Doubtful Sound - Certain fun!

Trip Start Jun 04, 2009
Trip End Sep 06, 2010

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, January 30, 2010

When we got back to Te Anau we checked into our hostel (complimentary of course darling!) and wasted no time in heading out into town to have a meal to celebrate our success on the track and the fact we had been able to have a shower. It was baking hot so we picked a sunny spot to eat outside and then just as we went inside to pay the heavens opened and it was a complete downpour.  Our raincoats sat neatly packed in our bags 500m away laughing at us for carrying them for 33 miles when they were not needed only to not have them now!  We got completely drenched heading back but it's not as if we didn’t need another wash anyway.

The next morning at 5am we woke up to the sound of the alarm signaling the next stage of our adventure, a two day kayaking and camping trip in Doubtful Sound.  For those who don’t know, Doubtful is a lot more remote than Milford (which you should know about by now) so we needed to spend 4 hours taking boat connections and 4x4 trips to get to the start of the Sound.  The reward being that we had the place almost completely to ourselves.  A bit like how you can walk around London when it’s full of people and still appreciate it but if it was just you there it would be a very different experience altogether and that was why it’s impossible to compare to Milford. 

We were in two person sea-kayaks, lovingly called 'Divorce boats’ by our guide given his experience of couples using them.  Luckily we already had a prior agreement that would save us an argument which was that Steve would be thankful if I paddled at all rather then frustrated when I didn’t!  After what seemed like forever trying to struggle into wetsuits while being eaten alive by sandflies and packing the kayaks with all the camping gear we finally began our paddling and were blessed with perfect blue skies and perfectly flat waters.  Wind was my biggest fear on the trip (the weather kind!) as I did not fancy our chances battling against the wind to propel the kayak anywhere it wasn’t being pushed and Doubtful Sound got it’s name from Captain Cook who thought it was ‘doubtful’ that they would be able to get the ship out of the Sound and back to sea given the constantly strong winds blowing in.  I don’t like to put myself down but if I had to put my money on it I’d back Cook and his ship over me and my kayak every time.  For now though at least we were cruising on a sheet of glass and enjoying the stunning mountains all around in such a serene setting.

For lunch we found a little beach just perfect for a paddle and hot drink to accompany some cheese sandwiches before we headed off for an explore down Hall Arm which extends to the left of the sound.  The wind picked up at this point but in our favor so we divided the group up into two kayaks per team and held up a sail that propelled us along at brilliant speed and got us into a competitive and closely run race to the end of the arm.  That was when my worst fears were realized and we had to paddle against the current and winds for half an hour to reach our campsite.  I was completely exhausted so I can’t even imagine how Steve must had felt as he was actually paddling!  We were elated when the camp was finally in sight until we saw the first boat dock and the faces of the people on it disappeared behind black clouds of sand flies.  Anything we had seen so far had not truly prepared us for the wrath of the sand flies here, I would have given anything to sleep in my wet suit to keep them at bay but with only my face on display they swarmed so intensely that it was hard to see too far in front of me.  We went for a swim to get away from the shore for a breath of fresh air but eventually we had to bite the bullet and strip out of the wetsuits to have dinner and in doing so made our blood donation to the locals.  Thankfully we had a big netted tent to sit in while we cooked and ate or it would have been impossible to do so.  Our rice risotto meal was put to shame this time by an Aussie couple who cooked a Thai green curry from scratch but we won the final battle by whipping out an apple pie and cream when they just had biscuits.

After a few glasses of wine I suddenly realized I had lost the ability to lift up my arms thanks to a mixture of endless paddling, copious bites and lack of upper body strength in the first place.  Sadly I had to retreat to the tent to try and sleep off the burning in my arms to be able to get us back on the final day, I had the pleasure of falling asleep to the sound of heavy rain on the tent however there was no rain, instead thousands of sand flies swarming the tent trying to force a way in.  In the night I dreamt they joined forces and created one big hand that they opened the tent with – not good for the nerves!

We were woken in the morning by cries of ‘Dolphins' so understandably we made a mad dash for the lake edge but only just in time to see them heading towards the horizon.  After we had starred in their direction long enough to be sure they weren't coming back we gave the sandflies their breakfast of arm and neck before we took our turn to fill up on porridge and mars bars to cram as much energy as possible into our aching muscles for the return trip.  The weather that day was simply perfect kayaking conditions, a perfectly still surface covered everything and so we softly made our way over to investigate a cave and then on to circle a few islands, any time we tried to get close to land we had to beat a hasty retreat thanks to the sandflies so we ended up rafting all the kayaks together and making a hot drink out on the water to see us through but  the group voted to wait until we were back on shore safely in the bus to eat lunch.  I was only willing to agree to this as my life jacket pockets were stuffed with mars bars, it's actually a good thing I didn't fall in as I think they would have counteracted any kind of buoyancy! 

Thanks to Steve’s engine-like paddling, and my words of encouragement, we were finally back on land and started the long trip back to Queenstown once again taking 5 legs of transport to get us there but with a Fergburger waiting with our name on it the journey flew by.  Another once in a lifetime experience in the bag and a catalogue of unforgettable photos - going to have to buy a much larger house to display them all in as we're getting quite a collection.

Lots of Love,

Amy and Sound Steve
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