Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise
Well, props to me for actually being on top of things in this blog for once! With the schoolwork finally slowing down (and before the cramming for finals begins…), I’m finally having enough downtime to report on my latest adventures in a timely manner. So, here it goes:
Sunday morning, the majority of our IFSA-Butler cohort woke up bright and early to be on the bus by 6:30 a.m. Even though I showered and packed the night before, I still managed to be counted among the stragglers who ignored the “be there at 6:20” notice and instead arrived moments before the bus left. Once we were all settled, most people fell right back to sleep, with some occasional chatter, for the roughly five-hour drive to Manapouri. We arrived in Manapouri around noon, were fed a quick lunch (which made me not as grumpy after sitting uncomfortably in the bus for too many hours), and then we were boarded onto a boat for another foty-five minutes, complete with free tea and coffee (which I took full advantage of), and then we were loaded onto yet another bus for one last thirty minute ride (which had nothing but sandflies to offer), before we FINALLY reached the Navigator, which we were to call home for the evening and following morning.
Once on the boat, we were quickly rewarded for out traveling. After showing us our rooms (which were adorable and clean, if a bit snug for four people, though a couple people were lucky enough to be upgraded to first class because there was too many os us), we were given a quick snack of muffins and fruit. We then had about two hours to wander around the ship and take pictures before it became too dark and wet for us to risk ruining our cameras. The crew then fed us (again!) delicious soup and bread. Probably in preparation for the next activity, which would take place in the cold rain. We were given two options: (1)kayaking through Doubtful Sound (2)riding a tender boat through Doubtful Sound. I originally (as in, before I actually knew what the weather was like in the fjord) was all for kayaking, but the realities of water and my camera led me to choose the boat instead. Which was not the greatest plan, since it was, by this point, down pouring and I couldn’t take any pictures anyway.
So, I’ll do my best to describe the boat trip without having any photographic evidence of that activity. The boat could hold eighteen people, and fifteen of those on the boat were a part of the IFSA-Butler program. I honestly wish I had pulled my camera out because it was absolutely priceless to look across from me and see the identical expressions of misery on everyone on the boat. Each person had their hood pulled up, and we were holding a poncho over our legs in a (bad) attempt to keep them dry. I was lucky in that I wore shorts, but people wearing jeans were completely drenched by the time we made it back to the Navigator.
However, I paid my dues in other ways. Let me preface this with the following: if you ever study abroad in or visit New Zealand, buy a rain jacket that HAS A HOOD. I almost didn’t even bring one at all (thanks, Mom for that last-minute shopping trip) and that would have been a HUGE mistake. Clothing here is, for the most part, quite a bit more expensive than in the states, so try to bring everything you need from home. Anyway, continuing on with the story, I had on shorts, a t-shirt, a polar fleece zip-up with a hood, and then my (hoodless) rain jacket. I stupidly wore the fleece hood up and thus, while it did initially keep my head and hair dry, it acted as a sponge in the rain and eventually all that water went through the hood and halfway down my back. By the time we made it back onboard the ship, my entire upper body was soaked. At least my feet were dry, thanks to my waterproof hiking boots (which were also a last-minute purchase…I was clearly beyond prepared to leave the country).
Okay, so I’ve probably made this little excursion sound pretty miserable (which it was, to a certain extent), but it also was really interesting and I would have been really upset to have missed out on it. We were lucky enough to see a raft of penguins, (yes, that is what it’s called, not a flock) and they were adorable. I guess it’s highly unusual for them to swim that far into the fjord, but the ocean was rough and they were taking shelter there. Those waterproof feathers would definitely make sitting in the rain less problematic. Our guide also told us a lot about the different mosses and trees that lined the water and even stuck his entire arm into a cliff without hitting any rock; that’s how many layers of moss can grow. Pretty interesting stuff, though I probably was not as fascinated by those little tidbits of information as I would have been if the weather had been a bit more accommodating for us.
Once we arrived back in the boat, people were given the option to jump off the boat into the water. I did not take that offer; I was already cold and wet enough and I don’t think that I’ll be kept up at night back in the states at the thought of not having swam in Doubtful Sound. But, the people who did it enjoyed themselves (some even claimed they felt warmer afterwards; yeah, I’m sure that was the case…) and good for them. The rest of us changed into warmer clothes and then claimed a table for dinner (after scarfing down some more tea and coffee first of course).
Dinner was delicious. There was more than enough food for everyone, even with the forty starving college students taking full advantage of free food. There was also six different desserts, and by the end of the meal, I was really happy that I was wearing sweatpants. We were collectively overfilled, and me and a couple of other people who went to the slideshow presentation following the meal sat at the backed and groaned as if we were in labor for a good forty-five minutes after. There is no way to describe it better than a food baby. I think the fact that we all eat minimally while we’re in our Dunedin flats leads to all of us gorging ourselves when we’re at any of the program events.
We went to bed shortly after the presentation (after a few quick games of Connect Four and cards), and we woken up about 20 minutes earlier than we were told (they said 6:40…it was more like 6:15 in reality and you all know how I feel about waking up before 7 AM) we would be when the ship’s engine turned out. Our porthole’s cover was vibrating like a jackhammer but once we shut that, a few of us were able to get a couple more minutes of sleep before getting dressed and heading down for breakfast. There was (yet again) an impressive spread of food but I was still pretty full from dinner the night before and thus probably did not appreciate that food as much as I ordinarily would have since I was still pretty full from the night before.
Following our last meal aboard the ship, we were lucky enough to see a small pod of dolphins swimming near the ship. There was one baby, a mom, and a couple of juveniles and, though my camera failed to take a good shot (though maybe I should blame that on operator error rather than the electronic itself) other people were able to take some really nice photos. They were beautiful and even put on a little show for us when they started surfing and jumping in the ship’s wake. That twenty minutes made the entire trip more than worthwhile in my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever grown out of my love of dolphins, and I’ve swam with them before, but this was the closest encounter that I’ve ever had with wild ones. We also saw a few seals on the ride back to the dock (but, in case my family is wondering, I refrained from whipping my sunglasses in the water with them).
Once we left the Navigator, we were in for another bus and boat ride back to Manapouri. We stopped for lunch in Te Anau and then went to a bird sanctuary, where I proceeded to make a fool of myself (as per usual). This sanctuary held three of the very endangered native Takahe and we were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to see them up close and personal in their enclosure as long as we were quiet. Somehow, I ended up walking toward the front of the group, and I managed to face-plant after tripping on a dip in the ground. I then proceeded to start laughing loudly, which was going totally against the grain of being quiet so that we could see the birds. Not my finest moment. There’s a reason my family calls me “Dick Van Dyke” and my dad’s favorite way to describe me is as a “bull in a china shop.” We did see the Takahe (though they were pretty shy) in addition to some kia, a native New Zealand mountain parrot (and according to the lady working, the smartest bird in the world, which I thought was the African Grey but I could be wrong), a wood pigeon, an owl, and some other little green parakeet type things. It was a fun little side trip, but by the time we boarded the bus, a cumulative lack of sleep had caught up with everyone and the bus was pretty quiet the entire way back.
Anyway, that about sums up the second half of my weekend! This trip was definitely one of the best parts of the IFSA-Butler program so far and I am so happy that we were all given the chance to experience the overnight cruise. It’s a pretty expensive endeavor to book on your own, and probably would not have been possible for many of us unless it was included in our program. I should have a quick turnaround with blog entries again next time; we have a Marae visit and volunteer day this Saturday, so that should be fun. And then, a week from this Thursday, one of my best friends in the world, Brigid, will be flying in from Chicago and spending two weeks in New Zealand! I am beyond excited to see her and explore some of the places in Dunedin and Queenstown that I didn’t before. We’ll be doing the Cadbury Chocolate Factory tour, the Speights Brewery tour, visiting the peninsula, and FINALLY I will have someone brave enough to go bungee jumping with me! It’s going to be amazing. As most things in New Zealand end up being.