Queenstown – adventure capital

There are many who believe that Queenstown, New Zealand, is the adventure capital of the world. Whether or not you agree, one thing is for sure and that is that there is so much adrenaline pumping adventure available in this small remote town.

You wont be in Queenstown long before you see, if you look up, parachutes descending, apparently onto the town. With its steep hill behind, accessible by Gondola, Queenstown is ripe for the parapenters.

But its not only Queenstown itself. Nearby there is also Coronet Peak. A winter  playground normally (read skiing and snowboarding), in summer it too is used for launching hang-gliders and parapenters.

Check out the pix.


Milford Track (Days 3 and 4)

After a very wet Day 2, we started day 3 with a light drizzle but much thinner cloud. Very promising. After an hour or so it was definitely clearing up and we were getting glimpses of the tops and the pass we had to climb over. Once again we could see that there had been a good dusting of snow on the tops, nearly down to the level of the pass we were crossing.

We were truly blessed as the weather continued clearing, and so quickly that by the time we came to ascend the pass it was beautifully clear blue skies and a nice warm day. Rather than freezing we were more in danger of overheating during the ascent and following descent to Day 3’s “Hutel”.

The views whilst crossing the pass are extraordinary – see below.

Day 4 also turned on quite a display of fine weather for us while we undertook the longer, but easier walk out to Sandfly Point. This wonderful track walk is completed with another boat trip, taking us from Sandfly Point to Milford Sound where we rejoined civilisation.

The full guided walk is 5 days, but the 5th day is just a bus trip back to Queenstown and the return of all the borrowed equipment.

Milford Track (Days 1 and 2)

Walking the Milford Track in south western New Zealand had been “on my list” for such a long time that when an opportunity to do it with some friends arose I jumped at it. Of course we did it the “gentleman’s” way – ie we stayed in catered, hotel-style bush huts and only carried day-packs; our overnight luggage being transported between the “Hutels” by Ultimate Hikes, our walks tour provider. Oh … and there was probably some wine in there each evening as well.

The walk started in Queenstown with a group meetup and the distribution of essential gear and an explanation of the walk. When all were organised and arranged we boarded the bus and headed for Te Anau at the southern tip of Lake Te Anau. Luckily for us, we were fed and watered before boarding a boat to take us to the north of the lake and the start of the walk proper.

All through the morning and lunch the weather had been getting progressively more foreboding. Now during the boat trip it looked positively like rain and a very cold, wet walk.

We disembarked right onto the bush track with a very fine sprinkling in progress as it tried very hard to rain on us. Luckily the first day’s walk was only 1-2km to get to Glade House, our first night on the track.

After settling in we were taken for a short guided walk around the local bush, to get acclimatised and to be told a bit about it. We were very lucky because it still hadn’t managed to rain properly, but it sure seemed to be trying.

No such luck for the next day. After a cold night we woke to a very cold wet morning. During short breaks in the clouds we could see that a small amount of snow had fallen on the tops during the night (this was the middle of summer!).

They say that the Milford track is at its best when it rains, and to a point, from our experience, that could be true. Rain and stormy skies seem to go with this country and just as well as it is one of the wettest places on the planet.

Our first full day of walking was rather cold and at times very wet but there were periods when the rain eased or stopped, allowing some photos and views. The country really does have a charm in these conditions…

Peak Desire #1

I have a fascination with a mountain I knew when I was young. Then it was Mt Egmont. Now it is Mt Taranaki, having reverted to the original Maori name. This extinct volcano is located on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand, and boasts being the second most “regular” volcano, after Mt Fuji in Japan. Anyway it rises about 2300m (~7550ft) from the surrounding land to a total elevation of 2518m (~8260ft).

Its been a while since I have climbed it. In March 2011 I went with some friends to have a go. Initially I was excited as the weather looked like it was going to actually be fine. However the fine weather followed on the heels of a short cold snap which we found had deposited a layer of snow on the upper reaches. A bit unseasonal, but quite the normal weather for this mountain.

Undeterred by the snow we set off before sunrise, expecting that with the now warmish weather, it would melt or at least soften before we got there. Wrong! Unfortunately the heat never quite eventuated and when we reached the snow it was still hazardously frozen showing no signs of yielding to our desires.

Oh well, another attempt failed. Still, there is another year…

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Mt Egmont/Taranaki before sunrise

Mt Egmont/Taranaki at sunrise

Mt Egmont/Taranaki at sunrise

Mt Egmont/Taranaki after sunrise

Mt Egmont/Taranaki after sunrise

Mt Egmont/Taranaki after sunrise

Mt Egmont/Taranaki after sunrise

Looking back from our turn-around point

Looking back from our turn-around point

Mt Egmont/Taranaki from the water tower in Hawera

Mt Egmont/Taranaki from the water tower in Hawera