The adventure began Thursday, February 2. Ben and I stayed with his parents overnight, who live close to the airport, to catch our early morning flight beginning our journey to New Zealand. At 8am we took flight to Houston, then from Houston we flew 15 hours to Aukland on the North Island of New Zealand and then another shorter flight to Christchurch on the South Island. We made it! Well, we still had to make it to the town we were to hike out of, which was the purpose of our trip. Yes, we went to hike in Nelson Lakes National Park. A looped trail called the Traverse Sabine Circuit. I have to say, I really enjoy flying because there is really nothing else like it! but we were both excited to be done after 2 days of travel.
Next we needed to get 6 hours north to a town called Saint Arnaud where the circuit began. We soon found out the bus tickets were sold out for the next 2 days! And each ticket was $50 which seemed a bit much. I suppose we weren’t too worried though. God seems to always have something up his sleeve when Ben and I travel. So I recommended we should look into getting a car and drive it up for the day. Cars all seemed to be about $50 for the day and easy enough to rent so we thought it a good idea and experience to take. It seemed like a win win. Then we saw a car for rent at $9 NZ dollars a day. We figured it must be a typo or something! We bought it! We go to the car dealership to pick up our car. You know your getting a good deal when even the employees at the dealership are confused on the rental price and all whispering to each other and double checking everything. It turns out it was a car that belonged in Nelson, where we going! and needed to be delivered, so we gladly accepted and payed a whopping $6.85 for our new Toyota Rav 4. We laughed a lot haha. It was something. In New Zealand they drive on the left side of the road, steering wheel on the right. Everything is basically the opposite from the states. Oh, and I was surprised by how easy it was to actually rent the car. It took about 10 minutes from start to finish and we had the keys. We were off on our 400km journey!
We decided to drive along the coast since we were close and it’d be nice to be along the ocean or some time on the trip. New Zealand got hit hard by a devastating earthquake last year so a lot of roads were closed. We didn’t know! We drove for a few hours up the coast only to hit a “road closed” sign in the middle of no wheres! There are no major high ways going every direction which there seems to be in America.. So we had to back track 100km to get on the right track. Our 6 hour drive turned into a 10 hour drive.. It seemed easy to side with discouragement and frustration at the moment after traveling days on end… but we chose to laugh and be grateful we were in FREAKIN’ NEW ZEALAND.
We arrived in Nelson around 10:30 and pitched a tent to sleep. We woke up early to drop off our rental car and catch a bus to Saint Arnaud to begin our hike! We were always meeting the greatest people along the way. One guy we met at the bus stop early in the morning stuck out to me the most out of anyone. His name was Beza. He walked by as some of us back packers were waiting for the bus so I said hello. Oh, New Zealander’s, also known as Kiwi’s, speak english! Pretty exciting because I love talking to strangers and every other country I’ve visited in the past was difficult to communicate. So! Beza says hi and makes a b-line straight for me to my surprise and starts talking like we knew each other. I found it the most fascinating thing for him to do this because no one does this. Haha so I was all in! He sat right down and made him self comfy. He was holding a grocery bag full of cigarettes and beer and I thought it so generous of him to offer me what he had almost immediately. It honestly struck my heart. I declined his thoughtful offer and we kept the conversation going. We talked for 15 minutes about the Super Bowl which he was excited for and also about President Trump. I was always surprised by how much this country across the world, and others we met, knew about American politics. Haha it was something..
We got our bus and sat for an hour long ride to Saint Arnaud. We began at the visitors center, picked up a few Hut Passes and began our hike! The huts we stayed in were small shelters with bunk beds, a fire place and a sink provided with water from a tank outside the hut. Basically a hostel without electricity imagine.
We started along a huge lake and hiked through the woods,
into grassy valleys and continued higher into the mountains. The first day we started around noon and hiked 28 kilometers..whoa.. until we reached the second hut into the trail where we slept and experienced the hut life for the first night! We hustled trying our best to escape the coming rain and were so beat! The hut was sweet. There was about 15 people from all over the world, different cultures and languages and sometimes nothing in common except for the trail we were hiking. It was a unique experience. The next day we hiked to the highest point of our journey which was over 2300 meters. It was physically demanding and I was honestly exhausted by the second night of hiking(the first 2 days were the furthest we hiked each day) and my body was like what the heck are you doing???! Haha but after the 3rd day it started understanding and began to cooperate more and stopped it’s aching and I gained a lot of energy.
I believe it was the third day when we visited Blue Lake. It is the clearest fresh water in the world! Yes. That is right. I can’t say I captured the clarity of the lake but nor did I spend much time trying. But you can google it! You should. It was a special place and Ben and I really enjoyed the time there.
We pressed on the next day and covered a lot of ground down in the valleys. We made it to a hut next to a lake and it was beautiful. But! Near water in New Zealand they have “sandflies” and they are vicious and unable to be ignored so you can’t sit for long in a single spot. Especially at this lake it seemed.
The whole hut system was cool because you would meet someone one night, say your good-bye’s and nice-to-meetcha’s and then run into them again a few days later along some route. It is mainly just one circuit but many intersections and side trails so it’s cool. It’s like your all in there together hiking the same mountains just different stories to be shared. Super cool.
After this sandfly-infested-lake (no complaining! just a fact.) we hiked straight up this mountain side (I mean straaaaight up this mountain side. skeeetttchhhyyyyy!) and visited the clouds one more time before closing the circuit. We got out of the bush line and to the top at 2100 meters and were excited for the much talked about grand view of this particular walk but the clouds engulfed us!
We laughed. It really was funny and unfortunate at the same time. And the land got so rugged and raw and the rocks were sharp enough to cut your shoes it seemed. We joked about getting close to Mount Doom and Sauron’s Lair.
We knew that there was a large lake next to our destination hut according to the map, so after 7 hours of treacherous hiking we spotted water. We made it to the Angelus Hut. As soon as we got settled in, the clouds gave way and opened up to a landscape we could hardly believe. I can’t even explain it! It was too epic..
That night I stepped outside at about 10:30 because I could not sleep (this was a much busier and noisier hut) and stepped outside to a complete calm. When ever you stepped outside you expected it to be windy. It was always windy outside of the trees. But this night was perfectly still. And during the day its freezing because of the wind. But as I stepped outside I first noticed the clear sky and not a breeze! It was surreal. I was around and stared at the stars. I noticed a bright light shining behind a mountain peak so I walked my way around to see this bright light and a blinding full moon rose before me. And right over this little glassy pond! I was the only one who was watching this! I was debating if I should go wake up the whole hut to see this. But I didn’t haha. A moment I won’t forget!
The next day we walked our way along the mountain ridge to our last little hut under a perfectly blue sky.
At our last little hut we met a couple, Sam and Debbie who we ended up spending our last day with in town and they even let us crash at their house! They were amazing and showed us great hospitality. We were welcomed right in! We went out for ice cream after Debbie’s delicious home cooked dinner and I got New Zealand’s favorite, Hokey Pokey. Caramel Vanilla goodness let me tell you.. Oh and Sam and Debbie also let us use their kayaks and we got to paddle around Saint Arnaud’s lake under the mountains.
The next morning we took an 8 hour bus ride and then another short bus to the airport and the journey home began. We started by flying from the South to the North Island, Aukland. We had a 22 hour layover there so we slept in the airport then ventured to a town outside of Aukland called Onehunga. It was a cool little town.
Oh, random but on our 8 hour bus ride in the middle of no wheres New Zealand we sat next to this girl who grew up 30 minutes from Grove City, where I am currently living, in Butler! Every 15 minutes in our conversation I would pause and remind us of how bizarre of a thing this is meeting on the bus. She seemed much more chill about the whole situation but I was having trouble getting over the strangeness of what was unfolding haha. It was a good bus ride!
After a few days of travel we made it home to Grove City! A trip for the ages we say..