Sunday, May 18, 2014

Our Trip to Doubtful Sound

The morning after arriving in Queenstown, we set off for a two day cruise on Doubtful Sound which is part of the Fiordlands national park in the southwest part of New Zealand.  Most people opt for the Milford Sound tour but my college roommate had recommended this one which takes two days.  Doubtful Sounds is three times as long as Milford Sound and doesn't take as long to get to.  However, the journey was definitely part of the fun.  Looking at maps, it is impossible to figure out how you would get there as there are no roads!!  The tour company actually sent a cab to our hotel to pick us up and we met up at tour company.  There we found out what the trip would entail!  It was of course pouring rain!!

The view here is the first sighting of Doubtful Sound from up on a hill.  We had sunshine on and off for the trip from Queenstown to Doubtful Sound.

The first leg of the trip was a 3 hour bus ride with a very knowledgeable driver who told us about all the sights we couldn't see in the rain.  He did talk about the changing landscape and the introduction of deer as an alternative to the sheep, cattle and milking cows that you see EVERYWHERE!!  The amazing part is that you don't see any houses anywhere near these animals in many cases.

The bus stopped at a roadside tearoom where we got lovely sandwiches to eat.

One of our biggest challenges was getting plain old black coffee!!!!  You had your choice of Flat White, Talls or Americano as well as all the mochechinos etc.  After two weeks of fruitless conversation, we finally settled on Americanos!!  Who would have thought?

After the 3 hour bus trip, we were loaded onto a boat that would take us down Lake Manipouri which took another two hours mostly in the pouring rain.  

Below is a picture taken before the rain hit on Lake Manipouri.  Again the brilliant fall colors!

After we finished with the ride across the lake, we headed to a second bus which took us on a private road owned by the power company which took us our final leg to get on the cruise!!  It didn't rain for this part of the trip.

Here I am in one of the many, many waterfalls we would see on this trip!!  There had been a lot of rain and so there were waterfalls everywhere, streaming down hundreds of feet.  It was impossible to get a good feel for this in the pictures.  I have many many waterfall pictures.  Here is me standing in front of one on the final bus leg of our trip heading to the Sound.  I wore this jacket almost continually the whole trip in NZ.  It served two purposes -- one, kept me warm; and two,
Warren could always find me!!

By this time, unfortunately, I was showing signs of getting the cold that he had been suffering from.  Luckily mine was just a few sniffles while he was still pretty miserable but at least he didn't have to drive!!

We finally reached the Sound and it was actually not raining for the first part of the cruise.  This was the view back from where we had come from.  It is pretty even in the mist.

 Nice reflections.

Another look back before the rain came!

 We were amazed by the colors even with no sunshine or blue skies.  The Sound is basically salt water from the Tasman Sea with a 6 inch layer of fresh water on top from all the rain and waterfalls.  
 You can see how blue the water is here!

Just some more scenery with the bright green and the rocks.

I loved all the textures in the rocks and the bright greens!

We went all the way out to the Tasman Sea the first day (it was an overnight cruise).  Right at the entrance to the Sound were rocks covered by the New Zealand Fur Seals.  I never get tired of the seals!

Some were doing a little posing but most were sleeping here.  The water was very rough in the Sea from the storms.

We saw many Paradise Shelducks.  Not a good picture but you can see all the colors on the female.

A pod of Bottlenose Dolphins.  This is the southernmost part of their habitat and they are much larger than where we live.  They were playing in the wake, jumping up out of the water and almost impossible to photograph with the boat and the dolphins moving!!

Another big surprise was the opossums that are found in New Zealand -- imported from Australia originally to breed them for their fur.  They are now a very very large pest and most often what you see the Swamp Harrier hawks feeding on by the side of the roads.  We couldn't figure out why anyone would want to have opossum fur as anyone who has seen our American variety would attest to!!  However, the fur on these animals is soft and quite beautiful.  They don't look anything like our animal.  However, we were told that there were three times as many of these now in NZ as there were sheep and that is saying something!!  Throws made from the fur were very expensive though so none followed me home.  This is Warren on the boat with one of the skins that I found sitting on the piano.  We had lovely buffets on the trip for supper and breakfast and wonderful desserts!!  We moored for the night in a lovely calm cove.  The next morning it was again very rainy and we proceeded backtracked although taking a slightly different path down one of the branches of the Sound.

This is what our American version of a opossum looks like! Thanks to!  He doesn't have the nice fluffy tail and his fur is not nice at all!!!
Even more waterfalls!!!

On our way back, we took a slightly different route and met up with the Milford Sound people by another lake.  I saw these black ducks and identified them as New Zealand Scaups.  I had noticed that NZ had more than their fair share of black birds and wondered what the selective reason was for this.  In a lecture on the ship, the naturalist explained that there used to be no animal predators (I had noticed that many of the birds were not as frightened as I would have expected) but that their primary predator was a giant hawk or eagle of some kind (now extinct).  The dark color was protective coloration as they couldn't be seen as easily from above!  This is a male and female.

You can see the color of the male better here -- he does have some underneath.

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