Wednesday, March 5, 2008

nz4 (goats & donkeys)

We didn't do any bungy jumping. I'm not against ever doing it at all, but $165 seemed a lot for not being close to a must-do for me. I think for Naomi it is a must-don't.

A much more reasonably priced attraction included


Lots of goats


Yaks too!

These animals in this park above Queenstown have it pretty good. They're in a beautiful location and don't have to worry about food because people roll through in cars and hand feed them.

We hung out at with the goats for quite a while

They've filmed a few movies at this park. One of them involved a Korean prison. Here's Naomi's audition picture for the sequel.

They also filmed parts of the Lord of the Rings there. Apparently this tarn was used in the 2nd and 3rd ones a couple times.

They used several other parts of the park for LOTR filming as well.

They also had some cool alpacas

and a crazy red deer that was loose and was serious harasser. He just would not leave you alone. He loved attention, being pet, and food from your pellet can.

These huge other kind of The Hartford deer were a little bit scary. I walked up to them with some food, but the kept motioning with their huge racks to put the food on the ground. Once they got pretty close I thought that was probably the way to go.

And check it out Shane, they had buffalo too.

There are Lord of the Rings tours and activities everywhere. On our way out of town we drove past this:

It is LOTR dorks dressed up in partial costumes and getting pictures of their group taken on each persons' camera by their tour guide.

We headed to Wanaka next.

After a hard time finding a place to stay around there, we figured out that the map was wrong and there was a government campground nearby so that worked out.

We had dinner at the Mexican place Phil Murphy recommended. It is for sure better than Evi's taco hut.

There's a hike at the end of a long gravel road to the west of Wanaka to Rob Roy Glacier. If you're around this area, check it out. The hike is pretty short, maybe 1.5 hours up and you get to some pretty spectacular scenery.

It is too bad it wasn't clear when we were there.

There were lots of keas up there.

You have to drive through several dry fords on the way up there, so I was glad it didn't rain and strand us up with the sheep.

Next, we drove over to the west coast.

I was not really very impressed with this area of NZ. If you're in the country for less than a couple months, I think I'd leave it out. It is kind of out of the way compared to everything else you might want to see, and there really isn't that much to see. I'm sure the coast is beautiful, but you never see it. The road is almost always inland and there aren't really any towns or roads at all to the coast most of the way.

These were our only glimpses of the coast between Haast and north of Franz Josef (in a town that sounds kind of like Encharito).

Franz Josef Glacier was an exception.

The glacier comes all the way down to about 500 feet elevation.

A chunk broke off the glacier and washed down the river:

The plan was to backpack up the Copeland Track nearby up into the mountains and to a hut with a nearby hotspring. But, the weather was bad and the ranger told us that you have to ford the river when it rains the river becomes impassible. So we decided to maybe do some hiking in Abel Tasman Park or something and just get out of the bad weather as quickly as possible.

Hours and hours north of Franz Josef, you get some views of the coast, south of Hokitika. That area is kind of a big Willipa Bay like mudhole zone all the way up to Graymouth, which is at least as depressing as Aberdeen. They apparently refer to shopping carts as trundlers:

Then we headed inland to camp in a sandfly infested zone. Sandflies are little flys, maybe a couple times the size of gnats, but they bite and itch. They are to be avoided.
Next, we went to Nelson, in the north of the South Island.

Nelson is not a bad place. It is still a pretty small city (50k) but big for the South Island. It is right on the coast and has several nice beaches. It was mostly cool and cloudy while we were there so we only really walked around town.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


About 5 am I woke up and heard keas outside. They're big green alpine parrots that we'd heard a lot about. They're big, green, aggressive, and smart. So kind of like a regular parrot/camp robber/raven mix. The one I saw that morning was sitting right on the rail of the deck waiting for people to get going with their hiking gear and either get fed or steal things from them. He just looked at me when I walked by at about a foot away. They allegedly will unzip packs and steal food or shiny things like keys. I didn't have my camera then, but here's some more info.

The third day starts with the climb to McKinnon Pass. From the brochures and all the talk about this climb, you'd think this was going to be the final push up Everest. Maybe it was because I was prepared for a brutal climb, but it wasn't bad at all really. The weather was supposed to start out bad and then clear up later on in the day, so we started around 1015 and were second to last to leave the hut. We were kind of taking our time walking up so it would hopefully not be socked in at the pass.

The first little bit was like hiking through the Shire.

Then we started up the serious hill. Still not bad; nothing close to the ascents on the Tongariro.

At the top there's a monument to Clinton McKinnon. He used to guide people through the Milford Track back in the day. He also was the first whitey to find the route through to the Milford Sound. On top of the monument was a kea.

It had somewhat cleared up by the time we got to the top:

It was really cold up there though. We were at the top of a mountain pass, but that mountain pass was only about 3000 feet high, the latitude was 45 degrees (45 degrees north is hundreds of miles closer to the equator than Seattle) and it was the middle of summer. New Zealand is not a warm place. Luckily there was a warming hut up there where we thawed out and had lunch.

The way down was not too hard of a hike either and had more nice scenery:

more waterfalls:

it really was a beautiful hike

Drunk Eeyore even felt ok to come out. He had been pretty terrified of keas.

after we got back down below timberline, we were back in the shire:

This one waterfall went on right along the side of the trail for about a half mile. It was incredibly nice there, kind of like it was fake:

When we made it down to the bottom of the pass, we were at the last hut for the guided hikers. They spared some expense there to hook up the independent hikers with some hot water and instant coffee mix and tea.

It was warm again there; could have used that at the top.
From there a side trail to Southerlin Falls starts. According to New Zealand, this is the 5th highest falls in the world. I think they are adding up all 3 falls' elevation as one, regardless it is really high.

You can walk around the back of the falls and get behind it. This was highly recommended, so we hiked behind and checked it out. There's so much water gushing down on you and getting blown around that you can't really see through the falls. It is cool though. But, don't do it barefoot. Another guy hiking with us (Ottowa John) broke his foot slipping off rocks trying to get back there.
You definitely get soaking wet:

Once back to the main trail, it was about an hour to the last hut.

This is what the sleeping rooms of the huts look like:

The last day was 16 km of mostly flat hiking.

Even though it was easy hiking, my feet were pretty tired by this point and especially with having the pass day over, the day kind of dragged on. 16k is a long way to get through fast. Still, no shortage of nice views.

From another swingbridge:

The water was extremely clear in the rivers in this area:

Finally we made it near the end of the hike. One last look up the track:

Then around the corner you get your first glimpse of Milford Sound:

And we made it:

None of this hike is especially difficult in itself, but just the sheer length makes it feel like a big accomplishment when you're done. Then you catch a boat to take you back to the small village at Milford Sound.

There's another huge waterfall in the distance that falls right into Milford Sound:

and another one that you take the boat right by:

Milford Sound is pretty spectacular.

After a couple hour bus ride and a couple hour drive, it was back to Queenstown for a few days:

the view from our room:

There's a gondola in town that takes you up this mountain. At the top there's bungy jumping, paragliding, and alpine sliding. Here's Naomi flying down the track:

and the ride up the slide's chairlift:

Queenstown was the first place that we stayed for a few days. It'd be a great place to go for a long weekend to ski during the NZ winter from Samoa. The town's pretty compact, tons of restaurants and bars, and the ski areas are right there. In the summer if there is any sort of extreme sport that exists, you can probably do it there. Plus, there are two casinos. Naomi took them down both nights we were there.