Friday, 25 March 2016

Doubtful, Sun, freshwater sea-swim.

Grey drizzly start to our cruise day so went to the Fjordland film in Te Anau, tantalising aerial photography of what it might look like in perfect conditions. Set off for the quay in Manipouri, while we were waiting the rain stopped, looking distinctly hopeful by the time the boat was on its way. We passed the mountains we crossed on the Kepler Track last year, looked so benign, but we were nearly blown off the ridge. At the far end of Lake Manipouri, a small quay and insignificant looking building, the top of the hydroelectric station, the water drops 700metres to an underground power station before running out into Doubtful Sound. A two Km 7metre wide road spirals down inside the mountain to service it, huge but so little to see on the surface. A coach took us over Wilmot Pass, fantastic blue-sky views of Doubtful Sound heading out to sea, Cook originally called it Doubtful Harbour. Our boat, the Fjordland Navigator was waiting, so off up the sound, actually a fjord as it's a flooded glacial valley, a sound is a river valley, the early pioneers couldn't see the shape of the seabed, or maybe the distinction has been made since they were named. Stunning mountainous scenery, still enough water to keep the waterfalls flowing. After a trip in the tender to take a closer look at the coast, and a swim (warm at 16*) we headed out towards open sea, gales, albatrosses and a seal island. The top couple of metres of water is fresh and brown from tannins leached out of fallen leaves, fools deep-sea life into living in much shallower water as it's dark, perfect for divers. More spectacular scenery, many small islands. Clear bright full moon over the water.

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