Thursday, February 7, 2013

Nelson Lakes National Park (Day 9)

This day began with one of my favorite moments of our trip. Allyson was mostly asleep through it, but I most certainly had a spiritual experience before the sun even rose on this morning. So here's what happened (and I already know, based on having told this story to people already, that I can't fully articulate the true awesomeness of this moment)...I woke up to a song. Not just one song really, more like many songs sang by what had to be a thousand birds. They seemed to echo each other but that could have had something to do with the valley we were in. All I know is it was the most beautiful chorus I've ever heard (and I've heard and been part of many a beautiful chorus!)

I asked a forest ranger and she suggested that I was either hearing bellbirds or tuis or a combination of them, which is what I suspected. Tuis imitate Bellbirds, so it's hard to determine what you are hearing. I'd been hearing these lovely birds all over New Zealand up until this point, but never so many at once. Usually just one that seemed to tease us along the trail, always stopping their song whenever we stopped to try to find them in the trees. 

Just me, the ducks, and Lake Rotoiti

We took a great day hike up Mt Robert, the mountain you see to the right in the pictures above. The hike is a 9.7 km (6 mile) loop combining Paddy's Track on the way up and Pinchgut Track on the way down. The climb up was no joke. The sun was shining and is switchbacks the whole way up. However, the views are incredible the whole way up and you get breaks of shade in some incredible forests full of super cool lichens, moss, and other ground cover. The Department of Conversation says to allow 5 hours to complete this hike, but that's insane. It didn't take us more than 3 hours, and we stopped to have lunch on the top.

A tip for people traveling to New Zealand...bring layers! We were shedding layers heading up the mountain (climbs 900 m or nearly 3000 feet!) but put all the layers on and more when we were at the peak. Highly highly recommend this hike. Thinking back on this day, and Nelson Lakes in general, is definitely making me consider another trip back soon. I'd like to spend several days backpacking in Nelson Lakes.

Speaking of birds...this is the best picture of a Fantail I could get the whole time I was in New Zealand, and it isn't due to a lack of trying. They are feisty little guys but they are so pretty. Because I couldn't get a good picture, I justified buying the cute ceramic bowl seen below.

On our way up Paddy's Track. We saw one person on our way up, a group of four when we were at the top, and one person on the way down. Basically, we had the place to ourselves!

We had to hike right over this gigantic landslide. This was no joke. One thing we felt strongly when we were in New Zealand is that the land is always changing....and not in a slow kind of way. 

After the intense hike, one of us took a short nap (not going to name names) while the other one patiently (or not so patiently) waited to jump off the end of this dock into that magical lake. We both did and it was freezing. Like take your breath away and make your muscles freeze up cold. But I loved it!

Unfortunately, we had to keep on moving. I was disappointed we couldn't spend more time here, but there is always next time. We drove to Westport and stayed at Seal Colony Top 10 Holiday Park. We really needed to do a load of laundry at this point. I would recommend only staying at a Top 10 Holiday Park if you need laundry or to plug in your campervan. They are always nice and clean, but super crowded and much more like camping in a parking lot than I would ever, ever do in the States. But this one is close to the beach and a great starting point for a trip down the West Coast, which is what Day 10 had in store. 

Hot food and a cold glass of's about 8pm and the sun is still blasting us. 

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