The Journey of Jouneys, Catlins, and Milford Sound
Trip Start Aug 21, 2010
14Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Life is still good over here in the middle of New Zealand. I am still working at the gift shop and coffee house. The gift shop is cool because the people I work with are awesome. The coffee
I have made really good friends with Hans Peter (the avalanche forecaster dude) and his suitemates. We always go out to the bars and watch rugby. Funny: One day I got a text message from a number I didn’t recognize. I figured Hans gave my number to this bartender girl we were talking to or maybe one of our friends. All it said was “Hello.” Jokingly I replied back “I think you’re the one. Joking, who’s this?” They said “haha this is Ziggy.” I had no clue who ziggy was. I didn’t say anything back. When I got to work I told some friends about it. One of the girls
Halloween in New Zealand is practically nonexistent. For the first time in my life there was nothing at all to do for Halloween!! People on the radio were dissing it too, saying things like “why on Earth would you teach your kids not to talk to strangers, but then one day send every kid in the nation out to get candy from strangers.” BAH! They just don’t understand. Some of my best memories are watching scary movies with friends, decorating the house, and going trick r’ treating with my brothers!
The batmobile required some serious maintenance. I am way past due for car registration, inspections, an oil change, etc. If I got pulled over I would be slapped with huge fines. I told Bob that the oil in my car is going to be black as the inside of a cow. He said “NA! oil in cars isn’t as black as diesel engines so I shouldn’t be that black.” When we changed the oil it was
I GOT BLITZKRIEG’ED!!
I came home one day from work and noticed a bunch of new people in the hostel. It was a pack of Germans. They were really nice. After chatting for a few minutes I went on a run. When I got back I ran into the head German and asked him what they had to eat for dinner. He rattled on about some meal they cooked up with a little of this and little bit of that, some peanut butter added to this, blah blah blah. I was hungry so walked into the place to make my dinner. The kitchen was swarming with Germans either cooking, eating, or cleaning up. I reached in the fridge to grab my chilie. [Note: Bob has a bookshelf in the kitchen for people to put their food on. I usually take up one whole shelf for my food.] When I turned around a girl went up to my shelf and grabbed a zip lock bag. I was confused, but didn’t mind. Then the head german dude walked in and said “hey you know how we can save our food for tomorrow?” then he started rummaging through my things. I said “umm nope but uh…” then suddenly the girl came out of nowhere and grabbed another bag and started cramming in her dinner! Then the head German started scanning my shelf, pointed at the olive oil and said “mm good stuff” then said “OOooo that dark chocolate will be nice tonight.” I said “dude…” he interrupted me and said “this is all free stuff right?” Finally I got a word in: “NO this is my shelf…that is my…” then he interrupted “OH! You need to close this off.” Then I noticed the olive oil was short. That’s when I scanned the kitchen!! My peanut butter jar was by their cooking pans, used of course. My shelf was in disarray. When I looked back at the head German he was holding my deodorant stick trying to read it. I said “YO! You trying to use up my deodorant too?! That is my shelf!” He finally got the idea. For the first time in New Zealand I had been ransacked.
THE ROUTEBURN, GREENSTONE, AND CAPLES TRACKS
My work schedule is very flexible. My manager just asks me what days I want off and then she plans the roster around me. The hard part is predicting the weather 2 weeks in advance so I ask off on days that I can have fun. After asking for a few days off I planned a huge trip through 3 different walking tracks that cross roads with one another in the mountains. The plan was to complete ½ of the world famous Routeburn track, then backtrack towards the Greenstone Caples circuit, and circumnavigate that entire loop. This would send me through alpine passes, remote valleys, and thick rain forest. It would be the journey of journeys, and I would live in very small cozy cabins that serve as oasis’ in the middle of immense wilderness. Looking at the topographic maps and little red lines makes it look like a blast, but I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t calculate any distances beforehand and instead put all confidence in my physical ability to get it done.
After getting off work at noon I jumped in the car and took off for “the Divide,” the starting point for a number of mountain tracks. I was on a strict schedule. If I didn’t get to each place on time each day, then I would be unable to get back to work on time, unable to call anyone, and everyone would worry about my safety. Normal people walk from cabin to cabin leisurely, but with my plans I had to skip one cabin every day and get to the second one, covering double the distance. It was 12 kilometers to my cabin from the Divide. I was officially on the Routeburn Track, which was once rated in the top 10 of all tracks in the world. I passed a number of
The next day was going to be long. The plan was to get to the top of the Routeburn Track’s mountain peak called Harris Saddle, then backtrack to the beginning, and then branch off to the Greenstone track. There is apparently a gorgeous frozen lake up at Harris Saddle that produces whole rivers which tumble off of the mountain face. I started off early and the first thing I noticed was that DOC put up a huge caution sign that read ROUTEBURN TRACK CLOSED DUE TO HIGH AVALANCH RISK. The Euros reassured me it was ok so I walked right around it. The path zig zagged to a really high elevation point. From there I could see for an incredible distance. It was superb, and the gushing rivers made it even more splendid. Sometimes I had to walk over snow that had a river running underneath it, which was a little nerve racking but luckily nothing bad ever happened. Finally I reached the approach and began wading through snow to get to the top. After an hour I made it. Nestled between about 3 mountain crests was majestic Lake Harris. The view up there was stunning. I spent some time looking around and then made my way back to the cabin. I had lunch at the cabin, and quickly took off for the McKellar hut (1st cabin on the Greenstone track). On the way I stopped at that huge waterfall and took a bath in its pool. Doing that was
The next morning I felt rejuvenated and ready to conquer. The first part of the path was through dense forest. It kept reminding me of the Robin Hood stories I used to read. There were huge trees everywhere and little streams. I had to constantly stone hop my way across rivers. With extra weight on my back it was a real test of agility. Not once did I slip or lose my balance!! After 3 hours of walking I got tired and was ready for lunch. But I had to wait until I got to the
I gave myself a good 10 hours of sleep and the next day I surprisingly felt ready to move. That feeling quickly vanished. After 1 hour of walking I was in serious pain. I reached the next cabin pretty quick and saw a sign that basically told me I had 9.5 more hours of walking and climbing. Usually I can cut down the estimated times but not in this condition. After 3 hours I reached a part of the track that was absolutely gorgeous and that took my mind off of things for a little bit. There were crystal clear rivers snaking their way through thick green rainforest. At times I had
When I got home I went straight to an Italian restaurant and ordered a large pizza to go. Then I got a loaf of olive bread. I ate ½ the bread and ½ the pizza on one of the cozy chairs in front of a fire. I stuffed myself to the gills and it felt marvelous.
ROAD TRIP: THE CATLINS
Many people have said good things about an area of New Zealand called the Catlins. It’s a rugged coastal region with rocky cliffs, rolling green hills, divine waterfalls, picturesque lighthouses, seals/penguins, etc. I didn’t make much of a plan other than to drive down there and hit some hot spots everyone talks about. So the first day was spent driving around to
That night I wanted to sleep in the batmobile on one of the rocky beaches. I figured it would be beautiful to wake up on a beach with penguins walking around. So I turned off the main road when I saw a sign that said Cannibal Bay 8k <- When I got there I saw a sign that said “Sea
The next day or two were mostly uneventful. I just drove around looking at the scenery. It was very beautiful and well worth the drive down. On my last morning I decided to wake up really early (like 5:30 am) and get to the top of Nugget Point to see the sunrise. Nugget point is a
I mentioned earlier in another blog post a few things about Milford Sound. It is the most famous tourist destination on the South Island. It is a body of water coming inland from the ocean. So it is a “fiord” and not really a sound at all. The water itself is pitch black and mountains jet straight up out of the water high into the sky. On a rainy day hundreds of little waterfalls trickle down the mountain faces. Seals, extremely rare penguins with brilliant yellow eyebrows, and dolphins are common guests to the sound. Sometimes people see whales, sharks, and other monstrous ocean dwellers. In short, it is one of the most amazing natural marvels on Earth. A cruise is the best way to experience it. That’s where Stephanie comes in. Stephanie is a coworker of mine at the gift shop. She is married to John Patterson. John is the managing director of Southern Discoveries. Southern Discoveries is a company that specializes in providing extravagant cruise options on Milford Sound. A leather seated bus takes a small number of people to the sound, and a smaller boat takes people on a 2.5 hour (longest option) cruise that circles the entire sound. A buffet BBQ onboard is provided and the captain stops at every interesting creature that the spot man with binoculars can locate. The single day pass is $175 big ones. But I work with lovely Stephanie, so my price? $0.00. Haha!
After the tour of the sound we docked at a small building that was floating on the water. It was an observatory. Connected to the building is a 60 foot enclosed staircase that leads down to a viewing room under the water. New Zealand paid 10’s of 1,000’s of dollars for special glass made in Germany that does not distort the image of fish floating by. So what you see out the window is just what you would see if scuba diving. I’ll give a brief description of Milford’s waters: this area gets rainfall about 250 days out of the year. Storms from the Tasman Sea get stuck in the Sound’s cliffs and dump rain. The top 6 meters of the Sea is therefore fresh water. That rain washes down the rocky mountains in magnificent waterfalls. Plants try to cling onto the rock but often times fail. When so many plants let go and fall into the water so frequently, the disintegration process causes the entire sound to remain black. Since the sun cannot get through the blackness it fools deep ocean creatures into thinking they are deeper than really are. The result is that you get to see those creatures of the deep lurking around the surface. One time a guy saw a shark swim by the observatory! I got to see dozens of fish of all sizes and rarely seen coral reefs. It was pretty cool!
After that it was time to head back. All that looking around made me exhausted so I got in a great nap on the way home.
That’s all for now. I just picked my brother Max up at the Queenstown airport. He’s staying for a week or so and we’re going to have fun. Peace out