Adventures on the South Island

What have I been up to the past 2.5 weeks?

  • Hiked the Routeburn Track and part of the Rakiura Track
  • Went on a two day kayaking trip to Doubtful Sound
  • Visited Steward Island – a bird sanctuary
  • Got a really nasty cold
So I have been pretty busy these past few weeks and am getting ready to set off for the North Island on Friday for a Zumba Master Class with Beto! And I just found a car tonight. It is a 1992 Subaru Legacy (with an ipod hookup!) so I can finally start seeing some of the countryside.

March 20-22
The Routeburn Track – Not for those afraid of heights

After mastering the Milford Track, I decided to tackle the Routeburn Track. The Routeburn Track is also another very popular track in New Zealand with up to 8000 independent trampers attempting it per year. It can be hiked in both directions; and I started on the Glenorachy side and hiked to the Divide, located close to Milford Sound.

This Track was a three day, two night tramp into some of the most amazing alpine scenery I have seen. The first hut, Routeburn Falls, is set just below the treeline next to a waterfall, where I spent most of the afternoon on Day 1. The weather was perfect, a lot of sun and no rain. Day 2 started with a lot of fog, but I soon climbed out of the clouds for some good views of the surrounding mountains. The trail mainly followed a ridgeline the entire day with a stop at the Harris Saddle Shelter for lunch. I also hiked (scrambled) up Conical Hill for a 360-degree view out to the Tasman Sea. This was as close to rock climbing as I have gotten to. To get down, one had to crab rock over rocks without falling. The day ended with a long descent into Mackenzie Hut, which was situated by a lake. Had it been warmer, I would have been tempted to swim, especially since I spent the day sweating. Day 3 was much easier with no major climbs or descents. I stayed at Rosie’s Backpackers in Te Anau, which is a lovely farmstay run by two former Department of Conservation Hut Rangers.

March 24-25
Kayaking Trip to Doubtful Sound

I met Katie, from London, at Rosie’s. We decided to tackle the two day sea kayaking trip to Doubtful Sound, Milford Sound’s not-as-popular cousin. Again, the weather was perfect; a lot of sun; and the only thing I would have changed about this trip was the sandflies. Sandflies make mosquitos look positively tame. These things travel in swarms, and attack you as soon as you stop moving. While we were on the water, in the middle of the Sound, they were not a problem. However, we got eaten alive every time we stopped for a break and had to suffer with some hyper-itchy bites after we returned.

We got lucky with this trip. Katie and I were the only clients on it. So it was basically a private tour of Doubtful Sound. On the first day, we took a boat across Lake Manapouri to Deep Cove, where we put the kayaks in the water. We then paddled down Hall Arm for the afternoon, looking at the amazing scenery. We also saw a New Zealand Fur Seal that afternoon sunning himself on a rock. We ended the day at campsite 2 AKA Sandfly Central. At least there was an insect shelter in which we spent most of our camping time in. Then we ran for our tent where we stayed until morning. On day 2, we paddled out of Hall Arm and into the Malaspikla Reach, heading out towards the Tasman Sea. We didn’t paddle all the way to the Tasman Sea because it was still about 35 km away. We stopped for lunch around Elizabeth Island, where we swatted sandflies while we ate. Towards the end of the paddle, we came across another fur seal. Then it was back to the shore for the trip back across Lake Manapouri. The only major downside to this trip is I started getting sick, which made things not so fun on our next adventure…

March 28-April 2
Stewart Island

Katie was really keen to tackle the Northwest Circuit, which is the legendary tramp on Stewart Island that takes 8-10 days to complete, and has lots of mud. I almost decided to do it with her, but by this point I was not feeling up to it. I ended up with a pretty nasty cold after the kayaking trip. So as a compromise, I was going to do the first day of the NW Circuit, which was Half-Moon Bay (Oban) to Bungaree Hut with her and Paul. Paul was working at a backpackers in Invercargill and decided to tag along at the last minute. Since it is the end of the tourist season in New Zealand, Katie and I flew from Invercargill to Oban, which was a 20 minute flight on an 8 seater. It was a little scary, but we made it intact. And we did not have to take the hour long ferry ride, which is notorious for being unpleasant. We started on March 29 and the first half of the day went well. It was an easy hike to Port William Hut, which is on the Rakiura Great Walk. That’s where the fun ended. As soon as you veer off the Great Walk, and enter the Northwest Circuit, the mud fest began. I was so happy I had my gaiters, otherwise I don’t think I would have ever gotten my socks and boots clean. The trip from Port William Hut to Bungaree Hut is only 6 km, but it took us about 5 hours because it was so hard. Not only was there a lot of mud, this track is true New Zealand backcountry tramping in which there are lots of tree roots, streams to cross, very steep hills to scramble up, and energy sapping mud to deal with. By the time we reached this point, we had already hiked about 12 km. The other thing that really sucked was that I bent one of my trekking poles after falling in the mud. We finally made it to Bungaree Hut as the sun was setting; and the hut is located in a beautiful, remote location on a beach. Too bad I had to turn around and do the same portion again the next day. Katie and Paul were going to continue on the NW Circuit. I was going to turn around and head back to Port William Hut, stay the night; and finish out the Rakiura Track. However, the next day I decided to bail. I hitched a ride with the hut warden’s son who had a boat and was heading back to Oban that morning. I am very glad I did this because I really wasn’t feeling well at this point. I spent the rest of the day at the backpackers watching movies, and then had a great seafood BBQ that night.

Since I aborted my Rakiura attempt, I went to Ulva Island on April 1, which is a predator-free sanctuary for native wildlife. The island had a few nice, easy walks that ended at some beaches. I ate my lunch at West End Beach with two Stewart Island Wekas looking for handouts. These birds are cheeky! I had to shoo them away several times as they tried to approach. These birds are almost as annoying as seagulls, but at least they don’t fly. So I didn’t have to worry about one swooping in from behind and making off with my sandwich (thank you Florida seagulls for that one!). I spend most of the four hours on the island meandering around on the trails looking for birds. Here’s what I saw:

Blue Penguins – On the boat ride over. They are very small and sound like ducks.
Stewart Island Weka
South Island Saddleback
Stewart Island Robin
Oystercatcher
Tui – one of the songbirds
New Zealand Parakeet

After Stewart Island, I spent a few days recovering in Invercargill, and am now back in Queenstown, ready for the next adventure.


The Routeburn Track

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