Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 31: Te Anau to Doubtful Sound

Day 31: Te Anau to Doubtful Sound

Pics: The first boat, views of Doubtful Sound (some remarkably like we snuck home and took pictures of Pt Lobos), our “stateroom”

Breakfast of the usual mediocre (actually, poor) pastry and large flat whites, $15. Check out of the Distinction Te Anau Hotel (or was it the Distinctive); doesn’t matter, neither adequately describes the place, it was a tourist spot built like a two story businessman’s place: spartan, $160.

Drive down the side of Lake Manapouri for 12 miles and board the first of our two boats (the pic is of the first boat). This gets us across the lake, takes about an hour. We then transfer to a bus that takes us about 10 miles (45 minutes) on a gravel road built in the 60s for a power plant construction project. Finally, we board the Navigator, a 60 person boat that floats us west down Doubtful Sound.

We catch a huge break: the weather is perfect, clear and moderate (high 60s), with almost no wind. We can see the mountain tops, we can see for 30 miles when we get any altitude at all. We hardly see any other boats/tours, it turns out they are all up at the more famous Milford Sound, so we have the place pretty much to ourselves.

After maybe an hour and a half, the boat pulls into an inlet and parks, we get into kayaks and explore the nearby cove for over an hour with about 20 -25 others. They also offer tours on giant zodiacs (they hold about 15 people each) and there might be 25-30 or so on those zodiacs. There appears to be an age split: the kayakers are all 35-40 and under (well, except for THB and DB and the guy leading a tour of 23 Brits), and the zodiac’ers are for the most part over 55.

After the kayaking is done and the zodiac folks are back on board, anyone that wants to can take a swim off the back of the boat. THB is the first one in. Many dive off the lower deck, 10 feet up! The water is just about perfect, and even though it is approaching 5pm it is still warm and sunny. Repeat: we are the only boat around!

Soup is served around 6pm, you go out and do some viewing of the Sound (see pic of us at the turnaround point at the Tasman Sea), then dinner at 7:30 or so. We share a table for both courses with a married couple living in Sydney and her sister (they are all under 40, maybe under 35!). They are all ex-NY’ers, the couple work for investment banks and the sister teaches second graders on Long Island. Lots of good conversation, much of it crossing generational lines. Dinner is buffet of salads, lots of veggie stuff, smoked salmon (a whole salmon served cold that has been slightly smoked and served rare…very good!), roast beef and lamb, and a selection of desserts (the berry crumble the best thing after the salmon), included in the overall price. Drinks: $25

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