We made it to Te Anau by Tuesday evening because early Wednesday morning a bus was picking us up on the side of the highway. Why might you ask? Well, we were on our way to Doubtful Sounds, a fun but time consuming journey. The bus driver picked us up on the highway, near the hostel we were staying at, to take us to Lake Manapouri. The ride was informative, and for the first time, it was pointed out that very little of what we’re seeing in the landscape views is native. The bush is what is native, but so much of New Zealand has been cleared away for farming. While farming is a big and important industry, it was strange for me to realize that all this time I had been thinking the green hills were so natural, when in fact, the cleared grassy hills, were not.
From Lake Manapouri, Andrew and I got on a boat. Lake Manapouri is the second deepest lake in New Zealand and was formed after it was carved out by four glaciers, then the glaciers melted. The lake is 444 m deep! The lake is also home to a hydroelectric power station which is the largest hydroelectric plant in NZ generating 5100 GWh a year, and the second largest power plant in New Zealand. Interesting? When we crossed Lake Manapouri, we got on a bus which proceeded to take us around a dark tunnel through to the power station in the mountain. Kind of scary! The people who work on the power station commute by boat every day, and must be very dedicated to their jobs. Andrew and I switched power companies several months ago to join on with a company that utilized hydroelectric, wind and solar energy, and it was nice to see the plant, as it was run by our power company, and to realize that the power I use to run my computer is generated in such a sustainable way. There was a big campaign when the plant was started against raising the water level to improve output from the plant, but the environment won, and the plant is an effective part of the power structure in New Zealand, without having a big impact on the environment.
So, we got to check out the plant, and at this point I felt like the anticipation was building! Sadly, it had poured all night and was cloudy, but given as it rains over 200 days a year, we were still thrilled to see the imposing sounds. On the plus side, the waterfalls would be ample and everywhere. And were they ever! The bus even stopped a couple of times to give us some great photo ops!
Finally, we made it to the sounds. And, as I mentioned before in my blog, they are actually fjords, since they were created by glaciers and the waterways were VERY steep and the water VERY deep. We got on another boat, with many windows and sat back, enjoyed a picnic lunch, and took in the beautiful sounds. And the best part? As the boat pulled away from the dock, the clouds disappeared and the sun came out! Wow! Just, wow! We saw dolphins and even got to taste some of the pure, fresh water! The water was black, the mountains were intimidating, and the Doubtful Sounds were a vast, intricate and stunning attraction that nothing but a visit could really do justice. The captain steered us out through to the Tasman Sea and around before we retired back to shore, got back on a bus, then back on a boat, then back on a bus, and called it a night! I haven’t done it in a while, but alas, I thought a slideshow was the best forum for this post, please feel free to click through the slideshow to get a small taste of the beautiful Doubtful Sounds of New Zealand.