Wednesday, April 30, 2014

West coast adventures

    We left Queenstown on Monday and headed to the west coast via Haast pass.  It had snowed the night before and was VERY cold.  On the way to Haast, we drove through Wanaka and Lake Hawea, two towns we had already walked through on the TA.  It was a windy, steep and white knuckle drive over the pass toward the coast but it was a beautiful day.  We headed to a beach where we watched dozens of dolphins playing in the surf while we had lunch.  One of the coolest parts of the west coast is that the mountains are so close to the sea.  From the beach we could turn around and see the southern alps, it's beautiful!

Southern Alps and Lake Hawea

Add caption

Lake Matheson and Mount Cook

We spent that night in Fox Glacier a small tourist village near Mount Cook with beautiful views of the mountain and Fox glacier.  Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers are two large glaciers that are 13 and 12km long and descend from the Southern Alps and end in rain forest, only a couple hundred meters from the sea.  We took an easy walk to Lake Matheson, probably the most photographed spot of Mount Cook.  It was beautiful and being there in the evening we had great lighting on the mountain.      Yesterday we took a wonderful hike to the top of Mount Fox, which had some of the most stunning scenery we've seen in all of NZ.  The best part was to see the coast so close by and have the enormous mountains right next to us.  Apparently the weather hasn't been too nice here on the west coast for the last week or so, but we lucked out and have had perfect clear weather for 3 days now.  The hike was straight up over 1,300 meters and very difficult, but the views were worth all the effort.

Brazil Nut  on top of Mt Fox

Jetpack descending Mt Fox

View to the west coast from Mt Fox

Fox Glacier
    Today, I finally jumped from a plane at 15,000 feet! I've always wanted to go Sky diving and I figured what better place to go than in New Zealand!  It was one of the coolest things I've ever done!! It's so hard to describe- the scariest part was when they opened the door, sitting on the edge 15,000 up in the air right before we jumped.  What a rush!  It was so much fun, so exhilarating!!

  We're continuing up the west coast for the next few days and making our way to Wellington via ferry next Wednesday.
Thank for reading,
-Jetpack and Brazil Nut

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Post TA fun

We had a great first week off the trail.  We went to Stewart Island for 8 days and hiked the North West Circuit trail.  It was GREAT! I wasn't too enthusiastic about going, we'd heard mixed things about the hike and most people said it was a muddy mess with no views and not worth doing.  We found it to be quite different and really enjoyed it.  We had great weather most of the time we were there, and yes the trail was muddy, but very manageable and not so bad.
  First off, there were very few trampers there so it was very peaceful and quiet. Over 80% of the island is a National Park, it's covered in native bush, and very undisturbed. The huts were beautiful and we had a lot of stunning beach walks.  Stewart Island is a bird lovers Mecca and it was so nice to be hiking among so many beautiful birds. We also finally saw the famous NZ Kiwi bird!  We were starting to doubt whether they really existed since we hadn't seen any, but Stewart Island is said to have over 20,000 of these fascinating birds and we saw several.  I would recommend the circuit to anyone interested in it, it's well worth your time.

Sun rise from the first hut

The fast moving Kiwi bird!

Our next stop was the Catlins coast, a beautiful coastal area on the south east side of the south island.  It was one of my favorite places we've been.  The rocky rugged coast line with huge cliffs was a wildlife paradise.  We saw tons of sea lions, we saw seals, dolphins, and the rare yellow-eyed penguin.  It was truly one of the most beautiful coastal areas I've been to, a must see for anyone travelling in New Zealand.

First of many sea lions we saw

Yellow-eyed penguin

Petrified forest near Curio bay

Nugget point light house
Next we headed back to Te Anau to explore Doubtful Sound.  Unfortunately, it was a typical  Fiordland day and it rained for most of the time we were there.  The cruise was still beautiful, the waterfalls were flowing at an exceptional rate, but the photos we took did no justice.  It is a spectacular place, but certainly better when the weather Gods are with you.  A highlight of the trip to Doubtful Sound was a visit to the Manapouri underground hydroelectric power station.  The power station is several hundred meters under ground and was built in the late 1960's.  It took 1,800 men 8 years to build.  It was mind blowing to go underground and see the way the power station operates and learn how it was built.  It uses water from the surrounding lakes and produces over 14% of New Zealand's  power. It was an added bonus to our day and left both of us in awe.
An added bonus in Te Anau was meeting up with our trail friends Mike and Bekki. We hadn't seen them since Wellington, but we found them on the side of the road in Te Anau ready to leave town, so we picked them up and spent the next day with them.  It was so nice to see them after so long and spend the day recounting trail stories, eating good food and having lots of laughs.
 We made our way to Queenstown yesterday and tomorrow we'll head to the west coast.  I'm really looking forward to this, as we haven't explored the west coast at all.  We'll make our way up to Nelson, before we cross back over to the north island and spend some time in Wellington.
Thanks for reading and we'll update with more stories soon.
Happy trails,
-Jetpack and Brazil Nut

A rainy Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound waterfall

Lake Wakatipu, en route to Queenstown

Sun rise from our camp ground this morning

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Final week on the TA

    We had a great last week on the trail, in spite of several days of rain.  We weren't too excited about the last week as the terrain wasn't supposed to be too exciting- mostly through private farm land, a lot of muddy forest without views, and mostly just a way for us to connect our foot steps all the way to Bluff.
    There was a lot of private farm land for us to walk over followed by several rainy days, but it was more beautiful than we'd thought.  Our last forest section was through the muddy Longwood forest in thick fog which made navigation difficult.  But we met up with Kiwi tramper Peter and that made the going much more fun.  The next day and a half was along the beach and road.  The weather cleared up and we enjoyed beautiful beach walking on Tuesday.  It was nice to have our second to last day on the beach, it felt similar to how we had started the trail back on 90 mile beach four months before.  The final day on the trail however is spent doing a 21km road walk down highway 1 followed by a final 7km along the coast to Stirling Point, the southern terminus on the TA.  The road walk was AWFUL!! The shoulder was minimal where it existed and there were non stop trucks driving by for hours.  We walked as fast as we could to get off the road, and enjoyed the final 7km walk near the water.  The weather on the southern coast of NZ is notoriously bad but we lucked out by having the sun with us all day.  We had a very anti-climactic finish: we took some photos, enjoyed the views and then kept walking.  We wanted to get back to Invercargill and it was getting dark.  People always ask if there are lots of emotions, do you feel a huge sense of accomplishment, and what it's like to finish a long distance trail.  In the moment I didn't feel that, we've been feeling that all along and reflections and more appreciation come later on.  We were both just grateful to have made it there, we still have lots of exploring and walking to do!
   We plan to spend the next several weeks exploring more of NZ.  We're going to Stewart Island for a few days, we plan to go the the Catlin's coast, back to Fiordland National Park, Mt Aspiring National park, the West Coast and wine country, among other places.
  Thank you to everyone who supported us along the way and thank you for reading this blog.  We plan to update it with some post trail thoughts, and gear reviews, so don't forget to check back.
  Happy trails!
-Jetpack and Brazil Nut

Brazil Nut hiking on the Takitimu track

Jetpack at Telford Tops

The Longwood Forest

Colac Bay

Colac Bay

Final beach walk

Near Bluff


We made it to Bluff!

Happy hikers