Fab Feb holiday – Kahurangi adventure

The second week of my holiday took me into the peace and quiet of Kahurangi National Park. It’s been my favourite park ever since I first visited in 2002, and this time turned out to be a a particularly interesting backcountry adventure.

That’s because of some really surprising contrasting experiences. The Anatoki-Waingaro track travels along a couple of river valleys, and I started off at the Anatoki end.

Basking in the morning sun at the start of the track:

On the first day, it was 99% easy walking along a well maintained benched track. But every so often, the track presented me with a real challenge with a windfall with no track marker in sight, or pleasant creeks with big boulders to navigate.

To my great surprise, despite the numerous creek crossings, I didn’t get my boots wet. And to my even greater surprise, on arriving in Anatoki Forks Hut I was greeted by a warning sign regarding hot water.

I first thought this was a joke until I went into the main room of the hut and saw the big water cylinder. This was for real! But as it was a warm day and I was on my own, I didn’t want to fire up the range and opted for a cold shower.

That’s until I turned on the shower and WARM water came out. Courtesy of the people who had been at the hut a whole 3 days earlier!

A day’s walk further down the track, there was another surprise waiting for me. A shelter that had only been opened less than a year ago and wasn’t on maps and track brochures yet. I had heard about it from other people so had decided to go there instead of camping.

The Soper shelter tent camp:

It was fantastic. A place of pure magic, and made with love. It was like stepping into Hobbit wonderland, with even small details having done with great love and attention right down to the toilet seat. It was very cold that night and I was shivering in my summer sleeping bag, but it was so worth it.

Lake Stanley, formed in 1929 by an earthquake:

Stanley river:

I usually had the huts to myself, but just when I felt like company, I got it. This was at Waingaro Forks hut,  a beautiful old style hut:

I shared the hut with a couple from Tasmania, and a veteran tramper and mountainbiker. Who had come up to the hut on his bike just to prove to his wife that he could do it. Not an easy feat by any means. He turned 65 the following morning.

Another 2 nights in a hut further down, and then a spectacular walk out thanks to clouds hovering

Reaching civilisation again, I was greeted by farmlands with a distinctly Bavarian look which gave me a short moment of feeling homesick.

Me at the end of my Kahurangi adventure:

Dusk in Golden Bay from Takaka campground:

Fab Feb holiday – Abel Tasman revisited

I did it again. The Abel Tasman Coastal track. 15 years after I had done it for the first time. It’s still as beautiful as I remembered it: Golden beaches, crystal clear blue sea, with a backdrop of regenerating bush.

But it’s a lot more busy than it was back in 2002. And I also noticed that the vast majority of people belong to two distinctly different groups of tourists: 20-somethings doing a multi-day walk, and older people in their 50s and 60s doing day trips.  What they had in common though is that most of them were from overseas.

Over Waitangi weekend, Gregor joined me, and I then completed the rest of the walk by myself. But not really by myself, as I’ve explained above.

Te Pukatea Bay – Abel Tasman at its best:

Beautiful sunrise on the next morning:

Boats anchoring at, well, Anchorage:

Gregor on the mud flats of Torrent Bay:

My picturesque camp spot in Tonga Quarry:

View towards Totaranui from the North:

My Abel Tasman tramping boots:

It was an excellent walk, with good weather most of the time and the sandflies and mosquitos weren’t too bad.  If you’re seeking solitude, it’s the wrong place. But if you’re after spending some time on the beach, it’s an excellent choice.

Kahurangi tramping holiday – Mount Arthur and the tablelands

Part 2 of my tramping holiday was no less amazing and enjoyable than the weekend with Gregor at Lake Sylvester.

The weather was incredible, day after day of sunshine and blue sky. Not a single drop of rain, and I completed my entire walk never getting my boots wet!

After Gregor dropped me off on Monday afternoon on his way back to Nelson, I went up to Asbestos Cottage. It hadn’t changed at all since I had first been there in 2002:

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It’s quite a character hut, and was home to a couple for nearly 40 years at the beginning of the previous century. I spent the night there and it was nice to enjoy the comforts of a hut, in particular because I had it to myself.

The next day turned out to be a much bigger day than I had planned. It all started off as anticipated, but things then took a different turn at Lake Peel:

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I had wanted to camp there and had actually found a very nice spot. It was a fight to throw up the tent though as it was quite windy. I should have heeded this early warning because after having watched my tent being flattened a number of times by particularly strong gusts, I had to declare defeat and take it down again. No way I could have slept there with the tent in my face every few minutes.

So I didn’t have much choice but to carry on to Balloon Hut where I found a nice sheltered spot in the trees by the hut. Even though it made for a very long day, it was a very nice walk across open tussock in the gentle late afternoon sun:

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On the following day, the hut and tablelands were in thick mist. When it finally started to burn off by mid morning, I left for my next accommodation at Dry Rock:

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I absolutely loved staying in this big rock bivvie, all by myself with just the resident weka for company. From the comfort of my sleeping bag on the platform, I had a view of  rolling tussock and later the star-studded sky.

The following day, I woke up to another perfect day. Which again turned out bigger than I had planned.

My way first took me over tussock with a single picturesque tarn on the way:

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Then up Gordon’s pyramid from which excellent views were to be had:

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Then up to Mount Arthur with even better views. 360 degrees of steep mountains, golden tablelands, dark green forests, and the endless blue sky above it all:

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I really liked the forest on the way down to Mount Arthur hut with quite a few pineapple trees:

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At the hut, I made the quick decision not to stay and carry on down the hill to Flora. It had been a hot day and I just really wanted to have my usual pot shower in the evening, which was impossible at Mount Arthur Hut as there was no stream or tarn anywhere near it.

Another big day, and a real high point of my walk.

As I had arrived at Flora a day or so earlier than I had expected, I found myself with time on my hands to actually not do much at all. Which is kind of boring, so after lunch the following day, I set off to Gridiron rock shelter further down the Flora valley:

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It was another night in a place that others have described as pure magic. This time, I had 3 Minnesotans for company. And down on the valley floor, a family group of 5 had made the forest their bed for the night.

It was at Gridiron that the resident weka actually stole my brand new toilet roll. I didn’t actually see it. Just when I came back from my pot shower in the stream, by stuff on my bunk had clearly been ruffled through, and the toiled roll was missing. I later found a few small remaining scraps in the forest. No idea what a weka would do with a whole toilet roll…

I went back to Flora on the next morning to have breakfast in the sun. And then I spent the rest of the day working for the business. Here’s my office:

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As I had worked hard and completed what I had wanted to get done, I rewarded myself with a walk up Lodestone on the following morning which also was my last full day in the hills. It was yet another fine day with stunning views of mountains, hills and the Tasman Bay.

This is Mount Arthur:

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The following day, I took a shuttle back to Nelson and jumped on the plane back to Wellington in the evening.

So that was my summer tramping holiday. It was awesome!

I just wish I could do this more often not just once a year. It’s the hills where I really can roam freely. No cell phone towers, no wifi, no worries.

Life as it should be!

Kahurangi tramping holiday – Lake Sylvester

I was down South for the last 10 days on my usual summer tramping escape. I spent the whole time in Kahurangi National Park one of my favourite parks ever since I set foot into it for the first time in 2002.

It’s located at the top of the South Island and has some impressive mountains to offer as well as tussock covered high plateaus, lakes and tarns.

This time, I combined my holiday with a long weekend so Gregor could come along for the first 3 days.

We headed up to Lake Sylvester where found a nice spot to set up our camp with a view of the lake and the range we were going to climb on the next day.

Here’s Gregor at our little camp:

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Once up on the ridge, we had stunning views of the lakes below us and the mountains beyond. These are Lake Sylvester and Little Lake Sylvester:

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Further along the ridge, there were more lakes. The walk itself was in part over very easy grassy slopes, with the occasional scramble around rocky outcrops.

One of those is Iron Hill which looks like a heap of giant rock cubes. Seen from below, it’s hard to imagine that there’s actually a perfectly good route leading up to it:

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Looking the other way, here’s Gregor with a backdrop of the cold clear waters of Lake Iron:

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It was a great day with stunning scenery and fantastic weather. We finished it off with a refreshing bath in the lake, and a delicious dinner.

Uli and Gregor dining

Well, at least my dinner was delicious, as Gregor had some rather peculiar stuff which primarily consisted of two-minute-noodles.

On the following day, we slept in and then slowly made our way back to the car with a lunch stop by a little creek with clear fresh water to drink from.

Gregor then dropped me off a bit further down the road and left for Auckland.

I shouldered my pack again and set off down memory lane on the track that I had done when I had come to the park for the first time in 2002.

A valley like no other

The Hollyford track was exactly the experience I had sought: A quiet 10 days in the beautiful South Island bush.

Big valley, big river, big lakes, and glaciated mountains towering above it all. Then opening up towards the coast with flat lowland forest, grassy flats, and sand dunes. At the end the endless ocean, under a big empty sky. Seals, lots of seals. And a lonely Fjordland crested penguin.

I set off in beautiful weather. I finished in beautiful weather. Inbetween, I wore my raincoat for a whopping two hours. For 10 days of tramping in one of the wettest parts of the country, that’s practically unheard of.

It was dry, but not too dry for the waterfalls still being very pretty:

024 Wasserfall (300x400)

Getting up early one morning, I was rewarded with the peaks glowing in the early morning sun

028 Berge in der Morgensonne von Demon Trail Hut aus (400x300)

That day, I tackled the Demon trail. It’s got the name for a reason, as it is a devilish section of track that is rough, slippery, up and down most of the time, few flat and smooth sections, and even fewer views. To break up the routine, a walkwire across a creek here and there provided some entertainment:

030 Walkwire (400x300)

The evening at Lake McKerrow was nice, and donning latest Fjordland backcountry fashion I could actually enjoy it:

032 Ich am See bei Hokuri Hut (400x300)

Sandflies, sandflies, more sandflies…

Once off the Demon Trail, the walk out to Martin’s Bay was pure delight:

034 Der Weg nach Martins Bay (400x300)

Equally delightful is Martin’s Bay itself. The Hollyford River reaches the sea here, creating an amazing landscape of ocean, dunes, lowland forests, and a backdrop of mountains:

037 Hollyford River Muendung am Morgen (400x300)

Impressive enough during the day, absolutely stunning in the evening light:

035 Abendstimmung in Martins Bay (400x300)

Further out at Long Reef, the seal colony impresses with lots of cute pups. I sat there for a long time watching them, and a lone Fjordland crested penguin.

I jetboated back most of the way to save myself the Demon Trail. The jetboat ride was an experience in itself, with a veil of mist softening the contours of the landscape and giving it an eerie atmosphere:

043 Pyke River von der Bruecke aus (400x300)

One of the highlights of my walk was McKerrow Island. Imagine a peaceful clear lake in the sun, framed by mountains under a deep blue sky. Framed by a sandy beach, picturesque driftwood, and rare yellow dune sedge:

048 Pingao auf McKerrow Island (400x300)

The old-style hut was a pleasure to stay in:

049 McKerrow Island Huette (400x300)

Further on, Lake Alabaster impresses with a view up the Pyke valley:

052 Blick ueber Lake Alabaster ins Pyke Tal (400x300)

There was more sun and blue sky on the following day, with Mount Tutoko rising into the sky in all its glory:

053 Mt Tutoko (400x300)

Then my last night on the track, in Hidden Falls Hut. Another highlight, with grassy river flats, mountain views, and blue sky:

056 Berge bei Hidden Falls Hut (400x300)

My verdict: Highly recommendable. Just don’t forget your sandfly protective gear.

Above the clouds

The Kepler Track was one of the most amazing tramping experiences in my life. Located in Fjordland at the bottom of the South Island, it’s one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and for a reason.

The track takes you from Lake Te Anau up above the bushline, then across the open tops, and then back to the lake through the bush clad Iris Burn Valley.

It actually didn’t start off that well, as on the day when I went over the tops, it was all in clouds. Visibility: crap. View: 360 degrees of white. There’s a reason why Maori named the country Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud.

The only highlight was a young Kea gorging on some wild white berries. And very interested in testing his beak on my tramping gear, just like one would expect from this inquisitive species:

001 Kea (400x300)

Towards late afternoon, the cloud lifted, revealing valleys and grassy flats:

005 Iris Burn Tal beim Bach bei der Huette (400x300)

Over night, the clouds came back, but with a hint of blue in some places. So instead of the easy way out through the valley, I decided to give the tops another go and headed back up again hoping for the clouds to burn off. Some tramping decisions save your life – this one made my day.

When I finally reached the bush line, something magical happened: The cloud thinned to a veil of mist. And I stepped into a magic wonderland of steep mountain tops rising out of a white sea of cloud and into the clear blue sky:

007 Ueber den Wolken (400x300)010 Weg ueber den Wolken 2 (400x300)

Later, the cloud gradually disappeared, opening up views into the valleys:

012 Aussicht beim Hanging Valley Shelter (400x300)

… and the lake:

016 Blick auf einen Arm von Lake Te Anau (400x300)

Awesome. Absolutely amazing. Truly unforgettable.

I camped by the lake that night, in my bivvy bag on a bed of soft dry moss. After a bath in the cool clear lake:

018 Brod Bay (400x300)

This really was IT – life as beautiful as it can be.

Lewis Pass tramping

Here are a few photos from our Christmas holiday. As often at this time of the year, the weather wasn’t great and we only got 4 and a half days of tramping out of our 12 day holiday.

We ended up spending most of the time in Nelson, doing small bits and pieces around our property.

Our 4 day walk was a loop through two valleys and over a saddle in Lake Sumner Forest Park. A bit off the beaten track, we only came across a couple of other people.

Hope Valley:

003 Hope Valley (400x300)

Most of the walk in the valley was over grassy river flats. Nice and easy.

Top Hope hot pools:

005 Hot pools (400x300)

A real luxury – a long hot soak in a couple of thermal pools, instead of the usual quick dip in a freezing cold mountain creek.

All this in beautiful bush next to a little clearing, which we had all to ourselves (apart from the sandflies of course…).

Track up Pussy Stream:

011 Hinauf im Pussy Stream (400x300)

A real wet boot day, walking up a stream bed with numerous crossings. Then up an incredibly steep slope, to the bush line. But the hard work was well worth it.

Views from the saddle:

013 Aussicht vom Sattel (400x300)013a Aussicht vom Sattel (400x300)

Doubful Valley:

016 Doubtful Valley (400x300)

Easy walking again down in the valley over grassy river flats.

Doubtful Hut:

017 Doubtful Hut (400x300)

Huts in the area are quite small, this is one of them. Glad that we didn’t stay there as it was very run down.

We could squeeze in another half day of walking, up Lewis Tops. It was very cold up there, with strong wind and quite unpleasant. Nice views though:

021 Tarn und Berge auf Lewis Tops (400x300)024 Blick von Lewis Tops (400x300)

That was our holiday!

Twizel & rowing masters

A few weeks ago, Gregor and I went to Twizel with his rowing club. This was for the masters competition where Gregor was taking part.

Twizel is down South, not too far from Mt Cook. We had a quick stop at Tekapo on the way:

001 Lake Tekapo & Mt Cook Berge (400x300)

On the way back, it was all blue skies and sun, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time for a stop again.

Anyway, this wasn’t a weekend to admire the mountains, but for rowing. Gregor is second from the right in the boat in the front of the photo:

005 Gregor im Vierer (400x300)

Here’s the little bay where people get on and off:

002 Ruderturnier (400x300)

I didn’t just hang around the race track though but went for a bit of a walk. Just a short walk away it was all peace and quiet:

004 Lake Ruataniwha (400x300)

It was a great weekend in a very beautiful part of the country!

Mt Owen

Last week, Wednesday was a public holiday. So Gregor and I took the opportunity to go down to Nelson again for another attempt on Mt Owen.

This time, we were lucky and the weather was our friend. We started the walk on a beautiful hot day with not a cloud in the sky.

It turned out to be a really nice walk. Up through beech forest for the first two hours, then over a couple of grassy slopes and a low saddle. Then down into the forest again and the last bit was in a dry creek bed in Ghost Valley.

005 Gregor im Ghost Valley

I usually prefer staying in huts. This time we were carrying my little alpine tent so while the hut was in a really beautiful spot, we went a further hour up and then camped at a few tarns.

009 Tarn010 Tarn

Here’s our camp, with Mt Owen in the background.

012 Mt Owen Basislager

Unfortunately, low cloud moved in within an hour or so after we had arrived. So we sat in the mist for a while and then went to bed early.

The next morning was still very misty, so we waited until it had cleared up a bit which was around lunchtime.

The walk up the mountain involved a few not very nice climbing bits early on, but then it was easy going up a small unmarked track.

The Mt Owen massif is karst which reminded me quite a bit of the Bavarian Alps. There were some pretty spectacular rock formations, you could even call them scary.

024 Gregor schaut in den Abgrund

On the summit, it was really pleasant as surprisingly, there was no wind. So we sat there for a while and waited for gaps between the clouds and the quick views we could get every now and then.

By the time we were back at the tent again, the weather had finally cleared and we were rewarded with a beautiful quiet evening.

031 Tarn Zelt & Sentinel Hill

The next day we had planned to walk out but the weather was just too good for that. So we used the very rare situation of mobile phone reception on the way back to the hut to let my flatmate know our change of plans, and then went on to climb Billies Knob.

This is a big round massive bump of a rock from one side, steep rock faces on another, and scrub slopes on another. There is also a tussock slope, but we didn’t know about this at the time we set off and so decided to climb up the scrub slope.

It turned out to be a very prickly climb, as there was a lot of spear grass. Since this was all off track and very steep, there was no way to avoid getting your hands out of your pockets and get stung and cut. Certainly not the nicest introduction to off track tramping for Gregor!

But the hard work was well rewarded as the views from the summit were great.

036 Blick von Billies Knob zu Mt Owen

We took a different route down again which was just as steep but grassy and therefore much more pleasant.

037 Gregor beim Abstieg von Billies Knob zum Sattel

The next day, we really did walk out. It was again a very nice day though, so rather than going straight back to Nelson, we first cooked lunch right by the river.

Back in Nelson, we camped at the motor camp right by the beach (and the airport). There was just enough sun left for us to go for a quick dip in the ocean. This felt so good after a long hot day.

Our last day was mostly a day of strolling through Nelson, eating ice cream, and having fish & chips on the beach. Very nice!

Now guess where in NZ I’d like to live…Nelson!

Christmas holidays

Here are a few photos from my Christmas holidays. Finally!

Moss Pass (Nelson Lakes National Park)

This was a walk I had had on my personal to do list for quite a while. We set off in excellent weather, in fact I’ve never experienced such hot temperatures before when tramping in NZ.

The first leg was a ride in the water taxi across beautiful Lake Rotoroa.

002 Blick vom Wassertaxi in die Berge

Then it’s up the Sabine Valley. You’re never far from the Sabine River with lots of nice views of it. Unfortunately I was very tired that day and couldn’t quite enjoy it as much as I had hoped.

004 Sabine River

In the Upper Sabine Valley, the forest slowly retreats and we walked over open Tussock slopes with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.

017 Sabine Valley Berge und wandernder Gregor

Far up the valley is Blue Lake, the world’s clearest freshwater.

021 Blue Lake

It’s incredibly clear & clean, we drank straight from it and used the water to cook our dinner.

An hour further up is Lake Constance. It’s completely different and quite murky.

024 Lake Constance

It’s also quite different to the European Lake Constance. In particular, there is no Friedrichshafen which is where Gregor is from.

With the weather still being very hot, we had a 5:45 start on the following day when we went over Moss Pass. Luckily, on the way there were a couple of opportunities for a cold drink.

032 Ich beim Trinken

The last bit up to the pass was a bit of a climb and really steep.

034 Gregor beim Aufstieg zum Moss Pass

But the views up there on the pass! Absolutely awesome! Not a cloud in the sky in either direction, and just a light breeze. We didn’t even have to put on a jumper, it was that warm.

So we got out the cooker and had a hot Miso soup and a really long break.

037 Gregor beim Suppe kochen auf Moss Pass

The descent was rather dull though, 3 hours roots and rocks through what someone had described as the ‘evil forest’ in the hut book. The only highlight were a few Kea who watched us for a while.

Over the next day, the weather slowly deteriorated. We still had dry weather for our walk up the D’Urville Valley.

058 Blick weiter rauf ins Tal

However, shortly after we had reached the hut (a tiny two bunk bivvy) it began to rain. When it cleared up a little bit for a few hours on the next day, we made our way back down the valley. As it turned out just in time, because yet again the rain set in and there were quite a few big dumps over night.

We stayed put on the following day as the track had turned into a muddy stream and we didn’t know whether the creeks were still crossable.

It was the right decision, as it cleared up and the rivers came down overnight. The next day was still cloudy and grey, but it wasn’t raining anymore.

So it was a very pleasant walk down the D’Urville valley, quite flat and frequently over grassy river flats.

You could still see the massive washouts the floods two years ago had caused though. The last bit back to the lake was a lot of up and down again to get around some very steep river banks.

065 DUrville River

Then back to civilisation, a hot shower and fish & chips.

070 Gregor im Wassertaxi auf dem Weg zurueckThe rest of the holiday

Unfortunately the weather continued to be crappy. We thought we could sit it out and do a little overnighter until conditions had improved again. So we drove further down South and spent a night in the hut at Lake Daniels.

071 Lake Daniels

It looked like it had been the right thing to do as the forecast then was quite promising for the last few days of our holidays. So we were all packed up and ready to tackle Mt Owen. But during the last 12 hours of what had been 8 days of bad weather there was such heavy rain that there was a little slip on the access road and a ford had become impassable.

This was very disappointing but there was nothing we could do but going back to Nelson. So we spent the last couple of days doing the tourist thing.

Here’s Split apple rock.

078 Split Apple Rock

The views from the Cable Bay walkway weren’t bad either.

085b View from Cable Bay Walkway

And here’s Nelson, seen from the Centre of New Zealand.

088 Blick auf Nelson von Centre of NZ