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Cruise on Doubtful Sound (part 2)

Tuesday 10th November 2015

semi-overcast 18 °C

Neither of us had a great nights sleep as the bunks were very narrow and it was quite hot and stuffy in our room with no natural ventilation. We had all been warned that the very noisy engines start up just after 6am but this had the advantage of working as an alarm clock. We got up and dressed as quickly as we could and then went up on deck to see the Sound in the early morning light. It was much cloudier than it had been yesterday but there was still a lovely quality to the light and it gave a golden glow where it caught the hillside.

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While we ate a delicious buffet breakfast the captain took us towards to an area of the Sound called Hall Arm. They crew had told us that they were saving the best until last and they were right. The scenery was the most dramatic we had seen and the light only got better. En-route we pulled alongside an island where we saw some more small penguins and then a little while later as if to make the whole scene absolutely perfect we were joined by a large pod of dolphins, including a mother and baby, who swam alongside the boat for ages causing great excitement with everybody on board.

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The crew are all very flexible and if they see some animals or something else of interest they announce it and then happily accommodate people rushing up on deck in the middle of a meal, as was the case this time when we were all still eating breakfast.

The water was very calm despite the cloud and few spots of rain which made for wonderful reflections.

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As we entered Hall Arm the cloud started to lift and the grey sky became blue and the sun created patterns of light on the water. For about ten minutes or more the engines were turned off and we were all encouraged to be quiet, turn of our cameras and just listen to the sounds of the fiord.

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I could pick out individual waterfalls and there was lots of bird song. It was incredibly beautiful and peaceful, but eventually the engines had to be restarted and we began to make our way back to Deep Cove and the end of our cruise, whilst still looking at the scenery and vegetation as we went.

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All too soon we were disembarking and getting back on the coach, retracing our steps back over the Wilmot Pass. It had become more wet and windy as we crossed back over Manapouri Lake and so just about everyone sat under cover.

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It was then only a short coach journey to Te Anau where we were spending the next couple of nights. We managed to get dropped off outside our accommodation and were able to check straight in. Later that afternoon we had a look around the town and found a restaurant and had something to eat. After not having a great nights sleep in the boat (but as one of the crew had quite rightly said we hadn't gone to Doubtful Sound for the sleep) we went to bed quite early so as to be ready for another boat trip we had booked for the morning.

Posted by Gill's Travels 23:48 Archived in New Zealand Tagged animals new_zealand dolphins doubtful_sound Comments (0)

Stepping Out

Wednesday 2nd September 2015

sunny 16 °C

Breakfast at Tara Guesthouse was a bit more of a sociable affair this morning, and we were able to chat to the two other guests (who were both in the area on business) as well as talking some more to Julian and Brom. They had kindly offered to take us to the airport to pick up our car, so after a bit of checking to clarify exactly where the car hire company were based and the last few bits of packing done, were soon on our way. When we arrived at Avis the guy who served us was very friendly although it all seemed a bit vague in terms if who was having what car. In the end we were given a bit of an upgrade and came away with an automatic Toyota Corolla so we were pretty happy. We had decided to leave the city on the motorway and with the sat-nav this turned out to be quite straight forward. We didn't have any maps for this leg of the journey so once we were right out if the city we stopped at a petrol station and brought a road atlas.

We continued in the motorway for a few more miles before the road turned into the Great Western Highway just after a town called Penrith. The road was very good, and quite fast if a little featureless. I searched in the map for somewhere were we could venture a little bit into the National Park, and also where we could perhaps get some lunch. In the end we pulled off the highway at a town called Wentworth Falls. I directed Nigel towards some lookouts (these would be termed as viewpoints in the UK) at a place called the Conservation Hut which was essentially a cafe and visitor centre. We went and had lunch of toasted sour bread sandwiches and coffee and then decided to go on one of the shorter walks graded as moderate. Initially this went to the Queen Victoria Lookout, down quite a steep and slightly muddy path.

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Beyond this it continued down to the Empress Lookout and further still to the Empress Falls. We didn't walk the whole way to the falls as it started to get very steep and hard going with a number of ladder sections.

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We went down a way and then decided to turn back which involved going back up the ladder sections and then the long incline up to the Conservation Hut. It was a long climb and I estimated that there were well over 500 steps, so by the time we got to the top we were both pretty tired.

Nigel then drove the short distance into Katoomba to our new bed and breakfast. We could see as we pulled up that the view was amazing and so after dropping our bags off we decided to go and have a look at the Three Sisters rocks over the road before settling in properly. We took in the amazing view of the rocks and the mountains beyond and took quite a few photographs.

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Perhaps rather rashly given the walk we had done previously we went to have a look at another lookout nearer to the Tree Sisters. Initially this was an easy walk of less than half a kilometre but there was then a short but steep stretch down to Honeymoon Bridge which connected the escarpment to the first 'sister'.

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This involved going down about 100 steps some of which were on a steep ladder section, hard going down and equally tiring coming back up. It was interesting to see the way some of the trees had their roots barely hanging on the the ground. Whilst we were walking back to the car park we also saw a number of small sculptures representing some of the local indigenous animals.

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Once back at the B&B we got settled in and had a cup of tea but both decided that we fancied another quiet night in and that we weren't really hungry enough to go out for a meal, and so we went with that.

Posted by Gill's Travels 03:42 Archived in Australia Tagged mountains trees animals australia katoomba blue_mountains Comments (0)

More Amazing Wildlife

Tuesday 18th August 2015

sunny 19 °C

After another good nights sleep, ablutions, a quick breakfast and tidy up of the cottage, we got on our way back to Seal Bay on the south coast. It was my turn to do some driving today, so Nigel assisted with the navigating and did a bit of back seat driving! The roads were again almost deserted and during the journey of about an hour we probably only saw four of five other vehicles until we got close to Seal Bay where there were a few other visitors including a couple of excursion coaches. Once inside the centre we found out that there were two options, walking on a boardwalk which overlooks some of the dunes, or paying to go with a guide right onto the beach and therefore closer to the sea lions. We decided to go for the more expensive option, but as there was a 45 minute wait before the guided tour we were able to go on the boardwalk while we waited. This gave us a good introduction to the sea lions and there was also a point where a whale carcass was visible lying in the dunes.

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Many of the females had young with them and it was very special to be able to see them feeding. With plenty of time to spare we went back to the visitor centre to join the tour.

There were ten of us in total and our guide started off by briefing us on safety, both ours and that of the sea lions. She then gave us lots of information about the difference between the fur seals we had seen yesterday and sea lions. She talked about the breeding cycle, the gestation period (which is 18 months) and how the females come into season within a couple of weeks of giving birth to a pup, so they are almost always pregnant. We walked in a tight group down a separate boardwalk and through a couple of gates onto the beach. We were able to get quite close to the females and juveniles. There was one pup that was smaller than it should be, and therefore at risk of being attacked by some of the more aggressive males.

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It would appear that the males do very little if anything in terms of raising the young. Our guide said they joke about them only being interested in the three 'f's, food, fighting and getting the females pregnant. There were some young males doing a bit of posturing but no serious fighting as it wasn't the breeding season. There was plenty of opportunity to take lots of photographs and ask questions and our guide seemed very knowledgable and passionate about the sea lions. After nearly 45 minutes we made our way back up to the visitor centre and Nigel signed the visitor book while I bought a few postcards.

Once we left, we made our way to Kingscote, the largest town on the island. We needed to get some petrol so that we had enough to get us back to Stokes Bay and then to the ferry in the morning. It was also afternoon by the time we got there and we hadn't eaten any lunch and so were quite hungry, so we made a quick visit to the supermarket to get supplies for a picnic. We then drove get short distance to Emu Bay on the north of the island. We first went round to where the jetty is and saw that there were a number of Australian pelicans near a group of people.

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Although we had seen them in Adelaide we had not been able to get close to them and it was also good to see them in a more natural environment. We walked over and there was a fisherman talking to some other tourists about fishing and the birds which he then fed with fish scraps. Whilst they were eating we had plenty of opportunity to take photographs of them. Once they had taken to the water again we made our way in the car round to the beach area. The bay is on a beautiful wide stretch of white sand extending almost as far as the eye can see.

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We sat on the sand and ate our picnic before going for a walk along the beach. On the way back to Stokes Bay we briefly stopped at some salt lakes that were milky and had wonderful cloud reflections in them.

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Once back at Stokes Bay we spent a short time exploring the beach. To get to this you have to walk through a small natural tunnel through the rocks. It was quite narrow but we were able to squeeze through.

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The beach which is just below our cottage is lovely but sadly we weren't able to stay long as the tide was coming in which meant there was a chance of us getting cut off if the water got as high as the natural tunnel. Nigel then drove the short distance back up to the cottage and we settled down for a relaxing evening of dinner accompanied by some more of our wine.

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Posted by Gill's Travels 05:35 Archived in Australia Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises animals sea sea_lions kangaroo_island Comments (0)

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