Monday, April 16, 2012

Dunedin, Catlins, Invercargill, Te Anau, Christchurch, Hamner Springs

It seems like it has been a while since I have last posted and I have gone to quite a few places since Queenstown. I have to say again how much I loved Queenstown, although a lot of travelers will complain about how touristy it is. I guess they don't get out into the outdoors much where there is hardly a soul to be seen!

I took a bus to Dunedin and spent 2 nights there. I went into the local running shop and got the local beta on where the trails were. My legs felt good energy wise and I just sort of climbed up and up and up. I found myself following some spray painted arrows, from a race I guess, and they took me all the way to flagstaff point. It was awesome and some steep running in parts. I found out later the run was the 3 peaks challenge or something along those lines. It was super cloudy and misty at the top so I just headed back down afterwards but there was a ridge up top that looked equally as juicy. However, my calf was not feeling 100% so I thought I better call it a day at 2.5 hours for the trip. I had a great massage after that but man, my calf (close to the back of the knee) is super tight and clearly is a bit strained. Bummer. The next day I couldnt even think about running it was so sore. I settled for a little workout in the park instead. Other things I did in Dunedin: checked out the university, went to the cinema and watched the hunger games, and walked through all the 100's of shops. Back at the hostel I met a nice guy named Grant and he had a car and was heading in the same direction as myself so I jumped on his band wagon and settled in for the ride.

We started off walking up the steepest street in the world. Sounds touristy but I was there, might as well go see it! After that we cruised over to tunnel beach which was just simply amazing. The coolest coastal feature I have ever seen. Everything from that point to Invercargill was pretty crappy as we were driving in what seemed to be one big cloud. We went out to nugget point but there was nothing to see because we were sopped in. We finished the driving in Invercargill and I had my first real dinner out. I ordered the muscles and wow, I have never had muscles that big before. Meaty! The next day we were off to Te Anau and arrived a couple hours later to sheer beauty. Our hostel was right on the lake and it was a blue bird day. From here there are a many options- 1) Milford Track or Cruise (2) doubtful sound cruise (3) routeburn track (4) Kepler track. All I really wanted to do was go run each of the tracks in a day but with my calf the way it was, sadly that was not going to be an option. I walked into the DOC office and got on The Milford Track with a last minute cancellation. I would set off the next day and by pass the first hut and just spend 2 nights instead of 3. Doing this hike seemed like a big decision because it cost $265 to do. I can't say I have ever paid to go hiking and it seemed like a lot but it's just one of those things I had to do.

I had to be at Te Anau down's at 10am and I opted not to get a bus the 28km out to the downs. I had planned a ride with grant but he ended up changing his plans and was unable to drive me. I attempted to hitchhike but cars just kept passing by me. After an hour or so I started to get panicked becaused I couldnt miss the boat! I eventually walked in to an RV park and asked the first car I saw (asian family) leaving the park if they were going to Milford Sound. They said yes and uncomfortably agreed to drive me. Of course, within minutes we had hit it off and everything was good. I made my boat and before I knew it, we were off. I met a really great family from Melbourne and their kids were so nice to me. They were telling me very excitedly about their time in Doubtful sound. They invited me to come stay with them in Melbourne if I go. People are very nice here in NZ!

I couldnt have asked for a more perfect day and walking the first 21km of the track to the 2nd hut was magical. I didnt see a single soul on my entire hike because I would be the only person that day walking to the 2nd hut. Most simply walk 5km to the first hut. That's how it works as it's very controlled- only 40 hikers can start per day. There is also no hiking on the track. Words can't describe the beauty and I am sure neither can the pictures but the experience was great. I met a lot of very nice people in the hut and we would share many memories over the next 3 days. Most people had booked this trip over a year in advance, so I felt very lucky to have this opprtunity.

The 2nd day was not as nice weather wise however. It was raining and windy and cold. I really was not prepared for the weather to be comfortable but managed just fine. All my clothes and items were stuffed inside plastic bags- that $8pack liner would have been nice. I was the first one up and over Mckinnon pass. As I was by myself I could walk at my own pace and had no one to wait for as most were in groups. Unfortunetly, the views were not there but in seeing pictures, I could imagine what it would have been like. Luckily, on the descent off the pass, it cleared up somewhat and the rest of it was quite enjoyable. Apparently, Milford Sound has 200 days a year and I think if it hadn't of rained I wouldnt have experienced all that Milford Sound has to offer! Plus, it makes for a greater adventure and memories! The great Sutherland Falls is one of the key attractions on this day as its the worlds 5th largest waterfall. A popular thing to do is go stand behind the falls- you get completetly drenched. I had met this lady named Jill and she would be aruond my mothers age and the only reason I did this was because of her. Fearless! Back at the hut I did some yoga with my bunkmates, who were all in their 60's. Awesome people who got into trekking later in life.

The 3rd day is 18km of pretty flat terrain with a few nice views. I couldnt help but think how nice this would be as a 1 day run with a bunch of friends. Would be cool to do one day! The boat ride back at the end was amazing. The Sound is just stunning. Even the drive back on the bus is stunning. A worth while investment indeed. The minute I stepped onto the track I immedietly forgot about how much I spent to do this and have not thought about it since.

The next day I got up and ran to the Luxmore hut on the Kepler Track. I was surprised at how good my legs felt and I was able to run the majority of the long climb up. It wasn't until I was on the ridge that I could feel my calf tighten up and I decided then to head back down and not continue on, however I was prepared to run the whole thing. This run would prove to be my last one for a week as I really did a number on it this time. The day though was stunning and no regrets getting above the treeline and seeing yet another wonderful perspective.

Believe it or not however, I was destined to run the routeburn- 37km- how hard can it be. But, you run from point A to B and the way the bus's worked I had to do it in 5hrs 15min. I booked a bus for the next morning but didn't sleep very well. I could feel the tightness in my calf and knew what I was doing would be the worst decision I could make and potentially put me out for even longer. In the morning, luckily, I was able to transfer my bus ticket and went to Queenstown instead. I ended up being on the bus with one of my hostel mates in Te Anau and we would go on to spend the next 6-7 days together.

The next 2 days in Queenstown were low key. I had some physio, baked some cookies, ate at furgburger again, went for a nice hike with Mariana and then boarded a bus to Mt. Cook. We spent 1 night here. The first day we went on a great walk (3 hrs return) to the Hooker Valley. At first Mt. Cook is not in sight but eventually as you meander around, it just appears and was stunning. So were the ice burgs you come across in the lake at the end. The next day would be my birthday and I couldn't have asked for better weather, nor a prettier place to wake up. I went for an amazing 4 hr return hike up to the Mueller hut. The first bit goes to the Sealy tarns and you literally walk up stairs. It's a good thing I often do the BCMC or the Grind so it wasn't too bad. The remainder is a rock scramble to the hut. Each section offers expansive views of the area and the closer you get to the hut, the closer you are to the glaciers. I even got to witness an avalanche- a signature of good luck right!? A very memorable birthday indeed. However, the rest of was spent on a bus to Christchurch but the bus driver was very entertaining and talked almost the entire way about the surrounding scenery. He even sang us a song to which we gave him a standing ovation.

The destruction in Christchurch is crazy and it's pretty sad to see. We only spent one night here in a pretty skeezy hostel and left as early as we could in the morning. We ended up hitch hiking to Hamner Springs. Hamner Springs is a beautiful place to come and relax and enjoy the surroundings. There are great hikes and mountain biking if you are into that. There are also natural hot springs you can pay to go in. Since we got here in the afternoon we just walked around and checked out the small town. Our hostel was amazing: free real coffee, tea, hot chocolate, milk, apples, spices, oil, and ice cream! The next day, Mariana and a german girl Kristina, and I went for a hike up to Isobel Peak. Again, we had a bluebird day and it was a great way to spend the morning/afternoon. We even got to pick some blackberries! I am a big fan of this place. I didn't realize however that there was a shuttle to Kaikoura this day (monday) which is where I am giong next and the next one is not until Wednesday. I guess I have a day to relax and read and maybe do some more baking or go enjoy the springs.

The pictures aren't uploading sadly, so hit up my FB page to see them.