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Big FAT snow!

Yeah, so guess what. I did some more trekking. Yup. Just like I said I was going to. And you know what? I had fun. As usual. Honestly, having fun all the time can get a little monotonous after a while. It’s like: “Oh great, more fun? Damn, when is it gonna stop??”. Hah, just kidding.

It may seem like I’ve been out in the mountains for like 6 days at a time only to pop my head into civilization for about a day or so to check my email, make a post, then disappear back out to the mountains. Yeah…well, that’s probably because that’s what I’ve been doing. Here’s a rundown of what’s gone down since the Routeburn trek.

So I went out to dinner with Matt and Katrina (whom I met at the beginning of the Caples) for dinner and a beer when we got back to town. It rained that night and it didn’t stop the next morning and luckily, instead of having to pay the 15 bucks to get out to the start of the Rees/Dart track via the bus, Matt offered to give me a lift in his little (really little) car. So I packed up my stuff, left a lot of it at the hostel (my tent, sleeping mat, lonely planet, etc… that I wasn’t gonna need since I would be staying in huts, which are pretty much like little resorts with wood/coal stoves, bunk beds and kitchens, but without electricity, along the way). So we set off and about half way there realized his car wasn’t gonna make it. It couldn’t cross the streams. He would have needed four wheel drive. Or at least a bigger car. So we said goodbye and I walked from there. As I walked (which ended up being about 2 hours to get to the start of the track) in the rain, I saw the bus I didn’t take pass me filled with people.

“Fuck”, I thought. “The huts are gonna be full and I don’t have my tent.”

But what could I do, so I continued on. They all had quite a start on me but I figured I could catch up with at least a few and make it to a bed first (I realized later on that I had nothing to worry about. There was plenty of space at the huts). The track was hard core. Walking through the rain, through rivers you had to cross with your boots on (yeah, you get pretty wet), up really steep sheer drop off hills to avoid the river you were walking along, mud/swamp up to your knees and to top it all off, there was no real track. You just had to follow these orange poles every few hundred meters up the valley and hope you didn’t miss one.

But I eventually caught up with everyone and passed them. I met some cool peeps my age on the way (Ali, I know your reading this, HI!) who were hiding under a rock while eating lunch to avoid the rain.

I forged ahead after dumping the water out of my boots from the river crossing and after a really long day of climbing over mountains and crawling under fallen trees in the forest, I made it to the hut. REALLY nice! It was like a little resort with everything you could want…except like, internet and hot water. And electricity. But it did have toilets that flushed! HARDCORE!

Ali, Cam and Jesse arrived (the girl and guys I met on the track) a little bit after me and we made dinner together after getting the stove going (coal fire) and spent the night chatting and laughing. It was cool.

The next day, we left together after making breakfast and tackled the mountain pass, where you hike up the mountain to the snowline to get to the next valley where the next hut is. We made it all in one peace after scrambling up and then sliding down the other side (it’s up to about 4600 feet) and finally arrived at Dart Hut, which was even more impressive. We hung out, played cards, had dinner, hot chocolate (I have a little gas stove for dinner and, of course, hot chocolate) and talked a lot. We hit the sack about midnight and the next morning, we hiked up towards the Cascade Saddle. Since Ali, Cam and Jesse had to get to school in a day or so, they had to turn around early and head towards the next hut. We said goodbye and I continued on to hike up the mountain. It took me all day to get back, but I hiked right up to the Dart Glacier (very impressive) and made it back to the hut before it got dark.

I stayed there that night and the next day, woke up to big FAT snow, everywhere. It was really coming down and there was about an inch of it on everything. YEAH! The day before was a perfect sunny day which made it kind of weird, but I went to the Whitbourn Valley to check out another glacier anyways. About 10 minutes later it was another perfect sunny day. Weird, huh? The hike was hardcore all the way there. I was going nearly straight down a mountain where there was this drawbridge, then you hike nearly straight up this other mountain, along these foot wide cliffs which plummet down into a raging river below and better yet, there was snow everywhere, making it really slippery. I spent the next 3 hours walking through this crazy volcanic river valley jumping over rivers and streams and climbing up rocks (sometimes wondering how I was gonna get back down). After seeing the tip of the glacier, I turned around and headed back. The trip to the next hut was through mostly grassy flat lands between two incredibly stunning mountain ranges. I made it in 4 hours (as opposed to the 6-8 the signs said it would take) and got back just before dark. I spent the night reading poetry from a book I had bought in Wellington and I got to bed early.

The next day was the last day and after sleeping in, I hiked down the mountain in about 4 hours to the parking lot where the bus picked us all up (my friends had gone out the day before, but I was still with a few others from the trek). I made it back to Glenorchy and stayed the night to recover.

So this morning, I got up early and hitch hiked back to Queenstown and then a little ways out of town to see if I could get a ride.

There were a lot of people hitch hiking and no one was getting rides so I’m heading back to Glenorchy after finishing this post and hiking the Greenstone track tomorrow. The end is right near where I wanted to hitch hike to, so it cuts out the middle man and I get some great hiking in too. Can’t beat it, eh?

I head down to the Kepler track area next to see if I can do any hiking there, which I hear has had the mountain section closed down on account of snow and ice. Crazy, eh?

So today gives me enough time to let my muscles recover from 2 weeks of non stop hiking before doing it again tomorrow. God bless New Zealand!

Damn. I need a bath…

Well, I’m just stopping in to Queenstown to fill up my pack with food and then I’m heading back out to Glenorchy. They have a little corner supermarket with nothing for a backpacker to eat while hiking so I had to hitch hike 50k’s to go to the supermarket then hitch back. I just got done hiking the Caples track, taking a day to visit the Milford Sound and then hiking the Routeburn track. They were pretty incredible and the scenery was absolutely spectacular. They say it rains about 300 days out of the year here and I managed to spend 6 days without a drop of rain (after a day of hiking in the rain though).

The other day I had perhaps one of the best days of the trip so far and I have labeled it the “Perfect Day”. It went kind of like this: I woke up in this valley I had been camping in surrounded by huge mountains with snow frosted tips. The sun had finally come out which was a relief after a day of rain the day before. The beads of dew on my tent had frozen and as I put it away, the ice shattered in a million places in the grass beside me. I put away my tent, ate breakfast, then hiked an hour to the road where I stood in the cold waiting for someone to feel sorry for me and pick me up. My destination? Milford Sound. Take a look on the net to see what it is, but it’s basically a big curvy cove from the Tasman Sea formed by glaciers with awesome waterfalls and incredibly beautiful mountains. Finally some people from New York picked me up and and we headed to Milford. I arrived just in time to catch the 11:00AM boat trip around the sound (which entailed a 15 dollar discount) and drank all the free tea I could. From there, I hitchhiked back to the spot I was in the morning, took a cool 2 hour hike on a side route to the top of this mountain, then hiked back to my same campsite the night before. I made a fire, made dinner and spent the evening staring up at the stars. The Milky Way was splashed across the sky like a cloud and I was the only person for miles. Incredible. Perfect.

This country is really beautiful and I am meeting a lot of people. I met a really cool couple my age the other day on the track and instead of sleeping in our tents one night on the Routeburn, we sneaked into this resort cabin that no one is allowed into except those on guided walks. There was no one in it and they left it unlocked so we slept in the beds and woke up at 5:30AM to sneak out so we wouldn’t be caught. About 8:00AM we were awoken by a helicopter dropping off supplies and a person to that cabin. Close call, no?! It was pretty incredible. In the middle of nowhere they had a cabin with hot water, showers, heat, electricity, tons of alcohol (they left the kitchen open too, although we didn’t take anything except cookies in the jar) and a pretty cozy set of dorm rooms. It sure beat freezing in the tent.

So yeah, I’m going out for another 9 days or so. I’ve got my pack loaded with food as I type this and am going to do the Rees-Dart trek which is 6 days of hiking up to these cool glaciers and then back towards Milford via the Greenstone Valley track so I can go down to Te Anau and do the Kepler track. I bought a hut pass for 65 bucks so I don’t have to lug my tent around and get to stay in the huts with fireplaces and stuff, so hopefully I won’t freeze too bad.

Wish me luck!

Where am I again?

So we last left off with Nelson. And Swedish girls. And hiking. Yeah.

So after wandering around Nelson and buying some good pants for hiking (light and quick drying – so I don’t have to carry around jeans) and an LED flashlight (so I don’t waste a bunch of money on batteries), I ended up having dinner with the three Swedish girls, some Italian guys and an Israeli girl. We had pasta and spent the evening talking, listening to music, eating and drinking. It was great! Then we went out on the town. We visited a few pubs and clubs, drank and danced and then I went back to the hostel. Most of the group had already left, so I didn’t leave first, but I couldn’t keep up with the girls (god, I’m getting old!) so I went back and crashed.

The next morning, I got up early, said goodbye to one of the Italian guys who was eating breakfast and headed to the highway. The plan was to hitch hike back to the West Coast (remember the Discman I left there?). So I stood on the street and this old guy pulled up and gave me a ride. He couldn’t hear very well and told me he never leaves his house but did today to visit some Buddhist Temple. Good for him (and me too, of course). He left me about 50k’s from Nelson and after standing on the road for a while, a guy in a truck with a trailer stopped. He was having some sort of a business meeting and just motioned me to put my stuff in the back of the cab so I moved his suit and threw my big backpack over his crap. I put his suit back. And got in.

After about 10 minutes, he hung up and we started chatting. He runs some big contest sponsored by all these companies like Ford (who donated the truck he was in) and he could take me about 100k’s to where I wanted to go. He proceeded to call one of his buddies who was a ways behind to see if he could take me further so we arranged a spot. No worries if it didn’t work out. So he took me to some small town and left me in the rain (yeah, it started raining) so I stood there and stood there for like 45 minutes and no one picked me up. I went in a gas station and got a cardboard box and made a sign – “I HAVE SWEETS”. Hopefully that would work. A lot of people laughed as they passed but before I could see its effectiveness, the two Italian guys from the hostel drove by!

They stopped and I hopped in. We had no clue that we were going to the same place, but we were, so they said I could tag along. We drove for quite a while in the rain and it finally cleared up a little bit and we stopped at some little park with this big bridge and did the swing across the valley. Then we headed towards the beach and checked out a seal colony. From there we headed to Greymouth and after picking up my Discman, we found a really cheap hostel. That night we played pool and had a little beer, then went to the $3 BBQ.

In the morning, we realized that Bruno had forgotten his CD’s in the bar of the hostel. And no one was around. We contemplated breaking the door. We searched for the owner and found a room with some keys in it. Some guy came (who was a friend of the owner, I think) and got the keys for us and opened up the door, we got the CD’s and left. This whole ordeal took about 2 hours.

So we set off. We made it to Franz Josef (one of the only other advancing glaciers besides El Calafate in Argentina in the world) but it was raining. We checked in the hostel and I ran into Tom (the Dutch guy) again. We all had dinner and played pool for the rest of the night.

The next day, in the rain, we did a walk to the glacier and it was pretty cool. Nothing compared to Argentina though.

We then headed off to a town called Haast. Nothing really interesting. Rained a lot and stopped a long on the way to see some cool nature stuff along the way.

The next day, we headed to Queenstown and after getting confused and ending up back in Haast after two hours of driving (don’t ask), we eventually made it to Queenstown. The whole town was booked for hostels and we finally found a triple for $25 each. It all worked out and we had an awesome dinner (Bruno is the chef) and then went out to some pubs. We ended up leaving around 1AM and heading back to the hostel to get some sleep.

So now we are at today. I went up in this cool gondola to the top of the mountain to see the whole city and I did this luge thing down this track a few times. It was cool. And the rest of the day I have just been wandering around this town. I don’t like it. The people are rude and it’s expensive. I’m gonna leave to Glenorchy tomorrow to hang out for a day and then head out for about 7 days of hiking. I’m gonna do the Greenstone track and then the Routeburn, which I booked several weeks ago. I just bought 7 days worth of food and gonna hitch hike to the town tomorrow with Hector (the guy from Spain I met in Collingwood a few weeks back). I randomly ran into him today in town and we are randomly going to the same place tomorrow morning.

So I wont be around or answering email for about a week. These tracks are gonna be cool.