Tuesday, January 8, 2008


We have been in New Zealand for almost a month now and it feels like only a week. Time has gone by so fast it’s almost inconceivable – there are so many things we have seen and still don’t have time to see everything we want to. Our trip from one track to the next is a bit tough on the feet but so far we have survived, barely. We were quite a sight yesterday both hobbling the last few miles of the trail. Chris has about 8 different blisters, some forming directly on top of previous, and I think I have some sort of tendinitis going on in my left foot. Whatever it is it hurts.

We are currently in Takaka, our jumping off point for the Abel Tasman, the last of our tracks in New Zealand. We start again tomorrow morning bright and early. The last two weeks were spent hitching up the West Coast and on the Heaphy Track, which Chris is going to write a bit about. Before recounting some of the better moments from the past two weeks I want to spend a little time writing about the Routeburn. We never actually got around to describing it as we should have.

The morning drive to the trailhead was misty and it started to rain. Chris of course was monching on the BBQ wings we had just bought at the grocery store. Our first day on the track was Christmas Eve, and as we passed fellow trampers we received numerous “Merry Christmas!” greetings, one “Merry Fucking Christmas,” and even saw a guy with a tiny Christmas tree strapped to the top of his pack. Complete with twinkling lights and plastic protecting it from the drizzle, it was by far the best display of Christmas we had seen so far. Getting into the spirit of Christmas is a wee bit hard considering there is absolutely no snow; in fact most people here plan Christmas dinner as a BBQ. There is a definitely lack of Christmas trees.

The short walk to our first hut of the trip took only a few hours, which was fortunate since Chris and Sean were carrying three bottles of wine each. Chris, who simply carried the box of Red Wine in his hands, earned more than one double-take from passing trampers. We arrived just as a guided tour was leaving (thank god) and spent the afternoon playing cards, eating chocolate, and drinking wine. At approximately 6 am the next morning, we awoke to the sounds of two children ripping open presents and laughing. It was way too early for us. It was a wet morning so instead of moving on to our next hut we decided to make use of the stove and empty hut. Sean had trouble restraining himself with the bucket of coal he received for Christmas and the room was toasty warm for hours. We finally decided it was time to move on when another tour group arrived for lunch.

The second day of the track had us climbing up to Lake MacKenzie. (sp?) We were scheduled to be camping that night, so the hours of climbing in the rain were a bit discouraging – our tiny two person tent was definitely not going to be big enough for three people. We had heard so much about the famous Christmas party thrown by the resident warden that we were sure the hut was going to be full. We arrived just as the rain was really starting to come down and found the red faced warden in the middle of his Christmas dinner from the looks of it. By a stroke of luck he was willing to let us squeeze into some of the bunks – yippee! We lay in bed later that night as the rain pelted the hut thanking our lucky stars. Christmas at the hut was quite the affair, not only did the warden make little mince pies for everyone, but he organized a Christmas carol sing-along. What a night!

We started off the next day climbing out of the lake basin. The trail followed the edge of the steep cliffs, climbing along a ridgeline. It started to snow as we got to the top. Continuing along the ridge the weather finally cleared giving us our first views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. The wet weather left snow on many of the mountain and we saw tons of waterfalls. (I posted more pictures of the hike on Facebook.) We reached the saddle for lunch, after which we all took a quick rest leaning against the black tin roof of the shelter trying to suck out some of the warmth radiating from the metal. From here the trail descended, following a river to another hut perched right at the top of a waterfall. The wrap-around porch gave us a spectacular view of the valley floor below, which we would be camping on. It was a short hike down to the valley and we set up camp on a grassy field right at the base of the mountains. Awesome…until some sketchy French dude set up his tent 40 feet from ours. No one else seems to have the sense of personal space that we do.

The hike out to the trailhead brought us along the valley floor, weaving around the river. We crossed some awesome swing bridges. We arrived at the parking lot just a few minutes before it started to rain again and took a bus out to Queenstown. Great hike. Great to hang out with Sean. Sorry for the somewhat out of place chronologically post. PS We bought deodorant.



No comments: