Posted December 8

Other than the observatory tour, the only thing I booked in advance was an overnight kayaking trip in Doubtful Sound. Getting there requires a boat ride across Lake Manapouri, followed by a bus out to the fiord. As expected, it rained. We kayaked anyway, occasionally “rafting up” to chat or just take in the scenery. Only eight of us in the group: Myself, a Brit couple, and five solo women including Mop, our guide with Go Orange.

The number of solo women travelers and even solo women hitchhikers here is kind of shocking to someone coming from the paranoid American travel culture. It’s different and I like it. Already I find people to be far more open to meeting and interacting with others along the way than I’m used to, and the places I’ve stayed so far seem to work well for those kinds of encounters.

I had a tent to myself which was a good thing as I did not sleep well despite eradicating the sandflies that made it in to the tent. Unfortunately I couldn’t avoid them completely when outside. Salt water tends to wash DEET off your hands when paddling, so the tops of my hands continued to be target for the annoying pests whenever we were paddling close to shore. If I ever do this again I’ll bring my paddling gloves.

The rain creates scenery that’s very different from the postcard views we got in Milford Sound. Every gully in the surrounding mountains turned into a cascading waterfall. I ended the second day exhausted and returned to my spot in Te Anau where I reunited with my Dutch friends, one of whom had been happy to stay in my room the night I was away. I decided to stay an extra night and give myself a rest day.