Saturday, December 12, 2009

NZ Sth Island - Pt 5 Fiordland

Day 10 (Tuesday) Stewart Island - Te Anau and Milford Sound

Rain and wind overnight have cleared by 6 am. Peter and Iris arrive and we spend some time chatting then finalising accounts etc. Iris stays to clean up while Peter drops us down to the Stewart Island flights office where we say our final Kia ora!

Daughter is selected out of the passenger line to sit up front in the seat next to the pilot. Her eyes are shining with excitement as I pass over the camera.
As we take off and fly over the island a beautiful rainbow shimmers across the bay. How fitting. Stewart Island really does look like the postcards.
The sun breaks through and shines across the mosaic of bays and promontaries along the coast. The camera has an aerial setting which seems to give pretty good results.
We make the approach to Invercargill airport over extensive sheep dotted farmland. Just a slight bump on landing. We clamber out of the plane nod goodbyes to our fellow passengers; retrieve our stored luggage; and claim the vehicle, paying the lost ticket fee when I cannot locate what the heck I've done with the parking ticket. I'm sure I put it in my purse but the price difference for the three days to lost ticket is minimal so I don't hunt that hard. (It WAS in my purse BTW. Seems it just wanted it's own little holiday in Aussie).
We have a couple of errands in Invercargill before we high tail it to Te Anau and Milford. This involves visiting ATMs to withdraw some more NZ dollars and a trip to a chemist where sis would be grateful to finally acquire some Nurofen back pain formula. No joy on the Nurofen front unfortunately. Staff everywhere keep advising that it's the same as other ibuprofen. ... well not in Sis's experience.. she's wishing she'd thought to bring some with her as what's she's been able to find in NZ so far isn't doing the job. Of course we also need to fill up the car. The weather holds while we get the money but at the servo the rain is heavy and horizontal. There's not many trees around in the central area of town and it's immediately surrounding streets and the overall impression of Invercargill is that it is a bleak sort of place and we aren't sorry to be moving on.
Weather being what it is and having a deadline at the other end we plan to make a pretty business-like drive from A to B. The countryside is pretty and it's a pleasant if wet drive and I'm enjoying being in the passenger seat. As with Lindis Pass I recognise we've missed a turn when we arrive at the heritage suspension bridge at Clifden. This is not a long detour to make, only a few minutes, so I am quite happy about it. I was interested to see this bridge which I'd noticed on the NZ Heritage Trust website but I wasn't going to make a big issue of it.

I'm the only one who's particularly interested so I hop out for a quick squizz while the others turn the car around. I notice a memorial plaque listing local men who fell in the Great War. It has been erected on the bridge tower. Some years after construction so the bridge can't have been built as a memorial originally (like so many things in Aus). I pause a moment to reflect on Australia and New Zealands' shared military history. There are differences in the way we commemorate our national day of remembrance (Anzac Day 25 April). In Australia we hold a service at dawn then a march a bit later after breakfast. At the main national services it is usual to have a kiwi serviceman as one of the catafalque party along side representatives from the army, navy and airforce, between them sharing the four corners with arms reversed. I understand in NZ it's a pre-dawn march followed by the dawn service. I've got no idea if we send a rep for the NZ catafalque party, but I would assume the thing would be a mutual exchange. One way or another this sacred day of tears and contemplation is as deep a bond as we could have between our countries. Each nation remembering all of those who suffer as a result of wars, but particularly the fallen from Australia and New Zealand... and of course Turkey for whom 25 April is also a special national day of commemoration and remembering those lost as well as of nationhood. I read down the list of names on the plaque and look around the area thinking of these men here in their homeland before the war. Before Chunuk Bair and the Western Front. I picture in my mind the many small memorials no doubt dotted around smaller communities across the nation here as they are at home, and the overwhelming grief that enveloped so many families and indeed nations after the Great War's indescribably bloody conflict. A grief which continues to reverberate. Lest we Forget.

Back in the car I over-rule some confusion about which direction we should be heading. It's not long before I get back up from a large directional way sign. Te Anau here we come.

Only the severest scenery fatigue could prevent an appreciation of the beauty of the rain across the landscape as we drive. One of the good things about coming from a land so horribly drought prone: Oh, how I enjoy watching rain across a landscape. On a drive, far from being an inconvenience it is simply another layer of beauty, with veils of rain caressing the hillsides. The spectrum of soft powder grey accented by billows of rich deep grey pregnant with the promise of more rain. Luxury.

Along the way I note the signs out to Lake Monowai, which Peter from sails was recommending if we had longer in the area, but a detour not possible today. I wonder what it's like.

We approach Te Anau from Manapouri, admiring the snow capped peaks behind the lake. I guess for Lake Manapouri it's a bit like being Mimi Macpherson. Very beautiful in your own right, but when your sister's Elle.. well.. you're kind of living in the shadows a bit. We check into Radford's Lakeview Motel. Though it's only 12:35 the room is ready so we unload the bulk of the luggage before heading up the road to grab some lunch. Somehow when checking in we come to discuss the fact that we're traipsing out to Milford twice. She shakes her head and comments "Oh you Aussies! You're all the same. Travel means nothing to you." A fair call I'd say. A couple of hours each way. Geez that's hardly anything really.
Miles Better Pies looks like the shot and there is a queue out the door which appears to be a tour group. The list of varieties is quite extensive and many are tempting. Daughter is keen for a venison pie. I of course simply have to sample the sausage rolls, but can't resist a taste of an egg and bacon pie as well. With elbows tucked tightly in to our bodies we edge our way threw the throng with our goodies and decide we'll go park across the road near the park to eat away from the crowds.
My sausage roll is OK. Fair bit of filler in it, which is how daughter 2 likes them. I prefer my filling more like an actual sausage. Everything is very large and we've bought far too much food. It was hard to see the sizes of things when whispering my order in daughter's ear ahead of me. The egg and bacon pie is good. It seems to have some sort of additional filler involved and I detect some cheesiness about it. Not bad, but I wouldn't walk over hot coals to get one. The pastry is short crust top and bottom. Hmm. Would be excellent just for the bottom but I have to say the lid should be flaky pastry. Is this a kiwi difference or just this outlet I wonder. My notes tell me we also shared an apple pie. I had completely forgotten.. which is as much comment as I need to make about it I guess :o)
Daughter has spotted some black billed gulls loitering and cannot resist going out to see them and give them some scraps as she eats. I join her and am grateful for the higher level of gull argy bargy they are displaying so that I can try to get a shot of their beautiful red mouths. The light's all wrong, but I do manage to snap one with it's mouth open. So hopefully this can give a bit of an idea how striking they are. Beautiful beautiful birds.
We have a 4pm nature cruise with Real Journeys so we don't hang around longer than necessary in town and are on our way by 1:35. I am surprised at the open farmland as we travel along Lake Te Anau towards Milford and turn off at Te Anau downs. I am not sure what I was expecting really but it wasn't this. I guess I was expecting something more reminiscent of the pictures you see of the Milford Track. It's a little while before we enter the national park and the road runs through a tunnel of beautiful beech trees. Exclamations hushed in reverence from us all. It's like driving through a natural cathedral.
It's only a fairly small patch of forest and we soon emerge into a flat grassy plain between sharp peaks.
Our first wayside stop is alongside a beautiful fast flowing river with crystal clear water. We don't have long for this stop. We hop out with our cameras, leaving the doors open.
Suddenly a cry from the bare legged and thong footed daughter. Ah, what's that. Ah ha! Sandflies. Our first of the trip. They are gratifyingly easy to kill. But as a community they are finding daughter particularly delicious. We hop back in the car quite smartly. Oops. Poor strategy there. These bities may have (for them) inconveniently soft bodies, but they are not completely stupid. They have invaded the vehicle en mass. There's far more in the car than out of it!! With much sounds of aaah... slap. Slap.... Slap, slap. There's one on the window. Squish. Our campaign of anihilation is just too easy.. did anyone bring the aerogard this afternoon?

Conscious of the time we resist the urge to stop at the Mirror Lakes, or pull over into various lay bys. As we get closer to the Homer Tunnel the scenery changes considerably. Imposing rock faces, bare of any noticeable vegetation with waterfalls everywhere we look streaming down to piles of white beneath. People will no doubt laugh, but the conversation in the car went like this: "what's that white stuff at the bottom of the waterfall?" "Is it ice?" "looks like it" "can't be..." Peering through bins, through camera zoom. "Yeah. It must be ice." "Wow" As we climb in altitude of course there is an abundance of snow and ice alongside the road.

At this time of day the Homer tunnel is on a 15 minute rotation for which direction of traffic can use the tunnel. We pull up behind some tour coaches in the queue. There is a large bleakly grey carpark area over to the right. ... KEA! our first. They are behaving as Kea apparently often do. Landing on cars. On the side mirrors. On the roof. On the bonnet. Tourists are opening windows and aiming cameras and clearly loving these oh so charismatic birds. We wish we had more time to stop with them which is a bit frustrating. We have confidence that they will be there when we come back though.
Around the rather bleak carpark there is an amphitheatre of snowy waterfalls. Awesome!
The temperature guage in the car is reading 6 degrees C. We may have miscalculated unpacking the car and leaving our hats, gloves and beanies in the suitcases. Hmm.

After only a few minutes in the queue the lights change and we are off. Carefully following the coaches down through the inky blackness of the tunnel. Cool.

Slowly and carefully daughter drives around the steep hairpin bends down from the tunnel as her passengers exclaim and point and draw one another's attention in one direction then another. Look at that!! Waterfalls everywhere. Peter said the waterfalls in Fiordland only last an hour or two after the rain stops and we have sunny skies now. We hope we're in time before they dry up in the fiord! So far so good!
We take our turn across the one lane bridges. Are totally gobsmacked by the thunderous cascade of Falls Creek as we drive across the bridge. Heads swivelling to catch the sights like something from a horror movie. No possibility of a photo. Too much traffic to pause. There's another car park on the far side. A must stop for the way back. Wow!! Look at the colour of that river!! Amazing! We can't wait for the return trips along the Milford Road. Daughter and I seal a pact that we will each drive in once and out once so we each get the opportunity to just sit and admire the scenery.

Finally we're pulling into the car park at the cruise terminal. We are relieved to note that back at sea level the temp is up to 16C. We park and mosey on in to the Real Journeys desk and obtain our boarding passes. It's fairly quiet here at this time of afternoon. Not a lot of people about. We admire the sculpture arrayed across a wall. Flies. Awesome level of detail in the individual flies. It's labelled Bat-winged Cannibal flies - Exsul singularis HUTTON. Artist: Elizabeth Thomson 1991. Got to love a community that is proud of it's bat-winged cannibal flies!! We wonder what the "Hutton" signifies... is he the guy who first described them? We read the additional information supplied about these little darlings. They eat other insects. Would that include the sand flies? I guess so. Got to appreciate that! They are also known as the world's rarest fly. Hmm. Considering that they are discovering in Australia that each individual small alpine pool has creatures that are unique to that one small pool and that biodiversity - most likely worldwide - is/was on a scale pretty much unimaginable I rather tend to the view that it's quite ambitious for anyone in any country to claim a title like "world's rarest" on any small creature front. I appreciate the fine distinction that has been made with the "known as the world's rarest fly". We make a pretense to count up extinct species but in all likelihood there are a myriad of species wiped out before we were even conscious they were there. I snap some photos. I don't want to forget this! What a great sculpture!

We spend some time admiring the cruise terminal and the various boats. All look very schmick and new or perhaps just really well maintained. Promptly on departure time we board our vessel. It's one of the smaller vessels and is named the Sinbad after Sinbad Gully in Miford Sound.

We make our way out to the back deck. Looking mainly out the sides of the boat we have passed Lady Bowen Falls before we see them. Our eyes nearly popped out of our head - and they've not said a word about it. Spectacular!

It's not long before I let out a cry! Dolphins. A couple of bottlenosed dolphins are swimming alongside the boat. Right below me. They keep this up for ages. I'm sorry, but I did note how plain the bottlenosed dolphins are compared to the Dusky Dolphins... but it is always exciting to see the dolphins. Tick.

Once more we marvel at our luck. We seem to have hit the best of both worlds. Beautiful blue sky but the waterfalls are still flowing in abundance. Glorious. I snap away at the wrong land feature. Beautiful. But it's not Mitre Peak! Oops.

The commentary is enthusiastic and light in tone. The crew are friendly. The boat toasty warm inside even with the back area open to the sheltered viewing deck. The various waterfalls both permanent and temporary are described. One is called the Fairy Falls. Named for the Australian Rugby Team our commentary informs us. We laugh. OK. We know what's required of us Aussies in these circumstances...

It is announced that the boat will be nosing up to a waterfall ahead. If you stay on the deck it's an awesome experience but you will get wet. Daughter decides to stay put out on the nose of the boat. She pulls out her waterproof camera. I haven't brought the underwater housing with me. Which I regret, but in hindsight perhaps was just as well.

The boat edges closer, closer. Spray increases. Daughter is videoing. Then suddenly the spray becomes a torrential, bone drenching downpour. The wind generated by the falls blows daughter's skirt. She's determinedly staying put though. Squealing and laughing then staggering away. I join the squealing and laughing, staying outside as long as I can to video daughter but at the really critical moment I just have to run for cover. A little spray of fresh water is one thing. A drenching on the new camera quite another. Daughter is sopping wet and almost doubled over with laughter as she staggers back towards the cabin wringing out her skirt. Anyone got a towel? None of us had appreciated just how wet they meant when they said we would get wet. Daughter is laughing and pinning the crew down.. hey.. you never said we'd get THAT wet! She peels off her snow jacket. She's dry underneath. Great buy these snow jackets. Half price end of season in Aus too. No towels for guests on board. "Oh! are you serious?" However there is unlimited free tea and coffee. Daughter and sis take a passionate liking to the Liptons Strawberry tea which becomes quite a feature of all our Real Journey's trips. A lovely lady offers daughter some dry pants, but this is declined. She's warm enough with the lovely cosy cabin and she's dry at the top. Everyone on board seems to have enjoyed the hilarity.
As we continue to explore and experience the waterfalls, the crew advises that if we head out the back as we edge the stern in towards the waterfall we won't get wet... still in high spirits I head out the back only to find the wind of the falls is blowing plenty of spray right under cover as the boat passes by. It's pretty fierce. I squeal and run back inside.. "They LIE!!! They lie!! Bloody Kiwis! Can't trust 'em! hehehe... you DO SO get wet out there!! hehehe"

We settle back down as we continue to motor steadily out toward the Tasman sea. The boat slows and it's announced we're looking for Fiordland Crested Penguins. Yep. There's one. The boat edges over for a good look. AAAAWESOOOME!! We video the cute little guy hopping along. TICK!!!

How lucky are we! How privileged to see such a beautiful creature. You can feel the excitement rippling among all the passengers.
We move on only a short way further nosing out of the sound and peering up along the coast to the features described in the commentary. There's more of a swell which for us is fun, and a pretty strong cold breeze which does it's best to rip the beanie off my head. The crew warned us about that so I was well prepared. All too soon the Sinbad loops back and heads into the sound this time hugging the northern shore. We have loved the views and waterfalls on the way out to the sea, but if anything the sound is even more impressive heading back in from the sea as the sheer rock faces tower over you.
It's not a long way back before we're admiring a small group of southern fur seals basking on the rocks. Tick number three! The crew announce that we are very fortunate, as it's only about 3 or 4 times a months a cruise gets the trifecta. Until last week they even had a whale taking it's ease in the sound. It had hung around for about 2 weeks. That would have been cool to see too.
We get in close for a view and information about the southern rata (metrosiderous umbellata). We listen with regret as we hear of the damage feral possums do to this and other native trees and plants. Then we're against a particularly tall, vertical rock face. We admire the beautiful mosses and hardy plants that cling and are encouranged to lean backwards and look up to enhance the effect.

The cloud cover is increasing and the shadows around the fiord are lengthening as we head into Harrison Cove. Too late for a visit to Milford Deep today. The Milford overnight cruise has moored in the cove and a squadron of single person kayaks are paddling about. As we turn to head back out of the cove we nose up to the shore for a view of some more penguins. How awesome would it be to be paddling around the cove with the opportunity to observe penguins!!
As we travel back deep within the sound the weather closes in and the sound expresses a completely different mood. As we watch the sun bursts through the cloud and a sunbeam streams light down onto the water. It is any wonder that biblical illustrators chose such displays as an illustration of the light of heaven touching the earth.

As Lady Bowen Falls grows in view another couple of penguins are spotted. We saw a total of 7 fiordland crested penguins at 3 different sites around Milford sound. We can hardly believe our luck. Almost back now and Lady Bowen Falls finally features in the commentary while we are able to give it full attention. The water is pure and just upstream is the source for the water used by the cruise operators. What a luxury and Lady Bowen Falls is fantastic. How lovely it would be to know that your husband named such a beautiful spectacle after you.

The call goes out as we approach the dock that if we'd like to tuck into the sandwiches below feel free. Last cruise of the day and they'll only go to waste if we don't. We each decide that might work for us and help ourselves in a modest way.

Back at the dock we say farewell to the lovely kiwi expat we'd got talking with (the same one who offered daughter the pants). She lives in Perth WA and is back visiting family in the north and touring around the south island. We wish our crew a hearty thankyou. That was entirely awesome. We had a fabulous time! Great fun and such a professional operation all round. Well done Real Journeys...but we don't think it would kill you to carry a few towels for drenched passengers...

A bit of a delay as we take a comfort stop but we're back on the road by 6:30pm. Our first stop about 20 mins down the road is at the Chasm. Another recommendation from Peter as a must see. Weather is looking a bit iffy. Should we do this now or leave it for Thursday? Mum is keen to do it. The sign says only 10 mins walk. Weather might be even worse on Thursday. Mum and sis are a bit of an unknown quantity here in terms of mobility but we set out. As is by now established practice, daughter and I take off up the path to sus it out. It's got a bit of a slope, but not tooo bad and it's through attractive forest. On the scale of things the scenery is a bit routine for the area until we begin to hear an almighty roar. What the heck is that? The noise increases as we approach the viewing area. Oh my god! That's both awesome and frightening in it's power. The chasm refers - quite appropriately - to a small channel in the rock. The river pours down from above and must then make it's way through this steep and narrow set of holes in the rock. You'd be dead for sure if you fell in. A sign close by says it all. There is no point whatever trying to capture this place in a photo. The chasm is one of those places that you just need to see the real thing. We're really glad we stopped.

We head back along the path to give a report but to our surprise don't meet the others. Daughter and I wait at the car wondering where Mum and Sis could have got to. We thought we would have met up with them one way or another on the path up to the Chasm. Turns out they made it to the viewing area while we were still there. Mum must have really pulled out all the stops. They saw us, but we didn't see them even when we looked for them. The viewing area has two levels like a loop that aren't too visible one to the other. With the roar of the water we hadn't heard them either. Mum huffs and puffs as she climbs back into the car. Got to admire the passion and determination that drives her to get out to see some of these places. This one hasn't been too bad, but she's looking pretty wrecked.

There's no stopping us at Falls Creek this time! And though she's tired mum would have to be just about dead to miss this. Fortunately there's very very little walking required and it's level. We stop and park and now with virtually no traffic we can take our time (though we do keep a careful look out for cars approaching). I try to capture the colour of the river. That beautiful glacial blue of the water. White water is always beautiful but this is something else again. We snap the falls. We video the falls. We raise our voices to be heard above the roar of the falls as they tumble over the rocks, beneath the road bridge and join the blue river behind us. As mum leans on the bridge railing admiring the falls for a few moments the look on her face tells a picture of spiritual joy... however she is moved to comment. "You know as spectacular at this is, it's nothing to Johnson Falls in the wet season... and Johnson falls is nothing (dismissive wave of the hand) compared to how the Barron Falls was in the wet season before they put the dam in". These days of course tourists flock to see the Barron Falls in far north Queensland. They view the regular releases of water from the dam made for the tourists sake. A poor second prize.. I think mum is still mourning for Barron Falls. She is often moved to talk about what they were like in their glory days.
I feel I should note here that I have been unable to find online reference to "Johnson Falls" I don't know what it might be called now, but it's got to be either in FNQ where mum grew up, or outside of Brisbane where she attended training college and from where she would hike all day among leeches to see the waterfalls around Lamington National Park. Yeah.. mum LOVES waterfalls. From a tiny sparkling trickle to a massive roaring torrent she just LOVES waterfalls. I have certainly brought her to the right place!!
As we head back to the car - mum comments "Geez how loud must Niagra Falls be!!". "Yeah" I say. I'd love to show mum Niagra Falls.... and Victoria Falls in Africa. .. but it isn't to be. This trip is risky enough with them knocking back insurance on her pre-existing conditions. The US or Africa is just out of the question.
Talk of Niagra reignites a conversation about old movies we were having with Peter this morning. .. you know - Niagra the movie - Marilyn Monroe then on from there. Doesn't seem like only thismorning we were saying goodbye to Stewart Island.

As there is noone immediately behind us on the road we can slow down enough to have a better look at the furry blobs of roadkill. Possums. That one's pretty mangled but sis says she can tell from the paws. She has a possum she feeds at her place. She's torn here from love of her own possum and accepting the up side of a dead possum in the NZ context. I suffer no such pangs. I know how much I (and just about all Aussies) hate rabbits. Kiwis have to hate possums that much I reckon. Who could blame them.
Back through the Homer Tunnel. No delays this time as the 15 minute rotation is over by this late in the day. We cautiously keep to the left and in no time we are back at the car park. It's lightly raining. No sign of the Keas now. Sigh. Sis demands a stop so she can make a snowman to photograph for her grand-daughters. We leave her too it, then as she photographs her tiny little snowguy I hop out into the rain to snap her with it. It's a tiny midget snowman but I've never seen her look happier!
It really is raining now and with the important stuff out of the way we move on.
As we come to the turn off to Hollyford and Humbolt Falls we simply can't resist it. Only 17 kms each way. We're a good way down the track before I look down at the petrol guage. Hmm. I wish we'd filled up in Te Anau, but we should make it. Hope we make it!
Daughter and sis laugh as we pass the sign for Dead Horse Bog. Too late they decide they should have taken a photo of the sign. .... over the years we've made a bit of a collection of notable road signs. It seems a long way in to the falls and the road is dirt.. ah.. great to be back on dirt. How I love dirt roads. We pull up at the car park. The path up to the falls is steep. Long and steep. Far too steep and mum is too tired in any case. However we've come this far now, so up daughter and I go. The sign advises this is a 30 minute return walk. Bellbirds serenading us all the way. There's a picnic table and chairs at the viewing area. The falls are a pretty three level affair. We linger for a few minutes before heading back while there's still enough light to see reasonably well. Keen to see the boat ramp, we drive down the hill and park nearby the suspension bridge (naughty naughty but we can't imagine this will cause anyone inconvenience at this time of the evening). This causes some excitement and we bounce across to the other side and back with plenty of smiles and laughter.
Lots of dead tops on the trees round about and we wonder what causes this. It's apparent to us later when what to look for is explained ( I think by the nature guide on the Doubtful sound over night). Possums. This is what the overgrazing of a voracious omnivore does to trees that have no defences. In Australia the trees have chemicals in their leaves to protect them somewhat is what our nature guide said. Poor kiwi trees are defenceless. Southern Rata apparently suffer from the possums terribly. Bloody possums. Bloody idiots who introduced them. Bloody idiots who introduced rabbits.. and foxes.. and cane toads. Oh for a time machine. There is more to the possum control in Australia than the toxins in the leaves though. We have powerful owls and other nocturnal native predators too. We did a tour out at Dunn's Swamp about 3hrs inland from Sydney and there we saw the dead heads on the trees from the Greater Gliders (like a possum but with flaps of furred skin between their front and back legs so they can hold their legs out and glide between the trees). They're big animals greater gliders. Up to a metre long nose to tail. Bigger than the brushies NZ is plagued with. They will also kill the trees given the chance toxins or not, but there is a cycle of predation by powerful owls. As the numbers of gliders build up, the owls come and pick them off where they are vulnerable up feeding on gum tips (new leaves). Glider numbers crash a bit, trees recover, the owls move on and on the cycle goes. The little NZ morepork would have Buckly's trying to pick off a mature possum.

It's 9:05 pm and the light is really fading... and so is Mum.. so are we all come to that. Time now to devote ourselves to getting back to Te Anau and our beds. Luckily we don't have to do anything much until 11am tomorrow. We'll need the rest. Daughter and I take turns napping and driving back into Te Anau.

Day 11 (Wednesday) Doubtful Sound Overnight cruise.
Warning: today's journal includes strong language.

Those of us capable of it sleep in. We start slowly then mosey on up to the shops in Te Anau. We've been told by several different people that we won't see much at the observatory if it's been raining. Too much fresh water and the tannin it holds will cut the light too much. We're a long way from the Fiords but it's fine here in Te Anau. Fingers crossed.
Mum and I put memory cards in to be downloaded at the camera store. We'll pick them up tomorrow. We buy a few postcards and some yummy fresh gummy lollies, cheeses and general supplies at the supermarket. Sis finally manages to find some Nurofen back pain formula and buys three packs to make sure she doesn't run out again in a hurry.
We spend some time in the souvenir shop that deals mostly in pounamu but has some nice paua stuff also. We admire some beautiful (and VERY expensive) pounamu sculptures and a tiki carved about a decade or so ago by a famous carver. It has paua eyes and it is an exquisite piece of work. I can't see the price and ask the lady serving. She wanders over with me and points to the price tag with a look that says "steel yourself". I look. $3, 500. Wow. It's a gorgeous thing though. I have a bit of an idea of the significant of the tiki, I don't think I'd have been able to resist it had I been a kiwi. We stand together admiring it. The lady says "It's the most beautiful tiki I've ever seen." I can believe it too. I'm just glad to have seen it.
Over in the paua section I find a framed group of three beautifully vibrant blue koru, twist and hook. I'll have that thanks. I've been looking for something beautiful in paua and this is just the thing. I like the symbolism. It's hard with the paua souvenirs. There's so much cheap comparatively tacky stuff and not much in the way of really beautiful quality pieces. However I like this one very much. This shop stands out among those we've visited. I think their buyer has good taste.
I wander in to the second hand book store and see what they've got of the kiwi authors I fancy. Angel in God's Office. War time memoirs of Neva Clark McKenna $18. Yep. I'll have that one thanks. I'd seen that one online and been tempted so no hesitation. An excellent read it was too.

We're back at Radfords for our pickup. We stow the car and excess luggage where we are directed by the staff and we board the Real Journey's bus. It's a better view from the higher seats of the coach. It's a bit rainy but the views are great as we travel back along the shores of Lake Manapouri to Manapouri township and the and the Real Journey's offices which are located just up the river a little bit from the lake itself. The facilities here are less impressive. Very little shelter for the crowds of people going out to or returning from the Doubtful sound tours. There's a little food outlet downstairs, but again, there's not much room inside. We order a couple of toasted sandwiches for lunch and try to get what shelter we can from the eaves of the building. It's all a bit unsatisfactory really. Time to board the vessel. Mum can't move real quick and noone's giving way with out a fight. We three able bodied are also encumbered with mum's gear. basically we're towards the end of those boarding. Inside it's crowded with people and luggage. We perch where we can, but we're not all together. And I guess we are, ie I am, a bit tired and grumpy. We are welcomed aboard and are provided with commentary. We're lucky to be here in waterfall weather we are cheerfully informed. There's a storm blowing in from the southern oceans and the sounds should be a treat. The windows of the transfer boat are extensive and made for viewing but they fog up. A brief foray outside is a relief. The lake looks beautiful through the rain. Downstairs outside there is very little area that is sheltered for people. Upstairs on top of the cabin is a large viewing area, but it's just too wet and cold and windy to make it worthwhile. On a clear day though I could see that this beautiful lake would give even the better scenery around NZ a run for it's money. As it is though, the trip is reduced to functionality only. We need to get to Doubtful Sound.
The terminal at West Arm is bustling with people also. We manhandle the luggage up the ramp and enter the terminal building to get out of the rain. The terminal is full of an overwhelming chemical smell, like that stuff they put in toilets to freshen them. Mum absolutely can't stay in that. We tell her to get herself outside. Sis takes her over to the door near the buses and suffering dubious looks from some of the staff, insists that mum is waiting just outside the doors there. She's doing no harm and she can't be in that stink in the terminal. That smell was strange as the toilets themselves didn't stink of it at all. We can only assume that they use it in the waiting area where it stays a bit damp a lot of the time from wet passengers coming and going... but who knows. Discussing the smell, mum tells me in a tone that says she's amazed at my ignorance, that toilet smell is actually just an air freshener that you can use anywhere. REALLY? But it's aweful! Apparently some people are just convinced that's a nice smell. We get a run down on Australian deordorising manufacture history and habits. Well who'd have thought. I thought it was just a better stink than toilet stink and the only thing powerful enough to compete. Well there you go. The things you assume when you are a child. You learn something new every day.

We put our luggage on the bus and climb aboard. They put mum on the bus early, but not anyone who is with travelling with her. Others have crowded on ahead of us and we end up on the other bus. Mum tries to get off to come over to us. They won't let her. Daughter realises she has gma's handbag complete with puffer and takes it over and sits with Gma on the other bus. Noone tries to intervene this time. All a bit irritating really. We could do without all this mucking about in the rain.

The bus finally departs and we head on up the road of the Wilmot Pass. We're not touring the power station, but we get a run down on how the power station was constructed, and how the road came to be constructed and the high maintenance costs, the levies for each passenger using the road and so on. All very interesting. It is pouring rain. Well pouring rain in our assessment scale. I guess for Fiordland though we were experiencing a moderate shower. The embankments are streaming with water. There are waterfalls everywhere you look. Some of them are jawdroppingly spectacular. This road is a spectacle of it's own in the rain. Almost hard to believe it's just a means to an end. Fantastic! We stop briefly in light rain for a photo stop for one of the larger falls we can see from a distance through light mist. Impossible to do it justice.

We skip the lookout over Doubtful Sound as visibility is pretty much zero. As we alight from the bus we rejoin mum and daughter. Even mum is lost for words for those waterfalls over the pass. All she could say was "oh, those waterfalls!"

We are greeted cheerily and assembled in the main dining area to be allocated to our cabins and run through the inevitable safety briefing. When the call comes we head on down to quadshare. Down two flights of stairs. Predictable I guess but I hadn't thought of that. We instruct mum to make herself comfortable upstairs and we'll stow her gear. Down in the quad share area, we're not listed on the allocation sheet. Hmmm. Up the stairs, down the stairs (and in my lady's chamber) finally we're sorted. The cabin is small but adequate. No door. Just a curtain. Hmm.

All things stowed we settle ourselves into the forward viewing area with afternoon tea - large platters of fresh and delicious muffins. One of our first delights is a wonderfully pretty little moth sitting on the window sill.

Waterfall weather indeed!! Even some of the crew are excitedly donning their sou'westers and heading onto the bow exclaiming they've never seen the sounds like this! It's windy and raining heavily. Impossible to get a dry shot. Impossible to capture it all in one shot. The wall of the sound in Crooked Arm is streaming water from temporary waterfalls. Daughter and I head on out into it. I video and snap the odd still shot. Thankful for the underwater housing. It is exhilarating. We're loving it but we are getting sopping wet again. Finally, laughing, we head inside for a break to be informed by our companions that one elderly lady disapproved of our antics. "Tsk Tsk. Look at them! They're wet through!!" Nah, not wet through. We're in our ski jackets again... but yeah we're very wet. Hair, and jeans are soaked and our jackets are too wet to stay in. It was worth it. We planned for it. We head downstairs to change into dry clothes and use the provided drying racks in the quad share area for our wet things. I'm now wearing my possum merino jumper. Snuggly soft and luxurious (and unbelievably dirt resistant). Just the thing. Don't leave New Zealand without one.

Resuming our viewing, we come across a pod of bottlenose dolphins feeding quietly. Graceful arcs of their bodys and dorsal fin rising then gliding smoothly back under the inky water. The Navigator pauses so that we can watch them. There are a couple of dolphins with calves alongside. Their back rising and falling in perfect synchronicity with their mothers. Awesome!!
Mostly restricted to hiding inside to keep warm and dry we indulge in a game of Upwords as we gaze out at the sights, periodically venturing to the window or briefly outside for some new spectacle. Just outside the mouth of the sound we visit a series of pretty rain and surf washed rock islands surrounded by glowing blue water and snowy white breakers. Beautiful. Here a seal colony is established and we enjoy watching all ages as they loll about on the rocks . As well as the seals we see more Fiordland Crested Penguins. How's that!! The trifecta again!

The call comes out for pre-dinner warming soup before the activities are started. We'll be anchoring tucked up deep in Precipice Cove. Protected from the storm. The soup was good, though I only sampled someone elses. Nice soda bread rolls also. "Damper" comments mum. I just have a taste. Yum. I wish I'd not had a second muffin at afternoon tea. Not often you get proper damper anywhere. Most places in Australia call stuff damper and it simply isn't damper at all.

We're sitting in a booth with a couple of young Irish girls. They're slow to loosen up but we get chatting by the end. They're not keen to venture out in this weather. Their trip includes tropical islands so they're going to leave the getting wet bit to the warm regions. Like most Irish folk you meet they're well and truly over rain. Fair enough. I'm not so sure what I want to do. We just got dry again, but daughter is determined I go. She knows you see. I've been looking forward to kayaking on the fiord for..well, just about forever. Daughter doesn't like kayaks. "Too bad" says I. "I went dolphin swimming to keep you company. You're coming kayaking with me. It's compulsory!" We head downstairs to put our wet clothes back on. I grab my rainbird this time. We line up on the activities deck and don our life jackets. Hands out for our paddles. I hand daughter the camera. She's more agile than me. I need my hands free. We hop in our kayaks and paddle out away from the boat. The barrier has been broken. THIS IS AWESOME!! OH Man this is SO good. The Fiordland Navigator seems huge from down here. Even here so close to the boat it's so peaceful. So spiritually soothing with the soft patter of the rain. On the water, on the kayak and my raingear. The water is so still and there is a pervasive sense of deep quiet. Magic. I'm oh so glad I didn't pike.
..For some reason amongst the beauty I can't help thinking momentarily of the Titanic and what it must have been like for the passengers in the life boats.
We bob about keeping in touch with the group. We paddle over towards one of the temporary waterfalls on the opposite shore. Brilliant. Kayaks are lining up and paddling under the falls. I summon daughter and we have a go. Aaah....somehow I kind of miss. That will require another go. Ah, that's cold!! Laughs. That was fun... wasn't it? We bob, we paddle. We fall behind when a fellow passenger attracts out attention to a larger temporary waterfall around the corner that we had missed. Shot of a lifetime he says. I dip the camera in the water to try to clear the drops on the lens. Won't be perfect but it'll be better than nothing. We head off to catch up with the group. Someone has fallen out of their kayak. How on earth did they manage that? Seems they paddled into too much turbulence near a stream entering the fiord. The crew are helping them back in over near the shore. After what seems like no time at all we're heading on back towards the Navigator. We're in no hurry and let others take the queue ahead of us. Clearly there is no weather in which you should skip the kayaking. FANTASTIC!!

As we climb back on board it is announced that when they get the kayaks and paddles stowed they will do the swimming that lots of people have been asking about. Oh god. Swimming! You would seriously need your head read to be going swimming. Oh no. Daughter is keen. More than keen. Nah. Not for me. No I really DON'T think so. Takes a while but I eventually cave. Madness. Sheer madness. Sis agrees. "you two are mad" she says with a laugh in her voice as she takes on camera duty.
We head downstairs and don our cozzies. Mad. "What are you making me do this for" I say. "Bloody Hell". When we get up on deck our young adventurous fellow passengers are leaping into the water. Shrieking with glee. One pretty young woman (Spanish?) is loud and laughing and clearly having an absolute ball. I'm thinking they must surely come from places where they always have cold water... I'm a soft Sydneysider. We don't swim till the water temp rises to about 22 C - minimum. Bloody Hell. We take our places on the landing. Daughter grabs my hand. She counts. She jumps. She pulls me with her. We plummet into ice cold water. Every nerve ending in my body screams in pain. I am overwhelmed by sheer panic. I can't breathe. I can't get to the surface. Daughter has gone deeper than me and she still has tight hold of my hand holding me under. I break free. I make for the surface. I gasp for air. F*cking Hell!! That was bloody horrible. I swim over to the boat. I get out. I guess not every gamble pays off. Aweful. Absolutely bloody aweful. F*ing hell. I'm still in pain. Daughter wants to go again.
"NO F*ING WAY!!" Sis makes an announcement.
"I missed it. You'll have to do it again."
"You WHAT!! You're bullshitting me! You can't have missed it. You're not serious!"
"No, seriously. I missed it"
"BAD LUCK!! I'm NOT doing THAT again!"
"No seriously you have to do it again."
"Go on Mum.. "
"I can't believe you missed it. I'm not doing it again..."
All around me people are leaping into the water laughing and having fun. Lunatics. Sheer bloody lunatics. Others begin to join the peer pressure...... I think maybe if I don't have daughter holding my hand it won't be so bad. With very bad grace I head back to the landing. I glare up at Sis whilst doing my best drowned rat impersonation.
"ARE YOU SURE I AM IN THE SHOT. Are you filming? Start filming now"
"Yes, you're in the shot. I'm filming."
Daughter goes to take my hand. No way jose! I shake her off. The count goes down. In we plunge.
AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! Overwhelming panic again.. again it is just freakin' horrible and painful but maybe not quite as bad as the first time. At least without daughter pulling me down I can surface a little bit more easily. Now I understand better what sis went through not being able to breath in the "cold" water when she did the shark dive at Manly with her daughter. Aweful. Truly Aweful. I will never ever do that again. Horrible. Horrible. Horrible.
"Did you get that?" I call up to sis.
OK. Alright. Let's get dry. We check the video as we pass Sis. As we head to the cabin we are greeted by the captain who has been watching the fun. Good on me for having a go. .. yes, now I notice I'm the only bod of "should know better" age engaging in this "fun". Daughter quizzes the captain...
"So just how cold is the water?"
"Oh, about 12 degress."
"Bullshit!! NO way! It had to be way colder than that. Daughter has swum at home in winter and that was cold enough.... This was frigging freezing. He looks puzzled.
Maybe the rain has made the top layer a bit colder?
Must have.
I tell you what. If that water was 12C remind me NEVER EVER to even THINK about swimming off California. I'll stick to my nice balmy 22C summer water temperature off Sydney thank you very much.
Thinking about it since. The water temp at Manly in July when we went kayaking was 16C so it is probably similar along the coast where daughter has been crazy enough to swim in the colder months. Gosh that 4 degrees makes one heck of a difference if indeed the water just there was actually 12C and not chilled by the downpour.

We shower and change ready for dinner. Now it's over I'm not sorry to have done the swimming... but I've done it now. I plan to never ever ever do such a thing again.

Dinner is a nice buffet with a variety of meats, salads and vegetables. This was followed by puddings. An array of mud cake, cheesecake, a tart that I would have described as a passionfruit chiffon tart, but it seemed to have white chocolate lumps through it. I thought it was nice but Sis didn't like that. There was also pavlova, cream, and an apple berry crumble with custard. The only hot option and that went down well after the swimming (me not being a partaker of hot drinks). Best course of all - the cheese platter. Several very very nice cheeses.
As the darkness deepens the fiords become a sophisticated arrangement of black and white and grey. Simply beautiful.

After dinner we adjourn with our pudding out to the observation deck and take our seats for the presentation by the nature guide. Very interesting. By the time this was over it was 10 pm and we are MORE than ready for bed!!

Day 12 (Thursday) Return from Doubtful Sound. Te Anau Caves. Fiordland Cinema.

After a mostly comfortable and quiet night, snuggly warm in our amazingly warm doonas (duvees) I'm up at 5:40am. The ship is quiet and I could lay in bed, but I'd rather come up and catch the sunrise with the place to myself. In the early morning stillness the fiord is just magic. No sign of the weather clearing particularly although the storm has clearly moved on.

The Engines get going early. 6:45am. Then breakfast which is pretty comprehensive with cereals toast or a cooked breakfast.

With the perception that comes from shared experience Sis notices another passenger who is in intense pain. She is begging the crew for something to ease her pain and they unfortunately cannot help her. Sis offers her one of her packs of hard won Nurofen and this is accepted gratefully. Just as well she bought 3 packs!

As we continue to explore the fiords the captain unfurls the sails. Most of the waterfalls of yesterday are gone or reduced to a mere trickle. We hear tales of Secretary Island and a fellow back a hundred years or so, a school teacher, who chucked it in for a year to study nature in the Fiord. The vista shifts and morphs as the clouds swirl revealing a peek of blue sky to complement the palette of black and white. Black and White and Blue. On the beaches, in the fiords. Shouldn't these be the New Zealand national colours? I'm sure this combination will remind me of New Zealand well into the future.

As the mist thickens the landscape takes on an eery multiple exposure effect. I recall that a kiwi local on Trip Advisor said that they think the fiords are best experienced in the mist and rain. I really have to agree...though I think I could handle being on the spot when the water is like glass and mirroring snow capped peaks.

It's so pleasant here onboard the Navigator. Very relaxing. I could really get used to this. If only hubby didn't get so dreadfully sea sick. I go and browse the brochures for the longer multi-day trips around Fiordland. They run in the winter when apparently there is the most chance of calm clear weather. Peter told us he has done one of these cruises and they're great. I really believe it. There's one that goes down to Rakiura too. Sigh..
We pass a small island. We are looking for New Zealand scaup. Sure enough, there they are paddling about under the overhanging trees.
We're on the homeward stretch now, but first we motor up into Hall arm where the engines are switched off for the "sound of silence" experience. We are all well briefed as to what is required of us. Even taking photos can disturb the serenity so please just observe quietly in stillness and listen to the sounds of the fiord. I am fortunate that around me everyone is doing their best to cooperate. You generally don't really notice the hum of the engines, but you really notice when they stop. It's a great few minutes.
My family reported that there were some near them that talked through the whole thing wrecking it for everyone around them.
Finally we are given notice that we'll need to assemble with our gear in the dining area. We disembark at about 10 am and reboard the buses to head home. It's been a totally awesome 24 hrs. On the bus our driver assures us that he will not inflict commentary on us this time as he's sure we've had enough of that by now. Just relax and enjoy the ride across to West Arm. Yes. The quiet is what we need now. Lots to process after the amazing experiences in the fiords... and we're all pretty tired and I guess we could have slept better.

As we missed the lookout on the way over yesterday, we make a brief stop today. You can see the fiord, but visibility is pretty restricted. I'm sure on a sunny day it would be amazing.

As we cruise across to Manapouri we leave the rain behind and pretty soon we are enjoying the viewing deck up top and are able to appreciate what a beautiful body of water Lake Manapouri is in the sun. We overnighters also have the boat to ourselves with day trippers ferried on another vessel. We're relieved about that, and of course this time we have been more proactive and have managed to nab a good possie on board.. Again we're left in peace with no commentary.

We're back at Radford's by 12:15 and check back in. Retrieve luggage and car. We have a few hours to rest before our tour of Te Anau caves at 5:45. We have wet clothes so I forgo the nap and take washing duty. Pleased to be able to hang things on the washing line in plenty of sun and breeze. We hang about resting until about 3pm, then head up into Te Anau to collect our memory cards and I'm really keen to have a look at Fiordland Cinema. We keep getting differing advice everywhere about when the cinema actually runs. But we head on in to try our luck. The movie only runs for about 1/2 an hour. We pay the $9 entry fee (using our 10% discount voucher from Radford's) and head on in. It's a nice new theatre. Very impressive. Apparently a local helicopter pilot got together with some other pilots with relevant experience and over a number of years collected the footage to assemble the film. Then they were faced with a problem as to where they could screen it, so they built the Fiordland Cinema. I'd like to tell you what the movie is like, but 3 out of 4 of us were out like a light in no time. The music is soothing the scenery lovely and it's just very relaxing to watch. No matter how hard we tried we just couldn't stay awake! Sis - who was probably the most tired of any of us managed to peg her eyes open. She says she was scared she'd be in trouble if she went to sleep. I don't know who from. She paid for her own ticket so noone elses's business what she does with the time... anyway she reckons some of it wasn't in focus on the screen. Mum and I opted to share purchase price on the DVD... but I haven't watched it yet. Mum's got it. As we were leaving the theatre the nice young girl on the ticketing asked us how we liked it. We fessed up that we just couldn't stay awake... she replied... "unfortunately it has that effect on a lot of people." Well I reckon if that's the case the DVD should be well worth the purchase price!! I could really use a sleep aid.

By now we need to get down to the Real Journey's office to book in. As usual this is quickly and efficiently done and we head down on to the wharf to wait for boarding. A small flock of New Zealand scaup are swimming around in the shallows of the lake. They're not diving though. Watching the scaup diving is a pleasure that awaits us tomorrow.

Once again Real Journeys lives up to expectations and the vessel and the commentary are all first rate. This time we even have some audio visual presentations, but we're a bit too tired to really appreciate it. Seems to be a pretty common affliction among the passengers overall and it's hard work for the crew to pump us up enough to get outside and soak it up. Once one or two get up it seems to start a bit of a human tide ebbing out of the cabin. It's fine and sunny and and as promised it's beautiful up on the viewing deck. We make a slight detour around some pretty little islands at the entrance to south fiord. I remember finding it interesting, but for the life of me I cannot remember what it was that they were telling us about that spot. The most memorable item of commentary was that the water in Lake Te Anau is so pure you can drink it without any treatment applied and that this therefore means that buying bottled water in Te Anau is a complete waste of money!! Hard not to like a commentary like that. How wonderful for the locals that their lake is so pristine. I'm very jealous.

We tie up at Cavern House which is apparently a bit of an historic icon. The path up from the wharf is very pretty and atmospheric and does so much to heighten expectations and levels of energy and excitement. We are ushered into the little amphitheatre room where we get a bit of a briefing on how things work. Absolutely no photography inside the caves. This is emphasised. It is explained that the glow worms will switch off their lights in response to light or noise or threat. So no talking when you get up to the glow worm viewing area and don't try to touch them either. Keep your hands and arms inside the boat. The boat from Te Anau brings a number of groups at the one time so people take turns watching a video presentation, perusing the displays and of course the actual cave tour.
There's a few tour groups among us and it proves easiest for us to wait for the last group heading in to the caves. The path has some slope to it and the group moves pretty smartly a lot of the time, but mum is doing alright. This is nothing compared to some of the other things she's managed to do and she's extremely keen to see the glow worms. As we walk under the rock ledge and duck our heads we have a little laugh remembering our practice sessions at home for this physical challenge. Turns out the height of the ledge is about right for what mum was doing at home!
The path follows along by a torrent of water which is (slowly) continuing to eat away at the rock, which isn't so hard to deduce from it's name - The Tunnel Burn. The water is clear and the river exudes a frightening power. I'd hate to fall in here anywhere. I can't imagine what must have been involved in building the viewing platforms and paths, but this doesn't feature in the commentary. We pause to consider in wonder the whirlpool. Awesome! As we travel deeper into the caves there is one d*ckhead who keeps turning his camera on. Our guide is on him quickly each time. Turn the camera OFF. Finally as we're right up near the glow worms, this moron turns his camera on yet again and is sternly threatened with expulsion. I give a mental round of applause. Well done dear tour guide.
We climb aboard the viewing barge, careful to keep our arms and hands inside the boat. The lights are switched off and it's pitch black. Our guide hauls the boat along using an overhead rope and the boat bumps against the side of the cave from time to time. Unavoidable. Could be painful, so you really want to abide by the guidelines. As we enter a smallish chamber with a ceiling of beautiful starry illumination the light from the worms is enough for me to see the camera weilding d*ckhead reach out toward the worms. Oh boy, if not for the talking prohibition I would have given him a serve. As it was I had to make do with a soft "tsk". I think he got the message, as he quickly withdrew his arm. I guess he thought noone could see what he was doing. I resolve to take my usual action in such situations by discussing his d*ckheaded-ness within earshot of him. This usually does the trick I find. I've come across a few of this sort of moron and they actually seem to think that the people around them either think they're clever or don't care. Ah, WRONG!! Camera guy is an idiot, but I'm afraid he's left in the shade by the d*ckhead we came across at Jenolan Caves outside Sydney. That guy actually boasted to the guide that he was a perennial child and he just persisted in running ahead and playing with the lights AND trying to get the children on the tour join in and do it with him!! - while people were coming down steep ladders and stairs!!... yet the young guide was totally intimidated. She never even threatened to have him removed. Our guide at Te Anau Caves - only 17 yrs he said - handled the situation much more effectively.
As we are the last group it is pretty much straight back to the boat on exiting the cave for another pleasant cruise back to base. As we travel Mum tells us with palpable delight of her exploits in the rainforest outside Brisbane when she wandered out to an embankment to see the glow worms and how you could see the individual little worm and it's web in fine detail. Seeing Mum enjoying herself so much makes everything so worthwhile.

It's a rush straight to the Fat Duck for dinner. We stopped in earlier to make a reservation and explained that we were on the caves tour and our understanding was that it got back by 8pm. Made the reservation for 8pm with the assurance that if we're slightly late we are still coming. Arrived at the restaurant by 8:10. OK not smack on time, but it's not like they didn't know what was going on. 10 mins within the booking time would never raise an eyebrow anywhere we've dined in Sydney.. or anywhere else for that matter - in any price point. Not so here at the Fat Duck. The waiter (not a kiwi judging by accent) greets us with a confused look like he knows nothing about our reservation. His timing was quite considered. Having left us hanging for a while he comes out with a faux friendly "oh yes THERE you are. I was beginning to wonder what happened to you!" Now reading the words probably can't convey his obvious message which was communicated oh so clearly in tone and body language. Ie "How dare you be 10 mins late. Think yourself lucky we will still seat you." We are shown to our table. We're not real impressed with the service so far. The ambience is nice though and we're looking forward to our meal given all the great reviews and recommendations. We start with some garlic bread $6. It arrives. There are three small slices of bread. Oh nice. Wouldn't you think they would have said something about that given that we are a party of four, or just brought us 4 slices and charged us $8? It's a bit poor. The bread on the other hand was outstanding. Probably the nicest garlic bread I've ever had 3/4 of a piece of. .. but seriously it was very very good garlic bread.
For mains several of the party are craving some red meat, so Sis opts for the ribeye which she reported was quite nice but well endowed with gristle; Daughter the steak sandwich - which came on the same delicious bread the garlic bread was made from and was pretty much the pick of the meals in our group - also the cheapest; Mum and I both went for pork belly again and we both thought that was pretty average.. I'm sure kiwi and Aussie readers understand what I mean there, but I will translate for international readers. If we say something is average we mean it was not very nice and rather forgettable. You eat it for sustenance rather than pleasure. This pork belly was not worth what was charged for it.
Dessert we shared 2 brulees with kahlua and baileys. This was OK. We couldn't really taste the Kahlua and Bailey's. Seemed like a pretty standard brulee to us. Good enough, but from the name and the price we were expecting something a bit more out of the ordinary. Overall a disappointing meal with the exception of the bread and daughter's steak sandwich. The service throughout was not good and we noticed this wasn't restricted to our table. A nice couple of men we met on the Doubtful Sound overnight came in after us and Sis had a good view of their table. The service they were subjected to was even worse than ours and they waited a very long time for their meals and were looking very unhappy.

Back at the motel we bring in our washing and fall into bed once more.

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