March 6 -- Doubtful Sound to Stewart Island

Day 13

The next morning we woke to more howling wind, and rain that came down periodically in great sheets.  With the low scudding clouds venting up the mountainsides, it was an eerie dawn.  The rain fall had the effect of magnifying the waterfalls, and during our trip through some side branches of the fjords the water was coming down the vertical rock cliffs in unbroken sheets.  It was an impressive display of rain in a region that gets an average of 20 to 21 feet of precipitation a year.  It was a spectacle not to be missed.



The exposed gray rock in the bottom photo on the left is the Southern Alps fault line, where the Australian (Indian) tectonic plate rubs noses with the Pacific plate.  All through the fjord are slips and landslides that were generated by a 7.2 earthquake along this fault in 2001.


By the time we reached Deep Cove about 10:30 am, the rain had lessened, and on Lake Manapouri, the wind and rain was practically nil.  At Lake Manapouri, 5 alpine parrots, Keas, waited about the docks, looking for trouble.  They are neat birds.


We reached the landing about noon, and getting back in the car, I headed down the road for Invercargill, and my flight to Stewart Island that was scheduled for 5:00 pm.  The trip was about 170 km, and retraced some of the trip from Queenstown, back into the sun (but with a strong tail wind).  Then, turning south toward Invercargill, the weather again turned sour as the coast was approached.  Invercargill was cloudy and spitting rain, while I stopped at the local museum to send a quick email message home.


At the airport south of town, I locked up the car for three days, and caught my flight to Stewart Island, right on time.  This was in a little single engine plane, with five passengers plus a very young pilot, and crammed with luggage.  We took off in a driving rainstorm for the fifteen minute flight across the Foveaux Strait that separates the South Island from Stewart Island.  But, despite my anxiety, the trip went smoothly, and in fifteen minutes later we landed on the single runway, and were met by a van to carry the passengers to their hotels.


This is looking down at the last bit of the South Island, before heading over the Foveaux Strait to Stewart Island.



And here is Stewart Island, most of which is preserved as the Rangiura National Park.  The small inhabited portion includes the little town of Oban, clustered around Halfmoon Bay (below).



I was picked up by my hosts and brought to the Stewart Island Lodge, and found it to be very comfortable, with large rooms, gourmet family style meals, and beautiful gardens.  The other guests were from England, The Netherlands, and New Zealand.  After a great meal, I hit the sack to get plenty of sleep for a guided tour of Ulva Island—a predator free sanctuary—in the morning.