As many of you may know, Jeremiah and I are moving back to the USA this June! We are excited, we are sad, we are giddy, and our heads are spinning. Any emotion you can imagine I am dealing with at the moment. We are so thankful for the year we've had here in NZ and the time to see more of the country and more of our friends. Our time here was much shorter than we had anticipated but I feel we didn't waste a day of it. I can't say when we will be back again, but my heart tells me that New Zealand will always be a part of our story. I'm certain that many visits back are written in our future. In the midst of all of this hard decision making, we have still managed to have a lot of fun these past couple of months. What stands out most is our 10 day trip south to Milford Sound and back.
Milford Sound has been on my bucket list for years now. Everyone who's visited has said "Oh you HAVE to get down there! It's spectacular!" This year a friend of ours guided kayak tours on Milford Sound and he told us we needed to visit. Well you don't have to tell me twice! We packed up Kevin and hit the road.
The first day south was a lot of driving. New Zealand is not a large country, but on the South Island to get from point A to point B, there is nearly always a mountain you need to drive around. We started down the West Coast stopping off at a few choice day hikes and ended our drive at Gillespie Beach near Fox Glacier. At this point we were both exhausted and it was nearly 10pm. We roll up on this campsite that is suitable for 8 tents and there are 50+ cars. Yes, over 50 vehicles at this site meant for 8.... ha! It's late, we are tired, it's starting to rain, so what do we do? We just slept in the car of course!
Thankfully Kevin has a rather large trunk when the back seats are folded down so we were able to throw all of our stuff in the front seats and curl up in the back. I will say this was not the most successful night for sleeping. There were mosquitos that had found their way into the car and every time I thought I'd killed them all, another would buzz out of nowhere and land right on my ear. The result was that I spent a lot of the night smacking my own head trying to kill the little buggers. Another issue was that the car was just too short for Jeremiah. He came up with some very creative sleeping poses that I still laugh about. At one point he was lying on his stomach face down with his legs bent straight up the back of the car. His feet were actually touching the ceiling. Very comfortable. The upside of this lack of sleep is that we were up at 4:30am and had an amazing view of the sunrise over the glaciers. Then we were off to locate some coffee like zombies, must have coffee coffee coffee....
|Sunrise over Fox Glacier|
|A pretty cool breakfast nook|
Refueled, we ambled down the West Coast and cut across to Wanaka to do some camping and swimming in the lake. Now we were really on our way and headed to Milford Sound. When we arrived it was a spectacularly sunny day. Clear skies meant we were able to hike up the mountains of Milford and see the table lands. The breathtaking scenery included a mountain top lake nestled between two peaks. The lake spilled over the edge and down into the valley in a ribbon of water. There were waterfalls that day but I didn't realize the hidden potential for waterfalls when it rains. We stayed the night with our guide friends building up a bonfire and spinning yarns over some beers. The stars in the inky night were clear and bright in Milford. No large towns nearby and little light pollution created the perfect spot for stargazing.
|Key Summit in Milford Sound|
We were up and at 'em really early the next day for a paddle in the sounds. I can honestly say that this is one of the most beautiful places on Earth I have every been to, second only to Wharariki Beach. My photos can not portray the scale of the cliffs and mountains. The massive sheer cliffs plunge directly into the sea. Carved by glaciers they dive deep underwater so that the water is very deep and inky black. You can almost image krakens or giant sea creatures beneath you. When the weather began to change our guide hurried us back to the boat ramp and we pulled our boats in just as torrents of rain hit the area. Jeremiah and I packed the car back up and began driving out in hosing rain and found ourselves in a brand new landscape. The cliffs from yesterday now had water gushing from every crevice. Hundreds of silvery ribboned waterfalls poured from the cliff faces. So many waterfalls. We stopped to take in the beauty and scale of it all. Gradually the rain eased and the sun peaked back out causing the waterfalls to glimmer and shine. Milford lived up to its reputation and then some. I really didn't want to leave.
On our way north we did a 3 day cycling and camping trip along the Otago rail trail. It was very gorgeous cycling, but the theme of the whole cycling portion was "ow my butt!" Three days and 150km of cycling can really give you a sore bottom. I will say the downhill portion was magnificent! So much faster and easier than the uphill... who knew!? All joking aside it was a really cool trip. The whole trail runs through little towns that you can stop off at for a pint or a hot drink. For lunches we stopped at the little pubs along the trail to fuel up with warm burgers, soups, and hot drinks and we would end the evenings with some hot chips and a beer. We would then crawl into our little red tent and give our aching bodies a bit of a rest.
|The start of the Otago Central Rail Trail|
We finished off the trip with a short visit to Lake Tekapo, a spontaneous visit to a sheep farm, and a visit to an old friend in Christchurch. With the circuit nearly complete we raced back up to Nelson the next day as a tropical storm hit and dropped a ton of rain on us. Thankfully we came home to a happy dry house with no flooding problems. And there goes another several drops in the bucket of my life - beautiful and full. I think I may need to get a bigger bucket.
|"It's all downhill from here"|
|My hero repairing a flat on my bike|
|Jade on the beach|
|Hike to Key Summit|
|The loo with a view!|
|Milford after the rains|
|Trail around Lake Tekapo|