Saturday, January 14, 2017

New Zealand: The Milford Sound, Fjordlands National Park

 The Penbroke Glacierhelped form the Milford Sound some 2 million years ago. The region should really be called a fjord because it was made by glaciers. 

After we finished the Milford Tracmk (here is the first look and the video of the Track) we spent a nice evening at Mitre Peak Lodge. We had an enjoyable award-of-completion certificate ceremony and a very nice evening overall. But the trip wasn't quite over. I know I thought, and was a bit disappointed because it wasn't so, that the Milford Track didn't end with grand views of the Sound. We had glimpses as we rode the boat from Sandfly Point to the docks to catch the shuttle to the lodge but it was just a glimpse. The cruise would more than satisfy the desire for wondrous. Views of  Milford Sound. 

 Sterling Waterfall is 155 meters tall. 

 Look close for the fur seals on the rocks. Both male and female are there. I'm not sure which you can see. 

 One more view of the Penbroke Glacier. 

We took a 90 minute cruise on the Milford Sound out to the Tasman Sea and back. This is a stunning area. It will remind you of fjords in Norway though I think those we have seen there were narrower. I think, if you have the time, kayaking these waters would be quite enjoyable. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Australia: A Day Trip to Manly, Sydney

 On the morning ride out it was overcast and the Sydney Opera House appeared rather different though no less grand. But with the afternoon sun shining down the building really does put one in mind of tall sailing ship with new sails set to power the ship of to the great world beyond the horizon.

About 7 miles northeast of Circular Quay, a half-hour fast ferry ride, lies the peninsula that contains Manly and Sydney Harbor National Park. This is a thriving beach but so much more. We spent several hours there enjoying some time on the beach but more walking some of the paths in the park. Their is a lot of history here from the remains of quarantine areas, old military gun emplacements, barracks, almost desert-like scrublands, and naturally excellent views of the Pacific Ocean pounding the shoreline. 


The waters are truly that clear. While some areas of the sea are still suffering from pollution  this part of Manly Beach isn't among them. 

 Walk the promenade for a while and eventually you get to Shelly Beach. Then follow paths into Sydney Harbor Bational Park. You'll climb a bit on good trail,  many stone steps , moving away from the sea. Eventually you'll find your way through scrub on metal grated - like a boardwalk - trail that takes you to a road. From there you're minutes away from the unassuming but very nice cafe. Afterwards you can follow the road back down to Manly a couple miles away. 


The view from the Bella Vista Cafe in North Head. Just a couple miles from downtown Manly. 

 The Barracks. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Zealand: The Milford Track

 Not too far into one of the toughest , certainly slowest, descents I've ever done. The 3.5 mile slog from Pass Hut to Quinton Lodge was a real challenge. 

In 1888 Quinton Mackinnon surveyed an overland route  to connect Lake Te Anau and Milford Sound. The 33.5 mile long track is now, and perhaps has always been, an iconic hike in New Zealand. Today it is an exceptionally well maintained and managed trail. While no doubt much tougher back in Mackinnon's day I'm confident those trekkers found as much to enjoy as we did. We hike the Milford Track over 3 nights. While you can do it as an independent walker we travelled in the care of Ultimate Hikes who did a splendid job. 

Enjoy the video. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

New Zealand: Hooker Valley and Lake Pukaki

Although we have a modest walk tomorrow I am all but certain the walk today will live in our minds as the final real walk in New Zealand. It was in the distant shadow of Mount Cook, aka Aoraki in Maori, in the Hooker Valley. While overcast, cool and at times a bit windy this turned out to be a lovely 8.5-mile round trip hike on a very easy trail. The views were expansive and interesting. Notice the icebergs drifting in Hooker Lake (photos 3 and 4). If we have a gripe it would be that this trail was crowded. I'm glad people from very young children to seniors are enjoying the hike but I could wish for fewer of them or that some rest their vocal chords from time to time. 

By the way the wonderfully colorful lake you see way off in the background in photo 5 and close by in photo 6 is the same Lake. Lake Pukaki changes color depending on the light. Around 09:45 it was far more muted and grayer.

Purple lupine and Mom in a prairie-like area not far from the start of the gentle trail into Hooker Valley. 

Mom and me with Meuller Lake behind us and the snow clad mountains beyond. Those mountains are as devoid of green as you think they are. 

Hooker Lake with icebergs and icy rocks. 

Two views of Pukaki Lake. The lake in the distance, about 45 minutes walk to the Hermitsge shoreline (just visible) is one shade of blueish gray. About 3 hours later we drove right on by and the lake was this color (different from the morning view). 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Zealand: First Look at the Milford Track, Fjordsland National Park

On New Year's Day 2017 we joined 48 other hikes and 4 guides to hike the 33.5-mile long Milford Track over 4 nights. The bulk of the hiking was done in 3 days during which time we got a very good Milford Track experience. Clouds and mists; rain - thankfully light; some sun most notably on the last day; rivers and uncountable streams, rivulets and waterfalls; and dense temperate rain forests of beech, lichen  and ferns. Some of the trail is only moderately tough while some, especially the 3.5-4 miles that run from Mackinnon Pass and Quinton Lodge dropping 3,000 feet along a rock infested steep trail was , for me, brutal and no cake walk for Mom and Dad. However, the challenge was worthwhile as we travelled through the New Zealand you see in films. The track is superbly maintained with suspension bridges, boardwalks and a set of stairs that plunge by a spectacular waterfall. Toss in the aggressively curious Kea parrot and other interesting birds for a complete package which lets you feel as though you are in truly remote places. 
We stayed in very well appointed mountain lodges. Bunkhouse with 4-6 bunks per room for sleeping and  shared bathrooms were the rule. We had breakfast and dinner on a large dining rooms. The food was plentiful and tasty. Good lodging and food always make the experience better and Ultimate Hikes who run the trip did a fine job.

We ended our exploration of Fjordlands National Park with a cruise on the Milford Sound (technically a fjord too) to the Tasman Sea. Think of Norwegian fjords but with taller cliffs, so it seemed, and you'll have a sense of what we saw. Pembroke Mountain with what's left of its Glacier which helped form this area two million years ago is just one stunning example of what we saw. 

 At the start of the Milford Track. The first day we hiked less than a mile to Glade House. The nature walk we did later was a challenge because it was full of huge exposed roots.


Waterfalls Valley. My name for one of the areas we walked through. Now and then the forest of ferns and beech would open up to mountain prairie-line areas with pencil-thin waterfalls pouring off the cliffs of the Glacier-made valleys. 

Water is a dominating feature of the Track. Streams, rivers and waterfalls on the land; clouds and rain from the sky. 

The descent off Mackinnon Pass was brutal. An agile strong hiker can do it in three hours and at that he or she won't be going much over a mile-per-hour. I crept along at closer to 0.6MPH. Rocks everywhere, drops, gaps and a descent of 3,000 feet. 

 The sun broke out after dinner and helped redeem the tough afternoon with a fine Alpine-glow sunset. The clouds just floated in.

 Penbroke Mountain and it's Glacier. The fjords of Milford Sound are grand. 

New Zealand: South Island Picton to Queenstown


The beach at Ship Cove. Lovely driftwood. 

We spent three days traveling from Picton to Queenstown. There are many places to stop along the way as you travel the west coast of South Island. Among the places we visited were: a winery, a lake -  perhaps Kerr Lake - with black swans and eels, Kilkenny Gap, Cape Foulwind, pancake Rocks in  Paparoa National Park, the Franz Josef Glacier, Lake Matheson, the town of Ross with its historic sites, and more.  No doubt you can make the journey more quickly but I think most people would choose to visit the majority of the same places we did. In fact, especially if the weather is good, some places would clearly get extra time. 


I've never seen limestone form stacks like these at Pancake Rocks. I expect you can do much more in Paparoa National Park but make time to walk the circuit that shows off the Rocks, sea caves and flax lined cliffs. 


Franz Josef Glacier is kilometers away but we are st the end of this easy 1.75 mile hike. Easy trail of asfalt and hard packed dirt. Just a little climbing.


If the weather is good, no wind, the reflections off Lake Matheson can be exquisite. The clouds prevented us from getting mountain views but we got the clouds. The water has tannins in it that darken the color and improve reflections. 


Lake Wanaka is one of the largest lakes in New Zealand. It is stunning. The town of Wanaka sits on the shore and is clearly the place to be for summertime outdoor fun. 


Looking down from Bob's Peak on Queenstown. 

And enjoy this video.