After Queenstown we had a two hour drive to the town of Te Anau which is a great base for Milford and Doubtful sound. We nearly had an accident on the way, we experienced some more great kiwi driving - I was indicating right so an idiot decided to overtake me - we shouted a few things out the window....
Te Anau is a very pretty little town, we stayed in the Top Ten park in the tiniest non powered sight ever - we had to do a four point turn to get out every day! We booked ourselves on the Doubtful sound cruise as on our last trip we had been to Milford Sound.
The sounds are part of the Fjordland national park which is huge and remote, some areas are said to be unexplored so there is wonderful unspoilt scenery and an abundance of nature. The doubtful sound is very remote. We set off in the dark to a small town called Manapouri which lies next to it's namesakes lake on the way the fields looked very spooky in the dark with a layer of mist above them. We got on a boat with a lot of Americans and started a 45 minute journey over the Lake, the sun was starting to rise and it was glorious peaking through the mountains, there was a mist on the lakes surface - we already knew we were in for a great day!
We then transferred onto a coach to reach the actual Doubtful Sound itself, going over Wilmot Pass- a very steep hill downwards. We had our first glimpse of the sound and it looked good. We then got onto another boat for the beginning of the tour. There were hardly any clouds in the sky and it was a really crisp and cold day. We slowly made our way out for the three hour cruise. The furthest place the boat took us was to the mouth of the raging tasman sea where the boat rocked in the rough waves - we came face to face with a huge rock covered in seals basking in the sun oblivious to the big waves around them. We we all quite relieved when we came back into the still calm waters of the the doubtful sound. We exlpored a few arms of the sound. The most fantastic was the crooked arm. The water was so amazingly still that it created a mirror effect - we have never seen anything like it, we couldn't figure out where the water started it was perfect and we got some great pictures. A really nice thing they did on the tour was to switch off all the engines and ask everyone just to have a few minutes silence to admire the absoloute remoteness we were in. It was dreamy, we only heard one birdsong in the distance. We also encountered three dolphins on the cruise. We had such an amazing time we took so many pictures! The last part of the tour was the Manapouri power station which is the country's largest hydroelectric power station and is 2kms underground. Our coach wound down a spooky dark dripping road and there we were able to go on the viewing platform and saw some of the workers who spend all their time underground! It was quite interesting. We then made our way back over Lake Manapouri and drove to Te Anau. The local cinema shows a 30 minute documentary about the Fjordlands, we thought we would check it out and it was really good. Mostly shot from helicopters, there is no narration just music. We saw remote beaches, lakes on top of mountains and waterfalls that wouldn't look out of place in a fairytale kingdom. The fjordlands national park it fascinating.
Our last day in the area we spent driving part of the road towards Milford Sound, the drive is beautiful. We drove to the peak summit walk carpark and huffed and puffed our way up for an hour and a half to the top. We were rewarded by the most magnificent view of snowcapped peaks and saw lake marion nestled between two mountains. Words can't describe how great it was up there :-) We rewarded ourselves at the end of the day with sausages and mash!