New Zealand's Great for Tramps

Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Tuesday, November 8, 2005

I turned down the chance to walk the Milford Track, perhaps one of the most famous and reputed to be the best walk in New Zealand. I decided against it because it was so regimented (they dictated exactly where you stay) and it's quite expensive, I think it's a bit of a cash cow for the Department of Conservation here. The Routeburn attracted me as it meant walking most of the way to Milford Sound, rather than taking the four hour bus round the hills (although I would be taking the bus back again).

I caught a little bus up the valley past a picturesque little town called Glen Orchy, it felt like I was in Scotland again with a name like that. Apparently we passed through Eisengart, and I didn't even recognise it, tsk tsk tsk.

The walk was great, passing through a large forest, over streams using bouncy bridges made of wire and wood and killer views all around. The wildlife was friendly as well with a little black robin coming along to say hello at one point and jumping onto my foot.

In the evening I met a couple of Kiwis in the kitchen, we got chatting then I noticed that they had brought a miniture chess set with them, how could I resist? Sadly for New Zealand they suffered the second largest defeat of any country so far, after Russia, we played five wildly open games, and they lost the lot of them. The chess board was packed away after this and the cards were brought out instead!

In the morning I got my first view of the Kea, a beautiful green parrot with long sharp beak. They are the world's only Alpine Parrot. They are famous for being destructive to any possesions that they can get their beaks into, but to be fair they're just exploring the world around them. The Keas that I saw appeared to be particularly interested in the sewerage tank below the huts, I just hope that for everyone's sake, including the Kea, they made the tanks Kea-proof. I didn't take any photos of them here confident that as I passed through a col today that I'd be inundated by them, how wrong I was!

On this day I climbed up above the tree line, and the views were just amazing. Snow capped mountains, deep blue tarns (small mountain lakes) and barely a cloud in the sky. They all combined to give me a great day's tramping (that's what they call walking here!). I found the view to be like a small child. No matter how many photos you take of it, it demands that you take more, and I obliged.

I took a little side trip up Conical Hill, a high point just off Harris Saddle. To get to the top I had to pass through the snow line. Although it felt like there wasn't anyone else around, the footprints in the snow told another story. There were a few people up here and it was one of those days that you dream about when hill walking. The weather was superb and the sun was shining. I ended up staying there for a couple of hours, talking to whoever came past and to Dave the Amerian that I'd met. We were quite reluctant to leave in the end, but all good things must come to an end.

I walked along with Dave for a while, he told me that a Kea had stolen his hat a couple of days previously. He'd got the the top of a hill, took it off and put it beside him. A Kea snuck up behind him, grabbed the hat and jumped to safety, they sat there looking at each other for a second before the Kea took flight and off with the hat, never to be seen again. Dave was walking too fast for my liking, I wasn't getting long enough to take in the views that I wanted so I told him to go on ahead without me. This had the double bonus that I'd not need to share my peanut MM's with him!

At the end of the day's walk I crossed over a ridge and saw Lake Mackenzie down below. Home for the night! It looked amazing from my vantage point. It took a while to clamber down to Hut Mackenzie situated by the Lake, but it was really worth it. Perhaps one of the nicest places in the countryside that I've spent a night. It was only marginally ruined by the large number of sandflies that continually bit you, really annoying bugs.

The last day was as marvellous as the first two, pretty much all the same kind of fair. I did arrive at the bus stop in time for my bus to Milford Sound to find an American guy there that'd been waiting for 4 hours - his 'Kiwi Experiance' bus didn't show up and he was kind of stuck. While I waited my first proper Kea came along. I managed to snap him and watch him as he strutted around looking for something to do. I could tell that he felt mischeveous. Sure enough, just as I started taking a movie shot he had a go for the American's sandles, but he wasn't letting him have them for free!

My bus turned up, a little late but I was happy it came. I jumped on and headed for Milford Sound.
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