Sunday, June 15, 2008

Doubtful Sound

We are now going down to an area of the South Island known as Fjordland. It is just like the fiords in Norway, deep high steep sides going way down into very deep water. All of these are etched from ancient glaciers. We leave Queenstown in the early hours and let the kids sleep as we drive what feels like the Sycamuse south along the lake route.

We have to take a first boat across the second deepest lake in NZ, Lake Manapouri at 420 meters. On the other side we load onto a bus and receive a lesson in the native vegetation of NA. There are 200 different varieties of fern in NA and 199 of them are on our route today. The fern is the symbol of the All Blacks or rugby team of NZ. This is because it the Maori, the fern is very important. The silver fern, when turned over, reflects the light and guides warriors to their destination and the last warrior merely turns it back over and nobody is ever the wiser for them being there. Young Maori children are taught that if they get lost in the woods that they should turn the fern over and it will guide their elders to where they are. It also means the achievement of a goal.

Steve our bus driver explains about stoat and the problems they are causing in NZ. Originally plagued by rats that had come off the ships from Tasmania, the NZers brought in rabbits to help feed the people. The rabbits took over so they introduced possums. The possums killed the rabbits but then took over. The stoats were brought in to kill the possums but found bird’s eggs more to their liking. There is now very little bird life in Fjordland and they have traps every 200 meters that they change once a week. In 2 years they have seen a 30% increase in the bird life.

We start our trip into Doubtful Sound at a place called Deep Cove. This is where some of the students from local schools come for retreats and the Captain jokes that it is great but very stressful for them as there is no cell coverage there! We are so lucky to not have rain as it rains 260 days of the year and about 6-8 meters.
We spend 2 hours going out into the fjord and it is breathtakingly beautiful. It is so quiet and we are the only ship out there. At one point they turn off all of the engines and generators and we are perfectly still and not moving at all. We can hear a waterfall as if it is 100 meters high in the silence. We look and it is about 6 meters but is so loud in the quiet.

On our way back, we stop and do the same trip. We get off of the bus and go into a power plant. Originally, they had wanted to raise the height of Lake Manapouri by 30 meters and would have buried many villages. There was a petition and 275,000 people signed it is the early 70’s. They then decided to drill underneath and created a tunnel deep under the ground that spiraled down to drop 180 meters to Deep Cove. It was a huge coup for the environmentalists and is used to provide power to an aluminum plant

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