The Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise in Fjordland which I went on earlier in May was money well spent. Even though it was quite pricey, with all costs included it was definitely worth it. Because of the bus connections between Lake Tekapo and Queenstown, I had to book a night’s accommodation in Queenstown the night before and the night after this overnight cruise trip. Through the BBH hostel website, I found a lovely hostel called The Butterfli Lodge, about 10 minutes walk from Queenstown city centre. The price for a single room was a little more than I would normally pay:$66 per night but it looked lovely on their website, with a view of Lake Wakatipu.
On the 6th May I got the Intercity bus from Lake Tekapo at 12.40pm and arrived in Queenstown at about 4.30pm. The Butterfli Lodge hostel, on Thompson street, is a good 10 minute walk from the city centre. The hostel has a hilltop view of Lake Wakatipu and the climb to the top of the hill was worth it. The warmth and coziness of the place was enough to make you want to just throw off your shoes and collapse on a couch for the rest of the evening.
The hostel asked for a $20 key deposit and I had just about enough cash on me to pay for the room and the key deposit. The hostel is split into two levels: the reception, kitchen, laundry, sitting room and some of the bathrooms are on the first floor and the bedrooms and some more bathrooms are on the bottom level. I really liked the feel of the place. I had room number four and I was blessed with an expansive view of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkable Mountains from my bedroom window.
The weather was murky and rainy and the rain clouds were moving slowly over the tops of the mountains. There was a wall of rain at the far side of the lake and the different shades of white, grey and blue were mystical and eerie. There was a big double bed in the room, with plenty of space. The bathrooms were spotless along with everything else in the hostel. They also have a resident cat called Jimmy, who apparently is well known in the local community.
I had a walk around Queenstown that evening and went for dinner in an Indian restaurant called The Spice Room. The food was very tasty and the service was also very good. I like the feel of Queenstown. I didn’t much like it before but it definitely has a buzz to it. The following morning I was picked up by Real Journeys at 8.30am and brought to their office in town, which was only 5 minutes drive away. It was raining and I was glad of the pickup.
There were only four or five other people in the office and we were introduced to our driver, Craig. Some of our group were going on the Milford Sound overnight cruise and the rest of us were doing the Doubtful Sound cruise. The scenery on the way down to Te Anau was just breathtaking. I love seeing the green fields, surrounded by what seems like “moss-covered” mountains. It’s so much like Ireland and Scotland and in the rain things seem so much greener and damper. I love it.
We stopped at the Bracken Hall Café at Mossburn for a short break. At Te Anau the Doubtful Sound passengers were dropped off at the Real Journeys office to check in for the cruise. We had an hour’s trip across Lake Manapouri by boat and were met on the other side of the lake at West Arm by another Real Journeys bus. Our quick-witted Swe-Wi (Swedish-Kiwi) driver provided some very interesting commentary on our way to Deep Cove. The road between West Arm and Deep Cove was only built in the 1960s and before that it was a walking track, which took eight hours to walk from one end to the other. They needed to build this road not only for tourism but also for the workers who worked on the Manapouri Power Station. The power station was built to supply the power requirement of Comalco Aluminium Smelter, situated in Bluff 171km away.
Travelling on the road between West Arm and Deep Cove felt to me like we were entering an area that was untouched and tapu (Maori for sacred). It was raining but our bus driver said we were very lucky to be coming on this trip on a rainy day because the rain created waterfalls. It had been raining in Fjordland for the past few days and so there were plenty of waterfalls and fast flowing rivers to see. We didn’t stop at Wilmott Pass because the rain clouds obstructed our view. But the vegetation from Wilmott Pass onwards got denser, with a lot of moss and ferns growing in the area. There were no silver ferns though as it was too cold for them to survive.
To read about the exciting part of the trip: being onboard and sailing through the fjord, read my next blog.