Sunday, February 28, 2010

Glacier Trecking in Franz Joseph

Just spent the day glacier trecking on the west coast of the south island of New Zealand.  It was a short drive and hike to the base of the glacier.  From there we strapped on our crampons (ice spikes that attach to your boots) and headed straight up the rocks and ice.  Then our guide (Branden) led us through crevaces and tunnels for a total of 1500' elevation ascent.  Around lunchtime we sat and had lunch on the glacier tucked away from the wind.  After lunch we explored some more of the ice including giant "waves" of ice that towered at least 20' high and wide.  The final challenge was down and through a steep and tight crevace measuring about 30' deep and 18" wide (good thing ice is slippery).  We used ropes connected to spikes in the ice to walk safely off of the ice back down the glacier valley.

Tomorrow is a 4 hour drive to Arthur's Pass where we'll do a challenging hike the following day (3500' up over 3mi) called Avalanche Peak.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First week in NZ

Blogcasting live from Queenstown, NZ, internet cafe.  noon here.  currently loading pics from D90 to picasa web album, only that sd card is working at the moment.  Pics of the Kiwi Bird Park in qt.  All pics of backpacking trip were taken with p/s and card is not working now!  But the pics seem safe on the card, just won't download, so I won't be able to see them until I get home and can recover them.

Great trip so far.  the flights were all on time for our group and set out for Te Anau where we spent the night at a very nice backpackers lodge on the lake.  left our cars at the lodge and walked to the ferry that took us north up the lake to the beginning of the Milford Track.  Boat ride was georgous and great weathe with mild wind and deep blue skys.  The locals drink directly from the lake without treating it and are very proud of it. 

First day on the Milford Track was 3 miles through nice hardwood forest with ferns blanketing the ground.  All nights stayed in huts with running water! propane cookers and wood fireplace in common area.  nice group of mostly europeans hiked with us all 3 days. 

Second day on milford was 11 miles, through valley with waterfalls off 2000' cliffs either side.  I set out at 7am to beat the crowd and see birds, which I was greatly rewarded.  Birds here in the wild are very trusting of people and curious.  Don't fly away like they do back home so you can get a good look at them.  Tom saw a rare blue duck and got it on video. 

Third day was the rain and wind and McKinnon pass was a blistry storm, challenging but fun to conquer (no spell check on the computer!)    1500' up, 3000' down, very steep.  Everyone in our group did well and no injuries (can't say the same for the other hikers on the trail that day staying in our hut!).  Tom and I did the side hike to Sutherland Falls and it was well worth the trip, the highest falls in NZ.  Another 12 miles for this day.  Feet are sore by the point but feeling good.

Forth day was the time buster.  11 miles, and needed to catch the ferry from Sandfly point to town of Milford where we had a cruise scheduled around Milford Sound.  Rain let up by then, and the hiking was a bit hotter, bugs a bit more bite-e-r, but good day of hiking overall.  Set out at 7:30am, and once we were a few miles out we slowed our pace so we would  not have to hang out too long at Sandfly Point (aptly named).  But it turned out the wind was good at the point and no sandflies.  Got our pic taken at the famous 'completion' sign. 

Cruise around Milford Sound was nice, wonderful weather, nice to sit for a change and rest your feet while taking in scenery.

Last few days in Queenstown have been relaxing.  Tom and I have our own room here in the hostel, primitive but comfortable, quiet with earplugs.  Visited the birdpark and saw a kiwi and a lot of other birds I saw on the milford track.  Learned about Maori life.  Nicely constructed park, well worth the time and money. 

Tom is currently on the Shotover Jetboat (I was not interested), I will be exploring the gardens and hiking around the lake here in QT.  Tomorrow is Arrowtown, Wanaka, and wine country. 


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

just off milford track. in

just off milford track. in queenstown now. had great time backpacking. only 1 day of rain. nice cruise around milford sound.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Trip Overview, Part 3

Then we drive 2.5 hours north to the Rotorua area for some strolls to and through volcanic geological formations, taking a dip in a natural hot water pool, and Zorb.
Then drive 1.5 hours to Tauranga, where we’ll have the option of enjoying a sunset kayaking tour to go see an abundance of glow worms after dark.

The final leg of our trip is Auckland, including a hike on the volcanic island of Rangitoto.

Trip Overview, Part 2

After the Kiakoura Coast Track, we drive 4.5 north through Marlborough wine region,
on our way to Marahau, just outside Abel Tasman National Park, where we will be kayaking.

We then take a ferry from the South to the North Island from Picton to Wellington through Cook Strait.

We will be spending a day exploring Wellington, including the Te Papa Museum. Then drive 3 hours north to the west coast of the north island to canoe the Whanganui River.

Then drive 2 hours north to Tongariro National Park stay at a lodge in Whakapapa Village.  The Tongariro Crossing hike will be one of our most difficult at 10 miles, ascend 2250 feet, descend 3700 feet, rated the best day tramp by Lonely Planet. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Trip Overview, Part 1

Here is an overview of our upcoming adventures in New Zealand.

We are flying from Charlottesville to Charlotte, then to LA.  Then a direct flight to Auckland.  One last leg will get us to Queenstown on the South Island.  That's 24 hours of flying time (30 hours flying+layovers).

Less than 24 hours after landing we will begin the Milford Track, a 4-day, 3-night backpacking trip with hut camping.

Then we will spend three days in Queenstown while our fearless leader solo tramps through the bush.  The tentative schedule is first a day of recovery, laundry, and walking around town.    I will definitely be visiting the Kiwi Birdlife Park.

The second day in Queenstown will be our 'adventure day,' consisting of jet boating, bungy jumping, via ferrata, or canyoning, to name a few.  I just have not decided what I will be doing yet, but Tom wants to go jet boating.   The last day will be a quick drive to Arrowtown to explore an old gold mining town with an old Chinese settlement.

The next leg of our trip, after a 5.5 hour drive north will be two days of glacier trekking in Franz Joseph, the worlds steepest and fastest flowing commercially guided glacier.  We will hike up to the face of the glacier and explore the ice with crampons.
A sunset hike around Lake Matheson is also in the plans.

Then we will drive 4 hours north and then east to Arthur's Pass region and (the next day) out-and-back day-hike Avalanche Peak.  This will be one of the most scenic hikes, and the steepest at 3600' up in 2 miles (that's a 34% grade!). 

Then we will drive 3.5 hours east and then north to hike the Kaikoura Coast Track, a three-day backpacking trip through private farms.  We will be staying at farm homes along the way and our stuff will be shuttled for us!  So it's not really backpacking, but a series of day hiking adventures.  Minimal elevation change compared to previous hikes.

This is just the first half!  More info to come!

I re-evaluated my packing scheme and decided to forgo the suitcase and laptop.  I got some 2.5 gallon zipper bags to help organize my clothes in my top-loading backpack.  My green pack will be used for day hiking and will go under my car seat when not in use.

Backpack I am bringing to New Zealand.
From Ramsey's Draft
Day pack I am bringing to New Zealand.
From Old Rag SNP

Tom will be bringing his day pack (as seen in this photo from last October), and a medium sized duffel bag (that will be checked and will hold some of my things too)

From Austin Mt-Furnace Mt Hike SNP

Tom was able to unlock an old Blackberry and bought a SIM card for it that will allow us to make calls from NZ as a local phone. It also has a cool free feature called Travel Journal which will track us in NZ and send emails with our location. It says you can have Facebook track it too.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Is it time to go yet?

Ok, so I'm a little excited to go to New Zealand. So excited I'm already packed, and I still have two weeks till we leave. Crazy, but I feel better now that I am done. Here is a picture of everything I am bringing. The suitcase is small enough to carry on, but I will be checking it because I will be carrying on the backpack (yes, it looks big but I have done it before). The light green bag is my frameless day-pack that will roll up in the suitcase, and the black camera case I will carry on also.

I am bringing my new D90 and two lenses: 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 (good light-weight travel lens) and Sigma 10-20mm (for creative stuff). I am also (maybe) bringing my laptop.

From Matt, our trip leader: "If you can manage it, consider packing only enough to do as carry-on / no checked baggage."
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