Great Walks through Fjordland

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Well we have definitely plunged South and I can tell we are getting closer to Antarctica with every town. We spent a rainy day in Wanaka and treated ourselves to pizza, beer, and a movie at the local cinema Cinema Paradiso, this awesome little cinema with one screen and couches for seats and a coffeehouse for a concession. We took off the next day for Te Anau and the keplerstart of the Kepler Track, a 4 day 60 km hike through Fiordland in the Southwest corner of New Zealand. We got unbelievably lucky on the track as we got 4 brilliant days of sunshine that were flanked by days of rain before and after we started, so we hit it perfectly. It was our first time staying in the Department of Conservation (DOC) provided huts (as they mandate it on the Great Walks, of which Kepler was one), and while I at first was a little disappointed that we had a regulated path and couldn’t put in more miles each day, the scenery made it easy enough to get over. Our first night camped on Mt. Luxmore the hut looks over stunning Lake Te Anau, the 2nd largest lake in New Zealand, with snowcapped peaks under an amazing sunset as a backdop. We spent the next three days hiking along the ridge, climbing to the top of Mt. Luxmore (4900 ft)luxmore and then descending down into the valley where we waged constant warfare with the ever present sandflies (Captain Cook in the late 1700’s called them ‘the most mischievous little creatures I have encountered on all my journeys’). As the huts were packed with people (about 50), we made a point of sleeping in until the point that everyone else had left and we had then had the hut and trail to ourselves to enjoy the nature in solitude. It was incredibly relaxing, aided by the fact that it was the first time we had slept in beds in over a 6 weeks.

We rose early before the sun to get a jump on the day for the last segment of the hike, and headed out to rain-soaked Milford Sound for the afternoon. It honestly felt like a different planet. A storm rolled in and the clouds hung low, with waterfalls descending the steep cliffs out of the clouds. We finally made our way back into Queenstown that night, just to rise the next day to throw bungeeourselves off of a bridge bungee jumping the Kawarau Bridge (147 ft) and the original site of bungee jumping in 1988. It all happens so fast that you don’t even have a chance to be scared, except standing with your toes on the edge of the platform looking down is enough to make you more than a little nervous.

Ashas become customary, we spent the rest of the afternoon busking (the local term for playing music on the street) and spent the rainy night bidding farewell to Kevin who was set to leave in the early morning for a flight to the US and then to Mexico to start a 6 month tenure crewing a boat from Mexico to Alaska. Ted meanwhile decided to stay here in Queenstown and get his next level of paragliding certification, so I figured that while he was here for a week or so I may spend my time trying to make some money, so I opted to try my hand at working on a local vineyard. Winter came in hard overnight however, and the temperature plunged to about 37 degrees and snow lingered on the mountains just above us, and I got to spend the morning putting netting over the grapes in freezing cold rain with my hands frozen, only to find out that cavethere was no cash in hand option for work. Rather I was going to need proper documentation and paperwork of which I do not have, so I guess they got a free days labor out of me, but nonetheless it was interesting.

Ted and I have thus decided that it is far too cold for our liking down here (especially when you’re sleeping in a van) and that we are about to head our loop up the East Coast headed North. So that’s the latest as of now, but I look forward to warmer climes, and am really starting to look forward to being in a place where I can settle down and work and start having money flow the other direction (instead of constantly out of my pocket). Probably not until Australia however, which is not until April 12…so a ways to go still down here in NZ.

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