5.45am alarm, 6.20 pick up by Blake from Fiordland Wilderness Experiences for a 20km drive to Pearl Harbour at Manapouri - fantastic bright red sunrise over the mountains to the east. Seven of us on the day trip. Ferry across Lake Manapouri takes another hour, then it's a 45 minute drive over Wilmot Pass, the most expensive road in New Zealand, despite it being unsurfaced ($6 per inch!!!). It was built to bring in turbines for the massive hydro scheme here. Finally, we are in Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound and soon after 10am we set off in four double kayaks to explore the inner reaches of the Sound. Actually, its not a Sound at all. Its a fiord, the difference being that sounds are created by the sea flooding a river valley and a fiord by the sea flooding a valley created by glaciation. It's definitely the latter here.
On the way to our lunch beach opposite Elizabeth Island, we spot some of the pod of Doubtful dolphins, and Blake spots a penguin, one of those rare ones. We only hear its scream. The high green walls of the fiord tower above us, with signs of tree avalanches as everywhere in the fiords. Splashes of water douse the cliffs, much less than normal due to the dry weather. Sandflies are a feature of the launch and lunch spots but thanks to Daphne's advice on the use of Ultraguard (DEET), they rarely land on us. Lunch was on a small shingle beach, which became smaller as the tide came in! Just about room for us all and the stove for a brew. A river flowed in nearby - no need to treat the water here, as no humans around to cause giardia.
After half an hour, we're back on board to a sea with greater swell and an escape from the clouds of sandflies. Still many kilometres from the sea, the swell, together with the mushroom clouds, indicates bad weather on the way but we return safely, with winds only just strong enough to enable us to sail. Sailing is done with two kayaks side by side, front paddlers holding the bottom corners of the sail and keeping the boats together, those in the rear holding the rigging high aloft, fastened to their paddles. When the wind dies, one of the front paddlers gets covered in a wet sail!
On return, Deep Cove is full of Real Journey's day trippers but they are gone by the time we have packed our gear and set off back up the steep road. En route, we visit we visit the hydro tunnels, two 10m wide tunnels and stop for the magnificent view of Doubtful Sound from the Wilmot Pass road.
Back at base soon after 6pm, gave us plenty of time for a welcome beer on the veranda of the Redcliffe Cafe, and good meal at La Toscana. Now to Wanaka.....
Ken - Good luck in the Canadian Ski Marathon. May the wax be with you!