From there we picked up a rental car again and headed to the southern coast, sleeping at the funkiest campground yet (showers, toilets and a minimal kitchen all housed in ancient cylindrical water cysterns!)--on Curio Bay near the southernmost point of the South Island
. It turns out to be one of the only places where the endangered Hector's Dolphins breed and raise their young. It's about to be developed into a marine preserve, so if we ever go there again it will be totally different, but we can say we once spent the night there on a bluff above the beach, the wind flapping and tearing at our tent all night long. A beautiful, wild spot.
Last night we stayed in Milton with friends we met in Collingwood--the ones who were in on the scalloping--and this morning headed north to Christchurch. Tomorrow we will spend the day there, savoring the last bit of Kiwi food and culture--Jim' s quest for the absolutely best fish and chips, Sidney's des ire to try all the ice creams he's seen advertised on TV. We have loved
tramping, and we're glad we're finished.
Our final tramp on the Routeburn Track had the coldest temperatures, the most trampers (and most Americans), and the most waterfalls of any we've done. A hut warden thte first night at Routeburn Falls Hut told us it is now vying with Abel Tazman for the most popular of the Great Walks. Of the 48 bunks in the hut that night, not one was empty. We camped the second night, and all 9 tent sites were taken. The scenery was dramatic--a climb to a subalpine valley, and on the second day an alpine crossing, the route of which took us parallel to high, snow-capped peaks just across the Hollyford Valley. Jim commented they looked so close he felt he could reach out and touch them. The weather was brilliant. After a climb to Key Summit, we descended steeply, and caught our bus at 1:30 pm from The Divide, same place we started the much rougher Caples Track, and it took us back to Te Anau. Have I mentioned how great the shuttle services are for trampers in NZ?