Te Anau, our next port of call, was a nice little town, (even if we never did get the pronunciation right). We settled into our motel as a massive storm broke across the entire South Island. It pissed down all night.
Next morning our expensive Milford Sound Tour was cancelled. Flooded roads. BUT, they told us if we hurried we could upgrade to the Doubtful Sound Tour. The alternative was to watch TV all day. The Doubtful Sound sounded less doubtful.... so we took it.
Flowing water covered the road to Manapouri in several places, but the Ford aquaplaned across each one without killing itself (or us). We got to the Ticket Office and discovered the ‘upgrade’ was not complimentary. With further denuded wallets we crammed on board the ferry, and waited for a late coach load of tourists. I don’t particularly like waiting... or tourists. The extra 100 people made the seating acceptable for small children and Japanese. We were neither. (This is how we learned not to go cattle class. No choice in this case)
The boat ride across Lake Manapouri was pretty bloody good, despite the constant light rain. In fact we were lucky in a way, the hundreds of water-falls flowing in sheets down sheer cliff-faces in every direction were instantaneous and short-lived between rain showers.
I braved the howling gale and freezing rain on top of the boat. The deserted viewing deck was ideal to take it all in. And there were no tourists up there.
The ferry took 40 minutes to get to the Manapouri Power Station. We were herded aboard buses and taken to the underground entrance. I was fairly amazed when the bus kept going. Down the decline we went and I wondered what the hell was going on as squeezing past other buses and machinery coming up with bare centimetres to spare seemed unreasonable risky. This was part of the tour!
Turning an 11 metre bus in a 6 metre tunnel was an art-form our driver must have dabbled in a fair bit. He spared the paint and pulled up; in the decline, and we were invited off the coach to check out the machine hall. It may not sound too fascinating but the history behind it all was cool.
After a perfunctory head count to ensure most of us were back on board, the coach hauled us up the decline with our driver running an amusing commentary the entire time. It was a nice to sit and look out the window at endless waterfalls, sheer drops and thick rainforest. Despite my occupation I find the pleasure of this experience difficult to describe. ‘Very enjoyable’ will have to do.
So far we were still only being transported to the ‘real’ part of our tour! Incredibly we were getting our money’s worth. The gravel road down the mountain was the steepest, most expensive road ever built at the time. $1 per centimetre which we were challenged to come up with a final figure for. I did a quick equation in my head and came up with ‘can I have a Tim Tam’. Nita can always be counted on to have a spare Tim Tam handy.
Dammit this post is dragging on too long. River, lake cruise, food, beer, waterfalls, cold, fantastic, didn’t fall over board, frigging excellent, 1000 photos.
And then we were back at Manapouri. The lake had risen over a metre in the time we were away. Our car was still on ‘dry’ land so we jumped in and raced back to our motel.Go to Day 10