Rafting Up – Doubtful Sound – Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

We’re currently in the southwest corner of New Zealand, also known as Fiordland; arguably the most famous tourism destination in the country. Most of Fiordland is dominated by the steep sides of the snow-capped Southern Alps, deep lakes and its ocean-flooded, steep western valleys. It is home to both the famous Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. On our first day here, we decided to explore the much less accessible Doubtful Sound by kayak. Getting to the sound was an ordeal itself, as there is no public road access to the sound. Our journey there required a van ride to Manapuri Lake, a 45 minute boat ride across the lake, and a bus ride over a mountain until we finally reached the fiord (despite its name, Doubtful Sound is actually a fiord, not a sound). We got suited up in our gear and set out with our guide for some exploring. Oh My Goodness. There is no way to describe how serene this area is, and pictures don’t do it justice. We kayaked through calm waters in the midst of huge mountains; how insignificant we were was realized when a helicopter flew across from us and appeared to be the size of a toy compared to the mountains. The first hour and a half of our kayaking adventure was relaxing and surreal. We paddled past several waterfalls whose intensity is impacted by the amount of rain. We had time to stop at the bottom of the falls and admire their beauty and size.  I should mention how lucky we were to get a sunny day for our trip, as it typically rains 200 days a year in this area. However, the rain would have had benefits too; more intense waterfalls and many temporary waterfalls caused by the rain. Our way back in was a much different experience than our paddle out. The weather can change very quickly here, and it did! We knew that our paddle back wouldn’t be as easy going against the current, but then nature threw in some very strong winds. This made it feel like we were just treading water, and we couldn’t stop paddling because that could cause us lose control of our kayak and start to go backwards. Add in that we were now late getting back to the bus to get back to the boat that would get us back to the van to get us home, and there was a new sense of urgency. In the end, we did it…slowly but surely, and with some help from our guide. And we had a blast doing it, sore arms and all. Days like this make us appreciate nature for its beauty, strength and unpredictability.