Tales of a wandering lesbian

En Route

Out night at Moke Lake was mostly peaceful.  We both woke and looked out at the middle of the night fireworks and then hunkered back down and went to sleep.  When morning came, we moved ourselves from the back of the van to the cab, and drove through the mist back into town.

We parked the van, found the public bathroom pods and located a Starbucks, as we hadn’t had time to make morning tea. The two hour bus ride to the trailhead took us from downtown Queenstown to the trailhead, with a stopover in a small village at the end of the lake, Glenorchy.

GY, as it’s know is teeny, and darling.  We had 30 minutes to walk around, snap pictures and grab any last minute items for the trip, including sunscreen, which our bus driver implored us to wear.  “It might feel good on your skin, but our sun will cause damage.  We’ve got a hole in the ozone down here.”  That explained the red, blotchy skin we’d noticed on some locals.

We took him seriously.  At least as long as we kept our clothes on.

The first day of the hike took us through beautiful forests and up into the mountains of the Mt. Aspiring National Forrest.  We hiked and chatted, wondering what our Department of Conservation “huts” would be like.

The trail offered birds’ eye views of the soft grasses of Routeburn Flats, as it wound toward our first night’s goal:  Routeburn Falls.

We could hear the falls from our lunch stop at the flats, an hour and a half hike away.  It took some determination to reach the bottom of the falls from the hut.

Determination, however, was something we had plenty of, after a long, hot day of hiking.

We monkeyed our way down to the waterfall’s pool, stripped down and clambered out into the frigid water.  The sun was perfect, shining down into the slot where we were and warming the rocks.  We cleaned, took ridiculous pictures under the spray (no, you cannot see) and stretched out on the rocks for another dose of warmth.  Then we fell asleep.

In the New Zealand sun.  I don’t spend a lot of time naked in the sun.  It was the next day when I realized that my entire chest was peeling.  All of it.

By then, we were on to our second hut, though “hut” is a bit misleading.  Lodge and bunkhouse is more apt.  We slept on mattresses in heated bunkrooms with flush toilets and indoor cooking stoves.  The private tour groups had more plus accommodations next door, but we felt like our quarters were pretty deluxe for a backpacking trip.

Each night at 7:30 we met in the common area to hand our tickets over to the resident ranger, and hear a bit about the area.  As the Routeburn Track covers two major national forests, we were treated to history and wildlife of both Mt. Aspiring wilderness, and Fiordland.

Day two was spent hiking along the border of these two amazing areas, through a part of New Zealand that was used in the Lord of the Rings movies.  At any moment, I half-expected to see the Rohirrim ride over the horizon.

We hiked up to the top of a pass, looked back at the beautiful falls and lakes behind us, and popped suddenly on to a ridge opposite a gorgeous mountain chain.

We walked for what seemed like the entire length of the chain, constantly looking over at the gorgeous mountains.  Then the trail turned a corner, taking us back up into another valley where, looking down we saw Lake MacKenzie, our goal for the night.

While descending from the open ridge into the forest, we scoped out a secluded spot for another bathing opportunity, and hoped that the returning sand flies wouldn’t cause us trouble.   The beautiful lake afforded many protected coves, and we were soon huffing and puffing in the icy waters.

We spent the evening playing cribbage with our newest friends, college students who were capping off a semester in Australia with a trip to New Zealand.  We played cards, talked about our travels, and ate Cadbury chocolate until yawns were all around the table, running a relay from one to the other.

Steam was rising from the lake when we left the hut the next morning.

We were below the tree line now, catching glimpses of the towering mountains through gaps in the trees.

We had a four and a half hour hike out to catch our bus to the Milford Sound at noon, so we’d hit the trail early.  The hills and valleys were still waking up as we made our way through the thick foliage.  Even the clouds seemed reluctant to climb up from their slumber.

We’d seen a lot in our three-days on the trail.  The weather had been perfect and New Zealand continued to show us its treasures.  We had one last parting gift as we neared the end of the trail.

Earland falls, at 174 m was an unexpected treat.  We walked past the base of it, the mist floating down on top of us.

When we reached the end of the trail, our friends were there, waiting for their bus to the Sound.

We all settled in with patted backs and congratulatory smiles for one last game of crib before we went our separate ways, tired, but ready for the next adventure.

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