email from New Zealand: #5 January-February 2008

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I can’t believe it’s my last night here in New Zealand. It’s been one very wonderful, magic trip.

I apologize for not writing for a while, but I’ve been on the isolated west coast and in the back country where there is no internet or cell phone service. At times it was even difficult to find a pay phone to call home.

After leaving Milford Sound, we drove through the Haas Pass and up to the town of Okarito, population 31. I found a call box at the community campground and tried to call from there but the buttons on the keypad kept sticking and I gave up after three attempts to make a call and much swearing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOkarito is a tiny beach village located some miles off the main road on the Tasman Sea. It’s home to Author Keri Hulme and New Zealand’s most famous nature photographer, Andris Apse. It is also the home of our lead guide Shawn, who along with his wife Rebecca and son Tannin, run the Okarito Beach House where we stayed for two nights.

I loved Okarito. If you can’t relax there, then you might as well give up! Look out to the front and there’s the beach, look out the back and the mountains and Franz Josef Glacier are practically leaning over you.

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A view of the tiny town of Okarito on the west coast of New Zealand from Okarito Trig

It was a great location to stay as we had easy access to the glacier the next day when we did a hike there. Of course it was another classic case of Kiwi understatement… a few kilometers along a river. Ya, right! I should have remembered that whoever built New Zealand had the nasty habit of putting mountains next to everything, including rivers and whoever built the trails just couldn’t resist putting them all over those mountains! Needless to say it was another case of undulation at its finest.

I also got hit by some kind of stinging bush. The area where it swiped my arm was instantly on fire and I got a big bunch of hives there. Then it got all prickly and numb. It was very strange. When I talked to the guide about it later she said that if you get it bad enough, you may have to be hospitalized. Great!! Luckily the hives went down the next day and I was left with the numb feeling for a few days. Maybe it just moved down from my brain to my arm!

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A river crossing on the way to Franz Josef Glacier

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The toe of Franz Josef Glacier. I love the stupid people warning signs to the right.

Anyway, the Waiho river is formed from the melt from Franz Josef Glacier which we eventually hiked up to. The sky was cloudy but then cleared and I was blown away by how big the glacier was. It is one of the few glaciers in the world that is still growing and is very unusual in that it drops to almost sea level. The spires on top look tiny but are actually 60 feet tall! And the color… hmmm I guess you’d call it aqua blue with a lot of dirt on it. I had this urge to get a hose and clean it up! You could almost feel it’s power though. My first glacier ever! Wicked Awesome!

The next day we went kayaking in the Okarito Lagoon and the rivers that feed it. The tide was going out as we were paddling in. I’m glad I had a big breakfast as I burned every morsel fighting the tide. Once we got past that, it was fine and we saw lots of bird life including white herons and spoon bills. The folks that rented out the kayaks neglected to tell us that the outgoing tide took most of the water and we had to do a long portage through knee deep water to get back to the main channel to get back. Was I ever ready for lunch!

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Paddle in, walk out

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In the afternoon a few us went for a walk to Okarito Trig which is an overlook where could see the town and the estuary where we had paddled earlier. We continued on to Three Mile Beach (more undulation, of course) where I had a hot rock spa treatment. Not really in a spa, but the beach was covered with flat, oval rocks warmed by the sun. I couldn’t resist laying them on my legs and absorbing their heat.

Next day, it was back in the bus and up the coast to Punakaiki, home of the pancake rocks and blowholes, but first we made a stop at Hokatika, which is famous for its New Zealand carved jade. The Maori carved the local greenstone into tools, weapons and jewelry. The tradition continues today and of course I had to support the local industry. My entire souvenir budget was spent there that day. Let’s just say I now have something lovely to help me remember my trip.

And on the pancake rocks… hard to describe. They are towers of layered limestone created by eons of waves washing over them. I guess you could say they look like stacks of pancakes in places. The blowholes are fissures in the rock that blow water and mist up when the waves come in. It reminded me a bit of Thunder Hole at home with the same ocean fury.

 

That night we had fish and chips (pronounced fush and chups by locals) outside at a local eaterie. The sandflies were horrendous and my feet got chewed. Those little buggers are like our black flies only they bites itch for an eternity! I ended up sliding my feet into the sleeves of my jacket to keep them from eating me alive. I sure looked strange but it did the job.

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A stunning view along the NZ west coast

The next day we traveled to St. Arnaud to Nelson Lakes National Park to begin our three day backpacking trip.

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Our first day of hiking was relatively easy six-miler along Lake Rotoiti to Lakehead Hut. This hut was quite a bit different than the posh ones I stayed at on the Routeburn Trek. It’s a basic unattended DOC (Department of Conservation) hut with outhouses and no showers. I got around the lack of showers by taking a swim in the lake but the outhouses were another story. While I prefer a nice flush toilet, I’m ok with the “long drop” if necessary, However, these facilities were infested with bees and hornets. If you held the door open long enough they would all fly out. Once inside you’d think you were safe until you noticed them coming in the air holes near the floor. It certainly urged you to hurry about your business!

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The hut was hot inside but you couldn’t sit outside without getting devoured by the sandflies. And the sleeping situation was different than any I’ve experienced before. Usually you have your own individual bunk kind of like the bunk beds you had as a kid. In this case, there were two long platforms, one atop the other with mattresses side by side. I slept with a stranger lying two feet beside me. I did introduce myself first of course. Somehow I managed to get a few hours of sleep between the heat, the snoring and the people getting up to pee in the night.

stream crossingI was happy to hit the trail the next morning with another six mile hike ahead. First thing, we did a river crossing. Luckily the level was down and we all stayed dry. We walked and walked and walked for what seemed like forever. I was getting worried as I knew we had a considerable elevation gain that day and we hadn’t done any of yet. When we popped out of the trees I could see why. Ahead was the mountain face we had to scale. If you craned your neck and looked straight up you could see the top.

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Shawn, one of our guides, assisting at a water crossing. Our Active New Zealand guides were awesome!

I told myself that it was no harder than climbing Katahdin and when I got to the top there was a hut. I didn’t even have to climb down afterward. It was steep and rocky, following aside a waterfall for the way up. I just went slow and kept looking back. As I rose, the view got better and better.

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Finally I reached the top and when I got to the hut I was smiling. That hike was much like Katahdin and I loved it. There’s something to be said for learning to hike in Maine where switchbacks are unheard of. The trail builders at home follow the yankee rule: the closest distance between two points is a straight line, even if that straight line goes directly up a steep mountain.

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The Angelus Hut at 1650 meters elevation (5,400 feet)

The Angelus Hut is a staffed hut and much nicer than Lakehead. It was clean and had hornet-free outhouses. Also at a mile high, there aren’t many sandflies either. The hut sits on the edge of lake in a glacial cirque.

I had a wash, a very brief wash mind you, in the lake. While there was no ice in the water, I’m sure it had melted only minutes before. The water was so cold I had a headache for about an hour after.

My sleep was not much better that night. I had a symphony of snorers all around me. I tried listening to my i-pod but I found that the volume needed to drown out the noise was so loud it wouldn’t allow me to sleep. I should have joined one my travel mates who hauled his mattress out to the kitchen and slept on the floor. I fell asleep only to be awoken by the one o’clock grand exodus to the outhouses to be followed by a five am version as well.

The morning was misty when we headed out over Robert’s Ridge. It’s probably a good thing our view was obscured as we walked the ridge line of the mountain range. In places it reminded me much of Knife Edge on Katahdin, perhaps not as narrow though.

Once we were through the roughest parts, I motored down through the switchbacks, pausing only to slip and fall on a board in the trail. When I hit, it stuck me right in the ribs. When I stood up, it hurt to move and breathe. Not good… but I know that there is nothing you can do for a cracked rib so I just took a fist full of Advil and soldiered on.

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The Marlborough Region produces the finest Sauvignon Blancs in the world

When we all got down from the mountain we drove on to the Marlborough region in the north of the island to visit a winery. The Marlborough vineyards are famous for their white wines and they produce some the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc. Forrest Estate produces both whites and reds but we all were drawn to the whites. Our purchases to accompany dinner tonight included a 2007 Sav Blanc, a Gewurtaminer and a Reisling. Rest assured all were greatly enjoyed.

 

 

The bed and breakfast where we are staying is owned by a lovely older couple who cooked a huge buffet dinner for us. They have a giant white cockatoo in the living room who greets you with “Hello, darling” every time you come in. He eats people food including chicken which is a bit weird, and dances to music too. The B&B is named after him (Creighton) and has his picture on the sign.

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Well, must get my gear organized for the flight back tomorrow. We are supposed to do a “swim with the seals” thing in the morning but I think I’ll pass. I may not be able to move tomorrow! Besides, I have visions of great white sharks, swimming with seals who swim with me. Isn’t seal their favorite meal? And what does a person look like in a black wet suit but a seal?

Its been a wonderful twenty-five days. Before I came I would occasionally meet someone who had traveled here. When I told them I was going, they would absolutely gush praise for the country and it’s people. Now I see why. Every corner is filled with majestic mountains, turquoise blue water, lush green forests, mosses, and trees. The air is clean. The skies are boldly blue. Even the rocks are beautiful here. The Kiwi people are so warm and welcoming. They always ask how you are and actually care to hear the answer! I’m sad to leave but feel blessed to have experienced it all. I thank you all for supporting me and helping me make my dream come true.

See you all soon! Karen

*** In January of 2008, I ventured by myself halfway around the world to New Zealand. This was before blogs and smartphones. When I could, I would go to an internet café, purchase an internet use time card and type frantically hoping to finish my email before time ran out. Other than fixing some obvious spelling mistakes, the following is as written in 2008. As tempted as I am to edit and embellish, I want to maintain the moment as it was then. I have added pictures, some of mine, some of my travel mates. I apologize that I can’t give credit since I’ve long since forgotten which was whose, but I am thankful I have them to relive this wonderful adventure. ***

emails from New Zealand: #4 January 2008

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Hey All!
Just a quick email to let you know I’m doing fine. I’m back here in Queenstown on our free day on the trip. Most of my traveling companions filled the day with exploits such as river rafting, bungee jumping, hang gliding, etc. Since my era of living dangerously has long passed, I opted for a long walk up a “hill”.

I’ve learned that Kiwi’s are very good at understating most everything. An easy walk is usually at least 10 miles and a challenging one is a death march. The word “undulating” has come to terrify me.

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Anyway, the “hill” I climbed today was a 2000′ elevation gain! I’m suffering from a pretty bad chest cold at the moment so that didn’t make it any easier. The view was spectacular from the top though. You could see the entire town of Queenstown, both arms of Lake Wakitipu and the entire Remarkables mountain range. We were even above the hang gliders.

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A view from the top of Queenstown Hill: worth the effort!

I was wiped afterward though and took a 2 hour nap. I think the chest cold caught up with me.

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A stop at the famous ‘Bra Fence’. I believe the conversation went something like this (without words): Did you? Yes I did!

Luckily I don’t have to worry about waking up my roommate at night with my coughing as she is deaf. She’s an absolute sweetheart! She’s a retired teacher for the deaf and has us all signing now. She’s on a two month trek and has been to Australia, Tasmania, is now in New Zealand and will go to Fiji on the way home. She is an amazing person!

 

 

Yesterday we were kayak partners. We paddled the AMAZING Milford Sound, known as the 8th wonder of the world. It was incredibly beautiful with mountains rising 1 mile out the sea forming the walls. We saw waterfalls, seals and even a penguin! If you have a chance google it and check it out. It’s beyond description.

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Milford Sound. The best kayaking experience EVER!

The day before we did a short hike and then a bike ride. The ride was a killer! It started out uphill and climbed and climbed. I rode 1/4, walked 1/4 and then got on the bus. About half of the people made it up and then we all got on the bus for a ride thought the tunnel. Afterward it was downhill for 8 miles or so in some of the most amazing scenery, huge mountains all around. It was hard because I wanted to look, but the road was steep and windy and I was worried about wiping out! I made it just fine though.

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A view from the road to Milford Sound. Hard to focus on biking when you are surrounded by such beauty.

We move on tomorrow to the west coast and will continue the loop of the South Island. I’ve had a wonderful time so far and look forward to every new experience. Too soon it will be time to leave.

*** In January of 2008, I ventured by myself halfway around the world to New Zealand. This was before blogs and smartphones. When I could, I would go to an internet café, purchase an internet use time card and type frantically hoping to finish my email before time ran out. Other than fixing some obvious spelling mistakes, the following is as written in 2008. As tempted as I am to edit and embellish, I want to maintain the moment as it was then. I have added pictures, some of mine, some of my travel mates. I apologize that I can’t give credit since I’ve long since forgotten which was whose, but I am thankful I have them to relive this wonderful adventure. ***

emails from New Zealand: #3 January 2008

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Hey all!
Just a quick email from Queenstown on the south island. I am here with my group. We spent the last two nights at Braemar Sheep Station in a shearer’s quarters. The accommodations were quite basic, but the view by far made up for it. The house is located on a lake with an enormous mountain range behind it, including Aoraki/Mt Cook, NZ’s highest mountain.

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Braemar Station: basic accommodations, million dollar view!

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The Active New Zealand guides did all the cooking and did an excellent job. Our dessert on the first night: Kiwi style pavlova. Meringue cakes, whipped cream and fresh kiwi. Delish!

We spent yesterday hiking in Mt. Cook National Park. It was pouring rain so we didn’t have great views of the mountains, but we hiked to two glaciers, Hooker and Tasman.

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In Aoraki/Mt Cook National park: one of the many suspension bridges we would cross during our two week adventure

It was Sir Edmund Hillary’s funeral yesterday. He was New Zealand’s greatest hero who, along with Tenzing Norgay, first summited Mt. Everest. The funeral was broadcast at the Hermitage Hotel. We arrived after and I was able to sign the guest book for the family. There is a mountaineering museum there with much of it dedicated to Hillary. There were a lot of old mountaineers there who had climbed with Hillary and it was great to hear them reminisce about old times. I was very happy to be part of it and to honor Sir Edmund by hiking in the hills where he first began mountain climbing.

This morning we awoke to clear blue skies and the view was AMAZING! I took some panoramic pictures with my new camera. I hope they come out okay.

We are on the road today and will be biking and kayaking in the Milford Sound area tomorrow. The group I’m with is close to my age and we are having a lot of fun together. It’s been wonderful so far. I look forward to seeing the rest of the South Island.

Hope you are all well!

*** In January of 2008, I ventured by myself halfway around the world to New Zealand. This was before blogs and smartphones. When I could, I would go to an internet café, purchase an internet use time card and type frantically hoping to finish my email before time ran out. Other than fixing some obvious spelling mistakes, the following is as written in 2008. As tempted as I am to edit and embellish, I want to maintain the moment as it was then. I have added pictures, some of mine, some of my travel mates. I apologize that I can’t give credit since I’ve long since forgotten which was whose, but I am thankful I have them to relive this wonderful adventure. ***

emails from New Zealand #2: January 2008

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Hello!
I have just finished a 5 day trip around the North Island and as the Kiwi’s say, I am knackered (tired)! It was a non-stop adventure for sure! I arrived in Auckland on Monday and hooked up with my group on Tuesday. There were 6 of us: a British couple, a male Brit, an American male and my roommate, a girl from Ireland.

We started the journey by driving to a city park in here in Auckland and climbing a big hill to get an overview of the city. Auckland is huge and since I’m not really the city type, I was ready to head to the country. We left the city and drove to a beautiful beach on the east coast. The water was brilliant blue and it was warm (bordering on hot) and sunny. What a great welcome to the North! There were lots of surfers in the water and one guy was wave surfing with a kayak. I wanted to try that!

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After a swim and a hike along the coast to a private beach we headed inland through many avocado, kiwi and sheep farms. I learned that kiwis are grown on arbors much like grapes. I also learned that the movie “Whale Rider” was filmed at a Maori village only a few miles from the beach we swam at. If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it.

Our destination for the next two days was the town Rotorua. It is in the central part of the island in the volcanic region. The earth’s crust is very thin there and the town is full of steam vents, bubbling mud pots and even some geysers…. and it REALLY stinks there in places! The sulfur odor in some areas is enough to make your eyes burn. I must be allergic as my nose ran the entire time I was there. Luckily it wasn’t too bad near our hotel.

We stayed at the Cedarwood Lodge on Lake Taupu. Our accommodations were very comfortable two bedroom suite with a sitting area and kitchen. Most motel rooms here have cooking facilities. It certainly makes for more economical traveling.

The next day we went for a long hike along a volcanic lake to another lake for a total walk of 13 miles. It was a lot of ups and downs on good trails. I later learned that our guide used this to gauge our abilities for the big upcoming hike. It was very hot so I walked directly into the lake in my hiking clothes after finishing the walk. Now I can say I’ve swam in a volcano!

The forest was lovely… full of lots of flora and fauna. What amazed me the most was fern trees… yes, trees! They are as big as palm trees and that’s what I thought they were at first.

 

The next day was thrilling for me as I got to see one of my travel companions bungee jump. While it’s something I would never do, I really wanted to see it done. Matt, the Brit was quite eager and he loved it. He was supposed to have his head dunked in the water but apparently the cord was a bit short as he didn’t touch. I guess that’s better than having it too long and drowning!

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Bungy! Matt is picked up after his jump.

We also went mountain biking in the redwood forest. I expected a ride over huge hills with me sucking wind big-time. Instead it was a two hour lesson on how to mountain bike. The instructor was this long-haired bearded mountain bike nut. His dog, Silly, trailed him every step of the way. We started on very easy flat trails and he would give us instruction and then we would do a stretch and then he’d instruct us again. By the end we were doing big banked curves and even a few tiny jumps. I loved it!! It wasn’t just fun though, learned a lot about safety too.

The next day we drove to Turangi whose claim to fame is the trout fishing capital of the world. It’s not an understatement either. The Tongariro river is one of the top ten trout fishing rivers in the world. We saw HUGE rainbows jumping. It’s artificial bait only.

After settling in we went to a traditional Maori Hangi put on by the Matai tribe at thier Marae. The Maori are the natives here. They cook a huge meal in the ground using the heat escaping from the earth from all the volcanic activity. They also put on a presentation with their traditional dance, song and of course the Haka (warrior song) which is know all over the country and is also performed before every rugby game by the national team, the All Blacks. We were shown their sacred spring which produces over a million cubic feet of water an hour. I’m not joking… you could see it bubbling out of the earth and it formed a big stream. We then went to a kiwi bird rescue center and a they had huge trout there as well (30+ pound rainbows!).

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Our meal cooked with the earth’s heat

Friday was our big hike, the Tongariro crossing in Tongariro National Park. It’s described as the best one day hike in New Zealand, and that says a lot! It was a long day, and probably the most unique hike I’ve ever done. It was up and over a dormant volcano. There was a huge red crater near top that was very eerie to look down into and several turquoise blue lakes near the top too. On the way down, I had to hike in scree which was a first for me. It’s deep, small loose rocks that you kind of slide down in. Once I got the hang of it, it was a blast. Unfortunately not everyone had it figured out and one guy went sliding by me on his side. The climb wasn’t technically difficult but there was 3000′ of elevation gain and a total of 13 miles of walking. Luckily the trails were very good and it was easier than climbing Katahdin. The scary part is that there are also two other not so dormant volcanoes very nearby. One went off as recently as 1996. Yikes!!


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After the hike we showered (I don’t think I’ve ever been so dirty!) and then went to a Maori hot pool. It’s essentially a group of small swimming pools filled with the hot mineral water that comes out the earth nearby. It has to be cooled down from the boiling temperature it naturally is. My only concern was the sign warning users not put your head below water due to concerns about amoebic meningitis. My microbiology colleagues know what this entails and it’s not good! The baths were wonderful though and it eased any sore muscles I had left me feeling incredibly good considering I’d just walked a half marathon across a volcano!

Today we arose and drove to Waitanamo for the glow worm caves. Anyone of you who know me well know there is no way I am going into a deep dark cave with a stream running through it in a wet suit with an inner tube to look at worms! Luckily there was another claustrophobic traveler and we went on an above ground hike with a few wide open and well lit caves. I got the general idea without having an extreme panic attack. And now at the end of the day I am at the waterfront in Auckland where I plan to go for a sail tomorrow on the Pride of Auckland before flying down to Christchurch to begin my next adventure, a 14 day trip on the south island. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve walked 52 miles in 8 days.

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*** In January of 2008, I ventured by myself halfway around the world to New Zealand. This was before blogs and smartphones. When I could, I would go to an internet café, purchase an internet use time card and type frantically hoping to finish my email before time ran out. Other than fixing some obvious spelling mistakes, the following is as written in 2008. As tempted as I am to edit and embellish, I want to maintain the moment as it was then. I have added pictures, some of mine, some of my travel mates. I apologize that I can’t give credit since I’ve long since forgotten which was whose, but I am thankful I have them to relive this wonderful adventure. ***

emails from New Zealand #1: January 2008

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Hello Everyone!
It’s Monday morning here in Queenstown, NZ. I arrived at noon on Thursday after losing a day of my life to the international dateline (I do plan to get it back on the return trip!!).

Queenstown is lovely. It sits on the end of Lake Wakitupu and is surrounded by mountains on all sides. My hotel is right on the lake overlooking the city park. It was an excellent choice considering how I booked it from the other side of the world!

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Imagine flying halfway around the world and this is your destination.  The view from my hotel room. Day one of my New Zealand adventure.

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Lake Wakatipu and the aptly named Remarkables on the far side of the lake

Queenstown is the adventure sport capital of NZ. Half of the town’s shops are dedicated to booking bungy jumping, jet boating, whitewater rafting and on and on. If there is a sport with the high potential of killing yourself, you can do it here! I think I’m going to settle for a day of wine tours when I come back in a few weeks. Much more my pace! The town is very lively with a lot of young travelers and lots of pubs to keep them entertained. It is very safe here so don’t worry about me on my own. The sun does not set until 10:30 at night so I’m usually in bed long before dark!

I’ve just returned from a 3 day walk along the Routeburn Trek which passes through Fiordland and Mt. Aspiring national parks. It was everything I hoped for and far more. I met up my group on friday morning. We had a crystal clear day of walking and I managed to get a little bit of sunburn even. Our walk began in the rain forest. It was incredibly lush and green with moss hanging from the trees and huge ferns everywhere. Only the ferns look familiar. Every other plant and bird is completely new to me. How wonderful is that to experience a whole new world. Even the stars in the sky are different!!

I now see why the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed here. I expected hobbits to pop out at any time. We began to climb and get the views of the mountains around us and it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. There was peak after peak, many snow covered, deep lush valleys, waterfalls, rivers and streams. The trails are in pristine condition. It’s obvious that the Department of Conservation spends a lot of time and money on them. Despite the great trail quality, I wouldn’t call it an easy walk because there are considerable elevation gains and it covers 24 miles in distance.

Day two was not so nice with rain and strong winds (gale force at times). We moved on and believe it or not I actually enjoyed it. I was dry with all my rain gear on and it was really invigorating to be out in those elements. Our views were limited, but we still had all the alpine plants, alpine lakes, waterfalls and streams to focus on.

Day 3 was a half day walk out along the Routeburn (river) to the Routeburn valley. The river begins at Lake Harris just above where our second hut was and flowed down a series of waterfalls until it became a river. The water was the most incredible turquoise blue color. Along the way we came upon a group who were doing canyoning. I had never heard of it, but it is another one of those crazy adventure sport things. Essentially people put on wetsuits, climbing harnesses and “bum plates”. They begin with a 20 foot feet-first jump into a gorge. They then slide down the gorge a ways on their butt (hence the bum plate for protection) and when they can’t go any further due to big waterfalls, they tie onto a rope and reppel down to the next spot and begin again until they reach the river below. It leaves you questioning what is missing or has been added to these people’s DNA to make them want to do something like this!!

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One of many adventure sports you can participate in when in New Zealand: Canyoning

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The turquoise blue Routeburn

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Look otherworldly? It should. The Routeburn flats was one of many filming locations for The Lord of The Rings series

We finished the trek and took the bus back into Queenstown. Our ride home was lovely… along the Dart River, though sheep farms and then along Lake Wakitupu (which was also a brilliant turqoise color). After a clean-up at the hotel, we all met for a final dinner and celebration at a local restaurant. I expected it to be a pub, but it was in a very nice hotel with a wonderful 3 course meal. The guides handed out certificates and group pictures. They were top notch and made the trip so enjoyable. They were excellent at pointing out plants and wildlife and talking about the history of the trail. The “huts” we stayed in were spotlessly clean and very comfortable. It was great to have a hot shower and sleep in a warm bed after a long day of walking. Our guides cooked all our meals (we made our own lunches with provided food) and the food was fabulous. I even took pictures of it as it was so good!

My hiking mates were all very nice too. There were 20 of us divided between 6 Americans (3 were grad students from Columbia U and one of them did his undergrad at Colby. Small world!), some Brits, Aussies, a very nice girl from Denmark and the rest were an older Japanese group. One of our guides was Japanese so that helped with the language difference. He was very very lovely young man and was also the “foot doctor” who patched up our sore feet. I was amazed at the older people. While they were slower, they had good endurance and all finished in good shape. Our Kiwi guides were wonderful as well.

I should take a minute and tell you too that the New Zealand people are so warm and welcoming. And might I add to it’s genuine… not just a “be nice to the tourists” thing.

Other than a couple of hotspots on my feet I felt very good. I’m not sore at all. I owe part of it to constant dose of Advil I kept on board and to the “purple jar of love” I used every day. It’s an herbal linament that seems to work wonders. I’m bringing some home!!

Well, my internet card time is up so I’ll close for now.

*** In January of 2008, I ventured by myself halfway around the world to New Zealand. This was before blogs and smartphones. When I could, I would go to an internet café, purchase an internet use time card and type frantically hoping to finish my email before time ran out. Other than fixing some obvious spelling mistakes, the following is as written in 2008. As tempted as I am to edit and embellish, I want to maintain the moment as it was then. I have added pictures, some of mine, some of my travel mates. I apologize that I can’t give credit since I’ve long since forgotten which was whose, but I am thankful I have them to relive this wonderful adventure. ***