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We Dominated the s&*t out of Te Anau!!!!

Extra-long entry about some extra-special adventuring

semi-overcast 60 °F

Our time in Te Anau, a sleepy mountain town with million dollar views of the alp-like Kepler mountains, began with a lengthy and sheep-filled 4-hour drive from the Otago Peninsula. Upon our arrival at Barnyard Backpackers, a hostel comprised of old, converted, log cabin-esque farm houses, we realized we needed to head back out to the grocery store, ATM, and gas station to take care of some necessary details (only a short 9km drive down the road). Too bad it was already 8PM and Marin and I were both blurry-eyed, famished, and cranky from our trek across the South Island of NZ. Trying to negotiate different brands of generic muesli in this state is quite a feat. Our meal planning that evening went something like this:

Nikki: “Does this one look good to you?”
Pause – one-one-thousand….two-one-thousand…three-one-thousand…four-one-thousand…
Marin: “Yeah.” One-one-thousand…two-one-thousand… “What?”
And so on.

After procuring the necessary supplies we headed back to our remote hostel to prepare some food in the communal kitchen. When we first viewed the kitchen and communal living area we were pleased to see an older married couple (older than us!) completing a crossword puzzle over a bottle of wine at the rustic wooden table in front of a roaring fire. These appeared to be the only other humans around. . .part of the appeal for us (especially Marin). When we returned from the grocery store, with one thing on our minds- ingesting some well-deserved split pea canned soup- the kitchen area had been transformed into a zoo of hungry backpackers. It was as if a tour bus had just arrived and poured its contents into our humble mountainside lodge. I was actually nudged out of the way by a pushy German woman at the stove who was all too eager to fry up her onions and eggs at 10pm – oh, sorry, 22:00. Luckily we have lots of experience subtly “throwing elbows” when needed – don’t mess with NEW YORK!

All this said, here was the view from our cabin-room when we woke up the next morning (you can see how it makes it all worth it):


When we excitedly told The German (once again we were sharing kitchen space) about the rainbow sunrise, she replied, “Just one? I’ve been here for a few days now, and I am accustomed to waking up to three or four rainbows each morning. Just yesterday, on my hike up to Key Summit, a one-thousand kilometer climb, I was able to view a double rainbow at the apex.” OK, German. Cook your eggs and leave us alone.

Not to be outdone, we headed straightaway for this so-called Key Summit. Key Summit, or “The Divide” as the locals call it, is known for having amazing views of the surrounding mountains – sort of the gateway to the whole Milford Sound area. Keep in mind, this 3.5 hour hike to 1,000 meters was only our warm-up activity – we had already booked a 5 hour sea kayaking adventure for the same afternoon.

Eeeneyways, the hike was amazing. Picture the most lush rainforest, the sheerest and steepest mountains, multiple waterfalls and desert-like tundra – all rolled into one short hike.

Here are a few pictures from our way up and on the summit:


Unfortunately, we felt a bit defeated and jealous of The German when we arrived at the pinnacle of our climb. A passing front socked us in with clouds and fog. In other words, no view. In addition, extreme weather conditions had set in. We were assaulted by the elements: high winds, piercing rain, and close to freezing temperatures (who knows though because of this whole Farenheit/Celsius thing…). I’d like to mention at this point that Marin insisted upon remaining in her yellow Patagonia men’s swim trunks (hey, these were high fashion at prep school in 1996). She insisted she was fine as long as she “kept moving.” So we did.

On the way down, after resigning ourselves to the fact that the main benefits of this climb would be fitness rather than a Lord of the Rings skyline, we were startled by a couple a few meters ahead who were waving madly at the sky and yelling loudly. It happened! The clouds broke, the fog lifted, and the awesome mountains rose up before us. Nikki has described this as one of the most amazing moments of the trip thus far. Pictures don’t do it justice, but nonetheless, here’s what it looked like – we were awestruck and on top of the world:


Post-hike, we continued our drive towards Milford Sound. We were feeling a bit tired, but very excited for our next activity: sea kayaking in reportedly the most beautiful place on earth (it has been described as the 8th Wonder of the World). The drive towards it was stunning. Little did we know the drive would be a Middle-Earth-esque venture unto itself. From the car and the side of the road, we experienced some of the most stunning views thus far on our trip. A popular line from Marin has become, “Pull over. Just one more pic. I promise, no more after this one.”

Here are some pics from the drive in:


And now, the kayak. . .how should we begin to talk about the kayak? Well, let’s just say this, Marin sent an email to our immediate families following our kayaking excursion in which she explained that although we saw some beautiful views within breathtaking Milford Sound, she was grateful that our marriage survived! Marin has confessed that she pictured us paddling amongst the warm golden sunshine on a still day in crystal clear waters alongside peaks carved by glaciers. Perhaps a dolphin or two jumping over the bow of the boat if we were lucky.

The reality of the situation was a bit different. While we were strapped into our two-person yellow vessel, after almost capsizing due to high winds twice, she said and I quote, “I thought this would be more luxurious! Where is the wine and cheese anyway?” Tosh, our Kiwi tour guide, was full of information about the beautiful waterfalls that we were sailing by; however she left a bit to be desired in the area of customer service. Unfortunately, Nikki’s extremities, which notoriously have been known to have poor circulation, acted up and downright froze on Milford Sound. When Tosh asked how we were doing, I replied, “my hands are a bit cold.” This was an understatement as I had lost feeling in 8 out of 10 fingers and my hands had turned a lovely shade of light blue. Tosh laughed it off and said, “Oh such a pity that I didn’t set you up with a pair of pogies (water resistant gloves), we have loads on shore. I didn’t think it would be this windy out here.” I smiled at Tosh and shot Marin a look letting her know that a temper tantrum would shortly ensue.

I managed to avoid the temper tantrum (almost) and we saw some pretty amazing sights! Tosh highlighted one waterfall in particular that was 4x the size of Niagara Falls. It looked like nothing as apparently it is very difficult to comprehend the scale of naturally occurring beauty when you are accustomed to looking at skyscrapers. Also, everything in the sound is so enormous – these peaks shoot up one mile into the sky – that huge things like waterfalls and cruise ships look practically tiny. Here are a few shots that attempt to capture it all:


So yeah, you may have noticed the whitecaps in the background of some of those shots. Tropical and peaceful kayaking this was not. As we attempted to cross Milford Sound without completely capsizing (a feat that should not be underestimated), Nikki’s hands and feet got colder and colder until pretty much all sensation was gone. Which left me, Marin, to paddle our heavy tandem kayak solo. There were sore shoulders, there were tears, and there was massive, massive relief when we finally reached the end of our aquatic journey.

We got back to our hostel after a three hour drive in the dark and the rain…and a massive “STAY AWAKE!!!” sing-along to the soundtrack of In The Heights. Ate oatmeal for dinner and drank beer in bed and had the best night’s sleep ever.

Up next…Queenstown and our stay at the Bungy Backpackers hostel, which made summer camp look like 4-star luxury. No bed bugs…yet.
Thanks for reading – xoxo Marin and Nikki

Posted by Marbert18 01:16 Archived in New Zealand Tagged hiking kayaking new_zealand milford_sound te_anau

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Oh my poor babies! Tosh should be horsewipped for forgetting the pogies. Nikki your poor hands, and Marin your poor shoulders. So glad, Nikki, you brought your beautiful hat. The pics are amazing!
Love, Linda (Mom)

by linda (Mom)

Hilarious! Take careful notes; I'll be using your experiences to create my own adventure to NZ. :)

by Ann Bevan

Love the pictures!!! This is such an adventure, and even though Nikki's hands almost froze off and you were in a tiny boat amongt big white caps, it still fills those of us left behind with a sense of beauty, well-being, and reinvigoration.

by Evelyn

Great pictures!! Even the fog looks like an adventure. And I love the idea of sheep and penguins hanging out together on green hillsides.

by Janer

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