Another fabulous weekend here in New Zealand. We went on our longest road trip yet, about five hours, to the Fiordlands on the west coast of the souther island. I spent an hour or two earlier in the week creating arguably the most epic playlist of all time (think plenty of late 90’s classics) so it’s safe to say the hours flew by. We arrived around 9pm Thursday night, where the other five members of our group had already assembled their tents. The site was too damp to make much of a fire, so we sat around on some logs and made up a game of the most eligible bachelor, and proceeded to quiz our three male contents with a series of questions about their dream girl/date. It was entertaining to say the least.
The next morning we woke up early and went to check out the Chasm, a short twenty minute paved walk. We had Zoe in tow with us all weekend, so it was nice that we could find something she could participate in. We then headed off to Milford Sound and got a great rate on a cruise around the harbor. The weather was absolutely spectacular. We saw about 4 different waterfalls, most over 400 feet tall. While we were grateful for the sunshine, the tour guide told us that when it was raining, literally thousands of waterfalls formed. After the cruise, we checked out Key Summit, about a two hour climb up. There was a beautiful lake on the top, and we hung out and soaked in the sun, throwing the disc around a bit. We were wiped after all the sun, and after a hot meal at the campsite we hung out and mostly watched the stars.
The following day we got an earlier start on Gertrude’s saddle, one of the most esteemed hikes in the area. The views were absolutely breathtaking, not only from the top but most of the way up. Unfortunately we had a solid two hours or so of thick fog, which felt like a tease with all the audible sounds of the waterfalls nearby. The sky opened up for us eventually, though, revealing the biggest waterfall I’ve ever seen.
The most difficult part of the hike was undoubtedly the slippery rock faces, made even more slick with bits of moss and the fog. It’s funny how quickly the body figures out what’s good for it and what’s not, and it wasn’t long before we were all able to figure out which patches to avoid, and which bits of rock we could count on for a solid grip. When the rock face became a bit steeper, there were cables to hold onto. There was a bit of snow towards the top and we all took turns penguig-ing (for those unfamiliar, basically sledding down snow without the sled, belly down and hands up) and chucking snowballs.
Max and I have this contest to conquer every body of water we encounter, and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dunk ourselves in one of the glacial lakes towards the top of the mountain. Not one of my smartest decisions, but happy to have checked another one off the list. We met a couple other folks at the top, who happened to also be studying abroad at University of Otago. We even saw a girl from our intramural soccer team on our way up! Just when you’re admiring how massive the world can feel, it becomes small again.
On the way down, I misjudged one of the footholds, and slipped down about 6 or 7 feet before being able to put on the breaks. No casualties though, just a huge hole in my pants. Oh well. We met Zoe in the parking lot where she waited all along with a good book and some snacks. Obviously, an impromptu dance party kicked off as we started to stretch and unwind.
On Sunday we did another hike out to Marian Lake. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it ended up being a pretty moderate hike, about 1.5-2 hours up pretty steadily. All of the sudden there was a massive clearing in the woods, and I literally stumbled backwards at the sight. The lake was crystal clear, the most beautiful blue I’ve ever seen. The reflection of the snow capped mountains was almost clearer than looking at the mountain themselves. We separated along the lake for a bit and admired everything about the view, our group, life, so on and so forth. We then congregated at a massive rock and waited for the sun to make it past the mountain, so we could think about going swimming. We all took turns jumping off this jutted rock into the chilly glacier water, each of us requiring a bit more coaxing than anticipated. Before we knew it Max has roped some of the other travelers hanging around the lake into jumping off into the water as well. We had planned to leave relatively early on Sunday to get back before it got too dark, but none of us were ready to walk away from the view.
When we finally decided to mobilize, it wasn’t long before the Wee Beast (the other car we travel with) pulled off into a small beach. We took turns admiring the sunset and tossing rocks, while our friend Emma started up a small fire. Before we knew it we had a roaring fire with all the driftwood, and plenty of logs for benches. We were mostly silent as our thoughts once again wandered off to consider how great the weekend and the semester has been. And to think it’s not even halfway over yet! Life is good.
Thomas, Erin, and Thomas’ best friend Alex will be here Friday. Plenty of pictures to come after their visit!