Sunday, February 11, 2007

Central Otago, NZ

Central Otago

Well, I am finally updating the rest of the New Zealand trip. Since coming home, preparing for the world trip has really accelerated. So many things to do and prepare for!

Most of the rest of the NZ trip was spent hanging out with family in the Central Otago area of the south island. We also did the Milford Trek, which I will talk about in a separate posting. Central Otago area is pretty dry, with smaller mountains and amazing light at sunrise and sunset. As usual in NZ, sheep farms everywhere, mixed in with goats, horses, and cows. Watching the dogs work with the sheep when moving them is interesting. One dog will crouch down low and act as spotter for any sheep breaking out of line. Others chase the stray sheep back into the herd when alerted of an infraction. Sheep have about 100 different baaah-ing sounds and it is quite funny listening to them all bah at once.

Also, while in Central Otago we were able to see comet McNaught at its brightest. This was an amazing site, as the comet’s tail streamed out above us, covering about 30 degrees of the sky. I was, unfortunately, unable to photograph this.

Following is a selection of photos from the Central Otago area.

Typical Central Otago view-near Nasby

An old bridge

By Queenstown

Walking through the forest

Someones little piece of paradise near Queenstown

Queenstown from across the lake

Queenstown Harbor

Our doll-house accomodation in Manapouri

Lunch at Mt. Difficulty Wines on the Central Otago wine tour

The perfect wine plate

Rose bushes begin each row of grapes

Driving through a herd of sheep

Sunset near Naseby

Albatross at the Albatross colony near Dunedin. These birds have a nine foot wing span.

Red hot poker plants

Milford Track, NZ

Milford track

Milford Track is one of the best known of the hut-to-hut treks in NZ. It starts with a boat ride across the lake from Te Anau and then you hike up a couple river valleys, over a high mountain pass, and back down another river valley to Milford Sound. At Milford sound you are picked up by another boat and brought to Milford. From here we took a bus back to Te Anau. The Hike takes 4 days and three nights and covers 54 Km. The scenery and rain forest vegetation is stunning, even in the rain, which we got a lot of! Staying in the huts was a treat after the long day of hiking, and saves weight as you do not have to bring tent and stove. The huts are set up youth hostel-style, with a common area for cooking and hanging out, and several bunk rooms for sleeping.

Day 1-Milford
Day one is a short easy day. Today was a warm, partly cloudy day. On reaching the hut, plenty of time remains to take a cold swim in a large pool of the river. As long as you are wet and without clothing, the sand flies leave you alone, but once clothed (I was wearing black) they swarm you. Sand flies are nasty little critters that bite and leave itchy red bumps behind. A bit of advice for any one going on the west coast of NZ-do not wear blue or black clothing. Light colors are good, particularly orange. By the end of the trek I had probably 40-50 bites.

View from the boat ride across the lake

Near the first hut

Day 2-Milford
It is a much longer day today, all uphill. As you hike up the river valleys, they get narrower, the river becomes wilder, and the peaks seem to go up almost vertically, all rock and green carpeted rainforest. These peaks would be quite technical to climb, and difficult to even get to from the swamps and thickness of the vegetation across the valley floor. It rains much of the day, and thousands of vertical waterfalls pore down the mountainsides. The trees and ground drip with moss, fungus, and vines. You can hear the constant sound of birds, and some come close to you for a better look. We (my mother, David, and I) share the huts at night with people from a dozen different countries and hearing all the different languages spoken makes me even more excited about the year Tim and I are about to spend abroad. I have become friends with some people from Tanzania who begin hiking early each morning and save me a bottom bunk in the ‘quiet’ hut this day and the next. By the end of the day my feet and legs are quite sore and I enjoy reading in a sunny spot in the hut while a wood stove dries all our clothing.

A foggy view

Paradise Duck

Day 3-Milford
Today is another long day, up over the mountain pass and back down into another river valley. The trail is beautifully maintained and includes 297 steps (according to a guide we walked by). The river on this side goes down the valley in a series of waterfalls and has carved the rock around it completely smooth and rounded. It also rained today, but was warm and we wore merino wool t-shirts without raincoats and just got wet. The clouds were low and we could see very little on the pass, except for an occasional, teasing, shadowy outline of a peak that seamed to go almost straight up. The ridge on top of the pass is narrow and looking straight down the side opposite of what we came up is the stuff of nightmares. It looks like it drops straight until it eventually disappears into the fog below. It is our last night and tomorrow we will hike out to Milford Sound.

A NZ Kiwi bird

Tonight's bunk

Day 4-Milford Track
Today is the longest day, 18 km, mostly downhill. Again, it rained most of the day and even though it has been a fun and beautiful hike, we are happy to reach Milford sound where, sore, wet, and tired, we are picked up by a boat for a beautiful ride across the sound to Milford.

Signpost at the end. Notice the torn up shoes hanging from the post. Some are duck taped together.

Milford Sound

Many waterfalls-view from the bus