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Topic: New Zealand's South Island, Great hiking and awesome wildlife< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 3:58 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hi. I used to post under the handle yosemitefan, but my hard drive died, taking away my access to the throwaway email account I used to have access to the board. Hence, the new username mbear.

Took a trip to New Zealand's South Island this month, and wow, what a place. Here's my trip report, 1000 words at a time:

A peak on the drive to Milford Sound


Another shot from Milford Road


Mitre Peak and Milford Sound (got to see an endangered Fiordland Penguin [think the main character in Surf's Up] in the wild here, but didn't get a decent pic)


A peak whose name I never got, viewed from Milford Sound
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 3:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The Kepler Range from near Lake Te Anau


A cute lamb by a gas station near Manapouri. This guy was really interested in everyone at the station. I talked to the owner who said he was a great pet for the kids, to which I responded, 'oh good, you won't slaughter him then.' Then the owner said, 'nope, we're gonna eat him!' haha


A natural bridge on Otago Peninsula (after a muddy walk)


Everyone likes sea lion balls


Beach at Moereaki Boulders (water was freezing!)


A yellow-eyed penguin getting ready to nest for the night


Ruins of an old house in Kaikoura


Enjoying sunset on the beach (Kaikoura) like in the Corona commercials, except I wasn't drinking **** beer
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 3:59 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

A kea posing for me in Arthur's Pass National Park. Keas are the only alpine parrots in the world, and curious (and destructive) as hell. They're like really agressive bears with wings.


Double rainbow after a small snow-storm in Arthur's Pass


A kea trying to eat the parking lot at the Arthur's Pass Visitors Center


My noisy neighors in the morning at Arthur's Pass


Kea trying to eat my car
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 4:03 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

A few shots I took hiking the Temple Basin Track (great dayhike!) in Arthur's Pass; ended up getting snowed on during the return trip (weather changes FAST in NZ)




(ski hut used in the winter)



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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 4:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Franz Josef Glacier


Fox Glacier; amazing to hike through a rainforest to get on a huge glacier. The alttidue is only about 800 feet, so this thing moves about 2 meters a day.


The ice falls come into view from the lower section; it was really amazing just kicking off the slushy top section of the lower part of the glacier to see that yes, you actually were standing on a 200 foot thick block of solid clear ice.


Good spot for lunch, on a rockfall on Fox Glacier


Our group hiking up a wide crevasse


Lots of pinnacles in the ice falls


Looking up a crevasse
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 4:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Lake Wakatipu, from the road between Queenstown and Glenorchy. The water is so pure that it won't conduct a current.



View from Glenorchy


Morning alpenglow near Glenorchy
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 4:05 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Some shots on the Routeburn Track






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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 4:07 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Actually did get to see an avalanche live in this area


The offending snowfields above the route


A little snowy in parts, but mostly clear


Lake Harris, on the Routeburn Track






Conical Hill (closed for avalanche danger; I was there in the peak two weeks of the year for avalanches, apparently)
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 4:08 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Harris Saddle, on the Routeburn Track. Just a week before you had to take a helicopter between Lake Harris and Harris Saddle because of all the avalanches.











Decided to turn around here, since weather was coming and since I was already 8-8.5 miles in on the dayhike and had gotten to the highpoint I wanted to see.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 4:08 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

A couple of morning shots of Lake Manapouri



Some rainforest scenery on the Kepler Track. The cloud cover was way too thick for the alpine section to be worth doing (it was in the clouds all day), so I just walked some of the rainforest section. I had wanted to do this a couple weeks before at the start, but the alpine section was having avalanches that prompted the DOC to close access to it. Still had an amazing time doing other things though.



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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 4:10 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Since there was heavy rainfall predicted for the day, I drove out to Milford Sound again to see the waterfalls. Much more impressive trip on a rainy day, though my camera isn't great in low light and thus, I didn't take too many pics. Lots of places where you could see 60+ 1000 foot tall waterfalls at once though



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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 4:14 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Didn't get any backpacking in since a really cool and snowy spring (lasting up until about the day I came!) made avalanche danger nasty in two areas I was hoping to do (Kepler Track and Rees-Dart), but I'm glad it worked out that way since I got to see so much of the island (including the glaciers) that I would have missed if my backpacking plans had been doable. Did get some really nice dayhikes and some short walks too though! One place I didn't post pics from that was amazing was Stewart Island. My camera is pretty lousy in low light and the rainforest there is thick enough to not let a whole lot of sunlight in; spectacular to walk through though, and lots of amazing wildlife.

Also couldn't get any pics of the blue penguins I saw in Oamaru, as photography is strictly prohibited at their colony. On the cuteness scale the only animal I have seen that compares are the pikas I saw near Mount Gibbs when I was backpacking in Yosemite this August. Think penguins that are maybe a foot tall, squint like Mr Magoo, and who fall down and end up sliding on their stomachs every fifth step. Even saw two of them boning under a park bench outside the colony, but didn't want to interrupt their good time (they are endangered, after all) by using a flash to get the pic (they come in after sunset).

Great food too. The bacon and the eggs are of significantly higher quality than you get in the US unfortunately, and it's nice to be able to buy muesli with dried raspberries and blueberries in every single grocery store there. Loved the mussels and the blue cod.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 30 2012, 3:06 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

AWESOME!

I mailed a guide to the Routeburn Track to someone, never heard back from them.

Although I'd never put "great wildlife" and New Zealand together because of a land mammal bias many thanks for sharing stunning country.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 30 2012, 6:02 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The penguins and the parrots (first time seeing either in the wild) are the main reason I spoke of great wildlife. The keas (alpine parrots) are really aggressive like marmots, and they want to tear your gear up like bears. The Dept of Conservation at Te Anau was telling me they had two mischievous keas keeping everyone awake at one of their backcountry huts (Luxmore Hut on the Kepler Track). One kea would keep dropping rocks on the metal roof while the other would look in the window and watch the hikers unable to sleep.  :D Doesn't seem too far fetched since I had two right outside my window yelling and peeking in when I stayed at Arthur's Pass.

I didn't get many pics of wildlife since the kaka birds I had flying by me on rainforest trails moved too fast, and the light was bad. All the albatross I saw were busy fishing, and the penguins are highly protected by the NZ Dept of Conservation, so my camera couldn't really handle the distance (my binoculars were up to the task though!).

Nothing like walking through the rainforest at 6:00 AM to hear all the birdsongs as the sun was first coming up every morning. I thought the grey warbler and the tui had the prettiest songs. Loved hearing the calls of the bellbirds and keas too.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 01 2012, 4:25 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

And to think that I lived for over a year in that area (Te Anau/Queenstown) and never really hiked except for some short day hikes...
The keas are one of the cleverest bird around. They can undo knots and open zippers but most of all they like to be a nuisance.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 02 2012, 3:09 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Brings back great memories of my trip there.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 07 2012, 4:51 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Absolutely amazing!  NZ is definitely on my bucket list.  Thanks for sharing.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 07 2012, 6:20 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

NZ is at the top of our list for future travel plans.
Thanks for taking the time to post all those pics.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 18 2013, 9:41 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

BEAUTIFUL.
So many pics =)). Thank for sharing.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 19 2013, 4:49 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Lovely pictures - I didn't realize NZ has penguins!  My mom's heading to AU/NZ in a few weeks (old lady tour)

Not sure I'll ever make it there - the bucket list is already long with places that don't involve 24 hours of flying!


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 19 2013, 7:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

mbear,
Did you use a guide company for any of your excursions or did you just organize it on your own?

Rental car? Rail? Bus? for most of your travels?
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 24 2013, 5:33 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(hbfa @ Jan. 19 2013, 7:58 pm)
QUOTE
mbear,
Did you use a guide company for any of your excursions or did you just organize it on your own?

Rental car? Rail? Bus? for most of your travels?

I rented a car from Apex; lots of kiwis recommended them to me for decent prices with solid cars, and I was pleased with both and their staff working the counter at the Queenstown airport were very helpful suggesting routes and such. If you have time to spare there is a great bus system though; can't remember the two or three companies names right off hand. There are also lots of shuttles to the famous backpacking routes such as Routeburn, Milford, Rees-Dart, etc.

For Fox Glacier I used Fox Glacier Guiding. It's the only game in town for Fox Glacier. You can use Franz Josef Glacier Guides to go on Franz Josef. However, Franz Josef Glacier has receded enormously the last four years and the terminal face is so unstable that you have to be helicoptered onto Franz Josef Glacier now. Hence, their cheapest trip is $300NZ while with Fox Glacier Guiding you can do a 6-8 hour trip for $165NZ without requiring a helicopter. I guess you can technically get on the glacier without taking a guided tour, but I would consider it suicide since there are lots of huge crevasses and places with rotten ice that could easily make sure your body is never found.

One other interesting glacier tour that I didn't have time for is the Glacier Explorers tour of the proglacial lake of the enormous Tasman Glacier, complete with giant icebergs and all.

I took a bus tour from Real Journeys in Te Anau to Milford Sound and then a couple hours cruise through the sound from them. You can drive the road too, but I prefer paying for the bus since you have giant windows to look out through and since you can see the amazing scenery for more than split-seconds at a time. I thought Milford Road was more scenic than my favorites in the US like the Beartooth Highway, Chief Joseph Highway, Tioga Pass Road, or Angeles Crest Highway. I would also recommend taking the bus down Milford Road since landslides close the road down quite often. I think it has closed 3 or 4 times since October due to avalanches and landslides, and there is no other road out of Milford Sound. It would be really bad to have to pay your rental company to come haul your car out from there after you fly out of the area should the road close while you're there.

I took a Real Journeys tour to the Glow worm caves across lake Te Anau, which was pretty nice.You're not getting in those caves without a guide unless you're doing academic research I think.

I also paid to go into the blue penguin colony in Oamaru. It was $35 NZ to get into the best seats. They setup two grandstands to watch them come in every night at dusk. Supposedly the money generated goes into building shelters for these pretty endangered animals. I didn't use a paid tour to see the much larger yellow-eyed penguins; just showed up at the penguin hide which the NZ Dept of Conservation set up a few hundred feet from where they typically nest. However, we had two yellow-eyed penguins setup for the night only 20-30 feet away from the viewing hide area.

I paid about $150NZ roundtrip for the ferry to get onto Stewart Island. It's about an hour each way through one of the roughest straits on Earth, but I think it's worth it because

1. The ride is fun as hell, like a roller-coaster, when the seas are rough.
2. Stewart Island has incredibly thick rainforest that makes you think you're in Jurassic Park. It's also the only place you could have a reasonable chance at seeing Kiwi birds in the wild.
3. You can see albatross with these huge wingspans fishing on the ferry route

I didn't post any Stewart Island photos because the rainforest is so thick that the lighting is awful for my cheapo camera, but it's extremely beautiful.

I think everything else I did there was free.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 24 2013, 5:44 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Firedancer @ Jan. 19 2013, 4:49 pm)
QUOTE
Lovely pictures - I didn't realize NZ has penguins!  My mom's heading to AU/NZ in a few weeks (old lady tour)

Not sure I'll ever make it there - the bucket list is already long with places that don't involve 24 hours of flying!

Tell her to check out the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony! (no photos allowed though)



http://www.penguins.co.nz/

The only animal I have ever seen that was as cute are the pikas I sometimes see at elevation in Yosemite. Check this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wTWWjYTe1I

There is also a little blue penguin colony on Otago Peninsula near Dunedin, and I have heard you can see them at Stewart Island too. She also should have some chances to see them in Australia, as I have read they live there also.

Yellow-eyed penguins can be seen in both Oamaru and Otago Peninsula, and probably some places in the Catlins.



Fiordland Penguins are the third and final species in NZ, and they're much harder to see since Fiordland is so almost completely unpopulated and filled with extremely dense rainforest. Here's what one looks like:



I did see one at Milford Sound when taking the cruise, but way too far away to even attempt a photo. BTW, none of the photos in this last post are mine; don't want to take credit for other peoples' work!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 24 2013, 5:55 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'd also like to add that it's likely a complete waste of money to go to the Oamaru blue penguin colony in the day, since they'll all be out fishing and the two or three there will be hiding in their shelter. The evening viewing when they return to their nests is highly worthwhile, though dress warm, as it can get pretty cool once the sun goes down.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 24 2013, 6:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Firedancer, if your mother wants to see keas, Arhtur's Pass National Park is the best place, and specifically, the Bealey Hotel. You can easily see them in the wild at Arthur's Pass too, and often at the glaciers, but at Bealey Hotel there is a group of 3 or 4 that the owner of the place (nice guy btw) raised and who hang out there. Think of keas as flying bolt-cutters; they love tearing things apart and are aggressive and inquisitive like marmots. Extremely intelligent too; they can open zippers on backpacks and will go right after them if left unattended.

One of the stories I heard from the DOC in Fiordland NP killed me. Over on the Kepler Track they have a backcountry hut with a thick metal roof (every building seems to have metal roofs in NZ) where a couple of keas were hanging out at night. One kept grabbing stones and dropping them on the roof while the other stood there looking in the window at people unable to sleep!

I have also heard the helicopters on the glaciers will keep their rotors going the entire time they're landed since the keas try to strip them otherwise.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 24 2013, 6:32 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Forgot to mention food is very expensive there. Part of it is the 15% GST sales tax, which is part of the quoted menu price (so no add-on tax to your bill), and part of it is the no tipping custom so that waiters can make decent money instead of the $2.13 per hour they get in some states here. And I'd guess part of it is the general higher quality of meats and eggs there than you usually see in the US. The bacon, eggs, beef, and fish seemed to be of exceptional quality there unless you went to McDonalds or Subway.

Gas is crazy too: about $8 a gallon or so.

Any denomination of currency less than $5NZ is a coin, so spend those before leaving, as banks in the US won't exchange them. Your only option in the US is likely the TravelEx currency changers at the airport that offer comically bad exchange rates.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 01 2013, 5:08 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

What an adventure! I like how there was a lot of pictures. Awesome dude.

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 20 2013, 2:26 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

awesome pictures! I really want to go there
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 20 2013, 2:57 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE


(mbear @ Jan. 24 2013, 2:33 pm)
QUOTE

(hbfa @ Jan. 19 2013, 7:58 pm)
QUOTE
mbear,
Did you use a guide company for any of your excursions or did you just organize it on your own?

Rental car? Rail? Bus? for most of your travels?

I rented a car from...

Great info.
Thank you for taking the time to put that response together.
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