So Long, Farewell...
Trip Start Sep 18, 2011
29Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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Sadly, our last month has come and gone in Queenstown but we jam packed every waking moment with sights, hikes and gatherings with our friends (when we weren't working, that is).
First up, we had been planning a trip to the glaciers with Michael and Taylor since the first few months of arriving in Queenstown. Our "plan" was to cruise over and up the west coast with one goal in mind: to tour deep inside of the Fox Glacier. You might remember, we visited the glaciers in November but just hiked to the snout, we didn't go in. On with the story, the further we drove the wetter and rainier it got. As the rain took over, we decided we probably weren't going to be camping, as planned, so after arriving at the town of Fox Glacier we found a hostel with a cozy bedroom that slept 4. The evening was filled with pizza eating (more blue cheese, please?), wine drinking and Uno playing. We awoke the next morning to rain and a rather stinky room. I'm not about to blame anyone but let's just say that the pizza had a lot of cheese on it. So there we sat in a stinky room and rain pounding on our roof. Probably not the best day to tour the depths of a glacier. Luckily we could cancel that morning (happens regularly, I guess) so we did. We were a little bummed we weren't going on the full day tour but we were not going to let that get us down. We were actually able to hike to both the glaciers plus a quick side visit to Lake Matheson. Although things didn't go as planned we definitely had a blast with Michael and Taylor. Next up, a trip to Greece and Turkey with them!
One fine evening Michael, Taylor, Chip and I boarded the Earnslaw for a cruise on the lake and a massive buffet dinner at Walter Peak. It was an absolute perfect evening which ended with an unforgettable sheep sheering show. I'm so glad I'm not a sheep.
Chip decided the night before that he was going to do the Moke Lake Triathlon. If you know our friend Jeff then you know he's going to get you to do stuff you might not necessarily want to do. He's so great at psyching you up and ultimately you're glad you did it. I think this was one of those moments for Chip. He did a great job in his FIRST EVER triathlon. I'm not sure we'll ever find a more pristine location for a triathlon...swimming in Moke Lake, mountain biking through 30+ river crossings and up hills with sweeping views, and ending with a trail run around Moke Lake. What a memorable day. So proud of Chip, Rachel and Jeff for rockin' the tri!
Some of our most memorable nights were spent with our Canadian roomies (flatmates), Nick and Erika. We often found ourselves cooking for each other...crepes, eggs benny, SUSHI ROLLS! Pictured here are Nick and Chip devouring the largest (and most expensive) Fergburger called the Big Al. Here's the description: Al delivers a double serving of prime New Zealand beef (1/2lb), lashings of bacon, a whole lotta cheese, 2 eggs, beetroot, lettuce, tomato, red onion, relish & a big wad of aioli. Sounds good, eh? Another night went out kite flying just up from our house with Erika's sweet kite. Doesn't look like it but that kite can pick you up off the ground if it's windy enough!
On one of our last days in Queenstown, Chip's clinic threw him a going away party on a posh yacht where we cruised around Lake Wakatipu. Chip's words: Work here has been far better than we expected. Clinic staff was amazing at helping us get settled in, professionally and otherwise. Patients have been super easy-going and truly want to get well. At times things were busier than I would have liked, but that's to be expected. It will be tough to match the great group of colleagues, patients that I have a genuine friendship with, and the life balance the schedule here has provided.
A three day weekend was quickly approaching so Rachel, Jeff, Chip and I decided to take advantage of our last backpacking trip together and complete another one of New Zealand's great walks, this time being the Kepler track which is located 2 hours south of us. The description on the DOC website pretty much nails it: 'The Kepler Track is a 60 km, 3 day loop track taking you from the gentle, beech-forested shores of lakes Te Anau and Manapouri to the
tussocky alpine tops and grand Mt Luxmore. Your reward for the hill climb is a long section above bushline with marvelous panoramic views of the Kepler Mountains on one side, and lakes, rivers and hanging valleys on the other.' This track delivers!
The first day, we hike around 5 hours to the Luxmore Hut. We decided since the warm summer weather had disappeared we would opt to stay in the backcountry huts versus carrying all our camping gear. So glad we chose that option as it was bitterly cold at night plus we were able to warm up by the fire, cook our food on stoves provided, and stay up late playing card games. Not only that but we met some pretty cool hut wardens! Gotta give it up for Robbie (Fae, not so much). During our evening at the Luxmore Hut we made a 10 minute side trip to the Luxmore Cave where we spent over an hour exploring. I love caves!!
The next morning we woke up to the most beautiful sunrise and the most annoying backpackers. Unfortunately we learned why sleeping in a hut isn't all it's cracked up to be. Although we were warm, there were snorers, farters (eh um, Jeff), people who got up to pack their bag at 4 am and people who were having conversations. So we got up with the rest of them and headed out on our journey in to the alpine. Little did we know we were in for a treat!
As we began to climb the steep mountainside, the views of Lake Te Anau got better and better. An hour later we reached the SNOW and ridge that we walked along for a few hours (now those were some panoramic views)! The sun kept us warm and the views kept us happy. After stopping for lunch at one of the emergency shelters we began to descend quickly to the Iris Burn Hut (where we were about to meet the coolest hut warden EVER). We were thankful to see the hut as our legs were in need of a respite from the hiking and climbing. As I mentioned, we met Robbie, the most genuine hut warden in the world. He was so excited to show us where we could spot glow worms and listen for kiwis at night (the bird not the locals). Sure enough, after nightfall, we found a ton of glow worms and heard (not saw) the kiwis.
Our last day was supposed to be our longest day of hiking (23-ish kilometers). We slept in until 10am (nice!) then hit the trail. We passed through beech forest, a huge rockslide that happened in the 80's and New Zealand wetlands. Overall, the Kepler track was probably the most beautiful hike we have done while here. Walking along the ridge at the top gave us the sense that we were literally standing on top of the world looking down at lakes, valleys, waterfalls, mountains, and more. It was breathtakingly beautiful. So happy to have shared this moment with Frasier and Anne (aka Jeff and Rachel)!
Last but not least, 3 days before departure from Queenstown Jeff and I completed Wanaka's half marathon. It was off to a chilly start but the sun warmed me up almost immediately. It was definitely a memorable run that I will never forget. Checking 'international half marathon run' off my bucket list.
This last month pretty much sums up our time in Queenstown...we met fabulous lifelong friends, pushed our limits, backpacked in some of the most beautiful countryside we've ever seen, completed goals we've been meaning to complete, ate, biked, ran, swam, worked, laughed, cried and LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT! I've been in denial but it's finally time to say goodbye to one of the most beautiful places I will ever live. Thank you, Queenstown for opening my eyes to so many new things. Lots of love to everyone who has come in to our lives. We'll see you soon!
*Click on pics for more...
UPDATE on our near future:
We head to the North Island tomorrow to explore for 16 days. Fly from Auckland to LAX on April 19th where we'll visit family and friends for a few days. Then we are off to Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Greece and Turkey until June 3rd! We'll be back in Ohio, Minnesota and Colorado all of June and we cannot wait to see everyone!
Love, Chip and Lindsay