In April of 2013 I spent 3 weeks in New Zealand, alone. The experience deepened me.
- DAY 1 (Apr 1): ARRIVE QUEENSTOWN LATE PM
- DAY 2 (Apr 2): QUEENSTOWN
- DAY 3 (Apr 3): Ultimate Hike Start (Queenstown to Glade House)
- DAY 4 (Apr 4): Glade House to Pompolona Lodge
- DAY 5 (Apr 5): Pompolona Lodge to Quintin Lodge
- DAY 6 (Apr 6): Quintin Lodge to Mitre Peak
- DAY 7 (Apr 7): Milford Sound to Te Anau
- DAY 8 (Apr 8): Te Anau/Divide to Lake Mackenzie
- DAY 9 (Apr 9): Lake Mackenzie to Routeburn Falls
- DAY 10 (Apr 10): Routeburn Falls to Routeburn Road (back to Queenstown)
- DAY 11 (Apr 11): QUEENSTOWN / WANAKA
- DAY 12 (Apr 12): WANAKA
- DAY 13 (Apr 13): WANAKA / WESTLAND NATIONAL PARK
- DAY 14 (Apr 14): WESTLAND / PUNAKAIKI
- DAY 15 (Apr 15): PUNAKAIKI
- DAY 16 (Apr 16): PUNAKAIKI / LAKE TEKAPO
- DAY 17 (Apr 17): LAKE TEKAPO / MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK
- DAY 18 (Apr 18): MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK
- DAY 19 (Apr 19): MOUNT COOK / QUEENSTOWN
- DAY 20 (Apr 20): BYE NZ :(
I woke up at 6:00 AM to my alarm. I turned it off. I fell asleep.
I woke up at 9:00 AM to the silhouette of the mountains across lake Wakatipu. A beautiful wakeup call. I had no pain in my ankle. It was a miracle.
I washed my face and suited up. I was off for Ben Lomand peak.
I was about 3 hours behind schedule though, but I didn’t mind, I knew I needed the sleep.
A 30 minute walk into town and then another 15 to the Gondola. The man at the ticket counter asked, “so what country are you visiting from?”
Was it that obvious? Maybe it was the fact that the locals wear sandals and tank tops, and I had 5 layers of clothing on and 2 large backpacks.
The ride up featured a spectacular view down onto the city and lake. At the top I stopped at the view deck and took some pictures. Each other visiting couple had me take theirs; they thought I worked there?
I headed to the trail head for Ben Lomand. A dark narrow passage under tall trees. It’s amazing how it can go from 80F to 50F just because of the shade. And shade is an understatement. Once I got on the trail it was pitch black under the trees. But that darkness would soon give way to light.
A 100 meters in and the trees ended and the trail opened up to the most glorious canyon with a mountain on the other side. I would proceed for another mile before recognizing my limit and heading back.
I never made it to Ben Lomond summit. I never even made it to the saddle. But I recognized the appropriate time to stop and head back and I don’t feel injured.
About half way back down the trail I now sit typing this, while my camera is on the tripod taking time-lapse photography.
Ill be packing it up soon and finishing my climb back down. I’ve got my “Ultimate Hikes Orientation” in town at 4:45 PM.
Took some selfies then made my way off the track and through the spooky dead forest.
Once off the gondola I went to a cemetery at the base of it. Took some pics there. Then made my way downhill back into town. Had probably the best burger in my life at a place called Red Rock on the intersection of Man and Duke.
It was a hand made burger + beet slice + cucumber slices + a fried egg + bacon + local greens + carmelized onions + BBQ sauce + mayo. It was messy and amazing. Work hard play hard. I don’t prefer meat and never eat fast food, but after spending all day on the mountain I needed some serious sustenance.
Had orientation for the tracks and picked up my sleep sheet and a pack liner.
Walked back to my BnB. That walk sucks BTW. About 2 miles outside of town up steep hills. And then just when you’re out of gas, a set of steep stairs for another 50 meters to get you from SH6 to panorama terrace. I would make this crappy walk several more times, and even once at midnight.
Fell asleep at 8:00 PM
Woke up at 6:00 AM after 10 hours of wonderful deep sleep.
Stretched, showered, finalized my pack. Weight was becoming an issue so I left one of my lenses in my duffle with the BnB. The host Bernadette promised to keep my bag safe somewhere. I’m returning for another night with her at the end of this.
It was raining, so I had to dress in my rain layers, including covering up my backpack and front pack. The rain cover for my front pack works well, but it took me a good 10 minutes to figure out how to get it on right.
Walked into town, and met at the Ultimate Hikes center. Got on a bus a few moments later.
Traveled by bus to Te Anu, stopping half way for a stretch in a small town named Mossburn. Yummy icecream I hear. Some people got icecream, I just took photos. Made it to Te Anu and had lunch there at a hotel. The lunch was mainly finger foods. I was hoping for something more substantial, but it wasn’t bad. I sat down and asked my fellow adventurers, “do we get utensils?”, and they laughed. “Use your fingers its just cakes”.
Finished up lunch and took some pictures across the highway at a lake.(probably lake Te Anu). Then we got back on the bus. Once on the bus I saw my seat had been taken, by a man that didn’t drive with us. He must have been staying at Te Anu and we picked him up there. But he was sitting in my seat! I sat next to him and he immediately started asking about my camera. A few questions in I could tell he knew his stuff. His name was Michael and he’s from Connecticut. It turns out he’s a photographer for national geographic. I would not find this out until later on the evening. He brought about twice as much gear as I did.
We drove north to Te Anu Downs, where we then boarded a ship and cruised to the start of the Milford Track.
The scenery was amazing. Like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I had seen pictures, but when you see it in person it just is awe inspiring. The hills and mountains and islands that surround you are breathtaking.
Once we docked we grabbed packs and de-boated, sorting out packs once on the shore. I carried some other people’s packs off the boat and was amazed at how light they were. All this camera gear weighs a lot. I was envious of their light packs. For them this truly will be just a walk, for me its a test of strength and fortitude. I’d love to do this again someday but not as a photographer.
The walk to glade house lodge was short, but I lost track of time taking photos and was the last to arrive at the lodge. The arrival at the lodge is spectacular. You come out from underneath the forest canopy into this huge clearing with mountains on each side of you and the Clinton river winding out and around you to the left and in front of you. It’s awe inspiring how little you feel all of a sudden.
We then went on a nature walk, (which was actually pretty grueling and now my ankle hurts). But I got some amazing shots of forest and mountains and a river.
Back at the lodge we ate dinner and I had a lovely conversation with Scott and his wife (from CAN), Ian and his wife, (from AUS), and Deb, (from AUS). They were all a bit older and at a point in their lives where their kids were grown and they had money to travel. Most of these couples remind me of my parents. I think I’m the youngest here. Dinner was great, then a slideshow over what to expect for Milford day 2, then a quick shower and now I’m in bed. I signed the guest book and left a message for my wife and kids, I hope they come and can read it some day. Ask for the Glade house checkin book for April 3rd 2013. Your daddy was here!!
Miss you April, Emma, Samantha, and Sarah!!
It’s so beautiful here, the mountains surrounding the valley shoot up forever and everything is so green and luscious.
Anyway, time to sleep, my bunk mate probably doesn’t appreciate the glow from my phone.
Woke up at 5:30 AM, put on my jandals and a fleece cover and grabbed my tripod and camera and prayed for visibility.
My prayers were answered, not only was it not raining anymore, the clouds were open and I could see the Milky Way.
I took a few star pics then setup my tripod facing west to catch the rising sun on the mountains at Glade House.
Toes nearly frost bitten now I sit in the lodge, watching my camera, warming my feet. It’s 6:06 AM
My feet are freezing. Why did inrush out to the wet 5:00 AM bush without socks and shoes? I wanted to hurry, I thought the sun would be up sooner. It won’t be up for another hour. 6:23 AM now. Staff are setting up breakfast, (in the dark). I need heat on my toes.
6:43 AM, the generator comes on. My camera still outside in the bush, me inside freezing.
I stopped the time-lapse at 7:10 AM and took my camera inside to dry the lens. I brought it back out and took some pictures down by the river, again walking in just my sandals through the wet bush.
I stood in the drying room for a but to warm up and then set up for a sunrise time-lapse, but I forgot to put the camera on aperture priority and the exposure was too high by the time the sun rose.
I ate some breakfast, passed on the Vegemite, but loved hearing about its qualities. I was running late, so I went back to my room and packed my pack in a hurry and went outside to grab my camera.
We set out on our day 2 hike. Crossed a really fun suspension bridge and then off we went. I was the last person in the group the entire day. I would intermittently catch up with Trevor (from AUS), and Michael (from Connecticut NatGeo). Being the last person meant I had a guide all to myself. They helped me with my pack at times which was nice.
The walk through the valley was astonishing. There were several times I simple couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The wonder and awe it created in me are difficult to explain. You’ll know the feeling when you feel it, and I had never felt it before. Later at the lodge a roommate mentioned, ” didn’t that seem surreal today? What we just saw?” . I knew exactly what he was feeling. It’s like staring up at god. These mountains and valleys are carved straight out of the movies. You have to come see it to be awe-inspired.
The weather was wonderful with just minor drizzles here and there; nothing requiring a raincoat.
The forest areas lush and prehistoric. The wetlands remarkable, and the open valley floors were just beautiful. We stopped at several lakes along the way. I got tons of great pics.
The walk was tough on me though physically. The weight of the pack over 11 miles brought a lot of pain to a lot of parts of my body. Emelda walked with me almost the entire last 4 miles. She was the back guide for the afternoon part of this day. She kept my mind off the work if hiking by asking me lots of questions about photography. That was nice of her. She showed me some choice spots for photos, and after explains the purposes of each of my lenses she played a good caddy, telling me which lens I’d want to have on for each upcoming segment.
Tomorrow we have to climb McKinnon pass. It’s a 700 meter climb and then a 900 meter descent. I’m a bit worried about how ill do. As I’m in bed writing this my feet and ankles and knees feel like they’ve been beaten for hours with a baseball bat.
Going to bed now.
The most difficult hike I’ve ever done
I set out early in the dark. It had rained while we were at the lodge, afternoon and evening, but it was done raining by morning. It’s been a blessing, it hasn’t rained hard on us at all during our hikes, only once we reach the lodges and at night.
The rain had brought snow to the tops of the mountains. And that’s where we were headed.
My legs felt tired right away, but by mile 2 they felt ok. We stopped at Mintaro hut to fill our waters and use the toilets. I didn’t want to be last to the lodge again so I filled my water, drained my bladder, took and apple and scroggin from my pack and jetted off.
I reached lake Mintaro quickly but didn’t take the detour. This would shave 10-30 minutes off my day. I motored along and before I knew it I was on the ascent to the pass. Dozens of switchbacks each of which was graded and carved out of the slippery wet granite. I think it was around 20 switchbacks. Each felt a mile long though I realize they weren’t. It started raining mid way up and i put my pack down and switched into rain gear.
The ascent to McKinnon pass was treacherous. The path narrow at times and just angled slippery granite faces. The rain was cold and we were surrounded in clouds
A couple of switchbacks got cut short due to a tree slide. We had to maneuver accordingly.
In the final switchback Alex joined me. She saw me sitting on a rock taking pictures And getting a rest. She asked me if I was going to see the memorial. I got up and we pressed on. We finally reached the top, heart pounding, legs throbbing, just weak all over. The memorial to McKinnon is beautiful and its at a saddle (not at the top yet).
I took many pictures of the amazing views and then made for the summit of McKinnon pass. Amazing views of another valley to my right. Made it to the warming hut and broke for lunch.
The walk down was more treacherous than the ascent. Like walking down mount doom, a long 5 mile hike down slippery granite rocks. It involved making it down trace of the mountain then crossing over to the other side of the valley floor, then walking another 4 miles down the valley via more loose rocks and some wooden stair cases. For the rest of the trip I rarely Took my camera out. I was good enough on my poles that I made good time getting down. A few of the older gentlemen and ladies were having knee issues, and I passed them by on my descent. I passed a lot of people.
I made it to Quintin lodge by 4:30. Alex showed up with half mile to go. When I left her we were just on the start of the descent, we both left the warming hut at the same time. But she had stopped to assist people and i passed her, I was sure she would now be hours behind me. The last gentlemen didn’t get in until 7:30 PM. Poor guy.
Feel in pain, ankles, knees, feet hurt.
Tomorrow we have to do 13.6 miles.
Love and miss you all.
Going to bed now.
Our final day on the Milford Track, we had to walk through the Arthur Valley all the way to Milford sound, for which the route is named. It’s a 14 mile journey from Quintin lodge to sandfly point. We set out early before dawn. I couldn’t see the ground beneath me and was careful not to slip on any rocks.
The walk was long and more technical than days 1 or 2, but not as strenuous as day 3. My left Achilles was not cooperating and was in pain most of the trek. I used my poles as crutches as much as I could to keep my weight off my ankle.
About 6 miles in I heard a helicopter fly over my head. I had a premonition it might be for one of us. When I got to our first pit stop “Boat Shed”, I heard the news, Ian had to be air lifted out. His knees were in pretty bad shape from day 3, and early on day 4 he fell and hit his head. He had to be flown out.
By mile 7 I was feeling a lot of pain in my left ankle/calf. I couldn’t wait for the next pit stop , “Gate of the Giants”. I was expecting it a lot sooner, but it didn’t come until well after the 30 mile marker. I was expecting it around 27. By 28 I was hallucinating and hearing voices of hikers. I was wondering, did I miss the stop? My ankle burning, when I did finally find the spot I found a rock to sit on, dropped my packs and put my leg up and ate 3 Advil. I just started eating my sandwich when Emelda shared the timeline with me. “If you want any chance of making the last boat off the point, we need to leave in 5 minutes”. FML, I had just sat down to rest my bum ankle and get some nourishment. No one else seemed to care, and they would all end up staying behind and missing the boat.
We packed up and got on our way.
The last 4 miles were brutal. I don’t remember much. I just looked at the ground and pushed myself through it. Much like the end of day 2, Emelda was there with me the entire last 3.5 miles. We had a boat to catch at 4:00 PM.
Luckily I wasn’t the last. Diane and the Texan couple didn’t make it to Sandfly point in time, and they had to send another boat later.
When I got to sandfly point instead of getting to rest I had to rush to the boat, which surprisingly was another 1/2 mile away. We got on the boat and it took us to the terminal at Milford sound where we hopped on a bus to the Mitre Peak lodge.
Once at the lodge I put my pack in
My room and went to the lounge. I had gone the entire 4 days without a “drink”, even though there were nightly cocktails. This day I needed one. I got a rum and coke, put my leg up and sighed as I sank into the chair. To the side of me, miter peak and all the other peaks, in full clear view. What a scenic and wonderful moment to cap off an epic 4 days.
Later we had dinner and the dessert was a lava cake, (amazing). After an awards ceremony and writing a postcard, I went out with Michael to take pics of the peaks and stars at night.
Going to bed now.
Woke up around 7:00, had breakfast and made lunch as always.
Walked to the Milford terminal with Nat Geo Mike. We talked shop a little bit and reviewed pics from the night before and then got on a boat for a cruise of Milford sound. This was part of the hike package. The cruise was nice, the air was clear and no clouds were obscuring any of the peaks. We sailed out a bit to the Tasman sea. I imagined being able to see Australia. The captain said its a three day cruise.
When we got back to the terminal we got on a bus and made way for Te Anu. About half way there the Texas family’s kid threw up in the bus, (a lot). The bus windows are fixed they don’t open. We all just had to deal with the smell for 90 minutes.
Before Te Anu we stopped half way for a breather, literally. The view was beautiful.
Actually the entire ride was incredibly scenic, and we went through a really cool tunnel. Homer tunnel?
When we got to Te Anu, I received hugs from everyone, (seriously like 40 people), and then they got back in the bus and departed for Queenstown. They were done with their adventure. Mine was just beginning.
Roary, Tammy, Gavan and I now dropped off at Te Anu, had a quick orientation for the Routeburn and then checkin in to the hotel.
The rooms are nice! And for once I have my own room! I did laundry and then used the wi-if to update Facebook. After a bath we went out and got dinner. Things here are so expensive. It was $25 for a single lamb shank. It was good though.
Gavan had ordered a pizza from a place down the street. We went to pick it up after I finished my lamb. We picked up his pizza and he ate it while I stopped at a grocery store for some ibuprofen gel. They don’t sell pills over the counter here, you can only get topical stuff, and I’m almost out of Advil.
Legs hurt, knees and calf, and have a walk much more difficult than the Milford track starting tomorrow.
Cuticles are a mess, noticed blood all over my camera bag opening. I think during the hike with cold numb hands, when working small zippers frequently I seem to have cut up the areas around my finger nails pretty good. Sand fly bites on my hands and neck.
Gavan knows an executive at Facebook and said he’d put in a good word for me if I wanted a job. A very generous offer.
In bed now, watching the bounty hunter with Gerard butler and Jennifer Anniston. I saw this movie with April, makes me miss her even more.
Going to bed.
Woke up at 7:00, got to the lobby of the hotel in Te Anu and used the wi-fi to chat with my wife. It was the highlight of my trip. It lifted my spirit which I needed as I was about to start another long hike and I was still aching.
Had scones and tea with the incoming group of 22 people that arrived in Te Anu for the routeburn. After some introductions we departed and made way for the divide.
At the divide we started Routeburn day 1. The Routeburn is a strenuous hike from the first step. It’s a constant 3 day climb. I’m at Mackenzie lodge now, a beautiful lodge that’s a bit more modern than the lodges on the Milford. Ate a yummy dinner and now going to bed.
Rooming with Gavan again, and Eddy, one of the new Routeburn group. They’re talking about travel.
My ankle is killing me. Going to bed.
Routeburn day 2 of 3.
Left McLenzie lodge and worked our way up the side of the mountain quickly. On a large rock there was a plaque memorializing 2 children who died in a storm on that spot. it made me very sad. We paralleled McKenzie lake until we wrapped around the mountain. From there the climbing settled a bit and went into a few miles of undulating route.
At the lunch spot there was an optional 1hr 30min return hike called conical hill. This was a pack less hand over hand hike that required some rock climbing skills. It took me an hour to get to the top. About 2/3rds of the way there a man reclining against a stone slab activated and welcomed me. it was Sidao. he was waiting for me, Alex had radioed him i was coming up. he showed me the path to the summit, (it wasn’t entirely obvious). The views were breathtaking. Later Rory and Tammy showed up and then even later Gabby showed up being led by Alex.
Getting down only took about 20 minutes with Alex trailing behind. Being the back guide she always ends up with me since in always at the end. It was nice to see her struggle a bit with the descent, at some points just giving up and sliding down the rocks on her bum. I made it all the way down completely upright without having to butt crawl.
The rest of the day was all down hill and not fun, but the views as we dropped down into the Routeburn valley were amazing.
At the lodge I got a suite with attached bath. Somebody must have screwed up. No roomies tonight.
Dinner was great, desert was pancakes, (that we had to catch).
Going to bed now. Long downhill day tomorrow to conclude Routeburn.
Routeburn day 3/3
The hike today was a bit easier and milder and shorter. it was a nice change.
We stopped on the shore of a beautiful lake surrounded my mountains. We also stopped at a river which had a nice area for swimming. Gavan, Dicon, and Matt went in.
We reached the carpark by 1:00 and made our way to queenstown stopping at a pub in Glenorchy for drinks and our certificate ceremony.
Saying goodbye was tough especially to Alex, the guide who had helped me get through a lot of the hike(s). For 7 days she was always there to keep me on track, and distract me when my spirits got low with talk of cameras and photography. She also assisted me with my pack a lot and lens selection. All the crew at Ultimate hikes are top notch. After going on an adventure with them, (especially one as long as mine), you become friends with them. I wish them well in life.
Walked back to my BnB, and the hostess moved me to her mother in laws house 5 houses down. 80 Panorama Terrace. Grabbed a shower and doing laundry now.
A few of us from the hikes are meeting in town for dinner. Need to head out now, going to sit by the BnB I actually booked and use the wi-fi.
Bernadette let me inside to use the wifi for a bit. Uploaded a few vids to Facebook. Met Rory, Tammy, Gavan, Rob, Jim, Matt, Madeline, and Paula at the cow for pizza. Had lots of wine, then went to a bar for some more drinks. Walked back from town to 80 panorama terrace at 11 at night and slightly drunk.
Finished laundry then went to bed.
Woke up early and called a cab to the airport. Picked up my car and learned to drive all over again.
Took the crown range road to Wanaka. Beautiful trip. The tall trees are turning yellow just as I had hoped.
Stopped in Wanaka for coffee, here presently at the Kai Whaka Pai cafe.
Crossed the street to the lake and took some pics. The ducks there came right up to me and I could pet them. I gave them some cereal crumbs from the small cereal box I ate at Molly’s for breakfast in queenstown.
I got in my car and drove west a bit on Ardmore until I was in the suburbs more. There was a park I stopped at and walked along the lake. I took a lot of beautiful pictures. Popplars and a willow tree almost in the lake. The tide was low, it takes two weeks to come in.
Checkin was at 3-4:00, so I took a nap in my car, then checked in. Met Dave, sue wasn’t home yet. He made me a cup of tea and I settled in. I went out later for sunset lake pics. The wind was crazy and it was drizzling. Drive into town for subway, $10 footlong.
Went back to my BnB and Sue was home now. Met her and we all had wine and cheese and crackers. It was quite yummy. We talked about Wanaka’s tracks and I showed them pics of Milford and Routeburn tracks. They are really nice.
Went to bed.
Woke up and sue made me a delicious breakfast, eggs toast, home grown tomatoes.
After getting some recommendations from them on hikes I took off for Glendhu bay. I walked the Glendhu bay track and then came back through town to go to mount iron. I walked mount iron, (a good challenge), and stopped at puzzling world first. I’m back in town now, having a coffee at Kai cafe.
After coffee checked out a few gift shops and picked up a lamb wrap from a schwarma+icecream shop, which I would revisit on day 20 for icecream, (tip top).
After that i drove back to the lake front near my BnB and took some sunset pics of the lake. There was an English woman there who knew what she was doing. We were using the same body and lens D800/24-70 f/2.8. She was visiting NZ from England, but she was born in NZ.
She showed me how to use the multiple exposure mode to soften the water. It kind of works, except for the 10 ghost ducks in every frame. I prefer to just use ND filters and stop down if I can.
A couple was getting their wedding pics done in front of the tree we were all shooting. Sunset in Wanaka is average, nothing to write home about. Oops.
Went back to my BnB and unwinded. My hosts Sue and Dave invited me to join them, their neighbor was over John, and we talked the night away and enjoyed cheese and wine. After John left we enjoyed “Friday night meatballs”, and watched Rugby. I was sad to think I had to leave in the morning.
Got an early start, had cereal and left Sue and Dave. I filled up on petrol and left town for Fox Glacier.
It was a long adventurous drive with lots of scary curves and single lane bridges, one of which I didn’t quite fit through and scrapped my hubcap off :(
I stopped at the lake Hawea lookout, the blue pools near Haast, and at Knight’s point and got eaten alive by sand flies.
The final mile into Fox was harrowing. It was an unpaved dirt road that was soaked and icy. It was a downhill slide the entire way and I just steered through it. Brakes didn’t do anything and the car was pivoting back and forth and it fell into the grooves left by previous cars.
I reached my BnB finally and was too exhausted to do anything. When I got some strength up and got my gear on it started raining. Oh well.
I just chilled in my room until Gavan showed, we had agreed to have dinner in Fox before parting ways in Queenstown.
Dinner was yums and we laughed at how I crashed my car into a bridge. He even took a pic of me pointing at my black capless wheel.
He had spent 1 more day in queenstown than I and just 1 day in Wanaka. He got some good pics with his Nikon AWS (sp?)
He dropped me off at my motel and I turned in for the night.
Woke up at 5:30 AM after having several nightmares that I missed sunrise. I wanted to be at Lake Matheson for sunrise.
Got suited up and drove to lake Matheson. Equipped my torch and took off down the trail. Reached the first viewpoint around 6:30 and setup. Took pics at various viewpoints on the lake as the sun was rising. Did some macro work on the way out, and am now enjoying a coffee at the cafe near the lake.
I should probably do a glacier walk today, but I’m so tired of hikes.
We shall see.
Face-timed with home, got to see my family!!!!!! <3. <3 Went and did the fox valley glacier walk. Good exercise but the glacier face itself is pretty small now days and not very interesting. On the way back to my motel I ate a pizza at cafe nouveau and picked up some groceries. Back at my room at snacked some more and prepped for the next day and went to bed.
Woke up at 6:30 AM and checked out at 7:30 AM.
Drive to Punakaiki stopping in Hokitika to buy some greenstone for my wife and kids. The lady switched the price tags on me after I left the counter to do more shopping. It would be great if she had a really painful death soon.
Did the pancake rocks mid day and at sunset and the Praori river track in between.
There were some glow worms on a grotto under my lodging so I checked those out.
Going to bed now.
2:30 AM, severe stomach pain abruptly awakened me. The pain was so bad i felt like I was hyperventilating and going to feint.
It was severe pain, I can’t describe it other than the feeling of being stabbed in the gut with an icepick over and over. I almost passed out twice. Cold and shivering I laid on the bathroom floor. All I wanted was April. I had no comfort, I was bearing it alone.
Woke up on the cold floor at 7:00 AM. Didn’t sleep well, (obviously). Took a long hot shower and hit the road by 8:10 AM, later than I had wanted as I had a huge day of driving ahead of me.
Leaving Punakaiki, i traveled back south to Arthur’s pass stopping in Greymouth on the way for petrol and a box of fruit/nut bars, and a yogurt drink, and a coffee, and a meal bar.
I arrived in Tekapo at 2:10 PM, I made good time, despite being behind a “solid fuel” Mini camper bus that spewed black smoke the entire time. Why would you want a car that runs on coal? It had no power going uphill and spewed out black smoke like an old ship.
Once at Tekapo I fueled up on petrol, it took the entire tank to get here, and I stopped in at my BnB, a beautiful place. Actual grapes growing from the trelaced garden overhang, my own suite with TV room, bathroom, bedroom and outdoor patio. Damn I wish I was going to be here more than one night.
I asked my hostess what was scenic and I got on my way. I walked around a small section of the lake and photographed the church of the good shepherd and other surrounding areas.
They have a Japanese restaurant here. I haven’t had Asian food since leaving the states, I have to try it out. It may suck.
Sunset and I’m waiting for it to open.
OMG just as it opens and I go
In to eat, Tekapo busts out the most amazing sunset I’ve ever seen. And I didn’t have my real camera out. Damn. Well iPhone pics it is!
Japanese was good. Expensive but good.
A teriyaki chicken bento box is $35, and I got a roll too.
I’m afraid to see the bill.
Going to see if there’s stars to capture after this.
Just clouds, no stars.
Went back to BnB and went to bed, after several unsuccessful attempts to FaceTime with April.
My hosts made me a wonderful breakfast. Mostly toast, but it had a soft-boiled egg too.
Wanted to see more of Tekapo before heading off to mount cook so I wandered around The lake a bit taking pics and then drove up to the observatory. The sky has been dull and gray for the last 4 days, kind of a bummer, but you make the most of it.
After the observatory drove to mount cook national park. And that’s where I am now. My motel room is great. Ill be here two nights.
Going to nap, maybe take a nice long bath, then go out for food.
Will hit up Hooker Valley track tomorrow. Need hookers badly.
Had a good meaty dinner.
Ran out of Internet time while face-timing with April. She’s so beautiful. Her face looks like an angel to me.
Got up at 7:00 AM, showered, and hit the hooker valley trail.
The sign said 1.5 hours, 3 return. I started on the trail at 8:10 AM and returned at 1:45 PM. I took lots of great pictures. It was a good tramp and worked my legs out nice. It ended in a glacial lake with ice still in it. Pretty cool.
Hungry and tired, now I’m at the cafe in the mt cool village eating a salmon salad and drinking a yummy apple orange mango drink.
Salmon salad was delicious, the salmon was barely smoked just nice and almost raw still with the edges more cooked, and the fillets were thin but wide and large, and there were about 10 of them. It also had kalamata olives and capers. Nice
Ordered a second mango orange apple drink and am now sitting outside at a picnic table warming up under the sun and enjoying the tranquility of in disturbed Mother Nature underneath mt cook national park.
A younger couple just got out of their campervan and are hitting a volleyball back and forth to stretch out and get some exercise.
Beautiful day. Too bad my iPhone is full and won’t let me take any more pictures.
I’ve got nothing else planned for today and its only 2:45 PM.
I’m out of food. Ill try and just skip dinner, but it may be tough.
Left mt cook and drove to Wanaka stopping at spots along the way for photos. Tried to take photos of sheep but locals scared them off when they saw I was trying to photograph them.
Took some great pics of the poplars in front of the lake. They are more golden than when I was here last week.
Found a room at a backpackers lodge. The other tenants seem scary so I’m going to stay away except to sleep.
At Kai Whakapai again. Coffee and a burger.
Tomorrow crown range road at sunset, then arrow town, then need to be at the airport in Queenstown at 3:00 PM.
Just relaxing w/ coffee for now.
Went to beach, ate some icecream. Now I have a stomach ache. Need water.
Walked around lake shore taking pics. Chilled out on a picnic table. Bus stopped by 50 Chinese folks got out. One sat next to me on my bench and struck up a discussion with me. She spoke a little English pretty well. I could tell the rest didn’t. She told me I should check out Arrow town. I was happy to hear that as that’s where I’m going tomorrow.
She asked me to walk with her. But I don’t think that’s what she meant to say. I told her I’d already walked along the lake.
She departed me after about 10 minutes of chat and started walking along the lake. I went and sat under the pier; just chilling.
Drove back to backpackers lodge. Sitting on shared toilet right now. I better hurry.
Had a hot cocoa at the cafe, was pretty gross. Pink marshmallows that tasted like urinal cakes.
Sat on the lake shore in the sand and just zoned out until dark.
Not ready to go to bed visited the Irish pub opposite my accommodations. Guinness > Whisky > Baileys. That should kill some time, and help me sleep. I realize this isn’t good, but all I wanted, (so badly), was a non-male-single-human to talk to. I sat and sat and sat and drank and drank and drank, just figuring, if I’m here long enough, a single woman will show up and I can approach her for some chat. It never happened, and after watching enough Rugby I just couldn’t stay any longer.
Went back to lodge. Lodge is noisy lots of folks in main room partying. Wish I wasn’t so shy, I’d go out there. Staying in room. Will try to go to bed now.
Last day in NZ.
Fellow backpackers up until 3:00 AM partying, I woke up frequently.
Got up at 6:30 and departed the lodge. Took the crown range road and am not sitting at the summit viewpoint. Dark and raining. Not quite what I had in mind.
At the summit it’s over 1,200 meters. I was driving around in the viewpoint parking area because there’s a foot trail to higher ground. I wanted to park near it instead of right near the main road. The parking area is slanted upwards near the foot path. As I drive up it I notice the ground around me is covered in ice. It’s mud with a layer of ice and snow. I immediately realize I’ve made a mistake. If I park here my car could slide down the hill and then keep on going the 20 extra feet off the viewpoint and plumet 1000 meters to its death.
So while i was busy deciding not to park on this icy incline, my car had settled a little bit. I didn’t want to back down the incline in reverse as I wanted to be able to see where I was going. My plan was to make a u turn. So I put the car in 1st gear and lift my foot from the brake. The car immediately starts sliding backwards. I give it some gas, my wheels spin in the ice and mud but I’m still sliding backwards. I’m now faced with a predicament. I have no control over my car right now. It’s dark and raining and snowing and I’m Sliding down a hill of mud+ice at a scenic overlook on a 1,200 meter cliff.
I pumped the gas again and nothing, I was still slowly sliding back. About to back over the cliff to my death I turned the wheels, and luckily the car rotated and put me parallel to the cliff and into some gravel (without ice all over it).
I reparked after recovering, back on the pavement near the entry to the viewpoint. I can walk the extra 20 meters to the start of the foot trail on the muddy icy hill :)
And as I sit here waiting for the rain and clouds to lift I notice a white wooden cross, almost right on front of my car, on the edge of the viewpoint; a memorial for someone.
8:23 AM, still raining, still foggy, still no sun. Ill give it one more hour then in leaving for arrow town.
Freezing, turning car back on so I can have some heat.
It’s now snowing :(
I planned my day around getting a pic of the cardrona valley at sunrise. It was one of the few must have shots for the trip. Oh well. Ill give it 10 more minutes.
Just realized the pass is icy now, I can’t wait any longer, its only getting colder. I have to leave now. There won’t be a picture here today.
Made it down the pass, took a pic facing towards queenstown when I got half way down the summit below the cloud line.
In arrow town now. Walked along the river. Mother Nature wasn’t cooperating and its raining. OMG I ran into the Chinese woman who was chatting with me the day before at lake Wanaka. Now I’m startnig to think maybe she did “like” me. She said she wanted to walk with me in Wanaka, but why would a stranger woman want to walk with me, so I just assumed it was a language barrier thing, like maybe “want to walk with me” in Chinese means “Hello”. So I told her I was going to walk along the river in Arrowtown the next day, and lo and behold here she is. I stopped and pulled my beanie up so she could see my face. She said “Hello Josh”. I said hi fancy seeing you here. And then she said, “my tour bus is leaving soon I have to go”. And neither of us stopped, we just walked passed each other. It was nice to see her again, (for 5 seconds as she passed me), but the whole thing seemed odd to me.
In a cafe now getting breakfast. I’m hot, sitting at an outside table, (even though it’s raining). The waitress is French and can barely speak English. I keep staring at her but nothing. I need to learn how to talk to them, (women). A stray cat wanders over to me and starts rubbing it’s body against my legs. I reach down and massage behind it ears. This is the only action I’ll be getting the entire trip. 20 days alone without someone to chat with is a bit torturous. I think that’s why when I face-timed with April it was like crack. 10:45 AM. Have 4.25 hours still before I need to be at airport. This cafe is a nice place to chill.
11:37 AM, the sun is still not making it through the dark sky. Great portrait weather. I wonder if the French girl working at this cafe would let me take her picture. Why am I so afraid of women. They don’t bite. Well, if you’re lucky they do.
Drove to the airport and returned my car. I told the guy, “it only has 3 hubcaps, but when I picked it up I think it had 4″. His reply, “no worries mate!”. Does that mean don’t worry mate its covered or don’t worry mate we’re going to charge you money for that?
Sat in the airport for four hours. The day was a wash, literally. I planned so much but none of it panned out due to the cold and wind and rain. The cool part of that though, was that all the hills around Queenstown were covered in snow. It was spectacular.
The flight to Auckland was a visual treat. The sun had set beneath our cloud layer, but not totally set behind the horizon. So while we couldn’t see the sun anymore, we had dark gray clouds with red bubbling up from underneath them. It was wicked and surreal, it looked like the clouds beneath us were lava pools. There were multiple cloud layers below us each with thousands of feet between them and pockets of clearing in each layer would partially intersect sometimes and the orange and red and pink that would bubble up was just amazing. I didn’t have this phone on me or a camera. And then right as it finally set at the horizon the sun became a red ball that pierced all the cloud layers. It was amazing.
At Auckland intl now. Waiting at my gate for my flight to Los Angeles. The exchange rate at the airport kiosks is stupid. Right now $1.00 NZD == $1.20 USD. But the fees are so astronomical that for $20.00 NZD they’d give me $13.00 USD. WTf? So I just spent my last $20 NZD on food and plush gifts for the kids.
My passport is awesome its electronic and has a chip in it with my facial recognition data stored. To clear customs all I had to do was put my passport in a machine and then face a camera and let it compare my face to the data on the passport. No lines no dealing with people. Super easy.
Waiting to board now.
Home at last!