Often times the journey offers up a completely different experience than the destination but in this case the destination was the journey- an out-and-back trip that showcased the best that the Fjordland National Park has to offer
. Big Blue got us to the edge of Lake Manapouri which we crossed on boat number 1, only to catch a bus which took us across a remote sub alpine route over Wilmot Pass, where we boarded boat number 2 at Deep Cove. From the very start, DH stood on the deck and seemed mesmerized by the landscape slide-show that was playing out and even I was having flashbacks of my days of traveling through B.C.. Doubtful Sound picked up it’s name from Captain Cook who thought it would be doubtful that he would get out again if he tried going in, so that provides some idea as to how wild it looks. We were able to pile into kayaks and even had a chance at swimming in the very cold water of the Tasman Sea (as various body parts started to shrink my flashbacks changed to our polar bear swim in the Antarctic last year). On board we also stumbled across Lorna P again- a Brit living in Jakarta, working for the U.S. Gov’t, traveling through NZ, waiting to skydive over the Lord Of The Rings filming area- how often do you run across somebody you met while stuck in a narrow gorge on a glacier?
The crew suggested that we had been on the boat for the best weather day they had had in over a year and that contributed to what our guide called a “cracker of a sunset”. We also saw our first ‘cracker’ Blue Penguins, and a ‘cracker’ Fur Seal colony, in addition to the surrounding ‘cracker’ landscapes.
With all of the spectacular scenery floating by, it seems somewhat sacrilegious to suggest the highlight of the trip might have been the fabulous buffet dinner (although after 4 weeks in a campervan, a steaming plate of Mac & Cheese might have been a highlight). And it was nice to be in a bed that didn’t threaten to collapse with every movement (and no Carol C, that’s not because of my excessive tonnage). Didn’t last long enough- as we pulled into the dock we saw ‘Big Blue’ waiting for us and I think I saw one of the headlights wink at me?
Before arriving in NZ, a number of people had suggested that we look at the 3 day hike of the Milford Track (which NZ Tourism refers to as 'the finest walk in the world') in the Fjordland National Park. Because of the restricted number of people allowed to hike the track on any given day, it looks like you would need to book your spot some weeks if not months in advance and our itinerary is just far too loose for this. We did want to spend a couple of days in the area and on the water anyway, but as we got closer, more and more people were warning us off Milford Sound. To paraphrase famous baseballer Yogi Berra, "nobody goes to Milford Sound anymore because it’s too crowded". The ‘new’ Milford is apparently Doubtful Sound and we were able to book a mini two day boat voyage at off season rates (only slightly less than our Pacific cruise from Mexico to Hawaii!!).