Saturday, February 11, 2012
We arrived in Te Anau Friday after a 2.5 hour drive from Queenstown. The drive wasn't bad - one thing that helped was a GPS I bought on e-Bay for $99 before we left on our trip, and it is amazing. It is actually a little 7" Windows CE tablet, with a built-in GPS receiver. It came with maps from all over the world. I specifically requested North America, Australia, and New Zealand, but it has about 20 other random countries (e.g. Egypt, Hungary). It works perfectly here. The screen is huge and shows all kinds of extra information. You can also put movies on it to watch while you are driving - not that I'd do that of course. I haven't even figured out all of the things it does yet.
Our Motel in Te Anau is the best yet, because it has free Wi-Fi. We haven't really been able to use the Internet extensively since we arrived in New Zealand, but now we are going crazy, like kids on Easter who gave up candy for lent. We didn't even do anything except go grocery shopping when we got here because we had so much Internetting to do. Yes, I just made up that word, but how else do you describe everything we do on the Internet these days? So we blogged, posted our pictures (http://bdehning.fotki.com/2012australia/), checked Facebook, email, watched Modern Family, Skyped, etc.
Saturday we had our first day in Fiordland. I don't know why it isn't Fjorland, as this is an English-speaking country, but they insist on spelling fiord with an "i", which must be OK, because the spell-checker doesn't say that it is wrong. First we took a bus to Lake Manapouri, then a boat across the lake, then a bus to Doubtful Sound, and then a boat all the way out to the Tasman Sea. It was a triple-lucky day: 1. the weather was awesome; 2. the Tasman Sea was calm so we got to go way out into the Sea; 3. we got to see seals and dolphins (The animals might have been the high point of the day for me. First, there were baby seal pups walking around on the rocks, and second, two dolphins jumped straight up out of the water at the same time like they do at SeaWorld. I didn't know they did that in the wild.) When we were in "Crooked Arm," a particularly steep-sided part of the fjord, they stopped the boat and turned off the engines. They made everyone stand still and be quiet. It was amazing. You could hear the birds singing in the forest, the waves lapping against the shore, and nothing else.
Doubtful Sound is a fjord, not a sound; it was given the wrong name and it stuck. In fact, most all of the sounds in New Zealand are really fjords. Any way, Doubtful Sound/Fjord/Fiord is beautiful. Unfortunately I think my expectations were "Norwegian Fjords" beautiful, and they are more "Swiss high-lakes" beautiful. So as incredible as they are it still goes, 1. Norwegian Fjords; 2. Swiss High Lakes; 2a. Doubtful Sound.
One very cool unexpected surprise was seeing the Lake Manapouri hydroelectric power station. It is basically like Hoover Dam, except instead of building a dam and having the water pass through the turbines and out on the other side of the dam, they just put it next to a lake and have the water pass through the turbines and then six miles of tunnels out into the ocean. So the water enters from the lake about 400 feet above sea level and falls straight down into the turbines, which are at sea level. Then the water flows out two 6 mile long tunnels into Doubtful Sound. Doubtful Sound is huge, and covered with about 3 feet of fresh water, floating on the salt water, leading to unique marine life.
Back at the Motel (after bus, boat, bus) we ate, worked on homeschool, Internetted, and got ready for tomorrow, when we will go to Milford Sound/Fjord/Fiord and I'll see where that goes on the list.