Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pictures from Mt. Cook and the West Coast


As John posted the last blog sans pictures, I’ll try and add a few comments to explain some of these shots.

The Ball and Tasman glaciers were absolutely spectacular. The first night we set up the tent in probably one of the most beautiful places we’ve been so far.




The stars that came out the first night were stunning, and the moon was incredibly bright. The last picture above is off the road and a slump in the land. As John mentioned before it’s due to the side of the mountain falling into the glacier moraine below. The moraine is about 100 m down, and we were told that only 50 yrs ago it was about 100 m up. Pretty wild!

We had a grey weather for the hike up the ridge, but the views were still breathtaking.



The final day above the glacier we woke up above the clouds.



What John forgot to mention in the last post, is that we found a public shelter with hot water! We did all our laundry, which sounds like a normal thing, but for us it was such a luxury! We hung everything outside our van, worked like a charm. The last picture above is looking at Mt. Sefton. During our next trip to the Copland valley, we saw the other side of this beast of a mountain. You can actually see the Copland pass to the right of the peak. The first picture below is what we saw when waking up in the Lindis Pass, and the rest are from the Copland track.





The last picture is my handsome boyfriend at Franz Joseph Glacier…I think the socks and short shorts speak volumes about his style.


Stories and pictures about blow holes, and giant caves to follow!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Westland and Mount Cook

**pictures to follow… library internet is very sloooowwww

On our way to Mount Cook we passed two sad eyed hitchhikers. Although we have only had to hitchhike once in our travels, in California, we figured we should give our karma a boost so we pulled a u-turn and gave them a lift. They turned out to be a very nice couple from England, climbing around NZ. We left them in the camp ground at mount cook and after a quick stop at the visitors center headed off for Ball Hut.

Ball hut is about a 3 hour walk on a glacier moraine. It was at one point a road, but as the glacier has down wasted (about 60m since the road was built) the moraine became more unstable and the road has slipped, slumped, and eroded into a rough track with sections of perfect road. Very interesting. On the road in we met 2 people who had just climbed Mt. Cook as well as a gentleman who had dislocated his shoulder. His partner was a doctor, but she was not strong enough to put it back in. Despite my hesitation, I was convinced to give it a shot, so I spent about half an hour hauling on Tom’s poor arm. It didn’t go back into place, and I am pretty sure it was unbelievable painful. The one time we left the Tylenol 3 in the van…

We did a scramble up Ball Ridge, but when it started looking a little to much like rock climbing we turned around. The view from the top was breathtaking, the ball and Tasman glaciers coming together, then the blue lake at the bottom emptying into the valley. The scale was so impressive. We spent another day in the hut due to rain, then walked out and slept at the campsite, having a nice dinner with the hitchhikers we had picked up. We left Mt. cook, dropped the hitchhikers on the highway to Christchurch and headed up the west coast. We would have gone to Christchurch, but apparently it is still quite a mess after the earthquake, and sort of a depressing place to be. Quite sad.

The west coast is extremely rugged. We slept at an awesome abandoned hotel in the Lindis pass, then stumbled upon the Copland track. It is a 6 hour walk into some awesome natural hot springs, so we stayed for 2 nights. We made an awesome Inukshuk down the river, which our American friends didn’t really understand. The stars were beautiful! It is also great to be able to stop at the side of the road and have the time, food, and equipment to do a 3 day hike. The benefits of living in your van are endless!

After Copland we made quick stops at the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. These are both beautiful, but after seeing the Ball and Tasman up close and without any ropes or other people, they sort of lose their majesty. I am now in Hokitika, which is sort of the first big town you come to as you exit the west coast. Next we will go through Greymouth, and then after a week of exploring the Abel Tasman (and wine country for Kelly!) we will head to the North Island!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Goodbye Queenstown, Hello The Road!

We have been a little bit neglectful of the poor blog recently, mostly because we are getting back on the road and out of the very lovely place we were staying, with power, internet connection, showers, and laundry. The latter two seem particularly convenient now that we have been without them for about a week, but I digress.
Before we left Jenna and Duncan’s place, Duncan was kind enough to take kel and I up into Skipper Canyon, a really intense 4x4 trail. At the top of the trail was the put in for the river that he had also agreed to take me down in a kayak. Kel and Jenna drove the car back out, and Duncan, his friend Rob, and I went down in the little boats. Although I really like canoeing, and feel very comfortable in the water, I was wholly unprepared for what hit me. The river was around a class 3, which for those who are competent kayakers is a fun river, with challenging spots and some good places to play around. for me, who cannot unflip the boat, and had never been in a kayak in rapids, it was a very cold and wet 2 hours, that flopped between pure joy and utter terror. I ended up flipping 6 times, 3 times I was able to grab onto a boat and right myself, and the other 3 I ended up getting sucked out of the boat and into the ice cold water. This meant I spent about two minutes getting swept down the rapid and slamming into rocks until I made it to the side, and also so that Duncan could pick up my boat. I even managed to hit the biggest “hole” on the river. I was timidly skirting the side and all of a sudden I heard “go left, go left!!”. I froze, went straight, and fell over a big rapid. I thought I was in the clear, but the look on Rob’s face told me otherwise, and sure enough I started moving backwards until I was under the rapid, and soon after under the river. Anyway, a good way to spend the morning, and a good introduction to whitewater.
Our next stop was an old ghostown from the gold mining days. Macetown is a 3 hour walk from Arrowtown. It was a beautiful walk in, we saw lots of cool old mining stuff, such as a battery used to crush quartz ore. We didn’t fine any gold, although we looked. Anyway, quite cool. If you have a 4x4, you can drive in, but it has something like 22 river crossing, and some of these are at least 2 feet deep, so you need a serious truck, or tank.
We said goodbye to Jenna and Ducan and headed off to the Greenstone Cables track. On the drive in we got blocked by a flooded ford, and had to change the plan. The ford was not really flooded I guess, but for a 1989 Toyota van, it doesn’t take a lot of water to be impassable. Instead, we went for a walk into Mount Criton Trail, and Sam Summers hut, an old gold mining shack in the woods. It was an eerie feeling sleeping in such a old building. It must have been quite a life for them, no luxuries at all.
Our life, however, does have the odd luxury. For some of the work I did last week, we were given a gift certificate for the hot tubs in Queenstown. They were very relaxing, and I kept thinking that mum would have loved them. The glass door rose up so you had the option of indoor or outdoor. Vey cool, and not something we would ever pay for. I do understand why it is so appealing though. But the luxury doesn’t stop there! We went into Queenstown and had a Fergburger, which is a hamburger so good it is known across NZ. It was pretty unreal, and so big we ended up splitting it. Delicious.
The Fergburger was our last extravagance before our big expedition up Mt. Titiroa. We dove down to Manipouri and took a water taxi across the river to the stat point. From the get go things looked  a bit dicy, as the lady who ran the taxi pretty much told us we didn’t have a chance of making it up because of all the snow. Kelly and I, as is typical, totally disregarded this and forged on. It wasn’t until we were ankle deep in snow, I had fallen and totally soaked myself, and Kel was getting the shivers that we reevaluated and decided that it might not be possible. So, we quickly walked down and made camp by the warm beach. I made a huge fire and by dark we were happily munching on delicious sausages (we finally found good sausages in NZ. Hellers brand. They are fantastic.) We spent another night in a very tiny hut, where I got creative with my knife, and then caught the water taxi out. That was the second aborted attempt at a cool walk in 3 days. Bad for the confidence, but probably good for out health.
We left Manipouri, spent a night in Te Anau (were we had caesar salad wraps, which is probably the greatest camping food ever) then headed out to Milford sound. It was a stunning drive, and easy to see why they call it the 8th wonder of the world. Along the way we spotted the dreaded Kea. These alpine parrots are beautiful, but they will eat anything, including the rubber around car windows and tires! Again, it was a bit too snowy for us to do a lot of climbing or really any hiking. We tried to get to the plunge pool of a waterfall but good cliffed out, and we ended up sleeping just a few minutes up the Hollyford track in the tent. A nice place to spend the night anyways.
We got in the car and headed back to Queenstown, where we quickly said hi to Jenna and Duncan, and also got some news that was to spark our first real disagreement in NZ. Very exciting. You see, the company I was working for before wanted me back to do a few more days of work for The Hobbit. But, this would mean Kelly would be stuck in Queenstown, which is not cool. we went in together to see if we could work together, but they made it very clear that women were not hired for labour jobs. Not very PC, but apparently NZ is a little behind the times on that front. He told us that he might have a few days of work for us up in Twizel, if we could get ourselves there. As it is exactly were we were going, I jumped at the opportunity. Kelly did not, and so the disagreement started. It hasn’t really been resolved yet, but we will keep you posted. the good news is on all other fronts we are a solid team. In fact this disagreement has made us realize how harmonious the rest of the trip has been. Can’t win ‘em all. We will see what happens with work.
Next stop, Mount Cook (then maybe some work on the Hobbit) then back down to the west coast. It seem we are constantly finding things to do on the way, so I am sure there will be lots of other stuff in there. Keep emailing us, we love hearing from everybody, even if it takes us some time to get back. To the Mountains!!!!
(Camping over the Tasman Glacier. What a Beaut!)