The fog was pea soup-thick during the last 40 minutes of my drive from Queenstown to Manapouri. I'd left my hotel in Frankton before dawn, winding alongside Lake Wakatipu. It was only after daybreak the mountains revealed themselves briefly before going undercover again.
I boarded a Real Journeys boat before 8am to travel across Lake Manapouri to West Arm. Still no glimpse of Southern Alps on this grey morning as I stepped outside to feel the sea spray and snap photos of mist-shrouded islands.
We stopped near the country's largest hydro power station (currently closed for maintenance) at West Arm before climbing on a bus for the 45-minute trip over the pass.
"We should have better weather on the other side," explained our driver as she manoeuvred the large coach over windy roads to the 671m summit. As predicted, beams of sunlight appeared at Wilmot Pass, allowing views of Fiordland peaks, waterfalls and narrow rainforest valleys below.
Next was a three-hour trip aboard Patea Explorer. The Maori name for Doubtful Sound is Patea, translated as "the place of silence". We'll consider the quiet later. The English name transpired because Captain James Cook in 1770, upon approaching the entrance to the sound, decided upon 'Doubtful Harbour'.
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He feared he would not be able to sail the Endeavour back out. Cook went around the island instead. Doubtful, like Milford Sound, is actually a fiord.
Our nature guide pointed out native creatures like little blue penguins swimming nearby.
At the sound's entrance, where it meets the Tasman Sea, we saw seals sunning on rocks and caught glimpses of a humpback whale. Imagine more than 100 tourists, cameras craning for that elusive whale shot, and you get a sense of the difficulty of getting close enough to the boat's railing to grab your own photo.
If you want to be nearer to nature, join a kayak tour and/or spend the night in Doubtful Sound (Real Journeys offers overnight excursions, too).
My favourite part of the tour happened on the way back to Deep Arm. We stopped at a place of impossible loveliness, where blue waters reflect mirror images of mountain peaks.
The sight instigated a frenzy of activity: Snap, snap, click, click, click ... Suddenly, our guide's voice boomed over the loudspeaker. "We're going to cut the engines so you can really hear what's happening. I want you all to put your cameras away and stop talking for a few minutes."
It took around 30 seconds for the hub-bub to cease. Motor, chatter and clicks were replaced by a bird chorus: species like kereru, kea, kaka, fantails, hawks, robins and bell-birds warbled, chirped and sang. Will I ever forget how it felt to bask in birdsong and beauty with no other distractions? Doubtful.