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Sounds and Fjords

NEW ZEALAND | Tuesday, 16 July 2013 | Views [519]

Milford and Doubtful Sounds are the most accessible of many fjords in the south western part of the South Island in Fjordland National Park.  It’s a pretty remote, pristine area that makes you feel very small in comparison to the natural drama and sheer size of everything going on around you!  The guide explained that Doubtful Sound is actually a fjord – carved by a glacier and back filled by the ocean; as opposed to a Sound which is carved by a river and back filled by the ocean.

The pick up for the trip to Doubtful Sound was at 7am – it was dark and pouring with rain again!  We also stood for 25 minutes out in the rain waiting for the coach – apparently it wouldn’t start!  After a couple hours driving we were loaded onto another coach and taken to Lake Manapouri.  Here we picked up our packed lunches and boarded a boat to take us across the lake.  It was still pouring with rain and low cloud covered a lot of the scenery.  It was an atmospheric trip across the lake, everything was shades of grey – the sky, the water and the mountains.  After about an hour we got to the other side and boarded another coach for a drive up the road that was constructed to bring the materials in for the underground power station on the lake and down the other side to Doubtful Sound.  The road is 22km and the most expensive piece of road in the country, costing $2 per metre to construct!  We stopped at various lookouts and saw some massive waterfalls, swelled by all the rain.  We couldn’t actually see Doubtful Sound from the lookout on the approach thanks to all the rain and mist!

We then boarded another boat for our 3 hour cruise on the Sound.  I have never seen so many waterfalls – I reckon I saw more on that day than in the rest of my life put together!  Everywhere there was water cascading down from the mountains, most of them temporary waterfalls brought to life by the sheer volume of rain that had been falling.  Fjordland, this region, is one of the wettest places on earth with 16m+ of rain a year!  For a bit of perspective, Cambridge gets about 60cm of rain and Brisbane gets a bit over a metre a year!

We didn’t manage to see the resident pod of dolphins but we did see some seals lounging on a rock and a potential penguin which I think was actually a cormorant.  As we got near to the entrance where it meets the sea the weather cleared a little (it actually stopped raining for a bit!) and we even saw a little bit of blue sky.  At one point they brought the boat right in to a cascade of water coming down a flat rock face and gave out cups so you could catch some of the water and taste it – its really pure having come straight from springs on the mountains.  Chris managed to get some but got rather wet in the process!

After the cruise and the coach back to the lake we got to visit the underground power station.  The coach drove down a spiral road 2km into the rock underground.  We went into one of the rooms where we could see the top of the generators.  Water is drawn out of the lake down through the rock where it turns the generators and carries on out through several more km of rock through a couple of tunnels to be discharged into the Sound on the other side of the hill.

It was a good day and a spectacular part of the world, although having seen the brochure pictures there were a lot more mountains around us that we couldn’t see for the mist!  We saw so many waterfalls thanks to the rain but probably less of the scenery than we would have on a clear day.

Tags: boat, fjord, rain, seal, waterfalls

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