Day 10: No time no place to talk about the weather

Day 10: No time no place to talk about the weather
Te Anau, New Zealand

Te Anau, New Zealand


Everything was go for our trip to Milford Sound this morning. We’d been checking the weather for this day ever since we’d arrived and it was going to be the only day with decent weather for at least three days either side. We’d confirmed with the tour guide and were getting picked up at 8.05.

We woke up at 6.00 to get ready in time and were getting excited. This was going to be one of the highlights of our trip and everything was working out.

Only at 7.00 our phone rang. It was the motel owner telling us that the Milford Sound road was closed – not because of the weather, but because of trees on the road after yesterday’s winds. He said he could try and get us onto a Doubtful Sound tour, which would be a bigger group (45 compared to 8 on the Milford tour), would cost more, and would involve a short bus ride, an hour boat ride, an hour bus ride and then a 3-hour cruise on Doubtful Sound. We didn’t know what else to do at such short notice, so told him to go ahead.

We had an extra hour to wait, as this tour didn’t leave until 9.00. The bus took us to Lake Manapouri, and we had about an hour trip across it to where the power station is. Apparently it can produce enough power for the whole of the South Island, so it must be huge. According to the brochure there had been plans to raise the level for the power station, but the fledgling New Zealand environment movement saved the area form damming in the 1970s.

It’s a massive lake, and very very deep – over 400 metres.

Once we got to the other end, we hopped onto another bus for a 22 km trip along the Wilmot Pass Road, which had been built in the 1960s for the power station. This took an hour, rising to 671 metres above sea level. There were some spectacular views. On the way down the gradient is 1:1.5, which is seriously steep. Our bus driver reassured us that the bus’s brakes were checked every six months and that they were due for a check “tomorrow”.

Finally, we arrived at Deep Cove, the start of the Doubtful Sound cruise. We were lucky with the weather, and had great views all the way. We travelled almost out to the coast where the Tasman Sea meets the coastline of New Zealand. If we’d kept going we would have hit the Australian coast somewhere south of Sydney.

I’d like to say I had a wonderful time, but today has taught me I’m not good on small-ish boats on choppy waters, and I spent a lot of the time on the boat wishing I was anywhere but there. So… yes I’m glad I got the opportunity to see this wild area – it was really beautiful – but I really didn’t enjoy it.

I also learned the reason we’ve seen hardly any road kill in New Zealand – this is something that I noticed on our second day heading out of Christchurch, in complete contrast to Tasmania. This is because they don’t have any roadkill targets. The only mammal native to New Zealand is the bat – hardly a target on the roads – so the animals that are going to get squashed on the roads are the introduced species like possums, and there are so many of them here, eating all the vegetation that their native birds need, that running over them is encouraged. (Slabs bought a t-shirt the other day with the slogan “Possums: New Zealand’s little speed humps” and now I understand it.)

I’m glad we did it, but this isn’t an experience I’m in any rush to repeat. I’m keeping both feet on solid ground for the rest of the trip.

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