Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 3 - Nelson Lakes/Motueka

July 3 - Nelson Lakes/Motueka

I had a good night of sleep. The bed was really comfortable. It’s always good to sleep in a real bed after being in a tent for a few days or weeks especially when the alternative is freezing weather outside. I got out of bed around 7 AM. Andy woke up a little before me to take a shower. When he came back in the room I asked where he was and he said he took a shower. I wasn’t planning on taking one, but decided I might as well.

The showers in New Zealand always start out boiling hot and I have to adjust them to be comfortable. I prefer warm showers, not really hot. For some reason my fingertips on my index fingers keep hurting when I take showers. Andy has had the same problem and thought it was frostbite. I don’t know what it’s from, but it only happens when I take showers.

After the shower I went to the kitchen to help make breakfast. We had eggs with cheese, a piece of jelly toast, and potatoes Andy fried into hash browns. We also had a cup of hot tea. It was a really big breakfast and really good.

We were hoping to be able to go to the lake early in the morning to watch the sunrise, but it was a little cloudy outside and it was freezing cold. The sun didn’t come up until about 7:30 or a little after. We packed all of our things, but didn’t leave the hostel until about 8 AM.

We drove down to Kerr Bay, the less snowy road, to see the lake. The lighting was really good, but it was ridiculously cold and windy. I got out of the car and took a few pictures, then immediately ran back to the car. Andy was outside a little longer. As we were sitting in the car trying to decide what to do a group of 4 people came walking out of the woods.

A truck with a boat on a trailer came pulling up to the small dock. Two guys got out and started unloading the boat. The four people stood on the dock and watched. I don’t know how they weren’t cold. After about 10 minutes of watching this two of the people jumped in the boat with the other two guys. They took off across the lake while the other two people just stood there.

We were looking at them through the rearview mirror and wondering why they weren’t looking cold. We watched for about 10 minutes. I don’t know where the boat was going, but it wasn’t going very fast. We decided we had seen enough of them and thought we should go to the visitor center and wait until it warmed up and find out what there was to do here. I knew there were some good hikes, but with it being so cold I didn’t want to be outside. The visitor center at least would be warm.

We went inside and started looking at the exhibits. They explained the types of animals, geography, and plants in the area in and around Nelson Lakes National Park. There was also information about the Maori people and the first European settlers to explore the region. It was pretty interesting to look at and I wouldn’t have done it had the weather been nicer. We spent about 45 minutes in there. It was about 9:45 at this point.

We went to the other side of the room and looked at brochures and maps of the region that talked about the hikes. There were a few brochures that gave tips on how to survive in the wild and being prepared for various accidents and situations that could occur in the wild. We each got a few of them just to have for future reference.

I overheard one of the people working there talking on the phone say it was -6 degrees Celsius outside. That was about 20 degrees not including wind chill. We saw a list of a few hikes that sounded interesting. I was wanting to do something that would give us a higher view of the lake with mountains views. Most of the hikes were really long or too snowy to complete.

We chose to do the St. Arnaud Range hike. It was 14 kilometers. It looked like the top was in the open with no trees so there would be snow blocking the trail, but I felt like we could do the lower portions where there was a forest that would have hopefully blocked most of the snow. We asked about the hike and they said we could do it, but as we left the tree line there would be a lot of snow and possibly some branches down on other parts of the trail.

I was only wanting to do part of the trail since we had a drive to Motueka later that day. I preferred to not have to be driving at night so we would have to leave around 3:30 PM at the latest. The hike was supposed to take 4-5 hours in good weather, so if we left at 10 AM we wouldn’t be done until 3 PM, and that would mean minimal stopping since the times are based on walking straight through.
We drove down the road past the campsite to a small parking lot in front of the lake. We started the hike just before 10 AM. The trail started out flat and in a forest along the lake for about 250 meters. Andy left the trail to take pictures next to a bench by the water’s edge. I took a few pictures, but didn’t feel like waiting around.

We had a long way to go and a short time to get there so I decided I was going to run a portion of the trail. It was also still really cold and I wanted to warm up. I took off running and left Andy behind. It wasn’t bad at first, but the trail quickly became a steep hill. I ran up a few switchbacks, but my nose and throat were hurting so I quit running.

The trail flattened out again after a little bit, but then it became muddy and wet due to the snow that had melted. A few more minutes of walking and it was icy on the shaded parts of the trail. I had to walk carefully so I wouldn’t fall down or break through the ice and get even more wet. I didn’t feel like walking 14 kilometers with wet shoes. It was already cold enough.

Finally the trail was flat and not very muddy so I started running again. I ran until the muddy, icy, and snowy areas returned. Andy was still way behind. I don’t know where he was. I was thinking he fell down and got hurt, took a wrong turn on the trail since there were a few turn offs for other trails in the area, or was busy taking pictures.

I passed a family that was going down the trail. There was a teenage boy, a mom, and a dad. The parents had ski poles. It was only about 10:30 AM and I was thinking there is no way they went to the top and were on their way back down so early. They would have had to start the trail at 6 AM and in these conditions that wasn’t likely.

I continued walking even though the trail was getting steeper and covered in snow. I didn’t want to stop and wait for Andy because I just wanted to get to the top. I felt if I stopped I wouldn’t want to get going again. It was also hard to keep my momentum going and have the necessary traction to walk. This was listed as a strenuous trail, and I was feeling it. It was the first time I was tired on a trail so far in New Zealand other than the ones we had ran on to finish quickly.

The further I walked the more snow was on the trail. I thought the tall trees would protect the ground from snow, but that wasn’t the case at all. There was a few inches of snow on most of the trail, and to the sides of it there was easily 8-12 inches in most places. There was a few times when I got lost along the way and had to stop. The only thing that showed me where to go were orange and pink arrows on the trees. Everything was looking the same, I was tired, thirsty, and delusional by this point and didn’t know where to go.

I had to stop for a few minutes at least half a dozen times to look at the trees and find the arrows. In the end I never got off the trail. I always seemed to look up while walking at just the right time to notice the next marker ahead, with the exception of the times I had to literally stop and look around.

I was wondering to myself if the trail was easier or harder in the snow. It was hard to get traction at times, but I felt like it made it less steep than it would have been. As I was walking snow was falling from the trees. I was just waiting for a huge chunk to land on my head. Occasionally I would yell for Andy, but got no answer. I had the option to wait, turn back, or continue walking. I always chose to keep walking.

I figured if he was hurt I would see him when I was done with the trail. I was all alone in a snowy forest. Luckily there are no animals in New Zealand. That is the bad part when I want to see certain things, but it’s also good. It means I can go anywhere and not have to worry about a bear or wolf jumping out and attacking me. Supposedly there are deer in this area, but I never saw any.

The final 2/3 of the trail was snow and uphill. The switchbacks were usually about every 50-100 meters. Sometimes they were shorter, sometimes longer, but that seemed about average. The trail seemed never ending. I felt like I was going the wrong way most of the time based on where I knew the lake was positioned and the direction I was going.
As I was walking I was getting hot so I took off my hat and unzipped my jackets. After a while I was getting cold from sweating. I tried to limit my speed as well so I wouldn’t get thirsty. I didn’t bring any water on the trail because I knew it was going to be steep and didn’t want to have to deal with the extra weight.

I made it to the clearing of the trees around 11:40 AM.. I was about 50 minutes ahead of the time that was projected. I still had a little ways to go to the top, but I felt I was making good time. I was thinking once I got to that point I would just turn around and go back. I was too tired to continue on and I didn’t think it would be very safe to be in the opening on a steep snowy mountain.

The reason I was able to go so fast was because I never stopped to do any filming, but I did take a few pictures of the trail. The only gopro videos I did were of me carrying the camera and just shooting forward as I walked. I was hungry so I had a granola bar as a snack. I didn’t bring my backpack, but I packed some food in my pocket.

From the opening I could see the lake. There was a spot that I thought I could walk to and get a good view off the cliffs edge. I had to take a big step up in order to get to the spot I wanted to be. I lifted my left leg pretty high, then my right leg quickly after to pull myself up. I immediately sunk straight down into the snow. It was up to my knees!

I quickly jumped out. The place I was just standing was now two deep footprints. I was freezing cold. I had on pants, but my socks were ankle high. Snow was getting in my shoes and on my legs. My shoes were slightly wet from the trail, but now they were going to be soaked from the snow. I was obviously unable to get to the spot I wanted.

I saw a huge outcropping of rocks above and thought I could get up to them and then get better views of the lake. Before I went I yelled for Andy. I figured he had to be getting close by now. I wasn’t walking that fast and had made a few brief stops to rest. I never got an answer back. I decided to go up further.

As I was walking I noticed that the trail didn’t go to the rocky area and that it was pretty steep and looked too unsafe. I probably could have made it, but decided to continue following the trail. The snow was getting very deep. Someone had walked the trail before me because there were footprints. The footprints were about 1 to 2 feet deep in some places. Similar to the footprints I had made on accident before.

I’m glad someone else had done that, because I wouldn’t have continued walking if each step I took my legs went that deep into the snow. Behind me was the lake, to my left, front, and right were mountains. There were even mountains behind the lake and even further off into the distance. I took about 5 minutes to get to the Parachute Rocks lookout. It was like climbing to the top of a mountain.

There were awesome 360 degree views of the surrounding scenery. I could see everything for miles. I stayed at the top for about 15 minutes. It was in an area that was exposed and it was getting windy. I was getting cold so I walked back down to the edge of the forest where I had stepped into the deep snow. There I waited for Andy.

I stood there for about 10 minutes and considered heading back down. I stayed because I wanted him to get my picture at the top when he arrived. I felt if I went back a little ways to find him that I would be too tired to walk back up to the top. He finally arrived at about 12:15.

I asked what took him so long and he said he was taking lots of pictures and videos. He was also having trouble getting traction with his boots since they are so old. He said he ran a lot to catch up, but could never find me. He also thought I had taken a wrong turn on the trail so he didn’t want to go too fast just in case I was on the wrong trail or had turned off and went back to the car.

We both hiked up to the top where I had been. We took lots of pictures and videos of ourselves walking to the top and back down again. We stayed at the top for about 15 minutes before we had enough. There was actually another few hundred meters up the trail to the very top. It was basically a straight trail up the side of the mountain. The trail hadn’t been walked at all and I didn’t feel like trying. There were poles marking the route, but no foot prints.

We started our way down around 12:30 PM or a little bit after. My goal was to be down by 2:30 PM. We had a lot of filming to do since we didn’t get a lot on the way up of ourselves. I wanted to get about 8 shots of me walking on the trail. I ended up getting about 20. Andy got about the same. Everything I saw I wanted to film. Rather than get shots of us together, we each filmed ourselves. It made it easier. I could walk ahead and then film Andy, and he could do the same for me. We tried running as much as we could, but some parts of the trail were too slippery. The lower we got the easier it was to run because the snow was less. It seemed like the muddy parts from earlier were even worse. Many of the icy parts had melted into water.

We took about 2 hours to get to the bottom. At the lake we stopped for a few more photos and then walked back to the car. It was around 2:30 PM like I had wanted. I was starving and wanted something to eat. We drove down near the lake to look for a picnic table to have lunch.

We ended up just making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the car. We also ate some chips. It was too cold to get out. There were a few families playing in the snow near a frozen pond. One family was playing on it as we pulled up, but they soon left. A few minutes later another family pulled up and they did the same thing.

We finished lunch and then got a few more pictures of the lake. It was just before 3 PM and we were ready to start our 2 hour drive to Motueka, our stop for the night. Originally I had planned on standing in the Nelson Lakes area one more day, but it was too cold and we felt we had seen what we wanted to. We got to do a cool hike and see both lakes.

Motueka is a jumping off point for the Abel Tasman National Park Trek or kayaking trips. We were scheduled to do a 3 day/2 night kayak and hiking trip in the park starting on July 5. We wanted to be there early so we wouldn’t have to do a long drive early in the morning. The check-in for kayaking was supposed to start at 8:45 AM.

The drive to Motueka took about an hour and 15 minutes. We somehow went a different route than what I had initially intended, but it ended up being much faster. The drive was easy, but a little windy like always. We drove through a few towns of thousands of people. Most of the towns we had been at for the past 2 weeks were less than a few hundred people. It was an a welcome change.

Motueka has about 7,000 people and a few other towns in the region have 30,000-45,000. When we got to Motueka we needed to find a place to stay. We were actually considering a hostel called Eden’s Edge Backpackers in a small town called Riwaka. It was listed in the Lonely Planet and included an address, but no directions. We drove through Motueka and to Riwaka. There were only about 4 streets in the town, but we couldn’t find the street that was listed.

We drove through the town twice and still couldn’t find it. We gave up and decided to find something else. We had already stayed in a few Top 10 Holiday Parks before and they were really nice. We passed one on the edge of town so we decided we would see what they had to offer.

We went inside and asked the lady about tent camping. She said they had been doing some construction and needed to call to ask the maintenance people where we could set up a tent. The guy on the phone told her it was supposed to rain a lot tonight and that we may not want to be in a tent. She tried to convince us that we should get a cabin, but we went ahead and paid for the tent site. It was $20 per person.

She was persistent that we stay in a cabin. She said we could go look at them and then decide. She showed us to the single room cabin, similar to one we had stayed at in Te Anau and then to the larger cabin that included a living space and bedroom. The cabin was only $25 per person and then larger would be $30.

We didn’t need the larger cabin at all. Our tent was still a little wet from the previous few nights with the frost and we were about to go backcountry camping. We decided we would pay the few extra dollars to sleep in a real bed and attempt to let our tent dry out. If we stayed again the next night we could just stay in the tent.

The room was nice. It had a small portable heater that we could use to dry out our clothes, shoes, and tent. Our shoes had gotten soaked from the hike, and if it rained tonight there’s no way they would dry being in the tent. Not to mention that it was kind of cold outside, although it was much warmer than what it was in other places we had been. It was probably in the mid-30s.

There were two beds. One was a double bed and one was a twin bed. The twin bed was horizontal to the door and partially behind a cubby hole area. Andy walked over and put his bag down on that one. I walked over to the larger bed which was vertical in position. Together they formed an L-shape with a small ledge space between them.

Andy looked at my bed and then asked why he chose the smaller bed. He always gets the small beds when there is a choice. I told him because he probably wanted the cubby hole spot. He said that is why he chose it.

We were hungry so after laying out some things in front of the heater to dry we went to the kitchen area right next door to our cabin. We made Satay Ramen Noodles from the bag packages that we bought. It was the spicy kind and it was really good. We also had spinach and a salad with French fries Andy made on the stove.

While he was cooking them he was using my spoon to stir them around and the tip of it melted a little. Now it has a slight bend on the end of it. We also ate oreo cookies, chocolate, and some hot chocolate since we had a little milk left. Andy cooked the milk in a pot on the stove since we didn’t want to cook our plastic cups in the microwave.

We went back to the room afterwards because I was cold and our room was really warm. It was actually burning up. We had to open the windows and turn off the heater it was so hot and stuffy in there. It also smelled bad from all of our things being out. Mostly our shoes didn’t smell good or our wet socks.

I was glad I was in a bed for the night and that all of my things were dry. It hadn’t rain yet though. I was thinking it was just a trick to make us get the more expensive room. Around 9 PM we were laying in our beds and the room started shaking. It lasted for about 30-45 seconds. It wasn’t really strong, but it was easily enough to tell that something was happening.

Andy asked if it was an earthquake. I was pretty sure it was. We went outside to see what was happening and if anyone else had gone outside. A younger guy came running out of the bathroom and asked if we felt that. He was thinking it was maybe a train or something going by at first, but also thought it was an earthquake. I was thinking it could have been a big truck or train as well at first. The cabin wasn’t very big so any large thing driving by could have made the room shake slightly I thought.

I typed in my journal until about 10 PM and I kept falling asleep. Finally I went to bed around 11 PM.

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