I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Saturday 16 March 2024

The BIG One - New Zealand - Days 31, 32 and 33

 Sunday 3rd March - Cascade Creek Historic Campsite

We were up and away just after 9am.  First stop was the supermarket and the second was for fuel.

We were heading for Milford Sound for another boat trip.  Our journey took us through a glaciated valley and the scenery was awesome, as the New Zealanders would say.  We found the campsite where we were to stay that night and had a coffee before heading off.  The road got quite windy and the mountains became higher and closer!  When we got to Homer Tunnel the traffic light was on green so we were able to go straight through.  The Homer Tunnel was opened in 1953 after taking 19 years to build.  Before it opened there was no road access to Milford Sound.

We arrived at Milford Sound and had our lunch before checking in for our boat.  I was surprised at how many different companies operated boats on the Sound and we got a bit muddled up as there were so many people queuing for boats.  It is a great place for coach trips so you can imagine half a dozen coaches coming in all at one time and disgorging their passengers.  We were lucky as we didn’t have a coach load on our boat, in fact there were only about 25 people so there was no scrabbling for photo opportunities.  We went out as far as the Tasman Sea where it began to get a bit choppy and I began to get worried about sea sickness but we turned and headed back along the Sound.  We stopped by some rocks where a few New Zealand Fur Seals were dozing.  It is an area where the juvenile males hang out so they don’t get bullied by the adults.  Apparently they hunt and eat all night and sleep all day - perfect for sightseers.  Of course we had to do the traditional getting wet under a waterfall!  The skipper did warn us that unless we went down below we might get wet and wet we got!!  We turned into a small cove which is called Harrison Cove after John Harrison who invented the marine chronometer - it was great for us as Richard is a descendant of John Harrison.  The last waterfall was the best I thought.  As the weather has been so dry a lot of the waterfalls were a bit puny, but I think I would rather have dry weather than lots of waterfalls.  We have been lucky with the weather so far 😃 

Back on terra firma we drove back to our camp site for the night.  It was a Department of Conservation site.  It’s a big area and you have to pay so it’s not freedom camping but there is no electricity though there are toilets!  We chose a spot just as we drove in right beside Cascade Creek.  It was a bit windy and the rest of the area looked to be a bit exposed so we thought we were in the best place - we will know during the night!  Third time lucky for camping off grid.

Monday 4th March - Manapouri

Ha, ha, ha!!  Third time lucky my foot!  We had just got to bed when the rain started and boy did it pour, it seems to make a different noise on the motor home than it does on the caravan and I just couldn’t get to sleep.  I eventually nodded off but kept waking up all the time. I still don’t know if it was the rain or the lack of my sleep machine that caused my insomnia, of course Richard slept through it all.  

We had decided to have a leisurely morning but when Richard woke up about 7am he heard the rain and rushed to the front of the motorhome to see what was happening with our lovely gentle creek and yelled out that it was a raging torrent and that we needed to moved quickly.  Now I’m not a morning person and those were not words that I wanted to hear!  Somehow I pulled my clothes on and got myself ready only to find that the creek was, in fact, at least 18 inches below the bank!  Talk about being over cautious!

We drove towards Te Anau looking for somewhere that was above water level, finally finding somewhere where we could continue getting on with our morning.

We hung around in Te Anau until it was a decent time to have an early lunch.  We found a little pizza place and had really crispy pizzas.

We then moved on to Manapouri where we were to stay for two nights while we took a trip to Doubtful Sound.  Our pitch was a “scenic” one and we certainly had a lovely view over Lake Manapouri but the rain just kept on coming down and the clouds were so low that it was rather difficult to see the view!

Every little stream in New Zealand has a name which is displayed on a board as it goes under the road.  These are very frequent.  I saw two names today which made me smile, Dismal Creek followed by Dizzy Creek!  Then you come across a boring one called Creek Number 128!

Tuesday 5th March - Manapouri

Well if our helicopter flight was a WOW then today’s trip was a WOW AWESOME!  We were up at 6.15 to catch a boat at 7.30 which took us across Lake Manapouri - this was before sun rise!  The journey took 45 minutes. From the other side we took a coach across Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove, this also took 45 minutes. We then boarded our boat for the 3 hour cruise to the sea and back, going into smaller fjords on our way. We were so lucky with the weather after all the rain yesterday and actually saw blue sky at times. Yesterday’s rain had made lots of temporary waterfalls - I have never seen so many waterfalls  before.  We have got quite used to mountains disappearing into lakes but the pure scale of Doubtful was just mind blowing and these mountains were all snow capped thanks to yesterday’s rain. Even our guide was awestruck at the snow at the beginning of March. The sea outside the Sound was rough and we didn’t venture out there thank goodness.  On our way back we were joined by some dolphins who wanted to play (dolphins are very difficult to photograph!).  Today’s trip was more than I could ever have expected, the magnificence of it was just breathtaking. 

Not long before we got back to Deep Cove the skipper said that he was going to stop and turn everything off.  He asked passengers not to take photos or use their phones, just listen to the sound of silence.  It was a wonderful few minutes.

The trip to Doubtful Sound is courtesy of the Manapouri Power Station.  This is an underground hydroelectric power station, the largest hydroelectric power station in New Zealand and the second largest power station.  Construction began in February 1964 and it opened in September 1971.  Everything needed to build the power station had to be taken over the lake by boat, but when it came to the 7 turbines they were too big, so a road was built from the power station across Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove and the turbines were taken by ship through Doubtful Sound.  The electricity is created by a 750 foot drop between the lake and Deep Cove and when the water has done its job it is released into Doubtful Sound.

Some of the power station workers live by the station, but the RealNZ (the company who run the trips) workers go over daily. Everything that is needed to run trips, especially diesel, is taken across the lake by barge once a week.

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