Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Caution! These pictures could cause you to drop everything and come to New Zealand
Awake yet? There's a lot more where that came from-
Last Thursday I bumped into Meghan on the way to lab (like we never see each other or something) and she told me she'd rented a car and planned to get out of town. Game on the idea, Narv jumped aboard as well and the smell of a weekend road trip filled the air. Wanaka was the destination, the plans-a little less clear- but the matukituki valley leading into Mt Aspiring National Park looked promising.
We picked up the "white ninja" from EZY rentals and headed of Friday afternoon for the 6 hour drive
It's not a road trip unless you crank out the Journey
Of course, the 6 hour estimate assumes you actually drive, but really, there was no way we could avoid numerous photo op stops
Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook (NZ highest peak)
New Zealand sunsets; like none other in the world
We made it into into the bustling "city" of Wanaka around 9. The little town (pop 4000) sits right on the edge, and apparently sometimes under, Lake Wanaka. Swelling during the winter , it was a great shock to trade the noise and confusion of chch for the wide open spaces of a dormant ski town, (not to mention the convenience of being within walking distance of the bars)
The purple cow, hostel we crashed at
Treble Cone Ski area, waiting for the snow to fall again
Up with the sun the next morning, we enjoyed a kiwi breakfast at one of the cafes and headed for the hills. Narv and I, after looking at some maps, decided we'd push up the valley from the car park and veer up the ridge after several miles to an exposed ridge, elevation was the name of the game, and man were we about to get it.
Here's a shocker, right? Livestock graze one the valley floor up to the park boundary. If you enlarge this pic you can see the massive waterfall spouting out from the bottom of the glacier.
Bride's veil falls.
Not sure about the name of this odd rock peak, but pretty cool looking
After a quick 4 mile hike up the relatively flat valley floor, we reached the park boundary and the Aspiring hut. From here we veered upward through a dense beech forest
Just before crossing this little stream we ran into one of the only two other trampers we saw on the ridge ascent. Believe it or not he was actually from Ballston Spa (right out side Saratoga), its a small world.
Man, looks are deceiving. If this doesn't look that bad to you fine, the camera doesn't so it justice, but you're looking at the wall we saw as we broke out of the treeline.
Made it! Ok, we didn't jump up and down when we crested the ridge, actually we ridge walked for a while, found a nice knoll to crash on, and destroyed a stick of salami and a couple hapless energy bars.
Mt Avalanche and Rob Roy Peak (l-r)
Mt Edward, Dart glacier, Plunkett Dome (l-r)
Mt Tyndall and the Isobel Glacier (so close but still so far)
Narv had the great idea of bringing a small pair of binocs, genius. I was almost blown off the ridge looking into the distant crevasses and towering head walls, I'd never been that close to such impressive mountains (lift serve ski areas seem to reduce the mountains to mole hills for me)
More waterfalls. I could probably have spent a month camped out in the ravine below the ridge just exploring all the snow fields, cascades, outcrops and tarns
Hike in a nutshell. If you look down the valley you can see two thin lines of trees cutting across the floor, the car park where we started is just past the the most distant. We probably did 12-14 miles and climbed 5,000 feet, that's like running up and down a few hundred feet less than Mt Marcy from sea level, but most that elevation was made and lost in 3-4 miles. The mountains here are much younger than our old tired Appalachians, and thus a lot steeper and burlier.
Little steep ehh?
The drive in and out was pretty rough, requiring a couple stream fords and holding up for plenty of sheep to get out of the way.
Hence the term a rented mule
In other news, we had some pretty crazy weather two weekends ago, while the east was getting a spring snow storm, we got hail and thunder
Ilam gardens disappearing under water
Two Wednesdays ago we went to the Willow Bank center to watch a Maori performance, gorge on the all you can eat buffet, and view some of NZ's rarer native species. Above is a Kea, the only alpine parrot in the world. They're notorious for causing all sorts of trouble for alpinists. They're one of the smartest birds on the planet, and believed to be one of the few animals known to partake in activities solely for entertainment. This guy wasn't exactly having a ball. We also saw kiwis, but were asked not to use flashes, so no pics came out. They're also a pretty cool animal in a lot of trouble. Our guide said NZ is in serious danger of loosing their national icon and name sake within 5-10 years if protection doesn't improve vastly. He may have a bias, working for a conservation park, but I doubt he was making it up.