|I love the way the hills recede into the distance in different shades of green and grey|
|The little 'lighthouses' guide boats across the enormous lake through the scattered islands|
|I felt the dark light - if that's not an oxymoron - lent itself to black and white images|
|There are incredible shades of green in the bush sliding by|
A coach drove us over Wilmot Pass (where we caught our first glimpse of Doubtful Sound) down to Deep Cove. The road was built in the 1960s and, with a gradient of 1:5, it's the steepest road in New Zealand that buses are allowed to navigate.
The driver was full of interesting information about the Manapouri Power Station and, my newest favourite thing, sphagnum moss. It grows out of rocks and allows tress to grow - they can't put roots into rock, so they grow in the moss, intertwining their roots and supporting the premise of strength in numbers. If one falls (due to decay or disease), it pulls the others down in a tree avalanche. I could feel the latent poet in me straining to emerge.
Because the moss holds twenty-five times its weight in water, it is used in flower arrangements at garden centres, to mop up oilspills, and also in certain ecological nappies!
We were shown to our cabin, admired the boat as we made our way out along Doubtful Sound, and then went for a paddle in the kayaks. Apart from the sandflies attempting to eat us alive, it was a fantastic experience and very peaceful out on the water.
Back on the boat we headed towards the open sea, but the wind was up and the waves were a bit rough - the pitch and roll is amazing when you get out there. We cruised up Bradshaw Sound as the sun was setting and had a gin to share the moment.
We dropped anchor at Precipice Cove and ate way too much at dinner - it was a buffet/ carvery and no one was about to go hungry. There wasn't much opportunity to walk it off, although we did a few laps around the boat!
The evening talk was informative about the local bird and marine life. In Fiordland, a 5m layer of freshwater sits on top of the salt water - it is dark (full of minerals from the vegetation washed down from the cliffs in the rain) and filters the light, so the marinelife is much closer to the surface than it would usually be.
|The lodge at Blanket Bay|
After the talk we went out on deack to look at the stars and try and remember some of what we taught last weekend about constellations and such. We were rubbish, so we retired to our cabin.
We got up very early the next morning before the boat set off and had mugs of coffee on deck waiting for the daylight. It was still dark when we weighed anchor, and we saw shapes looming and listened to the calm plashing of the water against the bows.
The sunrise over Bradshaw Sound was dreamily delicate and untouchably pink. I promise that I have not photo-shopped these pictures.
We breakfasted as the Sounds slid by and when we emerged into Doubtful Sound again, the captain attempted to unfurl the sails (all done mechanically with no climbing of rigging or hitching and hauling of sheets). There wasn't much wind but we got a bit of an idea how the thing was designed to sail, cruising along with only natural sounds for accompaniment.
Hall Arm is allegedly one of the most picturesque parts of Fiordland, and is indeed beautiful. We sailed down it to experience the wilderness sensation. The engines were cut and we were requested not to move about the boat for a couple of minutes. We sat in private contemplation - the cliffs reflected in the smooth, dark water.
They do this on every trip but today felt special because it was Anzac Day on which we remember those who died so we could live like this - it was a moment of pristine emotion.
|Peace and reflection at Hall Arm|
And then it was over; we were returned to Deep Cove, driven back to West Arm (with a few hunters who talked boisterously in their fleeces and tried - unsuccessfully - to make our form of tourism feel inferior) and then caught the water taxi bake to Manapouri, and drove back to Arrowtown.