Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Onward to Mordor!

There's no particular reason that this post has a Lord of the Rings theme-- I just had to work a reference in somewhere. LOTR was ubiquitous on the South Island: "Ride a horse from Lord of the Rings!"; "Walk in the bog that Frodo walked in!"; "See Mt Doom!!!".

After a night in Glenorchy, Sam and Frodo Jared and I returned to the Shire Greenstone River Trailhead and hiked up the Caples River to the brand new Mid-Caples Hut-- we were visitors #14 and #15. The hut was so new in fact, the Department of Conversation (DOC) was still working on it:

We spent two nights at the hut so that we could spend a whole day fishing on the Caples River. Here's Jared stalking our prey:

We saw some enormous Brown Trout in the Caples-- the biggest freshwater fish I've ever seen. Unfortunately, we were the dumbest animals we adopted a new tactic after five hours trying to catch the damn fish:

I joined in the fray soon afterwards.

And dear God the water was cold: jump-in-and-look-for-the-fastest-way-out-cold. But we showed those fish! 

At least we met some great people at the hut: Flo and Anna (again), a Latvian couple that we ran into twice more, a couple from Utah, and some friendly Australians. Unfortunately, because the hut was brand new, there were no spiders yet, so the sand flies were horrendous! At least sunset was pretty:

And our next day, up and over the McKellar Saddle, dawned beautifully.

The Saddle was surprisingly rugged considering its low elevation (only around 850 meters); afterwards we dropped down to McKellar Lake, and then to, surprise, McKellar Hut.

Having spent the entire previous day (and several previous days) trying to catch fish, we decided to fish later, after dinner. And lo and behold: a fish!

Spoiler alert: our only fish of the entire trip! And we were too full to even eat the little punk. I unfortunately managed to break my (actually Jared's father's) fishing pole after hooking some grass-- carbon fiber gets bitter with age (that's my defense at least). 

I give up on fishing forever. You can quote me on that.

The next day we hiked up to Key Summit, our highest point of the trip so far, above the Milford Highway and then hiked out to the Divide.

After trying to hitchhike to Te Anau for around an hour, a friendly American couple offered us a lift. And what a surprise! We rode with the former head of The Nature Conservancy for the Pacific Northwest. A good reminder, that despite my desire to plan, spontaneous interactions are often the best. 

We spent the next day recovering at Bob and Maxine's B&B in Te Anau and then made our pilgrimage to the shrine that is Milford Sound the following day. Our 7:15 AM bus fortuitously (thanks to CRAZY driving) arrived thirty minutes early and we caught the 9:30 AM cruise. Wow. Milford Sound doesn't waste any time getting epic.

I think it was even more beautiful and mysterious shrouded in fog.

I couldn't help myself:

We also happened to run into Julie, a friendly Frenchwomen who offered us a ride back to Te Anau. First we stopped to admire the devious Kea, a native parrot attracted to shiny objects and car trim,

and then we day-hiked to the absolutely soaking Hidden Falls. Here's Jared celebrating in the torrent:

On the drive back we stopped by the not-quite-right Mirror Lake. Clever sign though.

We returned to Te Anau at the end of lovely day and had a celebratory beer. Here's to you Julie-- merci beacoup!!!

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