Monday, December 29, 2014

Last Tramp - Akaroa Skyline Circuit

Today is my last day in New Zealand. Limited by time, my last tramp is on the Banks Peninsula, the Akaroa Skyline Circuit, via Purple Peak. This hike took appx 5 hours, which included making the summit by a trail that appears to not be maintained regularly.

The route was breathtaking, regardless of my poor map and lack of trail maintenance. The trail starts in the port city of Akaroa, and heads inland to circle and then climb Stoney Bay Peak, 806m. The maps offered at the info centre are hand drawn artistic renderings, so are actually very hard to follow if unfamiliar with the area. I tend to like my maps with topography and non movable landmarks. (One sentence on the map states to do the hard route, go straight, and to walk the easy route go straight. There is a right turn there, too.)

I would highly recommend this hike. Bring your trekking poles for the climb if going up Summit Peak trail. The trail is overgrown and steep. The views make it worthwhile. Other noteworthy facts include a full ban on both dogs and bikes. The area is a nature preserve, and leave no trace is the rule.

(Purple Peak - there is a Purple Peak north of Stoney Peak, at 646m)

The sheep took the short cut:

The trail is not maintained:

The Pacific Ocean from the peak:

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Location:Rue Lavaud,Akaroa,New Zealand

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Around Queenstown

Between tramps I have tried to make sure to see the Queenstown area, and what it has to offer. This includes the Rose Garden, Glenochy, a ride on the TSS Earnslaw, a visit to a sheep farm, a ride up a gondola, steak and beer.

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Location:High Street,Dunedin,New Zealand

Friday, December 19, 2014

Track #5 - Ben Lomond

Today's tramp was up Ben Lomond, summit 1748 meters, 5,000+ feet, trail from Queenstown to summit and back, appx 12 miles round trip. I did not touch the summit, but made it to about 50 yards from the top. The scramble to the top was a little too scary without my trekking poles, loose rock covered in fog. But I made the whole climb. I did not get views from the top due to the heavy fog cover. But I did get great views from lower down the ridge.

Ben Lomond from below:

I make it to the fog level. You can see where I turned around in this photo - where the fog hits the ridge. Ben Lomond from the start of the ridge climb:

Views of Lake Wakatipu from trail:

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Location:Searle Lane,Queenstown,New Zealand

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Routeburn Track day #2

Day two on the Routeburn track we were able to sleep in and start our hike around 8:30 am. The route only had two minor climbs, and mostly downhill. In addition, we only had about 10k left to go. We did throw in Key Summit as a side track, for the magnificent views.

Location:Searle Lane,Queenstown,New Zealand

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Track #4 Routeburn - day one

We decided due to ticket reservations and weather, to walk the Routeburn from east to west (north to south). As we did for Kepler, we took the nontraditional method of hiking the whole trail in two days instead of three. The first day we would hammer out 20 kilometers, and the second day finish 10 kilometers, plus a side trip up Key Summit.

The Routeburn is northwest of Queenstown, and the trailhead is in the middle of nowhere and is set up as a point to point hike. This means logistics as to how to get to and from the trails heads should be planned ahead of time. I bought bus tix for both the entrance and extraction. However, on both ends the booking company lost my reservation. To make the ride more confusing, my bus driver on the start end did not give me my ticket back so I did not have documentation for the return driver. To make matters even more confusing, the booking company put us on two different carriers for start and return, and to top that, we finished the hike early and took and earlier bus that had empty seats. It all worked out perfectly; apparently this kind of mix up is common.

The track takes you up through a forest of moss and beech trees - at least three varieties of beech tree. The first few hours are a gentle climb until you hit the alpine tree line, where you are immediately graced with waterfalls and lakes.

For about two miles I hiked with a fellow from Bristol named Paul who was a mountain biker. We leapfrogged about four times and finally gave in to hiking together. He was just out for a day hike, but was pushing up far and fast. He had run/hiked the Three peak Challenge, where you must summit the three highest peaks on Scotland, Wales, and England within 24 hours, including drive time. It is a team competition, so you can choose a support driver etc. His team completed the challenge, but failed at the 24 hour marker. We also talked about Danny Macaskill and his now famous Isle of Skye ridge ride. Youtube that now! You will not be disappointed.

The water in NZ is so pure you can drink directly out of the streams, which makes fast packing much easier. The water is sweet and better than most purified tap water.

Paul turned around at a stream where we met two hikers from Berkeley, CA, who live on Grizzly Peak! What a small world, where you can be on the other side of the world, halfway up a mountain, and meet someone who lives literally down the street from your own home.

After the ridge line the trail drops down into a mossy fairyland, ending at Lake Mackensie. Many of the names in this region are Scottish; 20% of the people are of Scottish ancestry. I can see the natural draw; the area has a look and feel of the Scottish highlands, and where there are scots, there are sheep. There are at least 10 sheep per person in NZ.

When we reached the lake I got swarmed by sandflys once again, so we decided to upgrade from lakeshore camping to a hut. The last thing I needed was hives. I discovered I am very allergic to these bites.

The Berkeleyites showed up about two hours after us, and we shared a dinner. They were vegans and brought way too much cheese and spinach, so I gourmet up my ham sandwich. Thank you guys!

Location:Church Street,Queenstown,New Zealand

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Kepler track day three - ferns and mushrooms

Day two we made it to our campsite by 3:30 pm. However, as I approached the Iris hut it started raining, and I got swarmed by sandflys. So I upgraded our campsite to a bunk in the warm, dry hut. The ranger was a Canuck from Ontario who was a dead ringer for my brother Pete. We slept like the dead. And not because other campers left the gas on the stoves. I was the stove patrol - many left the gas on until the ranger gave the cabin a lecture on usage.

I got up at 5:30 am, the same time as our french bunkmate Alexander. (The poor thing thought he lost his iPod and had a little freak out when I first met him). We were the first ones up and out for the day's mileage. He was going reverse, climbing what we did the day before. We were on our way down into the rainforest.

To break up the six hour hike through the rainforest I made about five cairns, a California hiking tradition. However, it appears my brother did not see these; most likely they were knocked over by other hikers. It does not appear stacking rocks on trail is in the NZ tramping tradition.

The 1984 Slide:

In 1984 there was heavy rainfall that caused landslides including the area pictured below:

Mushroom staircase:

Mushroom with bugs crawling on the cap:

As many hikers, trampers, and runners know, sometimes your brain loops into mantras, songs, or meditations when on a trail. My brain kept looping three songs in the rainforest: "Too Many Cooks", Steve Miller Band's Fly Like An Eagle, and The Beatles Mr. Mustard from Abby Road. During the last hour of the trail, I gave in and put on headphones and plugged into Abby Road. For three days I had been listening to all the bird calls - the birds of NZ are tuneful and sound like whistles, violins, and horns.


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Location:Searle Lane,Queenstown,New Zealand

Kepler track day two - EPIC

The second day on the Kepler track can be described in one word: EPIC

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Location:Church Street,Queenstown,New Zealand

Friday, December 12, 2014

Kepler Track Day one - death and ice

The first day of the Kepler track, if camping and hiking the traditional route anti clockwise, is a short hike from the car park to Brod Bay campsites.

Since the hike is so short (1.5 hours, 5.6k) I wanted to hike to the peak of Mt Luxmore, appx 10k from our camp. This does mean one will hike a section of the track three times in two days (up, down, up again), but with the change in weather the views can be completely different.

So we set up camp at the sandfly infested Brod Bay campsites and hiked to the peak of Mt Luxmore.

This picture depicts exactly how I felt about the sandflys. I neglected to by deet bug spray, and if I did not keep moving I quickly got covered in the bloodsuckers. I am allergic to bites, so this can be a serious issue. This fantastic cartoon was hanging in the DOC (department of conservation) office where one checks in and gets tickets for the tramp.

Stoats are rodents related to the weasel. They were first introduced to New Zealand in the 1880's by European settlers so as to reduce the rabbit population. (Rabbits were introduced to New Zealand in the 1870's by same settlers as a food staple.) Instead, the stoats reduced the native bird population. Stoats love eggs. Recently New Zealand has implemented a stoat depopulation program so as to increase native bird species. A common irradiation method is the "stoat tunnel", a wooden box with a wire mesh cover that allows a stoat to "tunnel" into the box. Inside the box is an egg laced with bait (poison). The stoat eats the egg and never eats another egg. Last meal boxes.

The Fiordlands weather is famous for rain and fog. This was the view from the top of Mt. Luxmore at 1472 meters:

The Peak of Mt Luxmore


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Location:Town Centre,Te Anau,New Zealand