Archives for the month of: February, 2014

Ahoy, Matey!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I really enjoyed Kaikoura, so I was happy that I had the time to go back and spend a few more days there. Katharina, our French roommate and I got to go on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway yesterday and see the immense amount of local wildlife like fur seals and various interesting water birds. Today I booked myself on a Kiwi fishing trip, the main reason why I wanted to come back to this cute beach town.

Thank goodness I made a quick visit to the chemist to pick up some “Kaikoura Crackers,” the resident prescription for sea sickness. For a calm day, the sea was surprisingly rough. What a wise decision I made to choose only a two hour tour. I can’t tell you how many stories you hear of people just hugging the bucket the entire time on any given Kaikoura boat outing. Regardless of the sea conditions, the fishing was great fun. Our crew consisted of a Swiss girl, a French girl, two English girls, an American girl (myself), a British bait boy and a Kiwi captain. I don’t know what happened to our Captain Nick, but he looked like a true pirate as he had lost one of his legs and walked around with a prosthetic one. For the sake of a good story, in my mind at least, he lost it in a freak New Zealand shark attack. There are no lethal sharks in New Zealand.

I am happy to share that the Ameri-CAN in me caught the first fish of the day, thank you very much! The majority of the girls on board had never fished before, so I claimed my skills to living at the beach even though I am convinced that fishing is more luck than talent. I cannot remember what those pretty red fish are called, sea something, but according to Captain Nick, they were “lunch fish.” We all reeled in a nice collection of fish, and I know the nearby albatrosses were eyeing our prizes with sheer envy. We collected a handful of crayfish, the cousin of the lobster, from our crayfish pots and made our way back to the steady land.

Patrizia, my Swiss roommate and fishing buddy, and I decided to try our hand at cooking our fish, and used a recipe the captain had given us: a few fillets wrapped in aluminum foil with one capsicum (red pepper), onion, tomato, garlic clove, a little oil and freshly squeezed orange juice at 150 degrees Celsius (I have no idea what the Fahrenheit conversion is) for 20 minutes. I was shocked that it turned out so well! We feasted for lunch, and savored every hard earned bite.

Later that afternoon, we met back up with the crew at the boat owner’s house for a crayfish BBQ and endless amounts of wine. Let me emphasize that last part: endless amounts of wine. Empty glasses just didn’t seem to be an option. It was a great turn out, and a smashing good time with new friends and music, just how a proper summer cookout should be. I think the tour was called Koura Fishing Charters. Highly recommended.

Summer Snow

Monday, February 24, 2014

Katharina and I spent the weekend in Nelson to relax and recover from the Queen Charlotte before setting off for a few days in Nelson Lakes National Park. The drive to St. Arnaud, the gateway to the park, was only an hour and a half, but the dramatic temperature change would suggest otherwise. We got out of the car and it immediately felt about 20 degrees colder. We left hot and sunny Nelson for the perfect example of erratic New Zealand weather, and found ourselves in an intense hail storm in the middle of the summer. It was even snowing on the tops of the nearby mountains. I did not envy the trampers making their way to the prestigious Angelus Hut in the backcountry one bit!

Needless to say, we did not get much hiking in on day one, but lucky for us the weather was clear and beautiful today. I’ll be it, still quite chilly and windy, but that suited me well as it kept the sandflies away. We set off to tackle Mount Robert, and I am very happy to report that we were successful in climbing above the tree line to reach the 1400 meter summit. The view from the top was incredible. We could see all of Lake Rotoriti and the surrounding mountain ranges. The Pinchgut Track leading to Paddy’s Track made for a great loop circuit hike.

Queen Charlotte Track Day #4: Less Than a Half Marathon To Go!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Start Time: 9:20am
Arrived in Anakiwa at 4:30pm
Distance: 21km
Weather: Sunny and hot

Unlike the Heaphy, I had not mentally checked out when we reached our third’s night stay. I was extremely uneasy about our last long day. What’s the saying? It ain’t over until the fat lady sings. Well, it took me a long time to start singing today. It took us the better part of an hour and a half to summit today’s Category 6 hurricane or what should be Mount Everest’s cousin, but holy views! Shamrock Ridge was incredible. I soaked up as much of the 360 degree views of the Marlborough Sounds as I could. The morning fog gave the green mountains against the glistening water an eerie kind of depth that made the entire scene seem more mysterious and magical. This was the view I worked so hard the past three days for, and I was not disappointed. The rest of the day was quite enjoyable, and if I could delete day three, I would happily travel the distance of the Queen Charlotte again. We certainly had our ups and downs, both physically and mentally, but accomplishment is an irreplaceable feeling. And I might add that I am not sore and blister free this time around! Looks like I might have learned something from my past tramping experience…

Queen Charlotte Track Day #3: Blood, Sweat & Beers

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Start Time: 9am
Arrived at Treetops at 6pm
Distance: 27km
Weather: Sunny and hot

We commenced the day with a grueling Category 4 hill that took us 40 minutes before we reached the actual track. Once we peaked, we had amazing views of Portage Bay to our right with the Queen Charlotte Sound and Picton on our left. The day was a long as it was hot. I think it was my first day in New Zealand without the slightest of breezes. The trail continued to undulate, and quite steeply I might add. Both Katharina and I consumed ourselves with some choice words we would like to one day exchange with the hot bartender for even remotely comparing this to a “boardwalk.” I think I need to invite him to Virginia Beach so we can accurately clarify his definition. By the time we crossed the 36km marker (the half way point), I literally hugged the sign. But there is always a light at the end of the tunnel! Or a beer at the end of my hike in this particular case. There was a small café across the street from where we were staying, and I was more than happy to close out our tiring day with a few pints of Mac’s Gold!

Queen Charlotte Track Day #2: Universal Grandma

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Start Time: 10am
Arrived at Noeline’s Homestay at 1:30pm
Distance: 11km
Weather: Overcast

The dreary weather made our short hike today rather uneventful as our views were very limited. Here is our eager day two picture. I make Kath take one every morning.

We booked into Noeline’s Homestay for the night, and it felt just like staying at Grandma’s house. She invited us into her home located about 15 minutes off the track, and welcomed us with homemade scones and tea. I am convinced that Kiwis are the most talented homemakers I have ever met in my life. Everyone here seems to excel in anything cooking or baking related; very Martha Stewart like, less the jail time. But I suppose there is plenty of time to perfect your kitchen skills when you live in isolation. I found it quite fascinating asking Noeline about her lifestyle in the Sounds.

I would liken living in the Marlborough Sounds to that of living in the country, except a bit more complicated. I often wondered if the residents even own a car seeing as there are no local roads nearby. If you do own a car, where do you park it? Do you solely travel via boat? How often do you venture into town? I bet it gets incredibly inconvenient if you make the journey to the grocery store and accidentally forget an essential item.

This is how Noeline’s travel goes: she walks down to her jetty where the boat picks her up and drives her a few minutes away to Punga Cove where they then haul her in a tractor up a very large hill to her car. It takes her two hours to drive to Picton, the closest and largest town, and then she repeats the process in reverse to get back home. About once every 6-7 weeks she makes this complicated journey. She continued, telling me how the mail is only delivered twice a week, something I had never even considered. The mailman travels via boat, and they exchange bags for incoming and outgoing mail, so she doesn’t even have a proper mailbox. The newspaper is only delivered twice a week as well. Country living doesn’t sound so remote to me anymore!

Queen Charlotte Track Day #1: The New Zealand “Boardwalk”

Monday, February 17, 2014

Start Time: 12pm
Arrived at The Woolshed at 5pm
Distance: 15km
Weather: Sunny

We had heard nothing but wonderful things about the Queen Charlotte Track at the top of the South Island, and I was excited that we were on our way! We would be spending the next four days hiking 71 kilometers (44 miles) up and down the intricate Marlborough Sounds. Our water taxi departed Picton for Ship Cove, and the cruise to the far end of the track was stunning. We even passed a pod of dolphins leaving one of the many inlets.

I was a little worried about the steepness of the trail, but the hot bartender from Motueka told us that (and these are his exact words) the Queen Charlotte is a “boardwalk.” Well, I am from Virginia Beach where we have a proper boardwalk, and let me just be the first to tell you that the first thirty minutes of the Queen Charlotte were an intense uphill climb. It got so brutal that every time we turned a corner to find another incline, I started naming them like hurricanes, and this Category 5 was kicking my butt.

The rest of the day finally leveled out, and we arrived at the beautiful Endeavour Inlet later in the afternoon. We stayed at The Woolshed which felt like luxury after the huts we slept in on the Heaphy Track. We had rubbish bins, a fully stocked kitchen, a hot shower, a pillow to sleep on and free range eggs for breakfast! People often accuse us of “cheating” because we are not pitching a tent and camping and we also have luggage transport from each of our accommodations. It is like pure Disney magic when we arrive for the night with our bags waiting for us, and considering I packed two chocolate bars weighing half a kilogram and a block of cheese weighing the same, that is a good 2.2 pounds of two grocery items alone off my back. Nevertheless, I thoroughly resent these types of cynics. We are still traveling the same physical distance. What’s that phrase? Work smarter, not harder!

Sweetest Goodbye

Sunday, February 16, 2014

As excited as I was to move on from country living, I was actually pretty sad to be leaving Liz and Chris. We had almost become like a little family. I can honestly tell you that packing was more of a challenge than it needed to be. My belongings seemed to have expanded all over our room, and whatever I had in my backpack needed to immediately be put on birth control because I felt like it was just multiplying. It took me over two hours to get everything sorted. I had to make a dividing decision between what I needed to take on the Queen Charlotte, and what I could pack separately to leave in Picton while we were hiking. I was finally ready to leave around 5pm, and after we said our goodbyes, it felt as if Mom and Dad were sending the little ones off to college in the Great Big World. Queen Charlotte Track, here we come!

Magic Kind of Medicine

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The popularity of the track and the wonderful summertime weather reflected in the mass amounts of crowds I crossed. And let me be clear, when I say “crowds” in New Zealand, I really just mean that I get annoyed when more than three other people find the same isolated gem as I did. It is that remote down here. The park’s newest and biggest hut in Anchorage only sleeps 34 people. Putting things into perspective, that is not crowded at all. Like not even a little bit.

Nevertheless, I sought after a bit more tranquility, and followed a fellow tramper’s recommendation to hike to a nearby lookout and watch the sunrise. And can you believe I actually got up at 5:30am to do so? I am still very proud of myself, and it was completely worth it. The colors reflecting the bay and the mountains were indescribable. I can allllmost better understand morning people now. The reason they wake up so early is so they can have this peaceful scene all to themselves. It was a refreshing way to start my day before sitting on the beach to watch the rest of the morning pass and eventually making the four hour journey back to Marahau.

Check out my updated pictures here!

One Particular Harbor

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I booked a last minute overnight tramp in the nearby Abel Tasman National Park. I snagged the last spot in the new Anchorage Hut, and was excited to escape for a couple of days. The bus dropped me off in the quiet “village” of Marahau (population 200) at the beginning of the Abel Tasman Coast Track Great Walk. The weather was perfect, and I spent my afternoon beach hopping in paradise. My four hour hike primarily consisted of a bush walk, but offered fantastic views overlooking the glistening blue waters below.

By the time I reached the Anchorage Hut, I discovered what Jimmy Buffett had been singing about all these years. You hear about this “one particular harbor,” but I can imagine that most people haven’t actually been there. And I found it along the coast of the top of the South Island in New Zealand. My overnight stay bordered a secluded cove with a shimmering shore lined with green hillsides and about a dozen anchored sailboats. The only thing missing was a frozen piña colada which I neglected to pack in my backpack.

Heaphy Track Day #4: The Ants Go Marching Six by Six

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Start time: 8:15am
Arrived at Kohaihai at 1:30pm
Distance: 16.2 kilometers (10 miles)
Weather: Morning showers

Out of all the ridiculous songs we sang for the past three days, the ant song I taught everyone was the favorite. “The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah!” We had made so many friends by our last day that our party had literally doubled in size, and the ants were now marching six by six: Steph from the States, Katharina from Belgium, Cornelius from Germany, Katrien from Amsterdam, Jasmine from Germany and Ted from Ireland.

Even though we only had a 5 hour homestretch to make, this day was by far the toughest. Mentally, we all seemed to have checked out. After reaching the Heaphy Hut last night, it seemed the worst was over. Today felt like running that last .1 mile of a half marathon; so close, yet still so very, very far away. It didn’t help that I got horribly bitten by a sandfly on my big toe either. If you are unfamiliar, the New Zealand sandfly is a different breed of awful biting bugs, and I am convinced that the West Coast sandfly is a direct export from Hell. My toe immediately swelled up so badly that I attempted to hike the day in jandals, which was a great idea until they broke. Then I was all Jimmy Buffett singing about how I “blew out my flip-flop.” Walking barefoot was short lived and about an hour and a half in, I was forced to cram my engorged left foot into my hiking boot. To keep the graphic details to a minimum, my inflamed bug bite caused multiple blisters which in turn got infected and hurt. A lot. This did not end well for me.

The track seemed to drag endlessly, and as we carried on in the West Coast rain, it almost reminded me of that scene in Forrest Gump when they march for months at a time through the Vietnam monsoon season. We hiked past loads of hazard signs, too; signs for falling rocks, man eating snail crossings and ones that warned us of high tides. The tides in New Zealand can be quite impressive, up to and exceeding more than a 6 meter (close to 20 feet) difference, making paths dangerous and impassable. We trekked on white sand beaches, through lush rainforests and over creeks formed by long waterfalls in the distance. It was relatively flat for the most part, but every time we encountered the slightest of inclines, I struggled. A lot. At one point, Cornelius literally lifted my backpack up while Katharina pushed me up the hill. No tramper left behind. I have made such wonderful friends since I’ve been here! Seriously, if it weren’t for them, I might still be crawling along the Heaphy looking for a way out.

Nevertheless, we made it! And rather successfully I might add. There were no severe injuries to report, and nobody ran out of food. In hindsight, I had a blast, and I couldn’t have asked for better company. We laughed, we sang, we had silly conversations, and I can bet that it will be a long time before any of the other trampers forget us! We are officially no longer tramping amateurs! We crossed our last suspension bridge over the Kohaihai River just before 1:30pm, and when we met up with the rest of the group in the car park, I went up to our former British roommate and just said, “Bet you didn’t expect to see us so soon!”

Oh, and new pictures are up! If you would like to enjoy some Heaphy eye candy, here’s the address: