Cheesery were we bought some nice cheeses for our tea. From there we drove to Waitiri Creek and onto Carrick in Bannockburn and Mt Difficulty on the famous 'Felton Road'. We bought a gorgeous Mt Difficulty Chardonnay to go with the cheese and drove onto our last stop, for which we had an appointment, at Pisa Range. Here we had a lovely tasting with the owners, in their own home and then drove on to the Purple Cow Hostel in Wanaka for the night.
Monday, the Queen's Birthday and a public holiday here, we drove back to Queenstown, via the beautiful Cromwell Range, which was slow going but stunning and onto Invercargill, along very quiet roads, through tiny towns and past lots and lots of cows (dairy farming is big money here). In Invercargill we found a hostel for the night, with parking (Tuatara Backpackers Lodge), got our first double room in along time and went to see good old Indiana Jones in action. We then went to dinner with my good friend Adele's friend from school, Susie, who now lives about 10 minutes out of Invercargill with her hubby and three kids, Owen, Ursula and Dillon. We had a great evening and a delicious Roast Beef dinner and also met Susie's husband Paul's twin brother Sean and his wife Jen.
The next day we drove along the coast route between Invercargill and the sleepy town of Balclutha, which passes through the spectacular Catlins - one of New Zealand's most remote coastlines (no cars on the road which was great!). It's a region of lush native forests, lovely waterfalls, lighthouses and wildlife-filled bays which stretches from Waipapa Point in the Southland to Nugget Point in South Otago. Again, being winter here, the weather wasn't the best but highlights of the trip included;
- Curio Bay - one of the world's finest fossil forests (good place to stay)
- Porpoise Bay - Where we saw a very cute old sealion
- Niagra Falls - No not the real thing silly, just a much smaller version
- Tautuku Reserve - 15-minute walk to a beautful estuary
- Florence Hill Lookout - Views of Tautuku Bay
- Lake Wilkie - 10-minute walk showing succession of forest development from lake edge to mature forest
- Purakaunui Falls - Fantastic three tiered waterfall, accessible along a short bush-parting walk
- Roaring Bay - On the way to Nugget Point, lookout for yellow-eyed penguins
- Nugget Point - Lighthouse built in 1869. Fur seals and sealions, breeding area for gannets and Albatross
From there we drove to Dunedin, the South Island's second city (after Christchurch) and home to the first university. Here we met up with Lucy, Lee, Rob, Sam, Laura and Tim and stayed at On Top Backpackers ($25pp/night in a dorm to ourselves - result!).
On Wednesday Jem took the car back to Dunedin Airport (27km out of city) which was a bit of a pain. When he got back we had a walk round town, checked out Dunedin Railway Station which is the most photographed building in NZ and then went on the brilliant Elm wildlife tour in the Otago Peninsula to check out the Royal Albatross, Bullers Albatross, Spotted Shag (Seabird), Hookers Sealion (rarest of the world's five species of sealions and endemic to NZ), Yellow-Eyed Penguin (rarest of the world's 18 species of penguins and only found in NZ) and NZ Fur Seal. We got really close to the sealions and actually saw them regurgitating bones (yes a lovely sight which Jem videoed!) and we saw about twelve yellow-eyed penguins, two of which just waddled past us back to their nest.
Yesterday we got the Magic Bus to Lake Tekapo stopping at Baldwin Street, north of Dunedin city centre, on the way, which is listed in Guinness World Records as the world's steepest street. Jem and I climbed to the top - well you've got to haven't you! From there we drove to Moeraki Bolders - a strange geological formation; big marble-like bolders that sit mysteriously in the sand on the beach looking like ancient dinosaur eggs. There was a low tide so we could have a walk around them and stretch our legs. Next stop was Waitaki Dam and then onto take some piccies of Aoraki/Mount Cook, across Lake Pukaki, which is the highest mountain in NZ. We would have been able to do this if we'd remembered to charge our camera battery and so unfortunately it died just as I was about to take, what would have been, an amazing shot! Had to buy a postcard instead!
Arrived in the small town of Lake Tekapo, which is at the southern end of its namesake lake, at 3pm, stayed at the Lakefront Lodge and quickly charged camera. Had a walk along the lake, whose water is a gorgeous turquoise colour due to fine minerals from the rocks being held near the surface of the water and reflecting the sunlight. Took some photo's of the two most photographed landmarks in NZ; the picturesque church of the good shepherd and the statue of the collie dog on the lakeside. Also discovered a sign for Cowans Hill - yes you quessed it had a bit of a photo shoot there too!
Today we woke up to the most incredible sunrise we've ever seen. The whole sky over the lake was crimson with the hills and snow-capped mountains in the background. It was truly spectacular and thankfully I managed to take a few snaps before it quickly disappeared.
We're now in Christchurch for tonight and tomorrow - hopefully I'll drag Jem to see Sex and the City at some point - now that's what true love is hey!