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Most recent entry: 2015-02-04 00:00:00 -- Generated on 2015-02-19 21:36:47 by Rig3 0.4-440




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2015/02/04 New Zealand Days 26-30: Hiking the Milford Track
π 2015-02-04 00:00 in Hiking, Nz2015, Trips
After arriving in Queenstown the previous late afternoon, we went directly to Kiwi Discovery to pick up our rental backpacking gear. We took the evening to pack, and had a short night due to having to take an unnecessarily early bus (06:45) to get to Te Aura, from where most things in the Fiords start.

The weather was already bad by then, rain and wind, and we had to get better rain jackets from a local rental shop and then wait for the second bus leaving at noon that would take us to the boat that would drop us off at the trailhead:


rainbow
rainbow

Department of Conservation, like a ranger office, where we got our permits
Department of Conservation, like a ranger office, where we got our permits

our upcoming track
our upcoming track

weather on the boat was already nice :)
weather on the boat was already nice :)


thankfully it was mostly clear when we started
thankfully it was mostly clear when we started


This wasn't a real backpacking trip because we were not going to sleep in tents, but in huts that had matresses, water, and cooking gas. That said, people for whom this is still too rough can pay way too much money to do a guided walk and end up in plushy cabins with showers, beds, and cooked meals. Bah, that's totally cheating!

Day 1: Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut: 5.8km, 1h34, from 200m to 230m

Day 1 was too short, just a short walk to the first hut.

the first stop for people who can't rough it even a little bit, was almost right off the boat
the first stop for people who can't rough it even a little bit, was almost right off the boat

supplies get delivered by heli
supplies get delivered by heli




our own huts weren't that far either, the first day was really short
our own huts weren't that far either, the first day was really short

this bird is shifty, hard to get good pictures of it
this bird is shifty, hard to get good pictures of it

the robins are super curious and fearless
the robins are super curious and fearless

after checking me out, it came on my foot to look for worms in the holes :)
after checking me out, it came on my foot to look for worms in the holes :)

a ranger gave us a quick talk in the giant kitchen/common room of our huts
a ranger gave us a quick talk in the giant kitchen/common room of our huts

keeping warm
keeping warm

the bad weather lifted just a bit, probably the best view we had that day
the bad weather lifted just a bit, probably the best view we had that day

The evening, I went out to see glow worms:

see the strings
see the strings

it doesn't look like much, but that's how they glow up at night. This cons insects into their traps
it doesn't look like much, but that's how they glow up at night. This cons insects into their traps

Day 2: Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut: 20.1km, 6h09, from 230m to 600m

The next morning, the weather turned from bad to worse, we had non stop rain between moderate and very heavy. This put our gortex rental rain jackets to the test for sure. Views that day were quite poor and each picture meant getting your camera pretty wet:




very wet birds
very wet birds

moss everywhere
moss everywhere


on the plus side waterfalls were flowing everywhere
on the plus side waterfalls were flowing everywhere


quick stop in a shelter on the way
quick stop in a shelter on the way

snow and boulder avalanche path
snow and boulder avalanche path


Eventually all of us (about 40) ended up in the next hut, soaken wet:



each hut has a helipad for deliveries and getting staff in and out. That's so cheating :)
each hut has a helipad for deliveries and getting staff in and out. That's so cheating :)

New Zealand Weka flightless bird, roams around a bit like a chicken
New Zealand Weka flightless bird, roams around a bit like a chicken


Thankfully the rain subsided a bit in the evening, so we had at least a bit of view


rain plus cold = snow
rain plus cold = snow


remember that this is like snow in July
remember that this is like snow in July

New Zealand duck, quite pretty
New Zealand duck, quite pretty

finally, we got to see what our crossing the next day would look like
finally, we got to see what our crossing the next day would look like


Kea, smart New Zealand parrot
Kea, smart New Zealand parrot


Day 3: Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut via McKinnon Pass (1140m): 20.2km, 8h23, from 600m to 110m

The third day, finally weather was non rainy:


we quickly got to the snow line
we quickly got to the snow line







we're lucky we got views at the top
we're lucky we got views at the top


I happened to have some bird seeds :)
I happened to have some bird seeds :)

another kea
another kea

top hut/shelter for breaks or in caese of bad weather
top hut/shelter for breaks or in caese of bad weather

MacKinnon pass, the top (1140m)
MacKinnon pass, the top (1140m)

the peak across had a few snow slides
the peak across had a few snow slides

after a while we got back down under the snow line
after a while we got back down under the snow line







A little fork off the trail was to see Sutherland Falls, the tallest waterfall in New Zealand. It's 580m high and a very powerful fall at the bottom. The spray at the bottom was enough to get wet from a distance and get your camera instantly wet as soon as you try to take a picture:




After a bit more of a walk, we got to our 3rd and final hut, this time without being wet, a welcome change:




Day 4: Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point: 21.0km, 6h12, from 110m to 0m

The 4th and last day was smooth sailing. We had to get on the trail a bit earlier since we had to arrive at the boat by 14:00 to get back to civilization via a boat and bus.



this turned over rock could fit multiple people inside
this turned over rock could fit multiple people inside







fluffy
fluffy




and after 3.5 days, we got to the end :)
and after 3.5 days, we got to the end :)


boat back home
boat back home

A few pictures from the boat and bus back home:






We finally got back to our room and enjoyed a nice dinner :)


2015/02/03 New Zealand Day 25: Fox Glacier to Queenstown
π 2015-02-03 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

After missing out on Fox Glacier, we had to take another bus to Queenstown. Thankfully the driver stopped a few times in places where I was able to get some nice pictures:






Eventually we got to our room in Queenstown with a nice lake view for dinner before leaving early the next day towards Milford Sound for our backpacking trip on the milford track:





.
2015/02/02 New Zealand Day 24: Rained out in Fox Glacier :(
π 2015-02-02 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

Yeah, so, after all this effort getting to Fox Glacier, it was mostly for nothing. We had between almost rain, light rain, heavy rain, and "oh my god, someone is emptying an ocean over our heads" rain. At the same time very low clouds made it so that all helicopter flights were cancelled. As a result, our heli hike was rescheduled twice and cancelled twice (we were supposed to get dropped on the ice and hike around for 3h).

We took a shuttle bus to the trailhead and walked as far as was allowed, and a bit farther. We could have gotten a bit closer to the glacier with more time but we had no way to tell our shuttle driver to come back 30mn later with no cell phone coverage, so we didn't hike any farther to see the glacier a bit closer (without being able to get to it since access was not possible due to safety, flowing rivers, and terrain issues). Of course, this is mainly due to global warming making the glacier recede more and more each year.




they don't want you to try and hike to the glacier yourself
they don't want you to try and hike to the glacier yourself

this is as far as we were supposed to go, and there was 0 view of the glacier
this is as far as we were supposed to go, and there was 0 view of the glacier

so I crossed the ropes and went towards the river and got a view of it at least
so I crossed the ropes and went towards the river and got a view of it at least

yeah, we should have gone up that trail if it weren't for the shuttle supposed to pick us up
yeah, we should have gone up that trail if it weren't for the shuttle supposed to pick us up

but zooming out shows that I was a bit far from it still
but zooming out shows that I was a bit far from it still

on the plus side waterfalls were flowing
on the plus side waterfalls were flowing



not quite the view we got
not quite the view we got

Next, we got dropped off to a nice little lake with forrest walk, under the rain still




beautiful pluffy wet bird :)
beautiful pluffy wet bird :)


somehow the mountain reflection in the lake thing didn't quite work out
somehow the mountain reflection in the lake thing didn't quite work out


spongy!
spongy!


The afternoon weather was even better:


later
later

even later, a clear improvement
even later, a clear improvement

So yeah, all our efforts to get to Fox Glacier was not entirely for naught, but mostly for naught. Bummer. I'm so not looking to another 18H of bus to try this again later....
Ideally our itinerary should have had a day of buffer between our milford track hike in Queenstown that we couldn't move, and this, but it didn't so we had to leave for Queentown the next morning as the weather was improving and without being able to do our heli hike the following afternoon under nice weather. That really blows considering that the glacier was supposed to be a highlight of our trip :(
Such is life....

2015/02/01 New Zealand Day 23: 10.5H bus ride from Nelson to Fox Glacier
π 2015-02-01 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

Getting to Fox and Franz-Jospeh glaciers is just no fun. The only way is a long (8H+) drive from the north coast or 5H+ drive from Queenstown. Google maps does give faster time estimates, but unless it's me driving, and I don't get blocked on the windy roads where you can barely pass, the google time estimates based on the speed limit, are just not realistic.

So, I asked Penny from boutique travel, our agent who booked all our trip, to prefer busses over driving whenever possible, so that gave us the 10.5H bus ride (which included 3, 30-45mn stops).

We left Nelson bright and early at 07:15, and this gave me a chance to practise low power usage on my laptop since there was no power on the bus and the driver didn't agree to me plugging into his cigarette ligher adapter. I ended up using my tablet to watch videos while sorting pictures on my laptop (not playing video on the laptop saved the batteries somewhat).

While I expected the bus ride to be boring as hell outside of my own devices and reading material, the stops were actually very well chosen, and let me take the pictures below. It wasn't a tour bus, but the few scenic stops almost made it like one:

Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Paparoa National Park
Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Paparoa National Park





Eventually we arrived in Greymouth where the transalpine train from Christchurch, arrives. I had considered taking that train, but it just didn't match our travel itinerary and the fact that we were skipping Christchurch which hasn't yet quite recoverd from the earthquake destruction some years back.


Soon after, we stopped by a small kiwi center and zoo and a beach that happened to have an art contest, almost burning man-like:


crayfish are like crab, they're greedy so you can fish them out after they grab a piece of food :)
crayfish are like crab, they're greedy so you can fish them out after they grab a piece of food :)




The town of Hokitika was actually fun to see for 30mn:





evolution of man?
evolution of man?

camel?
camel?



this one must have been work
this one must have been work


fisherman, nice...
fisherman, nice...

After this fun, it was time for going back on the bus and arriving at Fox Glacier a few hours later:


the weather was starting to turn as we got closer
the weather was starting to turn as we got closer

wisdom from the restaurant we had dinner at
wisdom from the restaurant we had dinner at

Long bus ride, we were glad when we got out :) .

2015/01/31 New Zealand Day 22: A day in Abel Tasman
π 2015-01-31 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

We took an early bus from a dreadful company that is indirectly responsible for severely damaging one of my cameras, after leaving at 07:30, we arrived just after 09:00 to connect to a Wilsons boat that took deep inside Abel Tasman to our kayaking point (it's a 5 day backpacking trip from end to end):



cool rock
cool rock




about 1h later, we arrived to our beach
about 1h later, we arrived to our beach

safety briefing
safety briefing

it's stable, but hard to paddle in the sand :)
it's stable, but hard to paddle in the sand :)

We got to see seals and sea lions
We got to see seals and sea lions

Baby!
Baby!

so cute :)
so cute :)

after much paddling in current, we got to our destination beach
after much paddling in current, we got to our destination beach

oyster catcher
oyster catcher


a mixed couple, I'm told it's rare
a mixed couple, I'm told it's rare

low tide, this all get covered
low tide, this all get covered










beautiful insect, we called it 'clack clack' for the noise it makes
beautiful insect, we called it 'clack clack' for the noise it makes










stingray
stingray


Thanks to a very nice british couple that was part of our group, we were able to stay 2H longer, enjoy extra beach hiking time, and get back to Nelson 2h later thanks to them giving us a ride (the bus leaves early for no good reason). Abel Tasman was beautiful, we really loved it

2015/01/30 New Zealand Day 21: Flying from Napier to Nelson in the South Island
π 2015-01-30 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

Because we had seen Wellington some years back, we went to Napier airport to drop our rental car and flew directly to Nelson, the gateway to Abel Tasman, a very nice national park and the first part of New Zealand discovered by westerners, in this case a Dutchman who got in trouble with the Maori, left, and never came back, leaving the true discovery of New Zealand by Captain Cook.

We had to change planes in Wellington, which was a fun airport to visit with its Lord of the Rings theme:






Once we arrived in Nelson, our awesome motel had bikes they were able to lend us, so we biked downtown to a small museum which quite frankly was skipable, but we figured we'd give it a shot anyway :) and we went to check out their small cathedral:






We checked out a couple of wine shops for Jennifer, went around Queens park and walked up to the middle of new zealand for a bit of a view:










some birds with webbed feet have learned to stay on trees
some birds with webbed feet have learned to stay on trees

2015/01/28 New Zealand Day 19: Lake Taupo
π 2015-01-28 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

Because there were too many things for us to see in Rotorua for the time we had, our first drive in Taupo was really just driving through to get to Tongariro NP. On our day back, we actually first spent the morning flying around Tongariro before heading back up.

I was told to stop at the National Trout Center (a trout hatchery), so we did just that.





plenty of trout, kids can even fish there :)
plenty of trout, kids can even fish there :)


Next, I wanted to catch the damn opening by Hukka falls, but despite my best driving efforts and beating the google maps time estimate by a fair bit, we still got there 2mn too late to miss the damn opening (they open the damn 15mn after 2 hours to release extra water). That was vexing. I'll pretend that we saw it by playing the pictures in reverse :) 232*






Next door was Rapid Jets where we got a nice jet boat ride except for the fact that Jennifer was talked out of wearing her sunglasses and couldn't see anything as a result while later we were doing 70kph flying on the water (impressive) but in pelleting rain which was somewhat painful when the water hit your face. The experience was much lesser than it should have been, shame...


the driver was incredibly skilled
the driver was incredibly skilled


And this was it for lake Taupo area, we then had to drive to Napier by the coast for our next area (which will be the next post)

See more images for New Zealand Day 19: Lake Taupo

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