Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kiwi Quest 2010 - Hiking Day 1

Oh my, where to start? I've been offline since Feb 13th down here, six days ago, and a LOT has happened since! I'll try updating this blog in point form since this internet cafe is not completely cheap.
Photos: 1) Morning comes E-A-R-L-Y but the views are great, 2) Socked in at the top of Key Summit (the frown is from concentration on self-portrait, not an indication of weather displeasure), 3) Our goal: accomplished!, 4) Gathering firewood at the side of the road. That trailer stored our gear and was our travelling kitchen. If you are 5'8" or so, be careful about sticking your head in the back compartment. If you straighten up too quickly, you will smash the top of your head into the metal door frame. Trust me, it hurts for a few days.

I'm on an 11-day hiking trip with Hiking New Zealand/Active Earth New Zealand, tramping between Queenstown and Christchurch. We started in Queenstown on Valentine's day (down here), and our group consists of a Kiwi guide (Sophie), 2 Aussies (Louise and Gerald from Sydney and Canberra respectively), Mirijam is from the Netherlands, Bob (left on Day 4 d/t bad back) was from Quebec while Jane is from Vancouver, Kirsten and Sean are a couple from the Orkney Islands (part of Scotland), and Juli is currently living in Bristol (UK). We're a bit of a mash-up group, but we laugh a lot.

Day 1: Drove from Queenstown to Te Anau (you'll have to google these locations. They're all in the south end of the South Island of New Zealand), passing sheep, cattle, cyclists, more sheep and more sheep. Beautiful mountains, lakes, a very windy road. A lot of the roads we've been on thus far seem about 1.5 lanes wide, often gravel, and often on a cliff or mountain edge. Yep, no pressure with oncoming traffic! Had lunch by a river at 45degree latitude (just north of the Antarctic), got our first intro to sandflies. Luckily for me, they don't seem to find me tasty. Everyone else hates me for that while they scratch and itch and seethe.

Headed to Fiordland (I know it's spelled wrong; the first person to name it did that by accident) National Park after lunch, hiked up and over Key Summit where it was lovely in the forest down low, but overcast, very windy, and drizzling up top. Here is where I would discover that I suck at hiking uphill, making me (usually) the last person in line. Oh well, I just hack along at my own pace and so be it. The rainforest at the beginning of the hike was SO beautiful, cloudy and green with all kind of vegetation of all different shades of green. We passed crystal clear blue/green rivers that just made me want to jump right in among the big river rocks. Mountains of green rising through the mist and cloud make me swoon.

We camped for the night at a rustic campground by a river that would have been even nicer had there not been so many, many sandflies. For those who are unfortunate enough to react badly to bites, they leave large welts that make one want to weep with itchiness........or so I'm told. Anyway, my feet were quite sore this night, and I was exhausted beyond belief. Once we finally managed to squeeze into the kitchen for our turn at cooking, I nearly fell asleep in my dinner. It was a getting-to-know you night as I shared a room with Louise and Mirijam in one of the little cabins. Our bunk beds were like hammocks and the room was just big enough to turn around in, but we get along well thankfully.

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