Posted in Travel

Mount Luxmore, Kepler Track

New Zealand has plenty of strenuous and lengthy backcountry tracks, as well as gentler and more accessible day hikes. However, the tourism industry is particularly vocal about their 9 “Great Walks.” In my 2+ years here, I’ve thus far checked off the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, as well as the Routeburn from this list. Though they (unfortunately) tend to be a bit busier than the less well-known routes, the Great Walks definitely pack a wide variety of stunning scenery into a condensed area. I hope I get to do a few more before I leave.DSC_0802.JPGDSC_0795.JPGDSC_0614.JPGThe Kepler Great Walk has definitely been on my to-do list, but it’s a bit too far from Christchurch to be a weekend mission.When I found myself in Te Anau (Fiordland National Park) this past month, I unfortunately did not have the time to do the full 60km loop track, but I DID have one day of amazing weather for a massive hike to the summit of Mount Luxmore, the highest and most stunning point along the track (1472m).DSC_0620.JPGAt about 21 miles round trip, it was a definitely a huge day. I might mention that this was also my first big solo hike. I was confident about my fitness, but know first hand that the end of a long tramp can often get a bit tough mentally (with songs like “Just Keep Swimming” looping through your mind). It has been a goal of mine to accomplish a notable tramp on my own (even though I have the best hiking partner there is), and though this wasn’t an overnighter, I’m going to say it counts!DSC_0656.JPG

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FYI, I don’t know these people. They just crashed my shot.

After a 3 hour drive down from Wanaka that morning, I didn’t hit the track until nearly noon, and felt a bit pressed for time to make it out before sunset. I wanted to make sure I could have a leisurely lunch and explore at the top, so to knock some time off the estimate (8-10hrs round trip just to the hut, another 2.5-3 hours if including the summit), I jogged the first 3 miles or so (the only flat part of the track). This combined with a steady pace on the nearly 8 miles of steep uphill  made for a time of 2hrs 15 to the hut, and just another hour to the summit. By the time I got back to the car at 7:30pm, my legs were jelly but it was one of the best days I’ve ever had on my own. DSC_0652.JPGOne of my favorite parts of tramping is sharing the amazing views with the people I’m with, but the mission itself is also half the appeal. Since I don’t usually do it alone, this one was particularly special. Other than the occasional passing stranger, it was just me and the forest, me and the mountain views. The scenery was stunning and the nature sounds were calming. I set my own pace and was accountable to only myself. I could think about whatever I wanted or nothing at all. I could randomly decide to run, or sit and breathe and take in the scenery. I could eat an entire bag of candy in one go without being judged (or sharing 😉 ).DSC_0712.JPGOther than the solo aspect, this hike progressed like most others. Big uphill mission, followed by lunch at the summit. I chatted with some friendly people at the top as we tried to snap Instagram-worthy photos of a particularly social kea (who attempted to eat not only my sandwich, but also my backpack and my shoe). I spun in circles taking in the panorama of Fiordland. I breathed in the blustery moment, filing it away for keeps. It was unreal. Was it the best hike ever? Nah, I’ve had far too many amazing ones to make that sort of claim. But it was certainly incredible.DSC_0674.JPGIMG_9635.JPGDSC_0683.JPGDSC_0690 - Copy.JPGDSC_0704.JPGAfter a 30 minute lunch break, I started wandering back down when I passed an abnormally large group of people. They turned out to be a camera crew choppered in to the hut to work on New Zealand tourism videos. Go figure, you know it’s good weather for a hike when the professional photographers are there shooting a commercial!DSC_0775.JPGI filled my water bottle at the hut, then wandered off on a little side track to see the Luxmore Cave. It was cool (I LOVE caves), but you can’t get very far inside.DSC_0740.JPGDSC_0745.JPGDSC_0765.JPGI was getting a bit tired, so the hike back downhill was a mission (plus it’s always anticlimactic heading out the same way you came in) but I still made it out well before my goal. Mental stamina stood the test, but was aided by a phone call at the end to tell my hiking buddy about all that he missed! DSC_0783.JPGDSC_0668.JPG

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Lake Te Anau at Dusk
Posted in Travel

Abel Tasman National Park

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About a 6 hour drive from ChCh to Marahau. We set up camp and had a nice seafood dinner on the bay as we watched the tide roll in.

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We work up early for our kayak briefing, and were on the water by about 10. We were in for a 2 day kayak/2 day walk (more like 1.5/3.5) from Marahau to Totaranui and back out again (most people just do the track one-way and water-taxi either in or out, but we like a challenge).

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Though the A.T. Great Walk is through beautiful bush and provides stunning mountain and ocean views on its own, adding the kayak element is definitely the way to go. There are countless private bays to rock up to and hang out, with your very own golden sand beach all to yourself. Please we got to see several seal colonies (with lots of pups!), and enjoyed not walking the entire way out and back on the same track.

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Our first day was absolutely perfect weather – warm but not too hot, sunny, and calm, bright turquoise water.

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Our first campsite was a “kayak only” spot, and we had to share it with only one other pair (a remarkable feat on such a popular track!).

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We got up for a sunrise breakfast and to make the most of day 2 kayaking through the marine reserve. We had to drop the kayaks off by 3:30pm and wanted to see as much as we could. The water was much choppier than the day before (making me a bit queasy!), but it was fun to battle some big waves and make it out a bit farther.

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After dropping off the boat, we took off walking further north, about 3 hours or so to our campsite.

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We had to time the low tide in order to cross some of the bays.

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That night we ended up at another campsite with a great beach – it turns out you really can’t go wrong with campsites there!

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On day 3 we walked further north to Totaranui, where we hung out for a couple hours on the beach before turning around and beginning our walk back south. It was a 20km day – not too bad but we were definitely a bit tired by the end.

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The park was filled with the native Weka, a funny chicken-like bird that was very tame and constantly trying to steal any food that it could!

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The views were seriously unreal. I don’t think it could possible have been any more beautiful. We kept asking, “Is this real life?”

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Sunset on night 3, at our final campsite looking out towards Tonga Island.

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We were up for sunrise yet again, as we had a huge day ahead of us. We were in for 26-28km (depending on tidal crossings) of steep ups and downs as you went from bush to bay to bush to bay and back again.

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By midday I was so pooped I barely took any more pictures, but it was still a lovely walk and we miraculously made it out of the park by about 1:20pm (a treat, considering we thought we’d be walking until around 6!). We stayed at a cool backpackers in Motueka that night before driving back to ChCh the next day.

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