Where We Be
|Doubtful Sound, New Zealand -- Kayak Trip
|Kayak chic! -- styin' in our blue skirts, yellow slickers, purple life vests, and two-hat combo
We’ve just come off the Doubtful Sound two-day kayak trip,
which was memorable but exhausting both physically and
emotionally. I had expected it to be one of the highlights of
our trip to New Zealand, but it was so physically demanding,
so rainy, and so lacking in wildlife sightings that, to be
honest, we were relieved when it was over.
We kayaked 35 km (21 mi) in two days and felt proud of the
achievement—the most we had ever kayaked before was 7
miles in a day, and at a much slower pace. Muscles in my
wrists and forearms are more sore than I’ve ever felt them
before, and my shoulders throb. Robin was a trooper and
worked just as hard as I did, but we tended to lag behind the
group. We have strong hiking legs, but our arms aren’t used
to such exertion. I had to focus so much energy on paddling
that I could hardly enjoy the views, especially on that first day.
The worst part of the trip—the part where both Robin and I
went into emotional meltdown—came on our arrival at camp.
After lugging four heavy kayaks filled with gear and supplies
up a narrow, mucky path—an extra-long trek because it was
low tide—we set up four tents in the pouring rain. Then we
stripped off our wet kayaking clothes, which were stuck to us
with moisture and perspiration. Peeling off a skintight wetsuit
while trying to balance on slippery roots is no easy task. I had
to take my Tevas and sopping-wet socks off to pull the
wetsuit inside-out over one ankle while balancing on the
other foot. Inevitably, I lost my balance and my foot squelched
into black muck. As soon as bare skin appeared from beneath
the wetsuit, sandflies moved in and started biting.
Robin and I stood shivering in our swimsuits under the leaky
eaves of the communal meal tent trying to decide where to
put our dry clothes on. Finally, we decided on the tent. We
retrieved our dry bags and hiked along a mucky trail to the
tent site, pursued by frenzied sandflies the whole way. We
struggled with the tent zipper and finally got it open, falling
into the tent. A hoard of sandflies flew in with us. We swatted
at them while trying to towel off enough to get our dry clothes
on, which by now were thoroughly damp. We pulled them on
anyway, cleared our tent of as many sandflies as we could,
and finally just sat there in a heap of misery. It felt like the
whole world was damp and scratchy.
I went to use the latrine and Robin actually cried while I was
gone. I was miserable myself. It had sounded so amazing in
the brochure -- and parts of it were amazing, but they didn’t
tell you about all the unamazing and disagreeable parts!
For awhile we just laid there. Eventually we roused ourselves
and went to the communal meal tent for dinner. Things picked
up for us then and we ended up having a fun evening. There
were nine of us altogether, a mix of English, Kiwis, Aussies,
and Americans, making for intriguing conversation. It didn’t
hurt we had red wine from a plastic bag courtesy of our guide.
On the bright side, we were smack dab in the middle of the
Fjordland Wilderness Area, and it was raw nature in its purest
form. The views were amazing—nearly always misty or rainy,
but amazing. Shadowy mountains ranged one behind another.
Waterfalls were everywhere, some pounding down, others as
thin as gauze. Moss “weeped” water. Granite walls dropped
lovely curtained beads of water. Several times we purposely
passed beneath a waterfall in our kayaks and got doused.
Other times we parked the kayaks behind waterfalls and
watched the water cascade down in front of us.
A surprise discovery for me was how pleasurable it can be to
kayak in the rain. Water droplets fall all around you, dimpling
the surface of the water and making a sizzling sound. Since
we were wearing wetsuits, fleeces, rain jackets, hats, and
kayak skirts (to keep water out of the kayak), we were able to
handle whatever mother nature threw at us. A favorite part of
the trip was when our Kiwi guide gave us time to paddle on
our own to the end of lovely Hall Arm. Then the two of us
could take things a little slower and enjoy all the waterfalls,
rivulets, drenched mosses, and mountains swathed in mist.
|We crossed Lake Manapouri at sunrise in a powerboat to get to Doubtful Sound
|Layers of shadowy blue mountains in the raw Fjordlands wilderness
|The world feels very empty of people when experienced from Doubtful Sound
|Misty views like this one were undeniably beautiful
|We ate lunch under a tarpaulin in the rain
|Relieved to be finished and back in dry clothes
|Robin sat in the front seat of our tandem kayak
|Looking down on Deep Cove, the remote start and endpoint of our kayak trip
|Looking down on a rainbow arcing over Dusky Track (one very hard tramp we're not doing)
|NOW the sun comes out! The boat ride back across Lake Manapouri.
|That smile says it all! We're done!!! No more wet clothes or rain!!!