From nat­u­ral beauty to tun­nel vi­sions in Fiord­land

Ac­tiv­i­ties abound in the vicin­ity of New Zealand’s spec­tac­u­lar Doubt­ful Sound

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - HE­LEN FRANCES CATHER­INE MAR­SHALL

AS we file off the boat that has brought us across Lake Manapouri in New Zealand’s South Is­land, a flash of orange feath­ers greets us. Dumpy, one of the lo­cal keas, flies in. The bird paces along the gut­ter­ing of the vis­i­tors’ cen­tre, eyeing up an­other group of pack­laden tourists.

Peter the bus driver calls us away from the avian scoundrel who would like noth­ing bet­ter than to slice his way into our pic­nic lunches.

En route to Doubt­ful Sound the bus climbs Wil­mot Pass. It was built in 1963-65 to take the mas­sive trans­port trucks that car­ried con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als from Deep Cove in Doubt­ful Sound to the Manapouri hy­dro-power sta­tion.

The road winds around high, bush-clad cliffs, wrapped in mist and shaggy with mois­ture-laden fo­liage. Then a win­dow of blue sky ap­pears in the clouds with a moun­tain peak float­ing in the mid­dle.

The weather changes fre­quently dur­ing the trip and we get many dif­fer­ent views of the area, rang­ing from mys­te­ri­ous, deep and moody to blast­ing bright sun and clear skies. Trees furry with lichens, moss and epi­phytic ferns look like deer antlers in vel­vet. Moss gar­dens spill a pal­ette of greens, yel­lows and rus­set red over the rocks. Washed by the spray of minia­ture wa­ter­falls, the gar­dens glint in the light.

Lo­cal weavers and em­broi­der­ers have drawn inspiration from WHAT’S to be done with 500 measles, mumps and rubella vac­cines that are ap­proach­ing their ex­piry date? Toss them out with the rub­bish, or use them to im­mu­nise whole vil­lages at risk of suc­cumb­ing to these po­ten­tially deadly dis­eases?

This was the co­nun­drum faced by Jenny Clapham, a se­nior nurse with P&OCruises Aus­tralia, as she took stock of med­i­cal sup­plies on Pa­cific Jewel while pre­par­ing to sail off on a tour of duty in the South Pa­cific ear­lier this year.

‘‘She emailed to say she had a large num­ber of MMR­vac­cines and they were ex­pir­ing at the end of the year,’’ re­calls Alyson Ot­t­ley, these rich nat­u­ral dis­plays, Peter in­forms us.

Many of the mosses are in fact liv­er­worts. I find out later that the strik­ing red one is Iso­tachis lyal­lii, which grows in high rain­fall ar­eas. In an­other spot, tiny green­hood med­i­cal op­er­a­tions man­ager at Car­ni­val Aus­tralia, the com­pany that op­er­ates P&OCruises.

‘‘It was un­likely that they were ac­tu­ally go­ing to be used on the ship in the next eight months, and she thought they could have gone to a bet­ter home rather than sitting on the ship and not be­ing used. So she got the ball rolling.’’

The tim­ing was per­fect, for the ship was headed for a place where beauty and dis­ad­van­tage can be found in equal mea­sure: the is­lands of Vanuatu, whose largely ru­ral pop­u­la­tion has quite lim­ited ac­cess to qual­ity health care.

The coun­try’s econ­omy is based on sub­sis­tence and smallscale farm­ing; while malaria is its most pro­lific health haz­ard, or­chids perch, bend­ing their white and green striped heads above the spongy ground cover. South­ern rata blooms orange fur­ther up in the canopy near rimu, south­ern and sil­ver beech.

The mosses, liv­er­worts, lichens measles is listed as an­other disease of concern by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Vanuatu’s pub­lic health authorities grate­fully ac­cepted the cruise com­pany’s of­fer, and Clapham and her col­league, se­nior doc­tor Ru­dolph Schramm, pre­sented the con­sign­ment to Min­istry of Health of­fi­cial Maleb Anicet on the dock at Port Vila.

It was an ef­fort­less yet ef­fec­tive con­tri­bu­tion on the part of a com­pany whose guests are guar­an­teed ac­cess to highly spe­cialised health ser­vices while at sea.

‘‘Med­i­cal cen­tres on ships are set up like small hos­pi­tals — they have to be pre­pared to treat pas­sen­gers and crew with [any con­di­tion] that comes through the and tough lit­tle colonis­ing shrubs did the es­sen­tial ground­work re­quired for the for­est to grow in this pre­cip­i­tous World Her­itage wilder­ness. They hold mois­ture against the rock as it weathers and crum­bles, turn­ing into soil. door. Our med­i­cal depart­ment is very aware of its pub­lic health re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, so we do carry a num­ber of vac­cines on the ship for pas­sen­gers and crew,’’ Ot­t­ley says.

‘‘[But] the medics on board do also have a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity to the peo­ple they visit. There are a lot of Poly­ne­sian crew on the ship and to be able to give some­thing back to their coun­try was amaz­ing.’’

The do­na­tion is part of a broader col­lab­o­ra­tion in which P&OCruises Aus­tralia works with Pa­cific is­land gov­ern­ments and com­mu­ni­ties to en­sure that the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion ben­e­fits from the cruise ship trade.

The pro­grams en­com­pass sus­tain­able en­vi­ron­men­tal prac­tices, in­fra­struc­ture work and

From Deep Cove, the two-hour boat trip through Doubt­ful Sound to the sea is vis­ually awe-in­spir­ing and in­for­ma­tive. Wa­ter­falls pour down the cliffs; we see the ef­fects of fault lines and tree avalanches and hear how glaciers carved out the fiords around 18,000 years ago. A pod of bot­tlenose dol­phins plays around the boat, swoop­ing in close to the hull. Fur­ther on at the en­trance to the sound, fur seals and pups loll on the rocks of Nee Islets.

On the way back, the boat stops in a cove for us to ex­pe­ri­ence the quiet of the world as it may have been 10,000 years ago. Apart from a few bird­calls the three min­utes of si­lence we achieve is un­bro­ken.

The re­turn trip on solid ground plunges deep into the dark in­te­rior of the moun­tain be­low Lake Manapouri. The bus de­scends a spi­ral tun­nel 2km be­low the sur­face to a power sta­tion. Gran­ite walls streaked with gneiss and quartz crys­tals glis­ten in the head­lights as we reach the en­trance of the stim­u­la­tion of the lo­cal econ­omy through pro­grams that de­velop busi­ness and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

To this end, the cruise com­pany works in part­ner­ship with groups such as AusAid and Aus­tralian Busi­ness Vol­un­teers.

‘‘Cruise ship vis­its to the Pa­cific is­lands cur­rently de­liver about $35 mil­lion in eco­nomic ben­e­fit an­nu­ally with the com­bined di­rect spend­ing of P&OCruises and its pas­sen­gers,’’ Car­ni­val Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive Ann Sherry says.

‘‘This eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion is likely to in­crease to $50m an­nu­ally when the mul­ti­plier ef­fect for tour op­er­a­tors and other shore­side ac­tiv­i­ties is taken into ac­count. Within 10 years, the di­rect eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion and the pow­er­house. A me­mo­rial plaque states: ‘‘Six­teen men lost their lives in the deadly dark­ness, where they laid ex­plo­sives with­out light for safety rea­sons.’’

The first tun­nel was ex­ca­vated by drill and dy­na­mite. They used a 25m-long, 1500-tonne tun­nel bor­ing ma­chine to make the sec­ond tun­nel with no loss of life.

Some have likened the ma­chine hall to a James Bond movie set, and it is cer­tainly im­pres­sive. From a view­ing plat­form we look down on a row of seven blue ex­citers that boost the gen­er­a­tors. A guide talk pro­vides plenty of facts and fig­ures to get our heads around. The hy­dro­sta­tion uses the height dif­fer­ence be­tween Lake Manapouri and the sea to pro­vide the nec­es­sary amount and force of wa­ter to drive the tur­bines. The ex­haust wa­ter then ex­its in Deep Cove.

Among the dis­play of 3-D mod­els and pho­to­graphs, hard hats fly off heads as jus­tice minis- mul­ti­plier ef­fect could well be as high as $150m an­nu­ally.’’

And while the long-term ef­fects of the vac­cine dis­tri­bu­tion can­not be cal­cu­lated in the same way, Ot­t­ley is nonethe­less de­ter­mined to con­tinue aid­ing com­mu­ni­ties in need.

‘‘I’m cer­tainly look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties in the fu­ture where we can do sim­i­lar projects, es­pe­cially in Vanuatu, which is a de­vel­op­ing nation,’’ she says. ter Ralph Hanan det­o­nates the fi­nal blast in the first tun­nel, which had been over-packed with dy­na­mite. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing win­dow into the sto­ries and a process that was both an en­gi­neer­ing achieve­ment and a wa­ter­shed for en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness in New Zealand.

The up­per world of sun, sea and bush around Lake Manapouri has been rel­a­tively un­spoiled and Dumpy the kea is there to send us on our way.

The two-hour boat trip through Doubt­ful Sound is vis­ually awe-in­spir­ing

P&O Cruises Aus­tralia’s Ru­dolph Schramm and Jenny Clapham present Vanuatu of­fi­cial Maleb Anicet with the com­pany’s gift

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