Lake Manapouri New Zealand

It was around 6:30 pm as Lisa and I pulled into the town of Manapouri and found our motel; we checked in at the front desk, got our keys and hauled our stuff into the room. We both jumped on the bed and laid there for a few moments to relax and unwind from the days drive. I mean, I had to unwind from the days drive since Lisa had the luxury of having her feet up on the dash taking short little cat naps and enjoying the view.

Lisa and I headed over to the town of Te Anau, which was about a twenty minute drive north, and got some snacks for our lunch on the Doubtful Sound cruise the following day. We then drove back to our motel room in Manapouri and called it a night.

Day 10

Real Journeys Doubtful Sound Cruise Docks

Real Journeys Doubtful Sound Cruise Docks

Lisa and I awoke around 6:30 am to a clear blue sky the morning of the Doubtful Sound cruise, just what we needed for a beautiful day on the water. We packed our lunch and backpack for the day and headed to the motel’s main building for breakfast before the tour bus was to arrive.

Lisa and I were sitting at a table eating our toast when the tour bus from Real Journeys pulled up in front of our motel. Lisa and I quickly ran out and hopped on the bus. I was expecting a 20 minute bus ride when I hopped on, but three minutes later we pulled up to the docks where our Real Journeys Doubtful Sound cruise was to begin.

We headed inside the Real Journeys building and got our boarding passes. Then we boarded a small ferry along with 30 other people and headed out onto Lake Manapouri for an hour long ride across the lake. The ferry was setup for viewing and had a top deck for some great picture taking.

Lake Manopouri

Lake Manopouri

Once we arrived on the other side of Lake Manapouri we debarked the cruise ship and headed into the West Arms Meeting building. Inside the building we took a little brake and were warned that this would be the last chance to use the washrooms for quite a while, so almost everyone immediately headed straight to the washrooms. We still had some time to kill before the bus was ready, so we both read the information about Doubtful Sound that was on display within the Meeting building. After a half hour break or so we were signalled to exit the building and board the tour bus which was parked outside.

Once on board the bus our driver explained that our first stop of the day was the Manapouri Underground Power Station.

After about fifteen minutes on the bus, we drove down a two kilometre underground tunnel into the working guts of the Manapouri Underground Power Station. On the bus ride down the shaft the bus drove on the right hand side of the road so that the bus driver could see how close he was to the wall if we had to pass any vehicles in the shaft on the way down. The bus ride down probably took fifteem minutes. It was a pretty neat experience.

Once at the bottom of the tunnel, we were offloaded and gathered on to the deck overlooking the machine hall. From the deck we could see the seven huge generators that provide electricity to the aluminium smelter near Bluff. On the walls were pictures and stories of the construction of the power station and also the specs on it. We visited the generator room for about 30 minutes and then were shuffled back onto the bus. Lisa didn’t care for being underground and couldn’t wait to get back to the surface but I was very impressed with the power station and really enjoyed the tour.

Once we were back on the bus, the driver discovered that he couldn’t start the bus so he called for a maintenance worker to come and take a look at the bus. We sat on the tour bus for about 20 minutes while some mechanics worked on the bus. Not long after they arrived the bus rumbled back to life and we were on our way out of the tunnel.

Overlooking the Doubtful Sound

Overlooking the Doubtful Sound

The bus ride over to the Doubtful Sound took us on a narrow gravel road which climbed up the mountain side and descended on the other into the Doubtful Sound. While on our way, the bus driver pulled over a few times for same great photo ops of the surrounding area. We stopped at Wilmot Pass which has a breathtaking view overlooking the Doubtful Sound. I couldn’t help but put myself back in time and tried to imagine what it felt like the first time someone stood at that very point and looked down upon the sound below. It truly was an awe inspiring view!!

After the few stops, our last being at the top of the mountain overlooking the Doubtful Sound, we made our way down the steep mountain side road and came into a small bay where a fairly large ship was anchored to a dock. Two other buses had already arrived and were boarding the large cruise ship that would take us on a three hour tour of the Doubtful Sound.

Once on board Lisa and I made ourselves comfy on the bottom deck, seeing as everyone else had previously boarded and had taken the two upper decks. It didn’t really matter once we got going, the views were spectacular no matter where you were seated on the boat.

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound

Not very long into our cruise the boat stopped and the captain announced on the speaker system that we had some penguins swimming in the waters just off to the side of the boat. The boat couldn’t get very close as the penguins kept diving and popping up further away from the boat. We continued on our way through the Doubtful Sound, every now and then the speaker would come on and the host on the ship would start to talk and describe different features and islands as we cruised by. Lisa found the air outside to be quite cold so we stayed inside the ships seating area most of the time. But once in a while I would pop out onto the deck of the ship and take a few photos of any mountains or waterfalls that caught my eye.

As we approached the end of the Doubtful Sound and neared closer to the Tasman Sea, we came upon a rock which was a hot spot for fur seals. The ship pulled fairly close to the rock island and Lisa and I headed out onto the deck of the boast and took some photos and watched the fur seals play in the water surrounding the island. There were so many of them on the rock that you could barely see any of the rock underneath. I just looked like a big pile of fur seals. Once everyone had filled their cameras and video cameras with video and pictures the ship circled and headed back into the Doubtful Sound.

Seal Colony in the Doubtful Sound

Seal Colony in the Doubtful Sound

Just a few minutes after viewing the fur seals the ship happened upon two yellow eyed penguins just sitting on an island. Once again the ship pulled in close and Lisa and I fought the crowd on the deck of the ship to get a few good photos of the penguins. Actually it wasn’t all that bad; everyone was really polite and moved out of the way once they had taken a few photos. I managed to get a few photos, but the zoom on my camera wasn’t strong enough and I really couldn’t get a nice close-up picture of the penguins. Oh well, I’ll know better for next time.

As we continued on the cruise for some time we came to a calm bay within the Doubtful Sound. Once in the bay the crew asked us all to stand still as they shut off the engines and asked everyone to refrain from making any sound for just a few moments. In those few minutes all you could hear were the birds chirping and the water sloshing softly against the coast line. Once again I was taken back in time and tried to picture what it would have been like if I had discovered this place three or four hundred years ago. I pictured myself swimming across the bay in complete isolation listening to the birds and the sounds of nature looking up every once in a while between a stroke to see the towering green mountain tops rising up out of the water and touching the clouds above. Oh what a feeling that would have been!!

After three hours of cruising the Doubtful Sound we were taken back to the dock were we had started, once again loaded back onto the same buses we arrived in. Lisa and I made sure we got our same seats, that way we could see all the views we missed on that side of the bus when we came in to the Doubtful Sound.

Our bus ride back to the meeting building was a lot quicker then our ride over; we made only one stop as we went back over the mountain and down to the waters edge of Lake Manapouri. Once again we boarded the smaller ferry and cruised back across Lake Manapouri back to the docks where we began our journey. Lisa and I were so tired that on the ride back across Lake Manapouri, we just fell asleep.

Once back at our motel room in Manapouri, Lisa and I quickly got our stuff together and headed to the town of Te Anau for some supper and a movie.

Lamb Shanks at "The Ranch"

Lamb Shanks at "The Ranch"

In Te Anau, Lisa and I found a nice restaurant called “The Ranch”. I had the lamb shank and Lisa had a ribeye steak, needless to say it was one of the best meals on our trip.

Once we were finished eating supper we headed over to the Fiordland Cinema, which was across the street, to watch a short movie on the Fiordlands called Ata Whenua – Shadowland, which plays several times a day.

The theatre was great, we could order alcohol in the lobby and bring it into the show with us, but Lisa and I opted out. What was even more impressive were the seats once we got inside the theatre. They were huge & comfortable!! I wish all movie theatres had seating like this one.

Before the movie began, one of the employees came in and told us the story behind the theatre and the film we were about to watch. We found out that the theatre was actually built specifically to display the film we were about to watch which made it even more interesting, and that the man who built the theatre was a local who flew helicopters in the area and teamed up with someone from the movie Lord of the Rings when the movie was being filmed in the area.

The movie wasn’t as great as I had hoped it would be but was still good. By the end of the movie Lisa and I had had enough for the day and headed back to our motel room in Manapouri and called it a night.

Day 11

Lisa and I awoke to another rainy day in Manapouri, which isn’t all that unusual, since it rains in this region of New Zealand three quarters of the year. We got up early so that we could get a good start to the day and make a few stops on our way up to Queenstown and hopefully still have some time to look around once we arrived. Queenstown is one of the biggest tourist attractions in New Zealand, spouting more adrenaline pumping activities then fingers on your hands, so we wanted to spend as much time there as possible.

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