So a couple of weeks ago I was discussing the idea of visiting Fjordland for a day or two to go kayaking in Doubtful Sound. Somehow or another this turned into a 8 day roadtrip with my roommate/colleague/friend Morgan.
It was the most last minute, scrambled together, chuck everything you might need into the rental car (aka Demon) kinda trip which is not usually my thing at all. I like lists and planning what you need days/weeks in advance. However, we made it round in one piece and had a blast along the way. The only solid plan we had funnily enough was to kayak in Doubtful Sound for the day with Adventure Kayak & Cruise. The rest as they say was a mystery to us. We had places we wanted to see such as the Catlins, Moreaki Boulders and Mount Cook so the plan was to figure out the rest along the way.
After working the morning shift, packing, picking up the rental car, attempting to fit everything into said rental car, going to Salvation Army to grab some cooking utensils, buying a gas canister, picking up some food, booking a hostel and last but definitely not least dropping by warehouse to buy speakers, we were finally ready to hit the road! Our first destination was Te Anau, a 2 hour drive south and westish from Queenstown.
We arrived at the hostel at about half 8 and just caught the receptionist before she left for the night, our dorm was a cosy 6 bed with an awesome balcony and view across the lake. After a super original dinner of pasta we crashed out – we had done a pretty long day of travelling after all…
After getting up at the crack of dawn, well I mean as near to it as I’ve been in NZ, we drove to Manapouri, a small town on the edge of (another) lake twenty minutes drive from Te Anau. We arrived at the start of our kayaking adventure at bang on 7, met our guide and fellow adventurer’s and adventuress’s and hit the road for all of 2 minutes to get to a boat ‘Adventurer 1’.
This would take us across Manapouri Lake to the West Arm Visitor Centre.
Here we got to change into our super cool attire for the day comprising of wetsuit, polythermal top and life jacket. The next leg of the journey was a bus journey across Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound.
Finally made it – that was a journey and a half! After a brief safety demo and instruction it was to the kayaks (after getting in another boat ‘Adventurer 2’). They were double kayaks so me and Morgan were together ofc and we were a pretty good team with Morgan heading the steering in the morning (a good sign of things to come).
The weather throughout the morning had been disgustingly grey and rainy so there were sandflies everywhereeeeeeeee and guess what we forgot to bring with us? Yep, bludy bug spray. Great. Our guide Cloudi was super enthusiastic for the crap weather though as this meant all the waterfalls would be out.
As the rock in the fjord is very hard the water runs straight off so a lot of the waterfalls dry up without regular rain. The fjord looked so mysterious and enticing full of swirling clouds, every so often you got to peek at the tops of the giant cliffs. We paddled down the fjord stopping now and then for Cloudi to tell stories about the local nature and history.
Of course he started off with a story about a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins which stay in Doubtful Sound as the fishing is so good. Their numbers were dropping off so dolphin experts were called in to assess the situation and they realized that the tourist boats which created huge wakes for the dolphins to surf on were actually killing the babies off. So now if the dolphins are spotted all boats have to cut off their engines and kayakers have to raft up. Now, I am getting super excited to see these dolphins in the wild and I patiently wait all day for them to pop up but do they? Nope not a single dorsal fin in sight. It was a little disappointing but I mean it would be a bonus to see them. Guess I’m just going to have to come back! After lunch the clouds cleared and we had sun and blue sky as we continued on into the fjord (Doubtful sound is actually a fjord and not a sound – fjord’s are made by glaciers and filled with sea water, sounds are made by rivers).
At the end we were picked up in Adventurer 2 and driven back to the port to find the coach back to the visitor centre. The day was awesome and I think the photos speak for themselves. Back in Manapouri we drove to Balloon Bay which was our campsite for the night. It was a sweet spot right on the river front with gorgeous views of the sunset. This time we had soup for dinner (crazy I know).
After a fairly stressful nights sleep we packed up early and headed to Invercargill to restock food, recharge devices and get information on the Catlins. We drove on the Southern Scenic Route which takes you along the coast. I see the sea!
We ended up the in the most southern Starbucks in the world to recharge ourselves and phones and bumped into our friend Lena in the Information Centre. New Zealand I’m finding is a pretty small country. Now stocked up on leaflets and maps we ventured on to the south east coastline… tbc!