A Walk in the Clouds
GREYMOUTH/FRANZ JOSEF/QUEENSTOWN/TE ANAU, NEW ZEALAND: March 19-28, 2013
Leah: Unfortunately I will not be doing proper justice to some of my favorite places in all of NZ and for that I apologize. We’re overdue for a blog post, we’re physically and mentally drained and we’ve had a recent death in our circle, so forgive me for my lack of description and vigor. And for anyone who has voiced concern over my tone in the last post, I’m doing much better. We all hit the doldrums from time to time and no, I’m not divorcing my husband. No matter how in love you are with your significant other, I challenge anyone to travel the globe with them and tell me that it’s rainbows and butterflies all the time!
Leah: We stopped in Greymouth for one reason only: beer. We had purchased discount tour tickets to Monteith’s Brewery and I wouldn’t be a good wife if I didn’t afford my boo the chance to drink good beer when available (Steve: that’s Honey-Boo-Boo to you my dear). Oh, and for $10 each we received the tour, poured our own taster and then received any three glasses of our choosing, as well as a coupon for another free pint in a local restaurant. When a single pint usually costs around $7 in a bar here, that’s a hell of a good deal!
Steve: While I didn’t learn or see anything new on the tour itself—there was no production actually happening and the tour was only ten minutes or so—I did learn that New Zealand has great beer. Well I already knew that but the rediscovery was fun. Monteith’s makes a varied line of craft beers including a great IPA rivaling those out of Southern California as well as a lemon-infused Sprite-like brew that Leah absolutely loves…we’ll have to look for them back in the States.
A bus the next day carried us to the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown, where the highlight would be a rendezvous the following morning with my friend, Katie. We’ve been friends since high school but from college onward she’s spent most of her time on the east coast and I hadn’t seen her since the fall of 2011. Oh, and I should mention that she had recently quit her job as Deputy Director of Office of Digital Strategy for the White House and was traveling through New Zealand and Southeast Asia before deciding what to do next. Yes, I have the coolest friends. Anyway, the 3 of us spent a lovely couple days/evenings strolling through the touristy shops, sourcing out happy hours, tasting the infamous beef offerings of Fergburger, walking along the banks of the lake, attending elementary school fairs and reveling in the Remarkables Mountain Range at sunset. We even partook of a cocktail at the Below Zero ice bar, where we had nabbed super cheap tickets for entrance and cocktail through BookMe.com and completed a recent dare in the process. Despite being kitted-out in gloves and a furry parka it was bloody cold, so we slurped our fruity drinks, took the requisite pictures, played some frozen foosball and smashed our ice glasses in the bucket on the way out (check out the video here). Way fun! It was beyond brilliant to catch up and trade travel stories and with the knowledge that our paths may cross again in Thailand, we bid Katie adieu and headed to Te Anau, the gateway to our next adventure.
Kepler Track, one of NZ’s Great Walks. It’s a 61 km circular track that encompasses everything from alpine saddles to beech forests. It’s recommended that you take 3 nights and 4 days to do, but since we would be camping (cheaper than staying in the DOC huts) and there were only 2 camp sites, we would be doing the whole thing in 2 nights and 3 days (Steve: really in just over 48 hours). Oh, and the forecast had taken a turn for the worst and indicated rain but since we had already booked our campsites we had no choice. We also subsisted on canned beans, carrots, Spam, granola bars and Nutella since we decided not to bring cooking gear with us. Yup, we’re
There is too much to say and describe about this highlight of our trip, so I
won’t even try. Here’s the abbreviated version:
DAY 1: 5.6 km, 1 ½ hours. Poured rain. Beautiful forest, Brod Bay campsite on beach. Everything drenched, fell asleep to the drone of mosquitoes. Rained all night.
DAY 2: 22.8 km, 8 ½ hours. Poured rain through our steep uphill slog to Luxmore Hut. Passed Mt. Luxmore and hiked along alpine saddles where wind threatened to throw us against the mountain or off of it. More rain. More wind. Too miserable to take many pictures even when the weather would have permitted it. However, most amazing scenery ever and worth every damned uphill step. Then a steep downhill descent through verdant forest to Iris Burn. Gorgeous valley, celebratory scotch (Steve) and Dr. Pepper (me) but zipped into tent at 4 P.M. until the next morning to avoid the omnipresent sandflies. Heard stags grunting all night long, as they’re currently rutting and protecting their harems from other males.
Day 3: 31.7 km, 8 hours. Gorgeous day. Perfect really. Only ones on trail since we started so early. Looked like Mother Nature upholstered everything in green lichen and moss. More or less flat, but our bodies were in agony at this point and all we could do was push on. Back at the hostel we could hardly walk. Maybe we don’t try and condense a great walk like that again? Lesson learned but my favorite part of the trip so far the scenery was something that’d indelibly etched in my brain.
There are just no words. I can’t relive it all now, but I was immediately crushed that I couldn’t be at home for the people who need me and the similarities to Jayna were just too much (I found out about her murder the day I returned from a hiking trip after being off grid, not to mention that Addie was also vivacious, talented and gathered friends wherever she went). It made me wonder again about if I can have kids after seeing how they can be ripped from your life by a sick person or a freak accident. And most of all it brought up the all-too-familiar feelings of grief and rage. I thought there had been enough suffering in my circle to last a lifetime—was the whole cycle starting over again after just a few years? And losing Addie is just too much—a bright 18-year-old just hitting her stride who had been excited for our trip and made me promise the last time we talked that I’d consider going to Ethiopia (where she’d been with school and fallen in love with the children and culture). It was just too much. I cried and moped and locked myself in the hostel TV lounge with Steve and a The Lord of the Rings movie as distraction, falling into a fitful sleep later that night.
So there you have it. Fiordland is absolutely my favorite region of NZ and it was brilliant to be back while tackling new adventures and places with Steve. It was especially nice because it's the start of fall and the air is crisp and the trees are starting to change, something I always missed in San Diego. However, the end of our time here was bittersweet and in closing I’d like to ask that you send any healing thoughts and prayers to the Hubert family and all those affected by Addie’s passing. Life is full of highs and lows, incredibly joy and agonizing pain, all of which serve to continually remind these travelers why we’re risking it all to follow our dreams now instead of later. No day but today.
Peace be with you, Addie.