14 February - Queen Charlotte SoundIt was an early start the next morning to board the Interislander ferry across to Picton on the South Island. When we left Wellington the wind was incredible - very few people went above deck. Then again I am a bit of a nutter!
Quite a bit of reading later we arrived at the coastline of the South Island, however this was not the end of our journey. We headed down Queen Charlotte Sound - a long waterway with beautifully forested slopes.
After arriving in Picton we drove around the coast through Nelson to arrive in Marahau at the south end of Abel Tasman National Park.
15 February - Kayaking Abel TasmanOn the 15th we had pre-booked a kayak trip. We were part of a group of eight being guided down the coast from near Onetahuti beach to Anchorage Bay. To get out there we boarded a Water Taxi - essentially a small speedboat capable of carrying passengers and kayaks.
We were dropped off on a small island near the north end of the park. There was a reasonable amount of preparation - most of the group hadn't been out in a kayak before so there was an amount of education.
We headed out into the sea past Tonga Island - where we saw seals relaxing on the rocks. We stopped off a couple of times at beaches, and on one occasion a number of us went swimming out in the Tasman Sea. It was cold! We got out as far as a hundred metres offshore. The negative here was that I stabbed myself on a rock - blood was drawn from my foot!
Later in the day we were able to kayak into a river mouth due to favourable tide conditions. Going in an out we had to head directly in or out to sea - if not there was a risk of getting turned over... Not a good idea.
At the end of the day our guide suggested we take it easy - and assemble a raft. All four kayaks were pulled together and using two paddles as masts we "sailed" across to Anchorage Bay and the Water Taxi Home. There we saw the "Aquabackers", where backpackers spend the night on a moored boat.
At the end of the day I went for a stroll along the coastal path, getting some good photos...
16 February - Hiking Abel TasmanThe next day was the big walk. The Water Taxi dropped my Dad at Bark Bay, whilst I countinued on up to Onetahuti Bay. On the way we went past Tonga Island and I was able to get some pictures of the seals we had seen the day before. We were lucky, much of the time the seals are out to sea.
The coastal walk was very varied. Parts of the walk along beaches or near the coast, other elements were high up on ridges around the coves. Some of these were carved out of the hillside where it was too steep. At one point it crossed a wire bridge across a river inlet - where we had kayaked the day before.
I caught up with my father at Anchorage Bay, but that wasn't the day over for me. I continued to walk back along to Marahau with another six to seven miles left. Along the way there were some beautiful bays...
On the final home strech back to Marahau I noticed rocks laid out in patterns on the sand. I'd seen some the day before - they looked great in shallow water.
This had been a long walk. I'd reckoned on about 20 miles, but with the side trips I added it added up to around 26 miles - and it's surprising how much up and down there can be along the coast!
17 February - The Misty MountainsThe next day was the long drive - 450 miles down the west side of the South Island to Fox Glacier. Lots of scenery on route, including our first real look at the Southern Alps. They were shrouded in cloud - the reason they acted as the "Misty Mountains" in Lord of the Rings.
We decided to stop off on route to visit Arthurs Pass National Park. The mountains towered around us and as we drove over the pass the clouds cleared and we were able to see the mountains. If I'd had an extra couple of hours I'd have bolted up Avalanche Peak, but I guess I'll have to come back again!
18 February - Franz Josef GlacierThe next day my father and I were booked to go walking on Franz Josef Glacier. When you arrive they give you all the gear you need, though I kept my boots as they were perfectly capable of taking a crampon. They bussed us round to the start of the walk where the first view of the glacier could be spotted.
It was quite a hike up to the front of the glacier, made more problematic because a few months earlier a huge chunk of ice had fallen off the front of the glacier into the glacial moraine in front. Apparently the day it happened parties on the flacier had to be helicoptored off! For us it just required a bit of climbing across rocks on one side of the valley.
We put on our crampons at the bace of the glacier then began to climb up. The organisers of the tours cut steps into the glacier to provide routes up.
Further up it was neccessary to get between cracks in the ice only a foot or so thick. Lucky everyone in the group was relatively thin! Further up our guide had to get out a pick axe to hack his way through. We also got to climb into fissures in the ice. On the way back down I caught some photos of our party crossing back down the ice steps.
It had been a great day - and we'd made some new friends out on the ice!
19 February - Over Haast PassBefore heading for Haast Pass we visited Matheson Lake. This is in most respect a normal lake - apart from the fact that at the right angle you can obtain a spectacular reflected view of Mount Tasmen and Mount Cook. On the day I was there I was only able to see Mount Tasmen, however if you look at the photo you may want to debate if its the right way up or not...
After this we drove up towards Haast Pass, the sourthernmost road pass over the Southern Alps. The views were spectacular with spectacular mountain after spectacular mountain. There were also a host of short walks, including one to view some pure blue lakes - the effect of glacial melt.
Afte this we drove around Lake Wanaka to Queenstown. En route we passed a farmer herding sheep up the road. In the UK this would mean a few minutes delay - however in the UK the farmer usually doesn't have several thousand sheep. They stretched for miles!
20 February - Ben LomondThe following morning I was up early to climb Ben Lomond - the huge mountain in behind Queenstown. I left my Dad to have a relaxing day without me! I walked through a sleepy town, it very much appeared that Queenstown was not a morning place. I heard a yell from behind me while walking along, it was one of the guys we met on Franz Josef Glacier! We chatted for a while. He was going bungy jumping, but said that I was nuts for climbing the mountain...
It was a tough climb - over 5,000 ft to the summit. I was the first to the summit, which was particularly significant as most of the others that made it the summit had taken the cable car up for the first couple of thousand feet. I sat on the summit for an hour taking pictures. It was pure sunshine and a spectacular view.
The walk down really hurt the knees. It was a long way and consistently steep! I found my Dad relaxing on a pier. I left him there to organise the next day. I was headed out on the Routeburn Track and needed to collect a ticket for my stay at a hut. I also needed to book transport. After dinner I also managed to get some photos out onto Lake Wakatipu.
21 February - The Routeburn Track Day 1It had been a coincidence really. I hadn't been planning to do an overnight walk. However when our plans were complete I noticed that we would be going from Queenstown round towards Milford Sound - just the route traversed by the Routeburn Track. Twenty one miles on foot, over three hundred by road!
I got a bus round to the start of the track, New Zealand is nothing but organised when it comes to hiking. The final few miles was on a gravel road but at the end of it was a brand new shelter with tourist signs and everything. I was slower than normal, what with carrying a heavy pack, but still made good progress. You walk along the "Route Burn" from which the track takes its name, crossing a number of wire bridges.
When you reach Routeburn Flats the main track turns uphill towards the Routeburn Falls. When you reach them you find the Routeburn Falls Hut, in spectacular scenery with this view...
Most people stay here for the night, doing the walk over three days. Unfortunately I only had the two days so had further to go. After this the climb continued up towards the Harris Saddle. This is the highest point on the Routeburn Track.
I climbed Conical Peak, a small summit from the saddle. Its a pity I didn't have more time or I would have headed up one of the larger peaks. From there the trail headed across the side of the Hollyford valley with steep slopes leading down - but a good trail meant easy progress. Towards the end the path turned back over Lake MacKenzie.
To the top right of the photo you can see the hut I was to stay in. When I arrived there wasn't much room left - so I ended up on one of the flat areas. Basically a six foot by thirty foot mat where you sleeep side by side. As the sun went down further excellent photos could be taken about Lake MacKenzie.
22 February - The Routeburn Track Day 2The following morning I was up at seven to find others already moving around, however with little to pack up I was first out on the track. It was more overcast today with a storm coming in. I pitied those crossing the Harris Saddle today. The trail headed downhill to the Howden Hut before climbing back up towards Key Summit. On the way up I found my Dad who was to meet me somewhere in the area.
After descending to the car we headed on to Milford Sound. You pass through the "Homer Tunnel" a very old one-way tunnel out to Milford Sound - technically an additional route through to the other side of the Southern Alps. We took a boat out on Milford Sound, the views weren't as perfect as they could have been in good weather - but still spectacular.
I could understand why this is one of the most visited spots in all of New Zealand.
23 February - Doubtful SoundThe next day was a bit more of a rest. A trip out into the other large sound on the west coast of the South Island - Doubtful Sound. The route there however isn't easy. After a short coach trip we took a boat across Lake Manapouri. It was cold and very windy. Only the brave (or was that the stupid) stayed up top. We were dropped on the other side for a coach ride over Wilmot Pass to Doubtful Sound.
This was a bizarre road. No connection to the main road network, it was built purely to service a hydroelectric station built on Lake Manapouri. Crossing the pass we got our first misty view down into Doubtful Sound.
The coach dropped us on the shores of the sound for our next boat trip out on the sound. Shortly after leaving we saw dolphins out in the water - unfortunately I didn't get any decent photos! It started to rain really hard and most people went indoors. I however donned my waterproof jacket and stood on the bow in the spray - Titanic esque! When we got out to the outer sound however we got better view...
The route back was the same - with the weather unfortunately closing in. Overall it had been a long day, with four coaches and three boats!
24 February - Mt SebastopolAfter a short breakfast we headed out towards Mt Cook National Park. It was a long drive. When we approached the area we arrived at Lake Ruataniwa, a glacier fed lake that was pure blue. This photo was not touched up!
After this we drove up Lake Pukaki - a twenty mile long pure blue lake. After we checked into the hotel my Dad relaxed whilst I went for a walk up to Red Tarn. The view down to Mt Cook Village was spectacular. I however didn't think that was high enough. A rough path led upwards and I decided to press on upwards. Eventually I reached the summit ridge of Mt Sebastopol.
On the route down, the view to Mt Cook itself actually cleared and I was able to snap some photos up there. Overall I think I took about a hundred over the course of the next three days...
25 February - Hooker ValleyThe weather had deteriorated the next day. I had planned climb Mount Ollivier that day but not in that cloud. My Dad and I instead walked out and up to the Hooker Glacier - or at least the glacial lake. After a stroll up the valley we crossed a huge suspension bridge across the river, before walking a short way up stream then over another.
The walk meandered past a hut for a few miles up to the glacial lake, where huge icebergs sat melting. The end of the glacier itself was a mile or so away below Mount Cook and I took a wander part way - but unfortunately the rocks became quite difficult to cross...
The rest of the day was quite restful and relaxing. In the evening the cloud cleared and I was able to get yet more photos of Mount Cook!
26 February - Mount OllivierI was up before dawn and into breakfast at the hotel as soon as it opened. After eating as much as I could stuff in I headed outdoors towards the mountains. The view was great as the sun rose, and the Alpenglow began to hit Mount Sefton.
The walk up the valley was the same as the day before and was pretty flat until the path junction to Sealy Tarns. At that point the flat trail began an exceedingly steep ascent - over 3,000 ft in under two miles! When you got the top however you were rewarded by spectacular views of the mountains around. After traversing along the ridge a short distance you come to the Mueller Hut - one of the most spectacularly set mountain huts I've visited.
The hut was built on stilts as there was no flat area, just a boulderfield. That must have been a spectacular place to wake up with the following view in the morning...
Most walkers stop at the hut, but I couldn't do that with a summit not too far away! The boulders were steep and I spied a young lady on her way up. We both decided to abandon that route and try a more technical ridge to the left which turned out to be easier. We reached the summit cairn after not too long and took a bunch of photos. Nearing the end of my holiday I knew I could take lots!
The route back contained the same spectacular views. I waited for my new companion to get her rucksack - she had stayed at the hut overnight - and we headed down. The descent was painful on the knees but over mercifully quickly. If left her at the path junction to head back. My Dad and I had to get to Christchurch that evening and it was a long drive...
We stopped at the end of Lake Pukaki to take more photos of Mount Cook. We were saying goodbye to the Southern Alps, but something told me I would be back!
27 February - Christchurch and flying out...The next day we were to fly out to Australia. We had time for a short walk above Christchurch on the Crater Rim walkway but then it was off to the airport. Unfortunately our flight was delayed by two hours! Flying into Sydney we were told the flight would be delayed further in landing, but when we saw the lightning on the horizon we knew it was worth them being cautious...
28 February - The Harbour Bridge!I was off on the Harbour Bridge Climb the next day. My Dad had chickened out but I was going to. He went off to do some other tourist sights whilst I headed over to the bridge...
When you arrive they put you in a group of about a dozen. Coincidentally my group contained 10 Brits! They give you all manner of gear - a jumpsuit, waterproofs, hats belts etc. The most disturbing piece of equipment is a metal ball with jagged teeth. This attaches to a metal cable that runs along the length of the walk.
Once we were geared up it was time to head up. One problem - it had started raining. I don't mean drizzle, I mean full on monsoon. The lightning storm was back and soon afte the lightning was lighting up the sky. We proceeded as far as the south tower before all the groups were stopped from going up. Slowly but surely the first groups were turned back - the tour cancelled. I was starting to mentally give up when they signalled our group up. The storm was clearing and we were going ahead!
The route is essentially up one arm of the bridge to the centre and back the same way. The rain was still pretty heavy for most of the walk but this really just added to the experience. Most people do the walk in sunshine - I did it in a lightning storm!
29 February - The Blue MountainsThe next day my Dad and I headed up into the Blue Mountains. These are a high level set of Sandstone Plateaus to the west of Sydney. Different to most other mountains, the roads were on the top of the main plateau and most walks dropped below the rim.
We went on a couple of short walks to view waterfalls etc before getting to Katoomba to visit the Three Sisters - a rock formation of (surprisingly) three rock pillars. The parking charges were exorbidant so I dropped my Dad (who was feeling off colour) at the Three Sisters and parked a mile or so away before walking back.
My Dad went to sleep on a bench and I headed down to the Three Sisters for a better view. You get up quite close but there are signs asking you not to go further for fear of damaging them (or yourself!) I did however continue my walk down below the plateau rim for a few miles few the woods.
I was a little nervous as whilst New Zealand has no dangerous wildlife, Australia is renowned for it. On my climb back up to the rim I found a sign highlighting the local snakes - the "Death Adder" and (gulp) the "Brown Snake". That is one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. I moved quite fast afte that...
01 March - Bondi BeachWe were heading home the next day so decided on an easy day - a trip to Bondi Beach. My Dad spent most of the day sitting reading, but I took a long walk south along the coast to some of the lesser known eastern beaches. The views were great...
After that all that was left was the drive to the airport and the flight back. At the airport I was pulled aside at the x-ray machine. I'd shoved my medical kit in my rucksack and had scissors! What surprised me more them being confiscated was that I'd got from New Zealand to Australia with them no problem...
The flight back was long but uneventful. We spent a night in Singapore to break it up - my Dad didn't like the idea of two long flights in a row. Then I did something daft. We landed at Heathro at 6:30 in the morning. I was at my desk working at 7:45. Insane I know - but that's a days leave I was able to use in Colorado later in the year...