jen yu: new zealand 2004 - day 12

new zealand 2004 - day 12

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sealy tarns, tasman valley, christchurch
december 6, 2004
read about the day
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At 5:50 am I woke to the sound of two really loud Germans shouting to one another in the campground. They had pulled up in a campervan (those damn things were everywhere) the night before and made a lot of noise then too. I put on my glasses and looked out from under the rainfly. Those assholes were smoking and speaking in loud booming voices as if no one else was around. I was tempted to share my sentiments with them, but fortunately they left when their ciggies were done. After my annoyance subsided, I noticed the sky was pink and blue and yellow. I shoved my head out further to find that it was a gorgeous, clear day!

Although Jeremy says he likes to wake up early, he really loves to sleep. He is a tough one to get going in the morning when it is cold, but I wasn't about to let him sleep anymore - a sunny day in New Zealand should not be wasted. We packed up the tent and got ourselves dressed for a hike. A lot of my friends in my department had been to New Zealand last year after a marine geophysical field class. They all said the hike to Mueller Hut was a must for the views. Knowing how much snow fell yesterday and hearing the avalanches trigger in the night, I really didn't feel comfortable going to Mueller, but we could at least go as far as Sealy Tarns.

Laura said she was going to hike Hooker Valley again and that she'd meet us in a few hours at the cafe. She was preparing to drive south to Queenstown. The track begins harmlessly just outside of the campground and follows the valley up toward a large moraine. Then there is a split - left to go to Mueller, and right to goto Kea Point. When you go left, the trail rises quickly above the floor and soon you can see Kea Point far below. A good portion of the track is built with wooden steps held in place by giant metal screws that are mounted in the rock. I think the distance to Sealy Tarns is 1.5 miles and about 1500 feet. Something like that. The views get better and better - especially on such an incredible day. Looking back down the valley, the campground and village are teeny tiny, and the geology dominates the landscape.

We hit snow early on and it was melting out quickly. We could hear avalanches nearby. It was exciting and scary. Our track was pretty safe, but when we got to Sealy Tarns, I looked at the wanded track up to Mueller Hut and the slopes above looked loaded. We took pictures and were visited by a curious kea. They frolicked on the thermals in front of us and generally had a good time. We realized that we would be late getting to Laura, so we quickly made our way back down (remembering just below the tarns that we hadn't taken a picture of Flat Stanley yet!). We shot some pictures and proceeded down trail. When we got to the car, I caught an avalanche on the south face of Sefton with my camera! Very cool.

When we drove into the village the day before, parking was abundant. This day, it was totally packed. We circled around twice before finding a spot and running into Laura. She said she had booked kayaking on Milford Sound (at our recommendation) and was going to drive to Wanaka to stay the night and check out Puzzling World (also on our rec). She told Jeremy she was going to skip Queenstown altogether and head for Te Anau. So we hugged good-bye and she was off to Wanaka and we drove to the Tasman Glacier for some short hikes and photos. Lydia (my kiwi friend) had warned me that the sun is very strong in NZ. We had sunblock where it needed to be, except my hands! I couldn't believe how dark they got in so short a time. I checked around to see if this had anything to do with the Ozone Hole as some people claim. From what I found, it doesn't really. It has more to do with the fact the the air is so clean and so there isn't a protective layer of pollution between you and the sun.

As we drove back to the main road, I remembered that we had leftover white gas (or fuellite) in the car. We needed to get rid of this before we flew home. The best way to get rid of it is to donate it to people who use white gas. We drove back to the village to the Alpine Guides where I ran in and explained our situation and offered the bottle to one of the guides. They thanked us, said it was a great idea and that they use white gas all the time. We were on our way to Christchurch. Driving alongside Lake Pukaki in clear weather was a delight. It's just so blue, you get lost looking at it. We stopped in Lake Tekapo to shed some layers, walk around the lupine, admire the lake (Tekapo), and grab a couple of sodas for the road. People were walking around the open grassy fields, enjoying the lake. And there was a photographer with a model in a wedding dress posing in front of the lake surrounded with lupine and expensive wedding products. Sort of strange.

On the road to Christchurch, we spotted a giant salmon in the town of Rakaia. I made Jeremy pull over for a pit stop and so I could photograph the fish. I just dig the giant statues in New Zealand. Once in Christchurch, we went straight to our motel and washed up. We sorted through our gear and watched Starship Troopers on the television (we like the bugs - it looks like Starcraft made into a movie). Instead of eating out, we finished off the remainder of our groceries so we wouldn't waste anything. We had been told the Botanical Gardens were already closed (although later we found out that they don't close until an hour before sunset which is pretty late) so we chilled out and planned our next day.

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