tramping over – and my feet are happy about it!

Tramping is nothing else but hiking – but they have their own word for it here in New Zealand. And I am done with tramping now. My last hike, one of the Great Hikes in New Zealand was the Routeburn Track – and it was great. Ok, the weather could have been a bit nicer, but we did not get soaking wet … The views were great, the group nice enough to hang out with for meals and in the evenings. The group was also small enough for me to manage to walk alone most of the time. It is so much easier to enjoy nature and its sounds if no one is talking next to you!

mountain views

lake + red jacket

And since I was walking alone no one saw me falling … This last hike was an assortment of “firsts”: my first fall (I saved the camera, but my knee is pretty blue), my first blisters (after 3 weeks in the hiking boots my feet seem to go on strike) and my first kiwi guides (was glad to find out that now only Germans and British work in this country!).

But it is also good when someone is around to take your picture!

Another first: catch your desert. Last night we had pancakes for desert – but you had to catch yours with a plate. The guides threw them. When Neil landed my pancake on the ceiling they had mercy and I got mine with any further throwing activity …

It was definately a delux version of a hike. Three guides for 17 hikers. Hot tea and toilets (!) along the way. And the “huts” we stayed in are full grown lodges, but build well into nature. This was my bed last night:

lodge bed with a view

We got a three course meal every night. We could buy wine and beer, had hot showers and a drying room for wet clothes. The generator went off at 10 pm and on again at 7:30 am. If you did not want to read with your torch light … you got a lot of sleep!

And this was not a bushfire but the sunset two nights ago. Guess you only see lights like this when you are miles away from the next city!

sunset kiwi style (always a little bigger!)

And now I am back in civilization. They even warn you at the end of the track:

back in the real world

Am a bit worried that I will hate the very touristy bus / boat trip to Doubtful Sound tomorrow. Hope my ipod will save the day for me!

just one of the many waterfalls

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Met a Kiwi today

Today was the one day I could have slept in on this long vacation – and then the fire alarm goes off at 8 am in the bed &breakfast … so much for sleeping in! Had a leisurely breakfast, handed over my laundry to the B&B for washing, strolled through a park into Queenstown – supposedly the adrenalin capitol of the world. I did not opt for bungee jumping, jet boating or the likes though, but went and got a massage. What a treat after three weeks of walking with a backpack! Then I had the pre-hike briefing for my last hike: the Routeburn Track. Looks like I will be walking it with a group of about 20 – all couples … No Russians as far as I could tell.

The day in Queenstown was sunny and really warm. But we were warned that there is plenty of snow up where we will be hiking. Only last week were the first hikers able do the full length of the trip – before people had to be helicoptered over the snowed-in areas (for fear of avalanches). Am really hoping for some clear weather. The views are supposed to be spectacular. So stay tuned for pictures of either stunning alpine views or … fog. Will be back in civilization on Wednesday night. Off to Doubtful Sound for a day cruise on Thursday and then back to Auckland on Friday. I had a great time … but why did it go by so fast?

My Russian friends filmed most of our tours and promised me a DVD. They are actually planing to show part of their material on Russian television – too bad I did not have a Firefox jacket or backpack! Will be fun to see it though. They will dub my version with music only though – they are afraid I might find someone that will do the translation for me.

Ahh – almost forgot: Crossed one more item off the to do list today. I went to see a Kiwi. They are really rare, shy and only out at night … thus I had to go to a bird house. I got a deal because it was late in the day and only half an hour until they closed. The good thing about it:  I was the only person in the Kiwi house. No pictures though – they did not allow that. My summary: Kiwi’s are pretty big and look really … funny. Most of the time their long beak is in the ground looking for food and to me they look like a feathery soccer ball on two legs … the size is about right.  The Kiwi lady I was watching lay and egg four days a ago. The egg is huge! Compared to a human it would be like giving birth to a two year old!!!

Will hike back up the hill to my B&B now, pack for the track and go to bed early. Need to be at the meeting point at 7 am. More soon …

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sleet, sandflies, scenery and speed

New Zealand weather in the spring is about as changeable as you can imagine. We flew into the Siberia Valley via helicopter yesterday morning in great sunshine. After claiming a bed in the hut with throwing a sleeping bag on it we headed out to Lake Crucible. After an hour nice walk along the valley … with only a few river crossings and thus wet boots (once more!) we started to go up. Our guide had not told me that we were up for a 600 to 700 meter hike up hill (and down again). It was really steep and slippery since it had started to rain. Luckily my Russian co-travelers are real gentlemen and offered to take my backpack – s0 nice!

giant buttercup - with hikeing pole to give a perspective!

We saw some giant buttercups on the way – the largest in the world. (Taking pics is always a nice excuse for a break).Well we went up for about 4 hours with a short lunch stop in the rain to finally reach a lake of snow.

snowy lake crucible

I guess we all had expected a bit of impressive blue clear water and not a mass of avalanche dirty snow – and not the sleet that was blowing with force into our faces once we started the decend …

 

Inspired by what I call the “Putin”-pose by the Russians, I managed a little peak pose though.

We had a fun evening in the hut and woke up to sunshine and a visit of the biggest New Zealand pest of all: Sandflies. This little back flies bite and those bites itch and hurt like hell. And they like my blood! The tale is that the Maori had such a good and easy life in New Zealand that God introduced the sandfly to prevent them from getting lazy and sitting around all day. If you move, they supposedly do not bite. Does not work for me though! Neither do the various types of insect repellent that I have tried …

view from Siberia hut in the morning

Over breakfast the Russians told me that they have a very good influence on peoples lives and that I should expect to soon find a husband. (Guess they can”t cope with a single woman not in desperate search for a man that provides for them 🙂

jet boat fun

After a two hour hike we reached the jet boat pick up point. It was fun – even though I got really wet again.

jet boat view

But I just learned to accept that being wet (or at least  to have wet boots) is part of my New Zealand adventure! The day continues to be beautiful.

lunch spot (not pictured, the sandflies!)

We had lunch at a great view point on lake Wanaka. Drove along a few other lakes (where I had a short stunt as photo model for the Russians) and finally made it to Queenstown. We had a farewell beer and the Russians are a bit disappointed I do not plan to go bungee jumping with them tomorrow … No worries! I will not!

model for a minute

along the road ... impressive scenery

 

 

 

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if you have a plan, change it!

Hardly anything on this adventure tour is going as described in the plan – but we are still having fun. Kayaking had to be canceled due to heavy wind yesterday and we also chose not to do the traditional hangi (food cooked in pit on beach Mauri style) since we would have swallowed mostly sand. Nice walk up to a trig (measurement point) and a walk on the beach were a great plan B. This is the view of the mountains we are now in from the trig point:

Mount Cook (and friends)

Today we started our daily work out at 6:30 in the morning with a sunrise walk around a lake.

early morning lake views

Had the weather gods been really kind, we could have seen the entire mountain range mirrored in the lake … we at least got to see the foothills!

After breakfast we headed to the glacier and walked up more than 800!!! steps before reaching the ice. 3 hours hiking to be on the ice for 45 minutes … Got to earn your photo opportunities in this country!

Barbara on Fox glacier, wearing the red jacket :-) and happy that I remembered to pack hat and gloves in the morning!

Barbara on Fox glacier in the new red jacket and happy that I remembered to pack gloves and hat that morning

Fox glacier impression

Not sure when I will be able to access the internet again – most likely not until Sunday in Queenstown. Hope the weather will stay “friendly”.

PS: updated previous post with some pictures including river crossings

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wet is the new dry and traveling with russians

Ok – this week is very different from last week. Guess the change could not be more extreme. From 4 girls with one guide I am now the only girl traveling with an English guide and three Russians on a male outing. And the weather at the west coast is a bit more “moody” than in the north. But so far I only got wet while crossing rivers.

Our first night was at Arthurs Pass on the mountains dividing the east from the west coast. We ate at a place called the Wobbly Kea and just before dinner a Kea actually showed up. Kea are the mountain parrots that can do great damage to cars because they like to pick out the rubber lining around the windows. When I read about them, I was thinking small parrot. They are huge! More the size of a large cat. Quite impressive.

river crossings!

river crossings

Yesterday I was convinced by Nick – our guide – that I can do the 7 hour / 50 river crossings hike. And to be honest, I really enjoyed it. Glad I listened to him!  Once you are wet up to your hip you do not mind about getting in the water and it is actually fun crossing rivers – it was sunny and not to cold. Admit that did help! And wet boots really are ok to walk in. There are pictures to prove this … but I am again at an internet cafe that does not allow uploads. (Updated with pictures)

more river crossings!

more river crossings!

 

 

My fellow Russian travelers were very surprised that I did the river tour without complaining … I am now fully accepted. They used to travel as a group of four but one of their close friends died in an accident this summer. This morning over breakfast I received a huge compliment from them: they feel like there is a bit of their friend traveling with them embodied in me … Learning a lot a about the Russia soul and some hard facts: did not know that is a nine hour flight from Vladivostok, where they live, to Moscow. Traveling does educate!

My new companions for the week. Guide Nick taking a pic of Dima, Rust and Igor. (Very typical situation these days!)

It is overcast today but we did a fun walk / climb along the cost. Glad I have four strong and fearless men with me that do help me up and down a few of the slippery steep bids. Again more pictures (@ Ralf: including ones with red jacket!) soon.

Accommodation has been great all along this trip. At the moment we are staying in a huge holiday home where we will cook our own dinner tonight. Tomorrow we will drive further down the west coast, will do some kayaking and eat on the beach before heading to Fox Glacier. Really looking forward to the helicopter flight up the glacier. Time really flies here, but I am enjoying every minute of this trip. Live is good and I am happy!

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halftime already …

Hard to believe, but half my time in New Zealand is already over. But the good news is: I have two more weeks to go. was cool to be here when New Zealand qualified for the soccer world cup. Usually they only talk about the All Blacks / the rugby team. But last week the All Whites, the soccer team was all over the news. If you consider that New Zealand has barely more population than Berlin, it is quite an achievement!

Last night I returned from the 71 km Queen Charlotte Track. It was great! I am really glad I did not attempt to walk it alone though – no doubt doable, but it was much more fun with our small group: Pat from Canada, Shelly and Natalie from Melbourne and our guide Halle were great company.

the "before" shot at the start of the track

And I was not the only German :-). Our guide moved to NZL over twenty years ago. I was the first German he ever had on a tour … and we discoverd we studied at the same University. Small world!

Even one morning of heavy rain did not spoil the trip. We mastered the 71 km and over 3000 m in altitude, I took a few 😉 pics, enjoyed lovely accomodation and really good food.

queen charlotte view

 

 

Took a lot of pics but also a lot of memories: I will miss the birds that are not afraid and just come up to you with their young to check out if shoelaces are eatible, the breathtaking views, the turquise waterthat looks almost unnatural in pictures and all the information our guide shared with us. And I really hope my next group will be as nice as this one!

Learning

 

 

 

In two hours I will be on the Transcostal train to Christchurch. Tomorrow morning at 8 I will meet the group for the coming week. The motto of the week is “adventure”. I am supposed to do caving, hike on a glacier, learn to cross rivers. A helicopter, kajak and jet boat are also on the agenda. Guess I will not get bored … and will have little time to update this blog. But I will try!

 

PS: added some pics to previous posts … since this nice internet placelets me upload pics!

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A hideaway, stuck in sand and ready for people

Sorry guys. Now I have a faster internet connection, a computer that runs Firefox … and then they do not alow any devices to be pluged in: thus once more no pics. I am really trying!!!

I just returned my “rent a dent”. He did well in the last couple of days. Old but working well (as long as I do not leave the lights on!). Today I went by the cafe that had helped me jump start the car. Brought them a card and a little thank you – and thus hopefully made sure they will be as nice to the next stranded tourist.

The “dent” brought me safely from Golden Bay to Picton and Queen Charlotte Sound where I will be hiking with a group starting tomorrow. After a week of hardly talking to anyone I am ready for a bit of small talk. Am fairly sure I am group competible now. Guess I would have been a pain to travel with last week. Really needed the time to wind down. And I did so exensively the last two days. I stayed at a eco house in the middle of nowhere with a great view of a bay. Tides are really high here – up to 4 meters. Thus I had a lot to look at. And I took a lot of pics – which you will see eventually.And I read a lot. Sitting in a bathtub outside of my house, with a glass of wine – does not get much better. (And I was even able to download the sequel to the crime novel I was reading on my kindle – in the middle of nowhere!)

bliss

bliss - wine, sun, view and bathtub 🙂

From my hideaway I took an anventures trip by car and foot into Abel Tasman National Park. I crossed a few rivers with my car (mind you: no bridges involved) and then I go stuck in the sand / muck while crossing a bay at low tide on foot. Reminded me of being stuck in the swamp in Ireland, only this time no Olli (friend and tour guide) around to save me … Well, I managed to get off my shoe and got out. Did have to do some laundry last night though :-). The getting out involved sitting down in black mud …

Observations of the day: If you do no like driving on curvy mountain roads – do not visit the north of the South Island. Even the highway is a one lane road with a million turns. And if you are not busy trying to get safely around the next corner, you try not to hit any of the road kill … The number of dead animals on the roads is amazing. I have yet to see a live possum – but I have surely seen dozens of dead ones. The other day I saw a hawk pick up a piece of road kill. Take away for animals higher up in the food chain …

Will be interesting to see what kind of people will be on the tour with me during the next four days. If statistics are good for anything, chances are 99% they will be German. There are so many Germans here … almost annoying.

view from my hideaway

Not sure if I will have internet access again before Thursday or Friday. Hope I do and should the internet gods be nice, I might even get the chance to share (and save!!!) some of my pictures. Also hope the weather stays as good as it has been. More soon!

view from my Picton hotel room

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