Aaaaaaaaaaah [pause for breath] aaaaaaaaaaaah
Trip Start Apr 14, 2010
96Trip End Apr 16, 2011
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It was great to see George and Steve and we went straight out for dinner and then to a quiet little bar that had 2 for 1 drinks. We were so busy enjoying ourselves chatting and catching up that we didn’t notice the bar filling up around us and in a particularly memorable moment Gordon & Steve went to the bar and came back to find a girl (almost naked and paid for by the bar) dancing on our table
The next day we said goodbye to George & Steve and got on our first organised tour in New Zealand to Milford Sound. This was our first experience of New Zealand tours and what became a universal truth about the verbal diarrhoea of any guide/instructor/bus driver/boat driver; none of them would stop talking about uniteresting stuff. Our bus driver turned out to be a prime example of this and the entire way to Milford Sound we got a non-stop commentary about each building and vineyard we past, the gold-rush days, how the road was built, the fact that Queenstown was called Camptown to begin with (we had this one 4 times), the number of sheep farms, blah de blah de blah. Happily we had an audiobook loaded on the i-Pod for just such an eventuality and happily tuned him out. When we got there Milford Sound was worth the long drive and tedious commentary, we had a gorgeous day and despite having seen a lot of fjords in Norway this was breathtaking.
After Milford our next stop was a long arranged walk of the Kepler Track, one of New Zealand’s great walks. The Kepler is a 4 day circular walk near Te Anau and was absolutely brilliant. The scenery was different every day from forests to mountain passes to lakes and beaches and although we had some gusty wind we even managed to avoid walking in rain and got some gorgeous clear views on the day we went over the mountain passes. We’d opted to stay in the lodges rather than risk camping in our very lightweight tent and with the wind at night we were quite pleased with the decision. The lodges were pretty comfortable and had fires and tables to sit around to play a Monopoly card game some of the other hikers had brought which we got a tiny bit competitive about. The only downside was that every evening we had to sit through a talk from the ranger at the hut. These covered a similar (and obvious) theme of turning off the gas when you’d finished cooking, taking your rubbish with you, not putting anything in the toilets etc and should really have only taken about 10 minutes. These talks were obviously highlight of the day for some rangers though. At the second hut the ranger talked for a full hour and a half, we’re not quite sure what about as after half an hour we’d subtly resumed our Monopoly game in the corner. The best moment was when he told a story about the annual Kepler challenge when people run the whole route of the walk in a single dayhttp://www.7in7fundraising.org.nz/donate_to/177)
After a very well earned hot lunch & cold beer in Te Anau we headed back to Queenstown where unfortunately the weather finally turned on us and the following day we woke up to driving rain. This meant that we had absolutely no option but to rest our weary legs in bed and watch movies. What a shame. Feeling a little more recovered the next day we picked up the adrenalin packed pace a bit with a morning jet boating in the gorgeous Skipper’s Canyon (including a side trip to see the now defunct Pipeline bungy that Gordon threw himself off in 1999) and an afternoon 'river boarding’ which is basically going down a river and through rapids with a body board and flippers
We next moved on to Wanaka (where en route we found that even the public bus drivers think they are tour guides and heard “the story of Queenstown” for a 5th time) where Mal & Sal had very kindly lent us the use of their holiday home there. This was also where Gordon had booked us to go sky-diving. We’d successfully forgotten all about that as we’d been so busy but were now starting to get very very nervous. Luck seemed to be with us (or against us?!) though as the weather was perfect and so our very first afternoon in Wanaka we found ourselves driving out to the airport in a nervous silence. After an incredibly brief instruction video (hilarious because it seemed to assume we would be able to willingly jump out of a plane) we were introduced to our instructors. They weren’t obviously depressed or suicidal so so far so good. And so feeling more than a little surreal we found ourselves strapped to a nice Serbian chap each and climbing into a plane for what was no doubt a very scenic flight over Wanaka (We can’t honestly say we remember much of the flight)
After a couple of days of more sedate activities in Wanaka our final blow-the-budget activity for the area was to head to Fox Glacier, via the gorgeous Haast pass and a hike up Mt Shrimpton, where after a bit of dithering we decided to splash out to try ice climbing rather than join a glacier walk. It turned out to be a great decision. We ended up in a group of three with a brilliant guide and with proper crampons were able to see a lot of the glacier as well as trying our hand at climbing it. We were also able to feel very cool when we came across a group of about 10 people on the day walk who looked in awe at our ice picks and packs and asked their guide what we were doing, to which she replied in a hushed whisper “They’re the ice climbers” while we tried to stand looking nonchalant absently swinging our twin ice axes and not fall over and ruin the effect. It was a brilliant but completely exhausting day hauling ourselves up some fairly overhanging cliffs and Sarah had the novel souvenir over the following days of a completely purple kneecap - the result no doubt of a particularly challenging climbing move and absolutely not from slipping on the flat on the way down.