I have mentioned before how when you’re a backpacker, it seems like a luxury to spend two nights in the same place. So often you are moving from place to place, packing up each morning and scrounging to find what you need throughout the day without fully unloading your pack. It was not much different while on the Flying Kiwi tour. Although most of us had “our seats” on the bus and kept some belongings on board, we still needed to take down our tents and load up the bus each morning before we hit the road. There was always a daily task of figuring out what items and articles of clothing you might want to access throughout the day, depending on the weather and activities. Being the first passenger on the bus as it left Nelson, I managed to score the front seat to claim as my own, and even usually had the seat next to mine to use as well! It was nice to keep some shoes on board in case I wanted to hop off on a cycling adventure, and of course having a rain shell handy proved useful a time or two!
After we left Milford Sound, we dropped a few keen trampers off at the start of the Routeburn Track (one of NZ’s great walks – complete with expensive huts during peak season that I wasn’t eager to pay for) and continued back to Te Anau, where we were staying for the next two nights. Two nights! It was a welcomed rest for wary travelers. We had the option to do whatever we wanted with our day in between. There was talk of going four-wheeling, taking a ferry to a glowworm cave, walking part of the Keplar track and taking a shuttle bus back to town, and several other options that people were considering. I was intent on finding a free activity to occupy my time, and decided I would be quite happy if I wound up exploring by myself. It had been a solid week of riding the tour bus with the same people and though I had met some lovely fellow travelers, I have explained in previous posts how much I enjoy and cherish traveling solo!
I began my day with a nice lie in (at least compared to our frequent 6- or 7-am starts!) and started out slow. I had decided to take a bike out for a ride, but that is about as far as my planning got me. I packed a lunch and considered my options, eventually deciding to bike to the start of the Keplar track, and see how far I got with the intention of turning around at a certain time.
When tramping on the Keplar, it is quite common to start out walking around Lake Te Anau and ascend Mt. Luxmore on the first day. I was told some Flying Kiwis in the past had even hiked to the top of Mt. Luxmore and back on a day hike, so I wasn’t sure how far I would get. I locked the bike to a tree in the woods near the start of the track, and set out along the lake. Having had a late start, and not feeling particularly motivated, I decided this “tramp” would be more like a leisurely walk with my camera – one of my favorite past-times!
|Sometimes I get a bit inspired by an Andy Goldsworthy influence...|
The walk was incredibly peaceful. I saw some other hikers but for the most part, I was able to enjoy walking deep in the woods in absolute quiet. I took time to notice things one might miss at a faster pace, and enjoyed using my camera to capture the forest from a different perspective.
Before long, I was walking right along the lake and stopped a few times to play on the rocky beach or just take in the view. It was so serene to be walking alone, enjoying nature without having to talk to or interact with anyone! Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying, I do love being around other people and traveling solo can definitely have its lonely days, but being able to take a break like this after a week of mandatory company was a bit of welcomed respite.
Rocky beaches seem to encourage tower stacking. Check out my wee stop motion movie:
Along the beach I encountered the following sign that I didn’t think too much of at first.
I have come across several waterski zones during my trip and often wish I could be out using the ones that I see. Soon after, however, while on the trail set back into the woods a bit, I was reminded of this sign. The sound of a boat engine is quite familiar to me and I heard it speeding up, slowing down, and making frequent turns. The rev of the engine, accompanied by occasional yells and screams, made it clear to me what was happening. There was a family taking advantage of the waterski area to go tubing. Although I have enjoyed a fair amount of tubing in my life, and don’t usually mind others partaking in the sport (unless they are spoiling perfectly flat waterskiing water), I think this particular waterski zone was established in an inadequate position. I moved from serene quiet in the wilderness to feeling like I was in the middle of a summer-home-infested lake. So much for the feeling of being on a tramping track in the middle of nowhere!
Despite the poorly placed waterski area; I did enjoy the remainder of my hike. I continued until the trail began its way uphill and decided it was about time for me to head back. I didn’t realize how slow I was walking with my camera until I made it back to my bike in about half the time! I cruised on back to camp and felt ready to be around people again.
One of our guides, Brett, had his birthday that day, so a friend and I decided to do some baking. We biked into town to find some ingredients for a cake (dairy-free, of course!) and picked up some ice cream to go with it. I wasn’t on cook group duty that day, so hid out in the other kitchen, preparing dessert. We decorated it with chocolate chips and candles, and Brett seemed to be surprised when we presented it to him after dinner. It was nice to be able to do some baking for a change, since it’s a bit hard to carry eggs, a sack of flour, sugar, cocoa, etc. along with you in a backpack!
Overall, it was a lovely day that provided a nice change from the constant movement and activity of a backpacker’s life! The next morning we left for Queenstown, which was the last destination for many of us on the bus. There were goodbyes to be said, adrenaline activities to partake in, new people to be welcomed, Fergburgers to be consumed, and Patagonia Chocolates to be indulged in. We had big “family” outing for dinner at a pizza place and everyone hung out downtown for drinks afterwards.
Following the optional morning activities of paragliding, skydiving, bungee jumping, horseback riding, canyoning, jet boating, and whatever other options you might provide adrenaline junkies, it was time to hit the road again. During our short stay in Queenstown, I managed to squeeze in two trips to Fergburger (I did split one of them!) and of course I patronized my favorite chocolate shop, Patagonia. Homemade chocolates with heaps of options and no dairy in the dark ones? Perfect. I’ll take the rose petal one to go, please!