Monday, December 27, 2010

Celebrating two years in New Zealand

Amongst (that's not a typo - Kiwis say "amongst") all the holidays and merriment, Jake and I have something more to celebrate.

This Tuesday, 28 December, marks our second expataversary. Can't believe it's flown by so quickly! Five years ago I would have thought the idea of moving to New Zealand was ludicrous and unattainable. But thanks to my amazing husband (and his mad accounting skills), it's our reality. Although it sometimes still feels a bit like a dream.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A rematch with the Skyline Track

It's been nearly two years since I shared the story of my solo hiking trip on the Skyline Walkway. I was still fairly new to New Zealand, and still fairly new to hiking to be fair. It was a long, sweaty exhausting day.

I'm proud to say that last week I retraced my steps, in the other direction this time, and it was great! I'm in better shape and my time was much faster. I even giggled a bit as I passed the section in which I got lost the last time.

I still saw some beautiful scenery and friendly farm animals.

For some reason last time I'd chosen the windiest day of the year to go, and when you're walking on the highest ridges that separate the city of Wellington and the South Island (as well as Antarctica), it makes a bit of a difference. This time I enjoyed a surprisingly calm and nicely overcast day.

The view of the South Island (above) wasn't the clearest I'd ever seen from up there, but I think the clouds and weather gave it something of a mystical appearance, like it's not even real.

A bit later I took a shot (above) in the other direction to capture Wellington and the harbour.

The walk took maybe four hours or so. This cow was not the slightest bit concerned when I walked within a few feet of him to pass by on a narrow part of the track.

And my reward at the end of the track was my familiar and beloved lookout platform at the top of Mt. Kaukau. From here it's a downhill walk to the village of Khandallah and a stroll through the neighborhood to our house.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Yanks vs. Routeburn (by Jake)

Last weekend I had an opportunity to sneak out of Wellington with my friend and fellow KPMGer Brett to Queenstown en route to the Routeburn track.

The Routeburn is a one-to-three day walk – and we were perfectly happy with sticking to the three day plan and enjoying our time and the awesome huts along the way. You might recall that Jamie and I have recently completed the Milford track and we have tackled most of some less challenging tracks (Abel Tasman & Queen Charlotte), so I was keen when Brett was wanting to complete the Routeburn.

The weather on the Friday was about as good as it gets for New Zealand, both here and in Queenstown, so it was nice to say goodbye to the office and get out amongst it. It wasn’t long until we got sorted in the lodge and had our hut passes in hand, so the beer was quickly flowing like wine. We were joined in Queenstown by Blake, an American friend of ours that is completing a secondment over in ‘Stralia (Sydney, Australia).

The first day was a little rough at the beginning based upon the volume of beers from the night before. In order to get to the Divide (our starting point) we had arranged a transport to drop us off there and it is a pretty long trip. Once I had determined that I was on solid ground again we were off. Early in the day we had some really amazing views from the Key Summit and a much needed rest as we ditched the bags on the side of the trail for this side trip.

One of the highlights for us was taking an ice cold swim break under one of the falls after taking on some relatively fun up hills. After thirty minutes, my frozen fingers began to take on color again and I was both refreshed and relaxed. Night one was an extra special treat as there was a massive group of high schoolers and their chaperones staying in the other bunk house.

The second day was definitely the most challenging and the first hour was a real treat as we pushed to get ahead of the group and we worked upward towards the Harris Saddle. We were a bit unfortunate in that the clouds limited our views of the other ranges and the side trip by the saddle was closed due to likely death by snow. We made it to the top in one piece, which was a minor miracle as none of us had thought to pack an abundant supply of peanut butter that, as anybody can tell you, is the core ingredient to any successful hike.

There was a huge lake up near the saddle that spit out a river that lead us towards the night two hut that was appropriately named the Routeburn Falls Hut. It had the best view that I have ever had from a DOC hut and we were welcomed in by the coal burning fire in the kitchen to warm and dry our rain soaked stuff / selves.

Blake was off extremely early on the third day to catch his transport and plane, so Brett and I were left to enjoy a less challenging long, slow down hill walk to the end/beginning. The weather was generally nice and it was very scenic with all of the river crossings (these tend to offer some of the best opportunities to capture photos).

Overall, I was really impressed by the Routeburn track. I suppose that I was incorrect in thinking it would be a lot more like the Milford track. It was different, but really nice in its own way and perfect for a nice trip with the guys.