1. We have added a Gift Upgrades feature that allows you to gift an account upgrade to another member, just in time for the holiday season. You can see the gift option when going to the Account Upgrades screen, or on any user profile screen.
    Dismiss Notice

Five weeks in New Zealand

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by warpus, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    49,427
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    Day 6 - Milford Track day 3

    Day 6 was all about the infamous MacKinnon Pass. I had some Uncle Toby's porridge for breakfast, which by the way was an awesome buy and I'm really glad it was recommended to me by that cute girl back in Queenstown. It was also very cloudy out and the ranger warned us again about rain; I hoped that none would come, but had all my waterproof gear in an easy-to-get-to part of my backpack just in case.

    Then it was time to actually cimb the damn thing. Here's some more mediocre warpus videography and commentary:


    Link to video.

    The climb was fairly steep at times, and I was tired from last day's hike, but I made the ascent into a bit of a game, which made the time pass surprisingly quick. My parents, you see, bought me an expedition style watch, which contained an altimeter, which is a device that tells you how high above sea level you are, if you calibrate it well enough. This just meant that I'd stop quite often and check my altitude, which doesn't really seem very motivational, but for some reason it was.

    It was cloudy like I said, and the conditions were not at all suited to photo taking... but here's one right before I got to the top. Nope, those aren't people I caught up to - those were people passing me. I'm a computer geek after all, not some sort of a superman.



    Made it to the top! After a 2 hour long climb. Behind me is a very steep cliff that leads almost directly down, as well as a view of the valley I would be hiking through later in the day. To get down there you had to make a huge detour.. but more on that later.



    Here's that steep cliff. Photo by that American guy, who's name I still haven't found in my notes... At this point I'm wearing my windbreaker, gloves, and a hat, because it got quite windy and cold.



    Here's a similar shot, but without me



    The MacKinnon Pass is a rather large place. The part you get to initially has that very steep drop facing the direction in which you'd want to ideally head in; you have to make a long detour to get down there. On the way you pass a couple lakes, a shelter, and a lot of beautiful scenery.



    A lot of little cool puddle lakes



    Here's me overlooking the place you first get to when you finish your climb. There's a memorial there, in memory of the discovery of the pass.

     
  2. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Messages:
    45,355
    Location:
    US of A
    Pretty stuff.
     
  3. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    49,427
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    I wanna go back! But there's so many other places that need visiting first...
     
  4. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Messages:
    45,355
    Location:
    US of A
    It's a big world. If you won a huge lottery and did nothign but travel, you still would have a hard time seeing all the beautiful places.
     
  5. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    49,427
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    Day 6 - Milford Track day 3 part 2

    Before you can start descending on the other side of the pass (on the right in a lot of these photos), the path still takes you slightly uphill, and eventually to the MacKinnon Pass hut. After a half an hour break by the lake and memorial, I made my way up.

    Too bad it was cloudy, my camera got confused by the lighting conditions quite a bit. It did add a bit of a Lord of the Rings feel to the whole thing though, which was at times very cool. All the photos I'm posting are untouched by the way, so what you're seeing are the exact photos I downloaded off my memory card. Not that that's what things actually looked like in all cases, but some of the extremes and contrasts are accurate.



    This is a rather large (2835 x 675) panorama of the scene

    Spoiler :

    Right before I reached the MacKinnon Hut I ran into a couple more Keas, which you should really read a bit about! They are quite fascinating creatures, I keep talking about them, they're the only alpine parrot in the world, and they are very smart. It was awesome to run into them again.



    Totally not afraid of humans, so they let you get close.



    It was quite cold and windy out, so a 20 minute lunch at MacKinnon Pass Shelter was had. There were 2 rooms: one for independent hikers like myself, and one for guided tour hikers, which I'm only assuming had access to a bigscreen TV, leather couches, and beer. Probably not, but at the time those thoughts were crossing my mind. It was quite packed in there and barely any room to sit down, but there was a water boiler, so I had some tea, then moved on. From that point on the rest of the day's hike would take me downhill, in a giant arc down into the valley below.



    For the most part the downhill hike was rather demanding, about 1,000m (or 3,000 feet) downhill until you get to the hut.. with a 1hour long sidetrip along the way as well, which I really didn't want to miss, since it was the tallest waterfall in New Zealand.

    But there were other waterfalls along the way as well



    Partially formed blisters were felt and cared for with the blister kit I had with me. A good excuse for a break!

    The downhill part of the hike was definitely more taxing on the body than the uphill part, but eventually I reached the valley floor. And still no rain by the way! Cloudy as hell but that was it.



    And then.. The Sutherland Falls! I reached this place 6-7 hours after starting the hike that day.. The detour itself took about 45 minutes each way IIRC, and from that point on there was still 1 hour left to go to Dumpling Hut. But there was a cool little hut by the fork in the trail, where you could drink warm tea! I stopped in on the way there and on the way back.





    Finally getting to the hut felt amazing... I was exhausted. The friendly Australian couple hooked me up with a lamb dinner pouch.. inside was a mashed potato pouch! All freeze dried, but that stuff tasted AMAZING. Later they gave me yet another mashed potato pouch, which I saved for later. It was a logical arrangement actually, this transfer of food from them to me; They ended up bringing too much and I didn't bring enough. I also ate another bacon and mushroom soup, which is worthy of a mention.

    There was a lot of friendly chatter among most of the 40 of us who were independently walking the trail during dinner, in the common room & kitchen hut. By that point in time I was also acquainted with 6 Czechs, a couple Germans, and Canadians. There was also of course an intro and talk by the hut ranger, but not too long after dinner it was time to crash. This time around we would stay in huts of 10 people each, which hopefully meant that I didn't end up with all the heavy snorers.

    I did.
     
  6. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Messages:
    45,355
    Location:
    US of A
    How old is New Zealand geologically? A lot of the rocks and mountains look young and unfinished.
     
  7. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    49,427
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    Definitely.. That's one of the reasons why I'm having such a hard time deciding where to go next, I think. I have the money and vacation time saved up, yet I'm dragging my feet with the planning...

    Good eye! or guess.. or both. These valleys that you walk through on the Milford Track were carved out by glaciers during the last ice age, which ended 14,000 years ago. Milford Sound is actually a fjord and not a sound at all, for that reason I think.. but.. the name stuck.

    New Zealand itself is not that young, even though it is very geologically active. According to what I'm reading on wikipedia it split from the Gondwana supercontinent about 85 million years ago.
     
  8. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Messages:
    45,355
    Location:
    US of A
    I'm most used to the northern Appalachian region. And that has a much older look and feel. Multiple large ice sheets have crosses the area since the mountains were born.
     
  9. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2005
    Messages:
    12,509
    Location:
    Osaka
    I kind of hate that I spent time in that part of the world when I was growing up and just can't see it as a place to go holidaying as a result :(
     
  10. AdamCrock

    AdamCrock Master of Darkness

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2012
    Messages:
    3,340
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Flagship MN001
    Oh the round stuff ! the round stuff it's there ! :D wow that rounds stuff is real cool what is it called ? - Oh You know - those round shaped like plants ^^
     
  11. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    49,427
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    My family drove through the Appalachian mountains on our first big vacation in North America (to New Jersey and New York) quite a long time ago now, but I distinctly remember the scenery. I never grew up around mountains though.. never lived around them either, neither in Poland or in Germany or in Canada..

    I suppose that is why I am drawn towards mountains when I travel - It's very unfamiliar territory for me. The beauty and majesty of it all comes out even more when you're not used to seeing that sort of thing every day and everything is flat instead. It also becomes a bit more of an adventure, which is something I really enjoyed about my trip to Patagonia back in 2008. I kind of wanted that sort of experience again, thus New Zealand and then later Peru.

    Milford Sound and Te Anau both had walkways along the cost with informative plaques every once in a while, which for the most part explained things about the geology and history of the region.. I learned quite a bit, even took photos of most of them.. Very interesting stuff - I find my hikes more enjoyable when you know a bit of the history behind the place, not only in terms of geology, but also the flora, fauna, human history, or whatever. And like I said I know crap about mountains, except for the bare basics, so it was mostly new to me. I find it amazing that you could notice the relative age of the mountains just by looking at the photos.

    But did you see a lot of it? A lot of Kiwis I've talked to have for the most part not seen the most beautiful parts of their country. It was true for me with Poland too, until I went back in 2004 with my whole family and we made a point of visiting a lot of the "must see" parts of it that we just didn't get a chance to when we lived there.

    I totally know what you mean though, exploring new places is exciting :) Why spend a vacation in something familiar, when everything is familiar almost every day?

    Fern Fronds?

    They are cool indeed. There's a couple photos of them on page 3 I think.
     
  12. Greizer85

    Greizer85 Chieftain

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2009
    Messages:
    1,210
    Damn that scenery's breathtaking... :eek: The elevation and open spaces really appeal to me. I've been thinking about a trip to New Zealand or Australia for a long time, and the more I see of NZ the more I think that's where I'm going.

    In Finland all you get is identical, flat forest in every direction, with some fields or rock cleavings interspersed. Of course I've never been a hiker, being that I hate the bugs and fear the wild animals (mostly bears) that you might encounter. An unreasonable fear but there you go. I'm sure if you'd hike then there's some nice places to see here too. And to be fair Lapland does look pretty gorgeous in the pictures, especially in the Autumn. I plan to cycle from Nuorgam to Helsinki this June, so I'll see for myself soon enough. The thing is though that the highways really aren't made for sightseeing in Finland... We wouldn't want to distract the drivers with a nice view now would we? That's the general Finnish mentality. Efficiency >>> fun. (Note: Do not come to Finland unless you've already visited everywhere else.)

    Ok so this turned into another rant against Finland... But you can never have enough of those. I sware us Finns must be unhappy in Heaven because there's nothing to complain about. :p

    I suppose it's all about familiarity in the end. No one's a prophet in their own land. A Saharan might be all slack-jawed at our mighty reserves of forest, and wonder why people won't even register the beauty. But still I think mountains have something to them that plains simply don't. When I took a train through an Alpine sunset a year ago, I couldn't stop shaking my head at the one guy who had his eyes glued onto his laptop all the time.
     
  13. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    49,427
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    When I started planning this trip, my plan was to go to Australia. But then I kept finding more and more amazing photos of New Zealand. I have nothing against Australia, but New Zealand was just so.. amazing. That, and it's relatively small, so you can see more of the country. It might just have the most natural beauty per capita than any other country on Earth, but I might just change my mind the more I explore. But yeah! Go to New Zealand! Tourism is huge over there so there is a lot of tourist infrastructure.. which is both good and bad - but if you go in offseason you will avoid the crowds. Unless you're into crowds that is - I prefer to have everything to myself :p Plus, the flights, hotels, and everything else tends to be cheaper as well if you go off-season, so there's that as well.

    If you're afraid of animals that can kill you, New Zealand will be the safest place for you to go :) There are virtually no predators there, except for those that were brought over by the Europeans.. Australia, on the other hand..

    I hate bugs too and the last day of the Milford Track actually had quite a lot of sandflies.. Which are annoying little buggers who start biting you as soon as you stop walking.. I'm making it sound way more horrible than it actually was, but.. yeah okay fine it wasn't pleasant at times, but it wasn't a deal breaker either :p No pain, no gain, right? The scenery made it totally worth it. When I was in Patagonia, my hiking buddy got bit BAD by some things at night. She'd wake up and have bites all over her legs.. New ones every night.. I didn't get bit much at all. We didn't really get it, but I didn't mind :scan:

    I've ran into black bears before, camping here in Canada. On one particular camping trip there were random bears just wandering around. It seems scary, and at first we were a bit freaked out, but then we got used to them. You'd be sitting around drinking beer, and next thing you know there is a bear walking by. We figured out that they're more afraid of humans than we were afraid of them.. and eventually you become very relaxed around them. They can be quite comical creatures too, as well as somewhat intelligent. There are other species of bears that you definitely want to stay away from, but black bears aren't that bad. My sister chased after one.. I thought she was crazy, but I've never seen a bear run faster. One thing to watch out for though is little cubs - their mothers might rip you a new one if she deems you a threat.

    I'm not much of a hiker either - I kinda sit by my computer for most of the year and every once in a while fly halfway around the world and do a crazy hike through some remote mountains :lol: I love encountering wildlife on my hikes though.. I will never forget this experience - I was walking a trail in Yosemite park, a somewhat challenging one.. relatively speaking. On my left hand side was a cliff, leading straight down, and on my right was a forested hill, not as steep, leading up. I'm walking and next thing I hear is a lot of commotion up on that hill on the right, and a whole bunch of things running towards me. I freak out.. and then see 4-5 deer running straight at me, zig-zagging through the trees. Then they casually stopped and started eating, maybe 10m away from me. I was thinking maybe there was some sort of a predator chasing them, but nope.. they were just screwing around. Almost gave me a heart attack.. But after I figured out I wasn't in danger, it was kind of awesome watching them eat.

    Well said. The thing about plains is that they are rather.. plain :p So it is very easy to get used to them.. and get bored of them. But mountains, they come in so many shapes, sizes, and geological formations, so they are just a lot more interesting. So I think you are right that you will often find the unfamiliar more breathtaking - but there's just something special about mountains... and glaciers..

    I live right in the middle of the great lakes region - great lakes in pretty much all directions around me - 100-200km to the coastline of 3 of them. So it is very flat all around. There are tons of parks around here though, with some pretty unique scenery, even among all this flatness. Some of these parks are a half an hour away by car, some 2 hours, and some 5-7 hours.. but there is a lot to see around here. I admit that I take it for granted as a "boring flat place", but there is a lot of beauty around, you just need to know where to look. Maybe Finland is similar! Maybe you need to explore :)

    I really ought to post the next installment of my journey.. I just haven't had time. I still have a lot of chores I wanted to get done today, and it's already 10pm.. and I need to catch up on some sleep as well. Why can't there be more hours in the day?

    I have had my eyes on Norway for some time now. I need to go there one day... I was also thinking of maybe making it into a tour of Scandinavia, not just Norway.. But you're saying I should avoid Finland, if I ever do that?
     
  14. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2005
    Messages:
    12,509
    Location:
    Osaka
    Don't get me wrong, I've done Rotorua and what-not as a tourist. But there's some places like Te Anau where I've already been to visit family a lot that I just can't appreciate as much as I should.
     
  15. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    49,427
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    Day 7 - Milford Track day 4

    The last day of the Milford Track is the longest (18km or so) but also the flattest and probably easiest to hike through, if we're not including day 1. The one downside is that there are only two boats departing from the dock which you reach at the end, one at 3:15pm and one about an hour before that. The hike takes about 6 hours, so you have to wake up a bit early. I booked the latter boat so that I could sleep as much as possible, but in the end ended up waking up at 5:30am.. When you're sharing a hut with 9 other people who all sleep on slightly squeaky mats, you end up waking up whenever the first person wakes up.

    I lounged around in bed for a bit and lazily got ready for the hike ahead. After breakfast it started raining for the first time during the entire hike, which excited the hut ranger, but obviously not me. I put on all my waterproof gear and set out at about 8:30am.

    After a couple hours of walking in my lightweight waterproof gear the sun finally came out and the rain stopped. I was walking under the cover of trees for the most part, but the valley started slowly opening up.



    You might be slightly disappointed, because there aren't really any good photos from the hike, but the arrival at Sandfly Point made everything spectacular and worth photographing again.



    Let me explain why it's called Sandfly Point. It's named after sandflies, obviously. But they aren't what you call sandflies in the U.S., but rather a type of black fly. A very annoying type. Sandflies are nasty little buggers that bite anything that isn't moving. There were some sandflies on days 1 and 2, but it wasn't really that bad. They sure came out after the rain though, and you really had to keep moving.. which.. eventually you couldn't, breaks were necessary, so you'd get "used to it", but they were annoying little things.

    Most of the people on the guided walk were Japanese and all of them wore protective mesh covers that hung down from their hats. That must have been nice! But either way, finally, there it was.. A spectacular view at the end of the track! I really enjoyed the walk, don't get me wrong, but I was also eagerly anticipating my eventual destination & one of the main reasons why I was in New Zealand: Milford Sound. So Sandfly point was awesome, but there were better things ahead


    Link to video.

    The boat ride was short, but sort of amazing.



    Warning: Turn down your volume on this one a bit if it's up, there's semi-loud boat sounds I jazzed it up a bit and removed the annoying boat sounds


    Link to video.

    That's Mitre Peak there on the left in the background, the mountain that defines the "classic" view from Milford Sound, which we were quickly approaching



    Milford Sound! Can you see it? If not, it's because there isn't much there: There's a dock, a pub/restaurant, 2 lodges, and a small airport which you can't see in this photo. One of the lodges contains a hostel and is a 15 minute walk from the dock, so out of view too, but that's where I had a room booked for the next 2 nights. It was about 4pm and I was feeling awesome... if tired.



    A view of Mitre Peak from the Milford Sound dock. As you can maybe see it was really sunny and awesome again and the rainclouds were nowhere to be seen.



    There turned out to be a free shuttle to the Milford Sound Lodge from the dock, so I got settled fairly quickly. Turns out I was staying in a room with 3 cute German girls! I also had a date with a couple from Montreal and another one from the Czech republic. The 5 of us were going to celebrate the completion of the Milford Track with a large dinner at the restaurant, and of course with beer, which actually became the subject of some of the ensuing discussion, since.. well.. we were Canadian, Polish, and Czech.

    The one awesome thing about the hostel at the Milford Sound Lodge is that they have a 24/7 drying room. It's a room where you can leave your wet clothes or boots or whatever, and then pick them up later when they're dry. I can sweat like a pig when I exert myself.. and my boots were actually quite wet from all the hiking with that raingear on (damn gravity - all the extra sweat went right into my boots).. So when I saw that drying room - I almost screamed like a little girl.

    The hostel also had a laundry room, which had this cool map hanging on the wall



    I've already posted a different photo of this map, but this one shows a lot more of the area, including a 3rd great walk. 33% of all of the great walks in the country, all on one map. Here's a legend:

    Milford Sound - Top left most red triangle
    Milford Track - Light orange trail which ends in Milford Sound
    Routeburn Track - Orange trail in the top right
    Te Anau - Bottom left most red triangle
    Kepler Track - White trail by Te Anau
    Glow worm caves - Bottom left orange triangle

    There are 4 other trails on this map, all supposedly amazing in their own right, just not slapped with that "Great Walk" label.

    The next day was going to be the only full one I had to explore and enjoy Milford Sound and rest up a bit for the next hike on the Routeburn Track. I went to sleep hoping for good weather. No more rain!
     
  16. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    49,427
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    Touristy places can get old fast, and Te Anau in itself doesn't have much to offer, I don't think anyway - I mean aside from the fact that it's a gateway to several really awesome other places.

    Have you ever been to Key Summit? That was one of my favourite spots in the area and it is very accessible from the divide, under an hour and a half hike IIRC. The divide is over an hour long drive up the road towards Milford Sound from Te Anau I guess... but if I lived in Te Anau and I had visitors, I would be taking them first to Milford Sound first and Key Summit second.

    I tried doing Rotorua as a tourist and I ended up not doing anything touristy there. I kinda hate tourist traps and sometimes you have to put up with them to see cool sights, and Rotorua wasn't horrible or anything, but everything on the south island just felt a bit more.. authentic. Plus at that point in the trip I was mostly backpacked out and didn't mind lounging around.. It was raining too, so .. Rotorua really ended up being the least worthy of mention part of this trip.

    I went to New Zealand slightly off-season to avoid the crowds, and I think it paid off. I wonder if I missed out a bit in terms of seeing all the cool geological stuff in Rotorua though.. not to mention a haka.. I didn't get to see one, and Rotorua was a place where I could, but all the pamphlets I looked at had BS bundle deals with other crap. Plus all the other reasons I already mentioned.

    I wouldn't mind returning to the country one day to see some of the things I missed the first time and maybe completing another one of the great walks. Maybe I'll bring my niece once she's old enough, or even maybe her parents. I wish I somehow magically had the money to fund a trip like this for a whole bunch of members of my family. That would be just amazing. Too bad flights are so expensive, because I've gotten pretty damn good at saving money on everything else as far as travelling goes
     
  17. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    49,427
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    Day 8 - Milford Sound (December 1st, 2010)

    Sharing a room with 3 young female German students as opposed to 15 snoring & exhausted hikers has certain benefits. Most importantly, these particular students were very quiet, reserved, and courteous, meaning I got a lot of rest! I also got to practice some German! Sort of.. It was mostly me listening in on their conversations, trying to figure out what they were talking about (nothing too exciting).. Most of the conversation between us took place in English, mostly because German travellers tend to be a lot more enthusiastic about practicing their English than I ever am about practicing my German. Plus my German kind of sucks, even though I understand most things said to me.. So for the most part we stuck to English.

    I woke up at 8am and found myself in Milford Sound. I walked 55km over 4 days and passed through an alpine crossing to get to this place! It was the main destination for my trip, in terms of not only being the first place I penciled into my schedule and made "must see", but also being there right at the end of the Milford Track. It felt sort of surreal to finally be there..

    I ate breakfast and went on a walk to the waterfront.



    It was a gorgeous day. This couldn't have been any more perfect



    Mitre Peak there on the left defines the view you get from the waterfront.



    Mitre Peak



    I just couldn't stop taking pictures here



    Mitre Peak again



    A bit further away from the dock now, closer to the airport, on the only road out of Milford Sound



    I had a scenic cruise booked and did a lot of walking around in the general area beforehand and afterwards.. just to take in the views and enjoy the day. There weren't really many places where you could go, but it was all breathtaking, so you took your time.

    There are a LOT of photos from this day...
     
  18. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Messages:
    45,355
    Location:
    US of A
    Nice. Do you know how large those ships were to give perspective?
     
  19. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    49,427
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    Most of those were scenic cruise boats that I would best describe as "medium" in size. But I kind of suck at describing boats, so here's a photo (not mine) of them in dock. The one I ended up going on, which seemed to be average in size compared to all the other ones, seemed to hold about 80-130 people, but that is sort of a guess.

    That boat with 3 masts was a little bit larger, but not much I think.
     
  20. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Messages:
    45,355
    Location:
    US of A
    OK, so 30 meterish? That gives me some idea.
     

Share This Page