Friday, March 22, 2013

The Catlins

After the Kepler Track, I made the decision to go to Stewart Island.  I didn't really want to go because the ferry to get there was expensive, the island is known for it's rainy, windy weather, and the advice I got about the Great Walk on the island was that it was pretty average.  But, on Stewart Island there are kiwis, supposedly kiwis that come out in the day.  And I really wanted to see one.  So I went.  I did the great walk.  I never saw a kiwi and the Great Walk was average as.  The upsides were I met some fun people to do the track with (even met a local Washington-ian from Leavenworth, climber of course) and  I feasted on freshly collected mussels from the beach every night(one of the many reasons I am thankful I carry butter with me wherever I go, even when tramping), and seeing the bird life on Stewart Island (sans kiwi) was pretty cool.  After leaving Stewart Island I went to a beautiful place in New Zealand called The Catlins.

The Catlins are an area of New Zealand that I hadn't really heard of before I came here.  It is an area of coastline that is on the southeast coast of the South Island known for its beautiful beaches and marine wildlife.  I drove the coastline in a couple of days and saw some cool stuff.  My favorite was the wildlife.  The penguins were my favorite.  There are two types: the yellow-eyed and the blue penguins.  I saw the yellow-eyed penguins a few times, they come in at certain beaches for the night, this time of year to molt.  I didn't realize that the penguins here have their nests in the bush so they walk a bit from the beach.  I guess because you usually picture snow with penguins which is why it seems weird.  Most of the time I saw them I wish I had a better camera and/or binoculars.  I also got to see the blue penguins but to see them you have to go to the sanctuary.  Which is really ok because every year since the sanctuary was started the declining populations have begun to increase by 10 percent.  The downside was you couldn't take pictures.  They are one of the smallest penguin species their average height being 13 inches.  They come in from the sea in groups of about 20 for safety, then all run to their nests.  Its pretty cute.  Here are some of my photos:
Supposedly the view point on the Stewart Island great walk
One of the beaches in the Catlins
Watched this goofy character for awhile
My best photo of a yellow eyed penguin
Saw a couple of penguins returning to the sea and saw a great sunrise
One of the waterfalls in the Catlins
Nugget Point
Nugget Point

The Kepler Track

The day after my kayak trip I had planned to start the Kepler Track.  With my blister all healed up I was ready to go.  The Kepler Track is one of the Great Walks of New Zealand.  The good thing is that the track is very maintained and when you go up in elevation it is usually pretty gradual.  The bad thing is there is more people on the track than desirable.  It took me 3 days to complete the track.  I camped the first night and stayed in a hut the second.  I was medium lucky with weather.  I had some great views but when i was approaching the summit of Mt Luxmore I was pretty socked in with clouds.  Here are my photos:
Lake surrounded by wetlands/bog on the first day
Fern forest
First day, coming out of the forest
Waterfall near my campsite
Since it was cloudyish I saw a lot of rainbows that day

This one was pretty epic

Kea - they are pesky parrots
Where the view started to disappear
Some alpine plants
Almost to Luxmore Hut

The sunrise from Luxmore Hut

Gricklegrass Granola

I plan on posting a few more blog posts on my recent travel adventures but wanted to do a quick post because I found a good granola recipe.  I am back to wwoofing again.  I am at an intentional community in the Christchurch area called Gricklegrass.  I have only been here a few days so far and have done some fun things; made home made peanut butter, braided garlic, made feta, and some odds and ends with the animals and gardens.  One of my favorite things is there is a milking cow.  I can't wait to get one!!  It opens up the door to fresh raw milk, cheeses, cream, butter etc.  But more on that stuff later here is the granola recipe - I enjoy it with some yogurt and a spoonful of cream.

Gricklegrass Granola
Dry ingredients
6 and 1/2 cups of rolled oats
1 cup coconut
1 and 1/2 cups nuts (can be any kind example: hazelnuts and almonds)
1 and 1/2 cups mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame)

Mix together in a large roasting tin

Wet Ingredients   
1/2 cup butter (can use any oil, I would also recommend coconut)
3 Tbs honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp of mixed spices (ginger, cardamom, nutmeg etc)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat wet ingredients in a small saucepan until melted together, then pour over dry ingredients.  Toast in oven at 160 degrees C (325 F) for one hour stirring every ten minutes.

When cool add 1 and 1/2 cups of dried fruit of your choice (raisins, apples, pineapple) add linseed if desired.  Store in a large glass jar.  

Friday, March 15, 2013


It's a cloudy, soon rainy day in New Zealand.  My plans for the next few days only involved hiking in the mountains, so plans foiled.  Instead I am internet binging at a holiday park in New Zealand.  I am craving BBQ flavored potato chips.  Will soon walk to the grocery to procure some.  Ok back to the post...

After doing the Gillespies Pass Ciruit, I had a giant blister on my right big toe.  This meant taking a few days off from tramping.  This was ok because I was heading into Fjordlands National Park so it was a chance to do some water activities.  One day I did a cruise of Milford Sound.  Milford Sound is actually a Fjord, which means it was carved out by a glacier.  It is supposed to one of the most beautiful in the Fjordlands, but it is also the only Fjord that is accessible by road.  I took a bus ride in along the gorgeous highway, then took a two hour cruise to the end of the sound.  Once on the boat the scenery was really amazing.  I found it hard to really capture with a camera because there was nothing to show scale of how tall the mountains really were.  But I tried my best.
On the Milford Road
Homer Tunnel
Other side of the tunnel
Cruise vessel, no we never actually sailed

 I also did a two day kayaking trip in Doubtful Sound.  I wanted to do a longer trip but I would've had to wait around for a couple of days and in the two day trip we visited the prettiest part of the sound anyways.  It was nice to be out on the water and the sound was beautiful.  We saw dolphins a couple of times, although they were far away so it wasn't too exciting.  We also saw one of the yellow eyed penguins, which are one of the rarest in the world.
Sunrise on Lake Manapouri, on the way to Doubtful Sound
View of where we were going to kayak
Per usual, looking my best
On the water at last

Riverside campsite

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Copeland Track and Gillespies Pass Circuit

A couple of weeks ago I did two different backpacking trips with one day in between.  The first one was a portion of the Copeland Track, which is the track that connects the West Coast with Mt Cook.  The portion I did was the first 18k to some natural hot springs.  The hot springs were so amazing after a long day of hiking.  The crystal clear river and steep rock walls made the hiking pretty enjoyable as well.
On the hike in
At the campsite
One of the hot pools
View from the hot pools
Hike out
I just loved the color of the river!!
Next I tackled the Gillespies Pass Circuit, which is a 58k trail that can take three or four days.  I chose to do it in four.  It starts with a river crossing, then you hike 22.5k along a river valley to the first hut.  The second day you hike up and over a pass gaining and losing 1000 meters in one day and in only 12k.  The next day some people get helicoptored, flown, or jet boated out the 26.5k.  I consider that cheating.  I chose to just break it up into two relaxing days to hike out along another river valley.  I camped outside of backcountry huts the first two nights and met some fun people.  Even played some Euchre.  This trail was actually probably one of the hardest trails I had ever done.  The trail was just in really poor condition, so it was  a lot of walking up huge rocks and roots.  To get over the pass was extremely steep, it was a 10 hour day for me.  I got a ride back to my car and left my trekking poles in the car.  It was a beautiful hike but I wish I still had my trekking poles.
From the hike to the first hut
View from the first hut - I was hoping to go for a swim but the sun was already setting
On the way up

Still going up, took a lot of breaks, you know for photos
Found some cool plants
Summit pic
On the way down
View from the next hut
Waterfall near the hut
The hike out