Mt Aspiring Hut Walk

After my walk along the Greenstone-Caples Track I met up with my friend Tol from SmilingLeaf for some more adventures. We headed up to Wanaka and then after some messing around for food (again) set out towards Mt Aspiring Hut. Now this was only a short walk of a few hours each way, with huts and such so we took it easy, carried some wine and dips and crackers etc. Really it was quite splendid and absolutely spectacular!

After the walk we headed back to Queenstown and hung out a bit more, with some ducks fo company.

Greenstone-Caples Track

The Greenstone-Caples was pretty much a last minute decision, and boy was it brilliant.

Prelude

I’d just arrived back in Queenstown after the Mt Alfred day walk which had left me with a taste for NZ hills and adventures. I had initially been considering spending a few days around Queenstown visiting wineries and such with my friends, but at around 5pm I got a message from my friend Tol saying she’d just down this walk and it was brilliant. I just had to do it. So actions stations it was. Somehow in 3hrs I managed to book a bus from Queenstown to Glenorchy,  another out to the trial head, shop for a four day walk and shower and wash all my clothes. To make everything easier I had the luxury of packing my bag and loading all my gear and then crashing in my friends tent for the night which was very convenient.

Day 1 – Greenstone Rd to Mid-Caples

By 7am I was up and at the bus pickup point in Queenstown ready for the ride out to Glenorchy. 8am-ish I was in Glenorchy sitting in the cafe ordering bacon and eggs and coffees while reading the guidebook entries for the hike I was about to head out on. Luckily the Greenstone-Caples doesn’t require booking and the huts are big enough that I had no issues getting a bed, although talking to the guides it can be an issue sometimes. Anyway at 10am the bus picked me up and dropped me at the trail head at noon.

The first days walk is splendidly cruisy, 4 hrs of gentle incline up through a wide river valley gives you a good taste of what is install, without giving away any of the spectacular scenery. I chose to start from Greenstone Rd because it was a lot easier to get to from Queenstown, and then all the advice I got was to go to Mid-Caples hut first as it meant you could enjoy the saddle on the second day.

Mid Caples Hut is pretty spectacular with great views up the valley but watch out for the sandflies – they are bigger and faster than anywhere else in NZ and give you no chance to put your shoes even before they start eating you.

Day 2 – Mid Caples Hut to McKellar Hut

This is the main day of walking, and the only one that provides any real challenge on the trip. It starts by walking up the valley before climbing up a spectacularly well made track of gentle gradient to McKellar Saddle (945m) before an incredibly steep decent down to Lake McKellar. The track passes through beech forest and open grazing land meaning you get a really nice mix of views and closed forest so there is always something interesting, while the gradient up to the saddle from this size means that you can just wind slowly up the hill.

Up on the saddle the weather closed in a little (only a tiny bit actually) and went from shorts and shirt through the low lands to full rain gear conditions up the top – mostly it was to stay warm, but also because there was mist blowing in somewhat horizontally. I imagine it wouldn’t be that fun in actual bad weather. I’d also strongly recommend considering lunch before you leave the tree line because there were a lot of people who walked to the top without taking many breaks only to be surprised by how little they wanted to stop for lunch up in the rain and wind. I have to give a lot of credit though to the pair who were huddled behind a tiny bush with their tent fly over their legs to eat lunch – that showed some determination to eat! I made it over the saddle and part way down the track before finding a nice rock to eat lunch on which seems like a bit of a luxury.

After you descent rapidly to the valley floor again you’re into the Greenstone Valley and the rest of the days walk is a deceptively long but rather flat stroll down to the hut.

That night at the hut I met a group of awesome people from England and the Netherlands. They had all come from different locations around the world to hike in NZ and as with all good hikers they were happy to make new friends. We spent the evening hanging out and teaching each other card games. I by some fluke new the best game (Diabolical) so we played a few rounds while chatting and getting to know each other. Have I mentioned ever that NZ huts are awesome?

Day 3: McKellar Hut to Greenstone Hut

Day 3 was described a relatively flat day but the undulations as the track passed around rockfalls and over the ends of ridges that pushed into the Greenstone Valley. It generally just passed along the river flats in between and made for a simply spectacular day. As an additional advantage there were far fewer sandflies.

An hour or two into the day I joined a couple from the group I’d been playing cards with the night before. As we walked along we talked and walked and I heard all about their previous adventures mapping rivers in the Amazon and camping on ice sheets in Norway.

At some point after lunch I strolled off ahead and ended up a fair way ahead, but as luck would have it I spent a little while exploring and detouring and found a lovely spot for an afternoon cuppa just as they were arriving. So, with a stash off coffee and stove in hand we  found a great spot, stripped off and swam out to an island in the stream were we splashed around in the rather fresh water, and then stood in the sun enjoying the amazingly sandfly free location.

The afternoon continued relatively uneventfully with a small interlude of watching horses cross a river.

Eventually I arrived at Greenstone Hut to enjoy the company of my new friends again.

Day 4: McKellar Hut to Greenstone Road End

I had a really early start to head out to the road end as I had arranged for a shuttle bus back to Queenstown at 12pm. I was also really keen to do the detour out to Lake Rere. The day was a fairly solid walk with no breaks which was a shame. Next time I will make sure I have more time!

 

 

Mt Alfred – An Awesome Day Walk

Disclaimer: I probably shouldn’t have done this walk – it is closed above the tree line but in a moment of weakness I followed the crowds (which were significant) and finished the walk. Check with the landowners before completing this walk!

The walk up to the summit of Mt Alfred is somewhat arduous but well and truly worth it. The walk begins with a long and steep climb up from a very small car park up through beech forest. For several kilometres you walk upwards on a slightly eroded and warn track that when I was there a lot of fallen trees. It takes a fair chunk of time to get up there because it is a continuous incline without any level ground.

Anyway, you eventually break through to the tree line and after a slightly scrambly section you are up on the ridge and the views are simply stunning. I had a perfectly clear skies with views in all directions – basically it was amazing.

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The Queen Charlotte Track – NZ

The Queen Charlotte Track (or QCT for short) is a 4 to 5 day walk at the northern end of the the South Island of New Zealand. It is stupendously well built and managed track that is a cool collaboration between landowners and public bodies. The track is mainly well built, wide fire trail that makes for very easy walking that is not challenging except for the grade of some of the hills.

The walk is largely along the ridge lines that divide Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenepuru Sound. In good weather is it ludicrously beautifully, in bad weather the winds and rain on the ridges can be intense. On my trip I was lucky to have a wide range of weather including persistent rain for a few days, beautiful warm sunshine, and sunsets worth staying up until 10pm to see.

I am not going to write much about this trip because to be honest the walk isn’t one worth writing all that much about. There are views, hills, bays and sounds etc. There are fancy bars and resorts, campsites and the odd bench. Basically it is a super long walk along  headland – but that is not to say that it isn’t worth it. It is great. So, instead of reading have a look at some photos.

New Zealand South Island

The South Island of NZ is so different to the North that it is almost hard to fathom. The North was almost like Australia with rolling hills and green among the odd patch of golden paddock and a surprising number of gumtrees.

The South Island is tall! It has mountains, those things they tell you about as a kid growing up in Australia but never quite develop an understanding of living in a country were things just aren’t tall.

Anyway out itinerary for the South Island was pretty packed and as it turned out pretty limited. There is just so much to see that in the 9 days available we saw some of what we assumed were going to be the highlights and some other places that actually were.

For those interested it is well worth looking into the DOC (department of conservation) campsites on the south island because not only are they amazing but they are almost all near water and close to some point of interest you’d want to stop at anyway. We picked up one of their free maps and put it to very good use!

Our itinerary was something like this.

Christchurch – Akaroa – Mt Cook –  Queenstown – Milford Sound – Wanaka – Franz Joseph – Greymouth – Arthurs Pass – Christchurch.

You can guess that there could be a whole lot more detail included in that but I don’t want to use words when there are photos to be seen.

New Zealand North Island

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Hi Everyone!

Welcome to our photo collection from the North Island of New Zealand. Over the two and a half weeks we were in NZ we took about 1700 photos so you’ll only be getting a snap shot of the trip, but I’ve picked out some of the good ones for a little selection of highlights. There are so many more, some of them even good, but here are some favourites.

For anyone who likes words as well as photos the itinerary for our trip was roughly as follows:

  1. Auckland and Mt Eden
  2. Waitomo Caves
  3. Waitomo and drive to Taupo
  4. Taupo, kayaking and fairy garden then drive to Rotorua
  5. Rafting and louge in Rotorua
  6. Geyser, hot springs, Cultural show
  7. Drive to Bay of Islands
  8. Dolphin watching tour
  9. Drive back to Auckland