Heading to Lake Matheson

My time in Queenstown New Zealand is over. I am heading towards Fox Glacier for the night.

Of course I wake up super early. I prepare my coffee and yogurt but today I am watching a very noisy helicopter off in the distance drop wood or pick up wood along the hillside; the task isn’t clear, the only thing that is clear is that it is waking other campers. I get my groceries from the camp fridge, straighten and clean my van and get on the road by 9 am.

Leaving Queenstown

It is a very scenic drive out of town so I have to stop. I read about how invasive pines have taken over the area so they are in the process of killing them off. The pines are beautiful but suck the life out of the native vegetation.

Wanaka Tree

My next stop is at the famous Wanaka tree. This lone willow tree is a very popular photography stop for travelers in the area. I am shocked to have learned just two months after my visit someone cut off the bottom limbs.

Wanaka Tree

I continue on my drive and keep finding spots to stop for scenic views. I see beautiful lakes along the way.

My next scheduled stop is at the Blue Pools to see the beautiful cold pools of water filled from clear melted glacier water.

Blue pools

A visit to the blue pools can be as short or long as you like. It is a about a 30 minute roundtrip hike from the car park down a nice trail.

I reach a suspension bridge that starts to give views of the river or stream below.

I notice people swimming in the water. It looks refreshing. This is one of the times I hate being a solo traveler. I have no one to trust to leave my belongings with to explore the water.

I walk down to a beach area and take my boots off and soak my feet in the cold water for a bit. It is very cold but I love it. I sit and listen to the water flow as I soak. It is so peaceful and relaxing. I eat a snack but I could stay here all day or even just long enough for a picnic lunch.

I walk back to my car and head toward my final destination for the day.

Everything on my drive is beautiful: Water, rocks and mountain views. Water is blue and clear from melting glacial snow.

Will I ever find a gas station?

I start to discover that my USA credit cards are not compatible with all gas stations in New Zealand. For 75% of the time I am unable to pay at the pump while in this country; only a time or two is there an actual attendant to process a credit card manually inside. I start to find myself with worry that I won’t be able to find an accessible gas station when I really need too. The towns get smaller and smaller along my route. I start to stop at gas stations even when I am not in need of gas to fill up just in case the next one cannot take my purchase.

Will I ever arrive at my destination?

I am so tired of driving. This drive is supposed to be a 4 hour drive but it is now 6 hours. My anxiousness in getting to my next location doesn’t stop me from checking out this salmon farm I see on the way. They are getting ready to close but I pick up some smoked salmon to snack on.

I finally make it to my lodging. I am actually staying in a motel for the night. Living in luxury with my own little kitchen at the Rainforest Motel.

View from my room.

I have cable tv and working wifi. This is great. But I don’t stay in my room too long because I want to go checkout the sunset views of Lake Matheson and Mount Cook.

Lake Matheson / Te Ara Kairaumati Walk

car park view

Once arriving at the car park there is a nice trail that takes you 2.6 km in a loop around Lake Matheson.

Crossing a little bridge to get to the trail.

The trail is nice and peaceful. Still looking for kiwis but having no luck again.

Look at this beautiful green pathway! (Sorry about vertical mode).

After doing a bit of walking around I find the spots where the sun hits the mountain tops just right to reflect in the lake below.

I sit around a bit and watch the sky change then I walk back to the car park. Still great views on the way out. But no kiwis!

Watching the sun set on the walk back
Nice view but this is the closest I will get to the mountain tops this trip.

Not doing an all out glacier walk this trip even though I am really close. It seemed very complicated for a short stop. For now I am just viewing the glaciers from a distance. Another one added to my list for when I return someday.

Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand

Yesterday we took the train from Kaikoura back to Christchurch. According to the maps it seems like our bed and breakfast is in walking distance to the train station. We set off with our luggage but unfortunately it seems in the wrong direction. We hike over an overpass and seemingly going out of our way. We walk past some office buildings and then finally we see our lodging, Addington Bed and Breakfast.

We booked the cheapest room, the twin room. It is tight for the two of us with all our luggage but the home is nice. The breakfast is quite good and the house is clean. I am happy there is a washer and dryer available so I can do some laundry while I am here. Space is tight but we don’t plan on spending too much time in the room; besides I’ll have the whole room to myself for the third night anyway.

Today we visit Arthurs Pass National Park and seemingly the best way to visit is by train, a couple hours from Christchurch. Accommodation and amenities are limited at the national park so we visit as most do as a day trip by train. There is also an option to rent a car and drive to the pass; in the interest of time we didn’t take this option.

The weather is quite uncertain as it often is. We hope to get some time to look around before the rain sets in.

We start off with a walking tour provided by a park ranger. We meet at the temporary visitor center.

Learn about animals introduced that became pests. New Zealand is very strict about people bringing in foreign plants and animals, even checking our hiking boots on the way into the country. Unfortunately they weren’t always as strict and now they are paying the price with foreign introduced animals wreaking havoc on their ecosystem.

Our guide takes us past a waterfall, a church with a great view and some other notable landmarks.

Only about 30 people actually live at Arthur’s Pass. As far as visitors go I think many who stay the night do tramping (similar to backpacking, the recreational activity of going for long-distance walks in rough country).

After our tour ends we take the hike up to view some waterfalls.

Devil’s Punchbowl Falls (Māori name is Hinekakai) is up and down a good amount of stairs (2.2 mile hike). I may have cursed and whined a little on the stairs but it is worth it.

After the water fall hike I’m hungry so we head to lunch at one the two restaurants at Arthur’s Pass.

Even with no competition, The Wobbly Kea isn’t bad.

I love my halloumi and pear salad.

After lunch we go for a short nature hike. At this point I am focused on seeing a live kiwi but from what we’ve been told it is more likely to see them at dusk. My ears are actively listening but we are unsuccessful in the quest. However we do happen upon some beautiful lichen lined paths that are other worldly.

Wide open spaces

After our hike we head over to the general store and watch a very naughty Kea bird try to steal everything.

We walk back to the station to await the train. It starts raining but fortunately the rain was not able to ruin our day.

While we wait for the train we start chatting with the guys next to us. We find out they are in Christchurch for a quick stop back home (California I believe). They are scientists that work in Antarctica. They are responsible for fixing and setting up important scientific equipment. They are fascinating to speak with.

Our ride back to Christchurch begins and the rain stops to open up some beautiful views.

Once we are back in Christchurch we head to dinner before walking back to our bed and breakfast. My aunt leaves me tomorrow and I am once again alone for at least another month. It is nice to have a companion while it lasts.

Picos de Europa

This is the part of the trip where I try to sneak a hike in to get some exercise (because walking miles and miles a day isn’t exercise :D).

I am nearby to Picos de Europa. So I book a little hotel in the small town of Poncebos.

Beautiful view coming in. I had to stop for pictures a couple of times because it was that pretty.

My little hotel sits in a valley. There is one hotel next door and maybe some more down the road but not many in the area. However as I arrive the place is bustling with day hikers. There are so many cars parked all over the area that I hope I find parking. Luckily the hotel has a free space open in their private lot.

When I check in I notice hikers drinking their celebratory beers. They seem like serious hikers. Am I out of my league here? I decide that I can do the trip one way only if it seems too much to do the roundtrip.

My little room.

There is no staying up late. Time for dinner and then bed. I ordered the trout that I guess was served with bacon on it. It was very good.

In addition I ordered the mixed salad which I thought was a side salad but ended up being a meal of its own. Topped with tuna so I guess tonight is a fish night.

Hopefully it will all prove to be good fuel for tomorrow.

Goodnight.

Hunter Mountain and Woodstock

I was invited to stay in my friend’s cabin in Hunter Mountain on the weekend that coincidentally was my birthday weekend. Her cabin was so cozy and with the snow I had a chance to try out my car’s brand new tires (birthday present to myself – our presents tend to be more practical as I get older).

View of Hunter mountain
Well stocked fridge with booze, snacks and desserts

We were hanging with musicians so our evenings were full of live music as well as lots of game time.

During the day we did a snow hike. I brought my poles but was too lazy to put on my yaktrax. I sort of regretted that decision but I survived. We had a great view of the almost frozen Kaaterskill Falls.

Our our way home we stopped at Woodstock. It is a charming little town that gets to capitalize on its hippie past.

We ate a very good vegan resturant.

Peru 2018! Inca Trail Day 3

Yesterday was a rough day. It was a shorter hiking day but still took a lot out of me. Luckily we got lots of rest that night because the next day wasn’t going easier on us.
Today was a long day. Started with strenuous uphill to the first peak. We more Inca sites.
Still, we were rewarded with some beautiful vistas and some archaeological sites.

Lunchtime was fun. We had some fun with “fanny” and an onion ring plus Lomo Saltado!

This last day I finally spent some time hiking with part of the group. Some of them may have been sick thus the reason why they were at my pace, but I was grateful for a little companionship while it lasted.

At points it felt like I was walking in the clouds.

Today was hard on the knees. I ended up skipping the last Inca site due to lateness and exhaustion.
And we are done. The hardest is supposedly behind us with just a short hike to machu pichu in the morning.

This part may gross some out but I sometimes like to talk about BM (bowel movements). I think bowel movements are an important indicator of health. This third day of the hike I finally went poo poo in the potty. This is an accomplishment not only because my routine was all screwed up but also because I didn’t talk about the bathroom conditions before (and I have no photo of this). Our bathrooms most of the hike were a privacy tent with two buckets and some deodorizing powder. One bucket was for peeing and one bucket was for number 2. It was an art to do the switchover with sore legs and not have body parts touch things if you don’t want body parts touching things. It was gross somewhat but it was kept up really nice by one of our porters. He broke it down and put it back together a couple times a day (especially days we had a lunch setup). We tipped him really well at the end. When I do strenous exercising I tend to wake up and pee a lot during the night because my body goes into detox mode. If I didn’t have this challenge my sleeping would have possibly been more rejuvenating.

This last night my tent is scary close to a ledge, luckily I didn’t fall over a cliff during one of my many late night potty visits.
It also started raining in the middle of the night – should make a fun morning.
I also had heartburn or acid reflux every day of the hike. I am wondering what I can do to counter act that when I am doing strenuous activities.
16500 Steps today