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March 5, 2018 - Doubtful Sound

12.30 pm and I was on the boat to the cruise ship. Huh? On the boat to the cruise ship? What do you mean? Okay. To get to the actual cruise ship for the sound you have to get to Deep Cove first. That's where Doubtful Sound ends adn where the cruise ship is anchored. To get there you have to cross Manapouri Lake first and then hop onto a bus which takes you down to the fiord. I say fiord because I learned that the sounds here in Fiordland are actually fiords. It was our famous James Cook who gave the fjord the wrong name. You ask what's the difference? Well, a fiord was created by glaciers, sounds by seawater. Here in New Zealand all the inlets in Fiordland were created by ancient glaciers that don't exist any more. There you go. What was that? Who cares? Well, a rose is a rose is a rose.

By 2.37 pm (to be precise) we boarded our cruise ship, the Navigator. After a short safety introduction we were shown our cabins. Cute. The third-class passengers, who I was a member of, were located in the bottom part of the ship. It felt almost like a hostel. There were eight four-people cabins, four on each side of the ship. Our names were on the doors of the cabin and I was sharing my cabin with three other people. One guy was German and the other couple were Americans (from Chicago). We picked our bunk and that was that. Everything here was unisex, cabins, toilets and showers. For us cheap people at least and all was shared. It was only a night so what. (I would have shared for a week too, just saying)

I grabbed a flat white and made my way out to the front of the ship. We were very lucky with the weather but I didn't expect anything else. I had, for what it's worth, booked the sunny day (instead of Tuesday which forecast rain). I sat up in the wind and took in the scenery. It was again very beautiful. But interestingly enough I wasn't as overwhelmed as with the scenery in Queenstown. Don't ask me why.

About two hours in our cruise we headed for a calmer spot in one of the side arms and had the chance to go kayaking on going on another little boat tour. I chose to do the kayaking option. It was just nice to be this tiny spot on the water between the huge hills. I guess that's what we are, tiny spot on earth. 40 Minutes later I was back on the boat, changed into dry clothes (not that I was soaked, but kayaking always leaves me a bit dripped on).

History time: (taking from the brochure provided by Real Journeys)

According to Maori legend, the fiords of this area were created by the god Tu-Te-Raki-Whanoa for providing refuge from the storming seas nearby. Tu-Te-Raki-Whanoa came from the south and worked his way up the island. Wielding a magical azde (a kind of axe), he split the rock open to let the sea rush in. In Doubtful Sound four young sea gods assisted him, using their own adzes to carve out four arms - First Arm / Taipari-poto (short), Crooked Arm / Taipari-nui (big), Hall Arm / Taipari-roa (long), and Deep Cove / Taipari-tiki (little).

Modern times: Once again it was Captain James Cook. Those of you who have read my Australia journal already know a bit about Cook's journey around this part of the world. The same goes for the entry of Cape Reinga. For the South Island of New Zealand, especially Fiordland Cook left his footprint too. Or not if I'm pedantic. Cook got close to the entrance of Doubtful Sound early in 1770 and decided not to enter this inlet. He had his doubts he would get out of it again with his ship the Endeavour. That's why he named the entrance to this fjord 'Doubtful Harbour'. Remember our botanist Banks? He would have loved to explore the area and collect species for his collection. He tried to convince Cook to sail into the fjord but Cook staunchly refused. And Cook was right to do so because it was and still is indeed difficult to sail out of the inlet. There can be days without eastern wind to carry you out to the sea again.


The little brochure from the company has a cute little comparison done of the oldest ship, the Cook's Endeavour, and the newest ship, the Patea Explorer.



launched: Yorkshire, England, 1764

cruising speed: 7-8 knots

length: 32 metres

capacity: 94

armament: 24 small cannons

threats: death from dysentry, malaria, drowning, and murder

bar: various barrels of whisky


Patea Explorer

launched: Hobart, Australia, 2005

cruising speed: 25 knots

length: 31.6 metres

capacity: 150

armament: many Canons, Nikons and other cameras

threats: sandflies, rain

bar: quality local food, wine and beer


Dinner was nice. We had a decent buffet of things and I'm proud to say I left all the sugary sweet desserts were they were and just had a bowl of fresh fruit. Good girl. Even a cruise wasn't going to interrupt my go-sugarless path. I had been going without the intake of any bad sugar (except for the hidden one in some meals) since January 24. Dinner was fun, my table mates were a good bunch of people - a couple from California, John and Karen, and the German guy, Michael - but unfortunately I missed the sunset. I didn't want to let my food get cold over a sunset.

After dinner we were given another lecture about nature in the sounds - all on a voluntary basis of course, no one was forced to attend. I went since it was part of the deal.

Bedtime came pretty soon afterwards because we were told that the 1.200 horsepower strong engine of the boat would start at 6.16 in the morning. Most passengers went to bed early. The next morning you could see in their faces that many of them had had as bad a night as I. The other American couple that was bunking with us were snorers. Heavy and loud snorers. On top of that I had made the mistake of having had a cappuccino during the lecture, so I had a very hard time falling asleep. I think it must have been around 3am when I finally got some sleep only to wake up to the snoring again at 5.15 - despite the earplugs.

I tried another 30 minutes but gave up and got up to take a shower. The good thing about that was no queues so I could take a relaxed shower, go upstairs, grab a fresh coffee and even meditate before breakfast was served at 7am. Mike, the German guy joined me, very tired and very pissed off. He hadn't slept much either. Breakfast was able to change his mood luckily.

The cruise ship took us in another side arm. Mike and I were standing outside taking in the scenery. I saw a fin or something but couldn't tell what it was. Then somebody shouted 'dolphins' and sure enough, we were accompanied by three dolphins for a bit. What a beautiful sight in the morning.

Despite the terrible night, the cruise was worth doing. It was another great experience on my New Zealand trip. And I have friends in Nappa Valley now with an open invitation to come and visit them. Cool as.

cabin view
cabin view
sea lion colony at the sound
sea lion colony at the sound
Doubtful Sound
Doubtful Sound

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