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

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