Friday, 11 February 2011

Paradise is Doubtful Sound & We need a tag line

One of the things we have noticed as we have driven around these beautiful islands is that the marketing men have been hard at work convincing even the most isolated and uninteresting place that they need a tag line to ensure their town remains foremost in peoples minds. They cover the complete interest spectrum and in some cases, show a certain amount of desperation. So we offer you (starring in alphabetical order):

  Auckland City of Sails
  Dargaville The Sweet Potato Capital of Northland
  Foxton Home Town New Zealand
  Garston Northern Southland Naturally
  Manguratato A Real New Zealand Town
  Nelson Live the Day
  Rawene The Ferry Town
  Taranaki Like No Other
  Wanganui Welcome Home

We are soon to pass through the Sausage Capital of New Zealand – I wonder what their tag line will be?

This is not really a postscript – more an inscript I suppose. Tuatapere is the Sausage Capital of New Zealand but their tag line has nothing to do with Sausages which is rather a pity. As their Sausage Sign shows in the next blog, it is “Last New Zealand Town to See the Summer Sun Set” (because it is the westernmost town in the country).

Doubtful Sound is Paradise

I know we have found paradise before but we have really found it this time – it is Doubtful Sound! We went on an all day trip to Doubtful Sound with DoubtfulSoundCruise.Com, choosing them because they said that group sizes would not be more than 50 – one of the smallest on offer. Whilst expensive it was a great day out and the guides were extremely knowledgeable and we learnt a lot.

Boat 1

A “cruise” across Lake Manapouri (past a location in Lord of the Rings apparently)

Lord of the Rings Location

to visit the West Arm Power Station was the first stage – New Zealanders are very proud of this Power Station since it generates an enormous amount of electricity for an Aluminium Smelting Works down south at Bluff. If you really want to know how it works, then this diagram shows how -

Manapouri Power Scheme

It uses the fact that the water in the lake on side of the mountain is higher than the see on the other. Allowing water to flow from the lake to the sea through a turbine produces electricity.

Its construction was in fact quite a feat of engineering and although there was not a lot to see, you did realise you were seeing an engineering marvel.

On the surface there is not a lot to see

Power Station Above


but you then go down into the mountain along a two km tunnel to get to the viewing platform for the power station itself.

Power Station Below

Each of these blue objects is in fact part of the turbine powered by water from the lake some 200m above. Between them they generate 800MW of power which would be enough to supply the whole of the South Island or Auckland or the Aluminium Works with some left over.

Then it is over a rather steep and hairy road – the “Wilmott Pass” in some well used coaches

Coaches to Doubtful

First View Doubtful Sound-1

to get our first view of Doubtful Sound - so called because Captain Cook was doubtful that if he sailed in he would get out again (problems with tacking and wind direction).

Doubtful Sound is indeed beautiful, it is enormous and quiet and

Rock 1

impressive and unspoilt,


with numerous islands, deep arms to the main sound

Tree Slide

and impressive features. In this photo you can see the aftermath two “tree slides” – like a land slide but of trees. The solid rock is first lived on by moss and lichen. When this gets thick enough, shrubs and trees take root in this surface layer binding themselves together by their roots – they cannot penetrate the rock of course. If there is a disturbance such as very heavy rain (they get up to 17,000 mm of rain here a year i.e. 53 feet a year) or an earthquake (there are 1600 earthquakes a year in New Zealand i.e. 4 a day) then this can start a tree slide. The scar in the middle was caused by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in 2009 and that on the left by a 7.9 earthquake in 2003. Total regeneration takes about 150 years,

Hanging Valley

There are numerous “Hanging Valleys” created during one of the eight ice ages in this area


and it is easy to understand why the area is called “Shadow Land” 

Exit of Sound

because of the way the different features descend into the shadows with distance.

1000m waterfall

This water fall fed by Lake Brown is about 1000m high descending down numerous terraces to get to the sea.

Marciones Point

A plaque, rather spoilt by two signs, marks Marcaciones Point which is the exact spot where the first European, Don Felipe Bauza  landed in Doubtful Sound in 26th February 1793. He was a member of the only Spanish expedition to New Zealand.

Bottle Nose Dolphins

Nearby some Bottle Nose Dolphins go about their business of catching dinner and ignoring us.

Doubtful Sound is indeed an amazing place. If you can only see one - Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound? Doubtful Sound would be my choice but do try and see both.

Now it is down south away from Sand Flies? (I doubt it) towards Invercargill where the van goes to visit the Doctor to have a small but inconvenient fault fixed. Wilderness arranged it all for us whilst we were up in Milford Sound.

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