Friday, February 24, 2017

Is it really almost March?

So a lot has happened since the last post. We went to the South Island for about a month. Bill unfortunately broke his leg the day before leaving. He didn't go to the doctor right away and instead was seen in Hawaii. So we had to rush around and make alternate plans for him. It being the busy season here, we were lucky to secure him lodging while we were busy in the bush.

Beth and I started our journey a little early. We had to look for a place to move to in the Wellington area. Beth's work was looking for her to transition from Kinloch to the area sooner than later. So we looked at a few places and they were pretty bad. We found a little place on the end of the street. Next to a cricket field and a multi-use track, that has just been completed. Almost every place we've lived in New Zealand so far has been at the end of the road. A few of them have been at the base or top of a big climb. However, now its a choice to ride to the top of the hill. Not a necessity to get home.

We boarded the ferry and tried to grab some sleep on the deck chairs. Not the most fun or the most sleep I've ever gotten. Our friend Gina can't keep her days straight and was on our ferry to the South Island. She had told us she would be on the next day's ferry. She had a couple friends from the UK over and they were road tripping it down to Queenstown. We didn't drive straight to Queenstown, but it was a pretty quick trip down as we had to pick up Beth's folks at the airport. We had one night at Fox Glacier, where we walked out as far as we could to see it. We then had one day in Queenstown to grab some supplies for the tramp and grab our hut passes and get a refund for Bill's.

We grabbed a ferry out of Te Anau Downs to the beginning of the Milford Track. Where we would spend the next 4 days covering roughly 53kms. The ferry ride is about an hour long with little detours and educational insights of the area. I was too busy trying to ignore the guided walkers, who pay a crap ton, talking about they should be fine because they run the occasional 5km. Their last day was 21km. The walk is luckily segregated based guided or self-guided with the huts being far apart from each other. The numbers allowed on the track are closely monitored and only some many people can be on the track at any given time. So we were with the same 40 people for the next 3 nights.

The first day was a short walk of just over an hour. We scurried to find a bunk and were able to get 2 tops and a bottom bunk that were close to each other. This being Christmas Day, a group actually brought in roast pork, pavlova, salad greens, and a can of whip cream. We played our new tramping card game 'Quick Wits' which I funded on KickStarter. The game is a lot of fun and we even introduced a couple families from Christchurch to the game. There are however some adult cards that should be removed before playing with younglings. Also there are cards directly related to the older generation as the kids didn't know who Chevy Chase was. The 2nd day we walked up a valley and towards the end had to walk over some large rock slides. There was a very refreshing lake at this hut. Beth and I almost got all the way in. It was colder than any polar bear dip I've ever done. There were sharp pin pain shooting into my feet and legs right upon entering. That night we started to get the rain that was predicted earlier in the week. We woke up later thinking that the rain might break in the morning. It didn't we left in the rain, but being in the bush the rain wasn't coming through the canopy as much as it could have been. This ended up causing lots of waterfalls to spring up along the valley walls and to have some water rushing across the track. By the time we got to the tree line, the rain had ceased and we were treated to views of the clouds receding and the waterfalls gushing down the valley walls. We had a little further to go before we started our decent to our last hut. However, we made a stop at the most scenic toilet in New Zealand and ate a quick lunch at the shelter it was next to. The final hut was about 18km from the end, where we would have to grab another ferry back into civilization. Then it was a couple hour bus ride back to Te Anau.

Back in Te Anau, we joined back up with Bill and we made our way to Bluff, where we would be boarded yet another ferry to take us to Stewart Island. Once off the ferry, we were picked up by the AirBnB host that was renting to Bill and she drove us to DOC to get our hut passes and to the trail head. We were warned of the knee deep mud by the DOC staff, but found out by a guy just exiting the track to expect only ankle deep mud. The first day passed quickly with a smattering of bridges over little outlets that dropped you on to a beach. It reminded me a little of Abel Tasman in that regard. The first hut on the Rakiura Track that we stayed at was Port Williams Hut. We were told that there were Kiwi around the area, but I only saw possums. If you were in dire need, there just so happened to be one spot that got mobile service. We happened to see the same woman going over there numerous times. I for one was glad to be disconnected for most of the trip. The track to North Arm Hut was a bit trickier to navigate than the previous day. We got some rain and the track was muddy in a lot of sections. I had opted not to wear my boots this tramp and instead wore my trail running shoes. I'm always running through puddles and mud in them so I know that I can just rinse them in the ocean to get them looking clean. My socks didn't end up making it through the tramp though. Some grit got stuck between my heel and the sock and wore a whole in my shoe padding and my socks. Needless to say I'm not very happy as those were basically new shoes. This evening was raining and the toilet was up a long hill. We just played games in the hut as the sand flies and rain kept us inside. There was an Irish couple that looked like the most ill prepared trampers ever. They were wearing jeans, stylish jumpers, and hand carrying a bunch of crap. Their back packs looked like it might fit a couple books, but not enough gear for 3 days out in the bush. They ended up having a full sized game of Monopoly. A special Cork Edition none the less. They also contributed the best quote of the trip: While staring at the bottle of wine she utters "Its a shame we have to drink this out of plastic glasses." Who brings 2 glass bottles of wine on a 2 night tramp? The Irish! They also carried a handled grocery bag with a whole roast chicken, but didn't eat it until the 2nd night. The next day was still muddy. Betsy's knee was really bothering her. We came across only a couple people walking into the track as we were exiting. The last bit of the tramp is easy going, but its not over yet. You have to walk back into town along the side of the road for a couple kilometers. Once back in town, we went right to the ocean to get the mud off of us. We also ran into Bill who had previously checked to see if the rooms were available. They weren't when he first went in, but now they were. We were starving so we went to a French Cafe down the street, where they wanted $50 per pizza to dine in, but only $20 for take away. So we ate back in our room.

Now back on the ferry heading to Bluff, we had a date with Middlemarch and tackling the Otago Rail Trail.We had a quick pie and then picked up Betsy's bike and then started our journey. We had about 60km of gravel trail to ride to get to Peter's Farm Lodge, located just outside of Waipiata. This ride was fairly flat, but we looked at the different little shelters and trail signs. These are things that the Hauraki Rail Trail could take a lesson from. There was also some little metal sculptures on the side of the trail. It makes it more of a destination rather than just come ride our trail. Upon riding up to his lodge, we encountered the wild sheep of New Zealand. Ok. Maybe that is an exaggeration as Peter's brother runs a farm next door and the sheep graze where ever. Including all around the lodge.
Unfortunately we didn't confirm the BBQ that Peter puts on and we cooked our own food. This did separate us from the other groups at the lodge as they shared sirloin steaks, salad, roasted potatoes, salted caramel ice cream, and apple cobbler. Granted Beth wouldn't have eaten much of it. Right after we ate, I ended up starting to get a fever and chills for the rest of the night. I woke up the next morning feeling awesome. Betsy not so much. She decided to spend the day with Bill. I put her bike on the roof rack and Beth and I set out to Lauder. This was going to be a trying day. We were bashed by a steady, cold head wind all day. While going up hill and occasionally getting hit with rain. By the time we pulled into a town for lunch, we were wearing all the clothes we had brought in the pannier. We even grabbed more clothes once Beth's parents showed up at the cafe. We continued on and got to go through a tunnel and over a really long bridge. It ended up taking us like 8 hours to go 64kms that day. Once again, shortly after getting off the bike I was hit with fever and chills. I ate dinner and then went to bed. The next morning I felt great again. So we set off for the last little bit of the trail. It was a quick ride, as we were treated with a sunny, windless day while mainly going downhill or remaining flat.

We proceeded to drop off Betsy's bike in a depot and then drove back to Queenstown. We had one last night with her folks. Then we had a few more things to tick off the list. After dropping them off at the airport, I decided with my recent bout of feeling like crap I wouldn't be running the Routeburn. Rather I would rest up for our 2 day Kepler adventure. Instead I ended up reading a lot of books. We drove back out to Te Anau prior to our 2 day trek around Kepler. We decided to go clockwise with the weather forecast as our first day had gale winds and rain along the ridge. Instead we took to the dense bush for the first day and saved a sharp climb and a long exposed ridge for the 2nd day. The sand flies were particularly bad here. We passed the first hut on the track  while a few day trippers turned around here. We pressed on for another several hours to the Iris Burn Hut. This hut was set up in a weird way and we had to jockey for table space as they had seats but no tables for everyone. The next morning it was a 3 hour switchback fest to get out of the bush. Then we had another 40 minutes to the first shelter. Then the rest of the day was basically spent on the ridge. We were treated to amazing views the entire day and I was glad not to be up there in high winds and rain. It did mean that we had a long day with lots of elevation. The final 5km we were doing the death march. We saw the campground and thought it was about over, but no. I ended up getting some wicked blisters on my little toes. I ended up switching to my hut shoes, a pair of slip on sandals. This made the rest of the walk more enjoyable. Beth unfortunately went really lite for the overnight and didn't take a pair of hut shoes. We were both hurting at the end of the walk, but we were also starving. So back in to Te Anau to grab something to eat before starting to head back up to Kinloch. We did this over several days where we had planned on camping, but it was unseasonably cold and wet.

The following week Beth started our shift to Waiwhetu, Lower Hutt. This transition would take us 3 weeks. For one weekend, Waitangi Weekend, our group did the Northern Circuit. Then it was the final push to Lower Hutt, but before we left we hosted a couple different sets of friends over for dinner and the MTB club did one last ride and said our see you laters.

Now we are in Lower Hutt.

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