Routeburn and Quaker Settlement
Trip Start Dec 23, 2009
4Trip End May 25, 2010
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Where I stayed
Thank you for all the comments...we love them. I thought I would be better at keeping this up to date, but clearly I am not...we have had many adventures since Peter last wrote, so I will try to share a few.
It is a bit difficult to write about our time here after the earthquake and aftermath in Haiti. But we are here, and so here it goes...
Yes, Hallie, I did survive the Routeburn Tramp, and I felt very lucky to be there...Peter and I will have to go together next time. The Routeburn Track is one of nine Great Walks in New Zealand. Which means it has been determined by the Department of Conservation to be a primere hiking path due to the amazing scenery. What that means for a hiker is that the trail is usually kept in better shape than other tracks and the huts are nicer, better kept, and more expensive. Throughout NZ, most hiking tracks have huts where you can spend the night. It is a good system which eliminates more disruption to the natural habitat caused by camping, provides a nice shelter, and reduces the amount you have to carry. Some huts are just a roof and floor, others, like on the Routeburn, have bunks with mattresses, flush toilets, running water, wood stoves, and gas cookers. I have mixed feelings about the huts on the Routeburn...it was nice to have those amenities, but the one night we had to camp (due to no bunks available at Lake MacKenzie Hut) was much more peaceful. Hut culture is an interesting aspect of tramping. It felt to me that many people were hiking from hut to hut just to get to the hut to hang out. We had a few comments about our "slow American pace". It was confusing to me why people would want to rush their hike only to hang out in an enclosed space in the mountains with a lot of smelly people. However, I did have many fun and interesting conversations with other hikers in the huts. Enough on that...
As Peter said before, we divided our goup into two brigades: Chris with eight students, Jess and I with nine. Chris's group began at the Routeburn Shelter Trailhead, we began at the Greenstone Track Trailhead. So the first two days of our hike were on the Greenstone Track - technically, not a Great Walk. But for me, the scenery was stunning, almost more so than the Routeburn. The Routeburn was beautiful for sure, but the forests of the Greenstone were magical, especially in combination with the peaceful Greenstone River. Actually, during the entire hike, the vegetation was compelling - mosses, ferns, wild flowers, beech forests, and amazing diversity of alpine plants.
Perhaps, though, most surprising to me about my time hiking was how much I enjoyed being with the students. I think I thought they would be a lot of work, but it was fun, and it was (and continues to be) fun to get to know them.
Peter and the girls looked wonderful when we returned, and Peter was preparing dinner for all 23 of us! The students quickly jumped in to help him. Two days later, after showers, washing clothes, and repacking, we traveled to the North Island (via train, overnight in Picton, then ferry). We arrived at the Quaker Settlement on January 19 to an amazing greeting and meal provided by all the settlers. We have now been here two weeks, which I can't believe, it has gone quickly. The students have been immersed in lessons of Maori culture, New Zealand history, NZ botony, and NZ biological conservation reserves. It is difficult for me not to be able to attend all the field trips and discussions due to kid duty, but I am learning bits and pieces of these things too. The girls have loved being here. There is a posse of little girls here that roams free, ours included! So it has been wonderful for me to watch the girls have fun. Though, the girls do miss all there friends at home and talk of them all the time. Maggie has created many imaginary friends here, and I feel she is going to be confused when we return and she sees her friends for real!
I love being here, having tea five times a day, waking up to something new every day, hearing the bird calls, seeing tree ferns, observing the girls and the students having these amazing experiences....but I do miss you all a lot and wish I could be here with you.
Peter and the gang just returned from the Whanganui river trip a few days ago. They all seem happy, tired, and rejuvinated. I will let him write about that later....
One more thing...if you want more thorough and timely updates (and better written!) on our experience here, check out Jess and Chris's blog: http://nicholberry.wordpress.com/
They are the folks keeping Peter and I sane.