Thursday, June 30, 2011

Queenstown Holiday - Part 2

The next couple of days the forecast was for cold and sunny so we attempted to do the Routeburn great walk. We packed up our rucksacks with our overnight gear and set off on a very frosty morning up the Routeburn valley. In the summer you have to book these great walks weeks in advance, but the nice thing about doing it in winter is that you can just pick your weather and go for it, and there usually aren't many other people on the track and competing for the beds in the huts.

Crossing the Routeburn River at the start of the track on a very frosty morning

Most of the track up the valley is in the beautiful beech forest and doesn't get any sun at this time of year. But when you reach Routeburn Flats it was warm and sunny, so we stopped and had lunch at the hut there.

Looking down on sunny Routeburn Flats

From Routeburn flats the track climbs up the side of the valley and up towards the cirque or glacier bowl. We stayed at the Routeburn Falls hut just at the lip of the cirque. The views from the hut are probably some of the best from any hut in New Zealand, back down the valley with snow dusted mountains all around.

Sunset from Routeburn Falls Hut

After a very cold night at the hut - huddled around a pathetic fire with two other guys who arrived later we headed up into the cirque and tried to climb up to Harris Saddle. The last few entries in the hut visitors book had said that they had turned around due to the ice. We did the same as we didn't have crampons or axes with us.

Icy track with a steep drop off into Lake Harris when you get around the corner

Helen and Harris Lake

So we headed back down the way we had come and back to the comfort of the bach.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Queenstown Holiday - Part 1

Several of our friends have access to family "baches" (otherwise known as holiday homes) - or in the south island they actually call them "cribs". Don't ask me where the names come from. We have been making the most of these "friendships" and taking advantage of the baches. As I had a work conference down south of New Zealand we decided to take the opportunity to go to Queenstown for the week. Queenstown is in the middle of the Southern Alps and is a big tourist destination - especially at this time of the year as there are several ski fields near by and it was opening week and the Queenstown winter festival. Unfortunately for the ski fields there wasn't any snow yet.

Our friend's bach was a typical 1970-80's bach, just outside of Queenstown on the sunny side of the lake - right next to the newly opened Hilton Hotel! So in a prime location.

View from the deck of the "bach"

Although it was opening week for the ski fields there wasn't any snow and they hadn't been able to make very much as the temperatures have been very mild so far this year. So there was no point in going skiing. We took down our tramping gear and explored some of the local tracks around the area.

We went over to Wanaka and headed up the spectacular Rob Roy hanging valley to check out the glacier at the top.

Crossing the Matukituki River to get to the Rob Roy valley

The Rob Roy Glacier

The next day we headed up to the Remarkables and walked up to Lake Alta through the ski fields desperately trying to make some snow. Surprisingly Lake Alta was frozen, and there was some natural snow on Double Cone above the lake.

Frozen Lake Alta at the Remarkables

Double Cone above Lake Alta

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hawkes Bay and tramping in the Ruahine's

We haven't had much of a holiday in the last few months as we have been finishing off the house and have had a lot of different visitors, followed by a lot of work - so Aaron organised for us to take a break in Hawkes Bay over the Queen's birthday long weekend (yes I know it is weird that we celebrate the Queen's birthday in New Zealand and Australia, although it isn't much of a celebration, just an excuse for a holiday). We have only been up to Hawkes Bay once before, a few months after we arrived over the Christmas break, so it was a chance to explore the area properly - making sure that we tasted the food and wine which the region is well known for.

Other than visiting a few wineries and tasting some cheese, honey and various other delicacies we tried to work off a few calories with a walk up and around Te Mata Peak - a large limestone hill just outside of Havelock North.

Te Mata Peak

We also took the excuse to go tramping in the Ruahine's (the range north of the Tararuas - which are the mountains just to the north of Wellington). We walked the main walking track up to Sunrise Hut, where we dumped our bags and walked up to one of the peaks.

Sunrise Hut just on the treeline

On top of the unnamed peak just to the north of the hut 1499 m high

Aaron with the views of the mountains and the hut just on the ridge to the left

We stayed in the hut overnight and had a very romantic meal of rehydrated morroccan lentils by candle light (our kind of romantic).

Candlelit dinner!

The next morning we were up with the sunrise and headed out on a bit of an epic adventure climbing up to the the top of Te Atuaoparapara peak, then down a scree slope on the other side and then down the Waipara River back to the road. 6 hours of walking, battling the wind, scrambling, scree skiing, bush bashing, wading across the river countless times - back to the car.

The ridge up to the top of Te Atuaoparapara - it was really windy and I didn't really want to walk too close to the edge in case I was blown over as it was a sheer drop down the other side.

One of the many times we crossed the Waipara River