general travel

Bruce Bay, West Coast, New Zealand (25.11.2009)

Driving along the west coast after hiking the Routeburn, we passed by Bruce Bay one cold and windy morning, and stopped to walk along the beach – and discovered these huge piles of message stone, and balancing stones and land art. I had some fun adding to the balancing, the rocks there were fantastic!




White rock on driftwood



Random art



Messages – most of these were from the last month or two, so either this is a new development, or people come along and clean things up to stop it from getting out of hand.






And rock piles as far as the eye can see



And a shoe


european bike epic general hiking trip reports

Tramping the Routeburn (21 – 23 Nov 2009)

The Routeburn track is one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” in the South Island. It winds through Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks for 32km of some spectacular scenery – provided it’s not raining. Raining is the default weather condition on the west coast though, so we were lucky to hit one dry day on our hike.

We parked the car in Queenstown and took ourselves and our backpacks down to catch the shuttle bus. That’s one thing about the Routeburn, it annoyingly starts on one side of a range and finishes on the other. It’s a huge drive to get from one end of the trail to the other, so taking the shuttle bus (or hitch-hiking) is the obvious option. So, we were dropped off in the rain and the hiking began.


Rainy beginnings and roaring rivers



With Mum at the start



Crossing wibbly wobbly bridges


It actually began to clear up a bit after the first hour; the rain stopped and the clouds lifted a little.


Looking down to Routeburn Flats (site of the first hut, which we didn’t stay in) from a large landslip


And so we reached Routeburn Falls Hut, our home for the first night. Huts have to be booked well in advance through the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC). They’re not cheap, but are pretty nicely equipped. Camping is an option too, but again, spots have to be booked well in advance (for the tramping season anyway, out of season it’s first come, first served, like a lot of the smaller NZ backcountry huts always are).


Routeburn Falls Hut, and Routeburn Flats beyond



Alpine Flowers



Sunset from the balcony of Routeburn Falls Hut


The next morning we hung around to receive our helicopter rendezvous time. So far this season, everyone tramping the Routeburn had been shuttled by helicopter over Harris Saddle, as there were a few patches of snow hanging around threatening the track. The quoted time was pretty late in the day, so we had a relaxing morning, and wandered up Paddy’s Peak to watch the helicopter flying back and forth dropping explosives on the threatening patches of snow. One slid, but the other took about seven blasts without budging, so they changed tactics and the helicopter started scooping up loads of water from Lake Harris to dump onto the snow. Back and forth for hours.


Down to Routeburn Flats from Paddy’s Peak



Looking across to Harris Saddle from Paddy’s Peak


When we finally reached the rendezvous point, we were told that we’d be hiking through, no helicopter ride today.


Hiking through the snow – we were the first group through for the season, everyone else had been helicoptered across this small section



Lake Harris



The far side of Harris Saddle, hot and dry. Thankfully there were a lot of waterfalls along this stretch to refill water bottles. And the warm sun was definitely preferable to driving rain.



Looking down on Lake Mackenzie and the hut – lots of switchbacks to descend


Reaching Lake Mackenzie Hut, we dropped our gear on bunks and I was one of a few mad enough to go for a dip in the lake before dinner. It was not warm.


Lake Mackenzie, with Emily Peak in the background


The third morning we woke up to more rain – persistent rain today, it kept going as we hiked all the way out to the highway.


More traditional South Island west coast weather as we hike out on the third day



Lots of waterfalls happily flowing across the track


And back at the highway with plenty of time to spare, we lurked in the shelter and brewed up some lukewarm tea, and waited for the shuttle bus to take us back to Queenstown.

general travel

New Zealand (14 – 26 Nov 2009)


Ferns unrolling



Visiting Sair in Christchurch



With Sair’s rat



Oamaru – wool bales



Mount Cook



Lupins! They were growing wild all over the place, in a ridiculous array of colours.



Lake Wanaka from Wanaka township



Driving through the Crown Range between Queenstown and Wanaka (after hiking the Routeburn Track)



Lake Wanaka, driving away from town



Learning how to rock balance – frustrating, yet strangely satisfying



Fox Glacier, advancing at a rate of almost a metre a week



A Kea, shortly before it devoured our entire rental car (for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, they’re a large alpine parrot that lives in the South Island of New Zealand – they’re cunning beasties, and will eat anything)



Castle Hill boulders