Sounds like a plan.

Depart: Pegasus Ice Runway, Antarctica ~ February 25, 2006
Arrive: Boulder, Colorado - May 27, 2006

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Back in CHCH, will post more tomorrow hopefully

Sunday, March 26, 2006

In Arthur's Pass for the night, just got back from a fun three day backpacking trip including a nifty little mountaineering adventure, will write more later but I've gotta run for now! Plans changed a bit so I'm going to be leaving NZ Sunday 4/2/6, but that'll have to wait until later.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Alrighty, think I can actually sit down and write up a quick summary of what we've been up to for the last week or two.

Stewart Island was pretty neat, although we didn't end up spending a whole bunch of time there. We had planned to hike the Rakiura track clockwise, with a little out-and-back spur up to Mt Anglem (all these place names are from memory btw, just in case you go looking for them) which would put our trip at something like 5 days.

Day 0 of the Stewart Isladn trip started really early with a quick breakfast from a 24 hour convenience store, then a very early bus ride where one of the other passengers just happened to be Joe - one of my friends from the ice. The three of us (Clair, Joe, and I) arrived on the island by way of a bus from Queenstown to Invercargill, a shuttle from there to Bluff, and a catamaran from Bluff to Oban (aka Halfmoon Bay - the only town on Stewart Island.) Stayed at a nifty little hostel (they're called backpackers down here) and managed to score some free fresh (as in right off the boat) blue cod from some cool fishermen who were staying at the backpackers. Fried that up with some olive oil and butter to make a super tasty dinner along with some leftovers from another tasty meal back in Queenstown!

Day 1 on the track was supposed to be pretty wet, but turned out to be quite a nice day of walking. We stayed at one of the super cool huts that the DOC (department of conservation) has put in all over New Zealand. They're often pretty large things with bunks and mattresses for something like 20 people, interior plumbed running water (sourced from the tin roof and stored in a big plastic tank generally,) and sometimes even propane ranges. Very nice, and not too expensive to stay in generally. Clair and I each have ($90NZD) annual hut passes that allow us to stay in the huts for free as long as they're not on a "great walk," which unfortunately includes the Rakiura Track. So, we had to buy a hut pass for $10 to stay the night at the hut, but it was well worth it. Spend the evening hanging out with the other hut visitors, eating, and distracting Clair from writing a post for her blog on her pocketmail with random bits of conversation. Heard some kiwi birds in the night, but wasn't too inclined to get out of bed to see if I could go see one in person.

Day 2 was iffy forecast as I recall, but at any rate it turned out to be super wet. Lots of mud, roots, water, mud, wind, general wetness, and chill. Kind of felt like walking through a tropical rainforest, but without the tropical part. We bumped into the local warden on the way to the hut where we were going to eat lunch, and she basically told us that we were completely unprepared for what was ahead on our planned route. Don't think that was her exact wording, but it's the same mesage and tone - this lady didn't seem to be having a very good day at all (incidentally the next day wasn't too much better for her apparently..) Our motivation levels for continuing on were generally pretty low, so after a bit of munching on food and debating in the hut, we decided to spend a night there, then just head back into town the next day - essentially we would just hike the Rakiura track and drop off the spur to Mt Anglem. Met a bunch of neat people in the hut, which led to staying up a bit later than would have been ideal chatting, visiting, and doing our best to dry all our clothing out by the wood heater (all the huts seem to have these - or their coal burning equivalent.)

Day 3 was rather nice - only got rained on a little bit in the morning, then had a nice walk back to Oban, sometimes walking along sandy beaches with nifty seashells! Discovered that you can hear the sound of a beach in any beach articifact if it's fresh enough - even things like seaweed or old beercans! Unfortunately, it seems that only certain shells actually hold the sound in there long enough to show it to your friends who live away from the beach. On the way back to town we were undecided as to what we should do with the rest of our Stewart Island trip, and with the still dismal weather forecast, we decided to just catch the ferry back to the south island and find something to do where it might still be a bit drier. Caught the ferry with near perfect timing, then had a fun ride back to 'the mainland' over some big (heard 4-4.5 meter) swells. Nice and bumpy! Got a ride into Invercargill with a couple guys who were on the ferry, got bunks in a hostel, and made an attempt at posting something to the blog! (see below)

***Begin Fiordland Adventure***

Day 0 - After looking through travel books nad maps last night (Stewart Island adventure - day 3) we decided to head over to Fiordland and see what we could see there. Had a nice breakfast in a cafe that's part of our hostel, then hitched over to a little town called Te Anau in near record time with a neat Dutch (IIRC) couple in their RV. Looked around Te Anau a little bit to see what kind of sea (or lake, if you want to be technical about it) kayaking options were available, but between the iffy weather and the short notice, we weren't able to arrange anything more than a day trip, which really didn't seem worth it. So, rather than going kayaking, we opted to get set to backpack around Fiordland for a bit. After a bit of staring at maps, chatting up local hiker types at the DOC, and grocery shopping we had developed a super flexible plan and were ready to go!

Day 1 - We hitched up the Milford Road to hike up to Lake Marian, which we then walked halfway around and camped. Beautiful scenery! Had excelent weather, which was a super good thing given the iffy trail up to the lake and 6+ days of food that we were each carrying up to the lake.

Day 2 - The weather wasn't looking so good in the morning, so we opted to head out instead of just messing around at the lake all day and camping again in the same spot. Walked back to the trailhead, then a couple miles down the Milford Road to get to another trailhead in the rain. We got super wet and rather cold (especially Clair,) so rather than dragging our borderline hypothermic selves up another mountain to get to a hut for the night, we hitched back towards town. As luck would have it, the weather broke and it was suddenly bright and sunny as we were riding back to town, so we got out early at one of ~11 nice roadside camping facilities along the road, dried out our stuff, and camped there. Turned out to be rather nice with good views and quite a lot cheaper than staying another night in town!

Day 3 - We hit the trail again today - this time with only moderately damp gear and plenty of energy to go hiking. Climbed up to Key Summit, where we kept running into people we knew from other places and some generally cool other folks - a British photographer we had met at Lake Mariam, a hiker Clair had met a month or two ago at Mt Terinaki (sp?,) a guy I knew from the ice, and a neat couple from Vermont who we talked with for a couple hours. Unfortunately, after several hours of drying gear, visiting, and admiring the views, we still had quite a ways to go including some of the wettest and rootiest trail I've ever seen (and going straight up a ridge to boot!) But, as we're both super-amazing-kickass hikers we made it to our destination hut (Upper Caples) in 4 hours when the signs (which are generally pretty accurate) said 7-8 hours. Teehee, and they said we couldn't do it before noticing Clair was in trail runners and I in sandals ;).

Day 4 - Started today with a straight-up-burning-legs climb up to whatever the saddle is called that's on the end of Steele Creek Canyon. The climb up went well up into the inside of a cloud, but we were lucky and didn't really get rained on at all. The cloud was fortunately one of those clingy kind that just sticks to the tops of mountains in the morning, so we made it up to the saddle and were glad to find it was clear on the other side of the mountain. Had lunch on top of the mountain, then continued down Steele Creek canyon to discover that the trail wasn't rated for extremely experienced and fit trampers just because of the big (~1000m) climb at the beginning! No, this wasn't really a track at all down the canyon, more of a string of fenceposts painted orange to remind you that you're not exactly bushwhacking, but that it's still not at all an established trail... Lots and lots of thick small undergrowth - generally without anything even vaguely resembling a cleared route through it. Would have been a lot neater if I had regular boots, but it wasn't that bad really. After a while we made it to a lower elevation where a bunch of deer had gnawed a really impressive maze into some taller bushes, which we then got a bit confused in (and ran across a deer skeleton where apparenlty a deer had gotten lost [I still think it got attacked by the resident centaur.]) Eventually we made it out of the deer maze, found where the actual trail began again, and walked over to the extraordinary Greenstone Hut for the night.

Day 5 - Weather report wasn't looking too good, so instead of doing a two day out-and-back hike down the Minerva Walkway in the rain, we decided to just head out of the woods and into either Glenorchy or Queenstown for the night. Pleasant walk out in the morning, and we ended up meeting up with a couple of our new hiking buddies who had a car and were headed to Queenstown. Made it into Queenstown and another hostel in time to go out for dinner at an Indian place where we were interestingly the only two eat-in customers for the duration of our meal. Food wasn't too bad, service was alright, and we still haven't gotten sick, so just hoping it was only because everyone was out at one of the several Guiness-makes-us-Irish-pubs for St. Patricks day. Watched the tail end a lousy scifi movie, fired off a few emails to make a dent in my stuffed inbox, then went to bed.

Day 6 - That's today! Spent a bunch of time dealing with net stuff, trying to figure out what I'm going to do about taxes, picking up some souvenir type things to send home, resting, eating, making fun of Clair for running ~18 miles this morning (marathon training,) planning, etc. Still need to go do something about a couple little holes that are developing in my well-worn trusty backpack, but other than that the to-do list is getting pretty short! We've made arrangements to take a bus to Dunnedin tomorrow morning, where we'll likely spend a couple days, then heading up the east coast towards Christchurch (and/or Lyttleton,) then some sort of backpacking trip around the Arthur's Pass area depending on weather. We'll see how it goes though!

Some more pictures

Burned through all my $2 coins for now, so check out Clair's blog for some text to go with all these pictures for now, might get back on and write more later.

DOC person
Lookie - a rainbow!
Stewart Island
Stewart Island
How refreshing
Raining at the wharf in Bluff - en route to Stewart Island
Early breakfast to catch the bus out of Queenstown
Driving into Queenstown - the first time
Love these Kiwi caution signs
Franz Joseph Glacier (that's glay-see-ear)
Franz Joseph Glacier - again
One of my neatest hitches ever was in this thing

SAR (Search And Rescue) nightly prayer:
(from a sign at the DOC office in Te Anau

Seek no wisdom, leave no word;
Common sense is too absurd.
Ignore advice, you don't need skill;
Blokes like you are hard to kill.
Take no extra food or gear,
You'll not need it, have no fear.
But, we ask of you before you die:
Please choose a place that's not too high!

Pics, round one

Mtns behind lk Mariam - can't recall their names at the moment

Mariam Lake - Camped back in there!

See the moon?

View down Greenstone River Valley

Swinging bridge along the trail

View from Key Summit

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Stewart Island, etc.

Had a hard time choosing a title for this post - lead continders were "Rain" and "Mud," but I couldn't decide which and decided to go with the more generic "Stewart Island, etc."

Anyways, Clair and I wandered around the little town of Halfmoon Bay (Oban) for all the 10 minutes that takes (small town,) and ended up at the kayak rental guy's house, which incidentally is where his business is also located. He was a super cool guy, and very helpful, although he was disinclined to rent us a sea kayak citing the absolutely dismal information listed under the heading "weather forecast." So, being the opportunistic hikers that we are, we instead walked walked over to the DOC (department of conservarion - very nifty setup that is roughly the equivalent of our forest service in the states, but these guys have cooler uniforms) and bought a pass that would allow us to stay in a hut along a hike we planned out.

Got to run because my timer is just about up, but:

* I can't post pictures now because this computer doesn't have an accessable USB port.

*hiked the shorter loop around Stewart Island, it was fun and nice scenery when it wasn't raining (not too long, but frequntly on the first and last days.) Hut warden wasn't too friendly, but she'
***Note - I've heard (after the fact, of course) that if you've got a YHA card, you get a 10% discount off the ferry to Stewart Island. *kicks self* You do get a discount off the flight between the south island and Stewart island, but only if you get a real ticket instead of flying standby

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

***Note - sorry about the funky arrangement of pictures and stuff, I'm generally writing these posts from rather spendy computer kiosks, so the priority goes toward getting things posted before making them look pretty - might be able to do something about that later, but no promises***

Tuesday was spent mostly on the road between Franz Jopseph Glacier and Queenstown. We did go on a little dayhike up to the glacier, which was pretty neat. It looked quite different from the glaciers I'd seen in Antarctica, much smaller and dirtier near the end. Also the crevasses and cracks were much more visible as it's a bit too warm (at least near the end where we were) for snow caps to last. Fun stuff. Made it into Queenstown in time to do some research on getting down to Stewart Island and get supplies. We opted to get a package deal for a bus ride from Queenstown to Bluff (south of Invercargill) and a ferry ride from there to Oban (town on Stewart Island) for about $95 each, seemed like a better deal than hitching all the way down to Bluff, staying there for the night, then catching the ferry. Stayed at the Downtown Backpackers (can't recall the exact name, but think that's close,) which turned out to be kind of a dump and not too pleasant, although it was relatively cheap lodging for the location. Apparently the floor we were on had flooded fairly recently, so it smelled funny, and the kitchen was a bit dirty. Oh well, we made it through I suppose.

Today we got up early and realized that we had made a small miscalculation with our morning plans. Last night, we bought some eggs and stuff for making a real breakfast and left them in the kitchen for cooking before our 6:45am departure. Unfortunately, the kitchen was closed and locked until 6:30, which didn't exactly leave time for doing any cooking and eating before walking over to the pickup point. Fortunately, we found a 24 hour conveniencce store just around the block that had some pastries and yogurt for breakfast, and Clair managed to run into the hostel kitchen and grab the eggs and stuff for using tomorrow. One thing that's sortof a mixed blessing about cities down here is that they're not 24 hour operations like most decent sized towns in the states. If you're on the street at 5am or late sunday night, there's practically nothing happening outside. Anyways, we made it to the bus, rode down to Bluff, caught the ferry, then made it to Stewart Island. The bus ride was nice, although I spent much of it catching up on sleep that I missed last night at the hostel. The ferry ride was also cool, it was a little choppy, but apparently not anywhere near as bad as that crossing gets at times. Have only been on the island for about 2 hours now, initial impressions are that it's very wet and muddy in the woods. We're either going to be heading out on a tramp tomorrow, or it's looking increasingly likely that we'll rent a sea kayak and go out for a couple days paddling and camping around the island. Will post more later, but my time here is just about up!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Wow! So much stuff to write that I really don't know where to start. Not a bad thing I suppose as it's all been good stuff!

Guess I should start where the last post left off, so here goes! Met up with my ride to Bodie's Party at the CDC as planned, where we somehow managed to fit 5 (none of us small) adults and their gear (along with some that came with the car) into the back of a little Mazda Familia station wagon. We were quickly on the road heading towards Motueka, with a plan to stop at some hot springs along the way. By the time evening rolled around, we found ourselves stopped at the Maruia Hot Springs, where we were able to purchase a family pass for $5 each (we are ice family, but I suppose that is stretching things a tad...) The hot springs were nice, but smelled a bit too sulphury (new word!?) for me, so I ended up just hanging around in there for maybe 20-30 minutes, then going for a little walk to just soak in the green and humidity that had been in such short supply in Antarctica. We then drove a little further down the road to a little pull-off and made camp for the night.

The next morning, we had a relatively short drive from our campsite to Murchinson, where we picked up some groceries for the party, then on to Bodie's Parents place! There were a bunch of other ice people at the party, so after a whole bunch of greetings and such, we got rolling with picking fresh fruit and berries from the orchard, then moved on to cooking pizzas in the purpose-built firebrick oven that Bodie built there about a year ago. Great stuff! Had a fun evening visiting, eating, and playing Kubb (an old viking game involving throwing sticks.) Saturday was much of the same, but instead of pizzas we had a grill out including all sorts of sausages, meats, fresh veggies, etc. Saturday evening there was a call from my friend Clair (aka Goldberry) from Motueka saying that she had made it that far and would need either directions or a ride to get to the party. So, since we needed to get some groceries anyhow, Trent, Summer, and I drove up to Motueka and picked up Clair.

Sunday morning Clair an I sat down and decided on a plan for the next week or two of traveling. Rather than heading straight to Fiordland, we modified the plan a little and decided to give Stewart Island a try first as it'll be getting cold there soonish so we figured it would be best to start from the farthest south we want to go, then work north from there. There was a big whitewater festival finishing up in Murchinson (which is on the way,) so we decided to head over there first and see what happened next. Made it to Murchinson, but things were pretty much done, so we continued on to Westport for the night. Cooked up a nice Mexican dinner at the hostel in Westport that made some good leftovers for lunch today!

Today's been a day on the road. Made it from Westport down to Franz Joesph Glacier, where we're spending the night. Finally made it to a computer kiosk that isn't rediculously expensive (surprising as everything else in this town is,) and I've got enough time to throw together this post and even upload a few pictures!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Just a teaser post, but...

I'm back in Christchurch, New Zealand! Made it in the night before last and have been enjoying every minute of my time here! Managed to get one of my friends to drop my bags off in town, pick up my bike at the CDC (clothing distribution center - epicenter of the Antarctic program in Christchurch,) and ride it into town! Boy that was nice! Had dinner at the Dux De Lux (favorite restaurant in the city,) went for a walk through the botanical gardens, and crashed in my very own room that, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't touch opposite walls in! The novelty of green plants, traffic, stars, freedom, rain, and all that stuff still hasn't worn off yet although I'm sure it's just a matter of time... Just about to catch a ride north with three friends from the ice, will try to post some more pictures and stuff sometime in the next week or two. That's all for now!