Wednesday, 20 February 2008

paddling the fiord

Kayaking, Doubtful Sound, NZ
A few weeks ago, we had some time to spare between our wedding, and flying out for the Cook Islands and London. On the spur of the moment we decided to fly to Queenstown in NZ and go on a 2 day kayak trip in Doubtful Sound, Fiordland. One of the best holidays I've been on, and I think K enjoyed himself too :)

I'm a kiwi, and lived 23 (I think!) years in NZ without ever going to Fiordland, which I always associated with Japanese tourists on coach trips, but turned out to be the opposite of what we encountered!

We went kayaking with Fiordland Wilderness Experiences, a company with years of experience in Doubtful Sound where we went. They provided a guide, all the equipment you could want, and most of the camping gear we needed. We had 6 other kayakers on our trip, so 4 kayaks in total.

Kayaking, Doubtful Sound, NZ

So... we got up at some horrid hour in the morning on the first day, stumbled out of the Backpackers in Te Anau, and got picked up at 6AM for the first leg of the journey. After a 20 min van ride, we unloaded all the gear (all our personal gear + the camping gear) into a boat, and took a 1hr ride across Lake Manapouri, then got changed into wetsuits etc (as it was pouring with rain, and that was the last 'dry' spot to get changed and pack our dry bags). Then load up a second van, and a 45 min drive over a huge pass to get to Doubtful Sound, and about a hour to load the kayaks, and have the saftey and paddling demos.

It was pouring with rain when we left Deep Cove where the kayaks are stored, but that made for some fantastic scenery, with the famous Fiordland waterfalls in full flow. As the Fiords are so steep, there is barely any soil to hold water, so when it rains, it creates these beautiful huge waterfalls everywhere.

Kayaking, Doubtful Sound, NZ
By lunchtime, the rain eased off, and it was dead still. The waterfalls dried up within a few hours, just leaving a few smaller permanent ones. We went to our campsite for the night up Hall Arm, set up our tents and dropped off our gear, cooked up some lunch, then carried on for another few hours kayaking. The guide was great, and just let us all cruise along at whatever speed we wanted. Then back for dinner, and a few tall stories and glasses of wine in the mozzie shelter.

Next day was sunny and calm, and we had time to kayak another 10-12km, with a stop for lunch. Sadly, no Dolphins showed up on the way back, and the normal tail wind didn't kick in, so no sailing back to Deep Cove. It was a beautiful day however.

Sunrise in FiordlandKayaking, Doubtful Sound, NZ
Stopping for Lunch on Day 2

Over the two days, we saw about 10 boats, and one other kayak group on the other side of the sound, but nobody else. Totally unlike Milford Sound, which has been totally overrun by tourism (on the two hour drive from Te Anau to Milford, there are up to 300 coaches a DAY on the road!). A little piece of paradise which I'll be revisiting in the future.

Tons more photos are on my flickr set here.

Our route:

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