Friday, January 4, 2008

Happy New Year!!



With a combination of the weather and different traditions for the holidays, it was a Christmas I’ll remember for awhile. My last blog left off with me headed to Dunedin for the holidays but that all changed. I did go to Dunedin for a week and loved it. But Adi and Adrian from Totaranui emailed me in search of some help before the holidays. I gladly accepted their offer to go back up to the Marlborough Sounds for two weeks.

It was wonderful to go back…I felt like I was going home to my Kiwi family. It was great to see how much the gardens had grown, and the animals too! My little Betsy Boo was huge! Now that she's bigger she mingles with the other sheep and is starting to pick up their jumpy habits, but whenever I called to her when she was in the paddock, she would look up and Baaa back to me. She even ran over a few times so I could give her a scratch on the cheek.

We worked hard during those two weeks, gardening and cleaning like crazy. Adi and Adrian let some friends of the family use the house over Christmas so we were preparing it for them. We did more work on the cottages and they look fantastic. I polyurethaned the floor in the bathroom (in the cottage) so it's almost done. It just needs a toilet to finish it off. I mowed lawns, and cleared out the "spider garden". Everything was looking great when we left!

It was also nice to experience some Kiwi traditions for Christmas. I helped Adi make her Christmas cake which was delicious. We also baked a sweet bread and lots of cookies. Adi made Christmas crackers which we don't have in the US. They are little gifts that snap when you open them. Adi's book of songs on the piano changed to christmas music and it filled the house as we sipped ginger wine and prepared dinner. We went out and got two Christmas trees (one for the house and one for the cottage) and Adi let me help decorate.

I had a great time, again! There was talk of them doing a big trip to the states and Canada, then to Europe, so hopefully they will make a stop in NH (or wherever I happen to be)!

After my two weeks there (I left on the 23rd of Dec.), I headed to Hanmer Springs (pronounced Hamner for some odd reason) for Christmas. It was a cozy little alpine village and I stayed at the YHA. It reminded me of Colorado. Although I stayed in a dorm room, I had the whole room to myself for three days! Apparently, not many backpackers go to Hanmer for the holidays....so it was very quiet for me, but nice all the same. The day after Christmas I went to the hot springs which was really busy. They had a huge range of pools to choose from. I liked the really hot, sulphur pools.

After Hanmer, I went back to Christchurch for a night, then to Lake Tekapo. The water in the lake is extremely blue due to the rock flour in the water. Rock flour is a powdery substance caused by the glaciers grinding up rock really finely and depositing it in the water. Funnily, I met up with a girl I had met up in Picton (by Adi's house). Kim is from Belgium and traveling around NZ before heading to Australia. We happened to be on the same bus down to Lake Tekapo and in the same hostel. I've had lots of instances where I've bumped into the same people in different parts of the country.

After Lake Tekapo, I headed to Mount Cook. My plan was to spend New Year's eve at Mount Cook but all the hostels in town were booked up, so I could only spend one night. The day I arrived, I wasted no time....dropped my bags at the YHA and headed straight for the Hooker Valley Track which weaves along a river up to a glacial lake near the base of Mt. Cook. I took lots of photos but am too lazy to post the good ones here, so all you get for now is my blurry foot shot. :)

The next day I headed back to Dunedin on a shuttle with a very friendly, and talkative bus driver. I happened to be the only person on the shuttle too!

So now I'm in the beautiful city of Dunedin again. I arrived on the 30th of Dec. I'm working/living at a hostel right in town, making beds and cleaning for free accommodation. Not a bad deal. I work from 10-1:00, then have the rest of the day to wander the city. There is a great night life here and cozy little cafes. On New Year's eve, there was a BBQ at the hostel, then a group of us went down to the downtown Octagon area to watch the bands and the fireworks. After midnight we went to a club, stumbling home sometime around 3:30. It was a great time.

So I'm just biding time here until February when I head back down to Invercargill for the Habitat build.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Milford Track and beyond...



The Milford Track is famously known as “The Finest Walk in the World”. Some people say that it was coined as such by an over enthusiastic journalist who had never even walked the track and that Milford while pretty, was certainly not the finest. I suppose it’s all a matter of opinion and what you’ve seen…what your idea of beauty is, but I found the Milford Track and Fiordland National Park to be the most beautiful area of raw, dramatic, natural landscape I’ve ever seen. As I was walking I kept thinking to myself, how will I ever explain to everyone back home how amazing this place is? No wordy description I can write will ever do it justice. On the trail, the words/phrases “unbelievable”, “oh my god” and “I can’t believe I’m here” kept running through my head.

The journey began on Wednesday the 14th. The bus picked us up in Te Anau and drove us 20 minutes north to Te Anau Downs where the boat transferred us to the start of the track at the top of lake Te Anau. 40 trampers are allowed to begin the track each day. The first day is a bit easy. From the boat ramp, it’s an hour walk along the Clinton River to the first hut which is Clinton Hut. This hour gives you a good idea as to how well you packed your backpack and if your shoulder/back will survive the trip. My bag felt extraordinarily heavy, but after awhile you get used to it.

Clinton Hut is tucked into a neat spot uphill from the river and is built over wetland area at the base of a mountain. The huts have the very basics, such as a main kitchen/dining area, gas cookers, sinks and a woodstove. No electricity but there are flush toilets. There are two separate bunkrooms, each with 20 bunks. There is also a helicopter landing deck at each hut. The first night is fun because you meet the people you will be spending the next three days and nights with. Everyone’s story is interesting…there were people from Germany, Australia, the UK, Israel, Switzerland, and the US. I met a British woman, Anna, at the hostel in Te Anau the night before…we just happened to be in the same room and realized that we were doing the hike on the same day. After we all had eaten our dinner, there was a hut meeting with the DOC (Department of Conservation) ranger (there is one posted at all three huts) to discuss the upcoming section of track for the next day, safety issues and weather. Following the meeting, several of us went a bit down the track with our torches (headlamps to us Yanks) to see glow worms. There were several spots near the river where we found them. They’re really quite pretty….they look like a beautiful starry night or fireflies frozen in place. They are not pretty when you see what they really are, which are insects cling to the roof of a cavern that drip a long nasty goo down to lure and trap smaller insects….ick.

The following morning, after a quick breakfast, I packed up, eager to hit the trail. I left around 8:00 and was the second person to leave. If you leave early enough, you feel like you are the only one out there, it’s great. This leg of the hike which follows the Clinton Valley, all the way up to Mintaro Hut and the base/starting point for Mackinnon Pass is usually completed in 6 hours. I think I did it in 4.5 to 5. This part of the walk is relatively flat, along the valley floor. The first part winds along with the river, then the trail opens up to wetland with the mountains of the Clinton Valley on either side. This part of the track has many avalanche areas. There are signs posted, warning trampers when they are entering such a zone, and not to stop walking until a “safe area” sign appears. Though it was fairly safe, there were several small slides while I was there. They sound like a mixture of thunder and loud crackling. I had to walk across several spots where there were landslides and it’s amazing to see how powerful and destructive they can be. These areas would be huge hills of dirt, rocks, boulders and whole trees piled in mass at the bottom of the hill. When you look up the path it came down, it looks as though a giant razor has shaved the mountainside. There are many pretty waterfalls along this area too. Once you reach the end of the valley, the landscape begins to change. The wetland turns into forest filled with beech trees covered in moss. EVERYTHING is covered in all different kinds of moss and lichen. Then you trail begins to climb uphill, to roughly, 2000 feet. The mountains around you begin to look bigger and have more snow on them. Then you reach Mintaro Hut. Mintaro sits up on a hill, in front of Mt. Balloon, just near Lake Mintaro. We had our first experience with Keas here. Keas are an alpine parrot with huge personalities. They are highly intelligent and big trouble makers. If you dare leave anything outside it becomes a toy for the kea. They destroy boots and clothes and try sneaking into the hut whenever they can. That night at Mintaro Anna taught me how to play a card game called Sh*thead (also known as Palace in the states). We soon had a group of regulars and passed the evenings this way. The next day was to be a big day, as many people find day three to be the most rewarding, scenic and difficult.

In the morning I left around 7:30 and was the second person on the trail. It seemed like the trail immediately began to climb. In this leg up to Mackinnon Pass, you climb switchbacks up for about 90 minutes (just over 1000 feet). It was tiring, but I was surprised at my strength. I should mention that the weather up to this point had been misty with periods of sun coming through but also the occasional light shower. When I reached the top of Mackinnon pass, it was slightly foggy and misty. You could see the surrounding mountains peeking in and out of the grayness. It fog made everything mysterious…like mother nature wanted to keep us in suspense, hiding the grandeur behind a curtain. But the wind suddenly changed and in a matter of minutes every bit of fog was gone and you could see for miles in every direction. It was glorious. I couldn’t believe the extremeness of the beauty all around me. After many photos were taken, we all moved a little down the trail to the Mackinnon Pass shelter, which had a stove and was a good spot for a snack. None of us realized how cold it was until we stopped moving. I was feeling really hot when I went inside, like it was a warm summer day, but I could see the breathe coming from my mouth. I decided to keep moving so I wouldn’t get too cold. I continued on down the trail which leads over the other side of Mackinnon Pass, down into Roaring Brook and the Arthur Valley. Due to the fact that it’s still avalanche season, we were redirected along the emergency trail, instead of the main trail. Coming down the other side of Mackinnon Pass is extremely steep. You descend the entire 3,000 feet in about 3 to 4 hours to reach Dumpling Hut, for the last night on the track. Though steep, it has amazing views, beautiful rivers, and huge waterfalls. About an hour before reaching Dumpling Hut, there is a side trail that leads to Sutherland Falls, the highest waterfall in New Zealand at 580 meters (the fifth highest in the world!) Then it’s another hour to Dumpling Hut. Dumpling was the nicest of the huts. It didn’t have anything special, it was just set up nicely with 4 separate bunkrooms, making things a bit quieter at night. The keas here were unbelievable. One of them woke us up around 3 AM because it was pulling everyone’s boots off the hooks and dragging them across the deck making a “bang, bang, bang” sound. When we gathered them all up and placed them inside one of the rooms, the kea squawked and pecked at the door, trying to get in. They are cheeky little things! The ranger at Dumpling was especially endearing. His name was Ross and must have been in his 60s. He went through the usual gist of things at our hut meeting but he told lots of funny stories about the keas, and lots of informative things about the birdlife.

On Mackinnon Pass

I was hurting on the morning of day 4. My calf muscles were so tight, I couldn’t walk for several minutes when I first stepped out of bed. Everyone was experiencing the same. My pack was feeling really heavy despite the fact that 90% of my food was gone. Again I set out early, around 8:00. You have to leave Dumpling around 8:00 in order to catch the boat at the end of the track to Milford Sound. This leg takes about 6 hours. This part of the track meanders through the Arthur Valley and the Arthur River. More beautiful scenery, the highlights being Mackay Falls, Giants Gate Falls and Lake Ada. The end of the line is Sandfly Point, which is named quite well. The sandflies are relentless… From here, the boat picked us up and brought us to Milford Sound, a 20 minute ride across the way where the bus was waiting to bring us back to Te Anau (a 2 hour drive). The boat ride across was an adventure in itself! The wind was rocking the boat from side to side and we were all tossed about…it was great fun.

The drive through Fiordland National Park was amazing in itself. Everything is so majestic, you really feel small. Most of the mountains are in the 6,000 to 7,000 ft range and the Milford Rd. meanders along the valley between them. We even went through one when passing through the Homer Tunnel. I was in awe the whole time.

A bunch of us got together back in Te Anau for a big dinner and drinks at The Moose restaurant and for a “Milford style” Sh*thead playoff.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience I won’t forget soon. I’ve just left a sheep farm in between Invercargill and Bluff. A lovely family…Paula and Bede MacKenzie. They have three grown kids, Amber, Bridget and Scott. I was doing lots of yard and garden work, babysitting and helping out with cooking/cleaning. I had my own little cottage room and it had a hot tub out back!

To end on an exciting note, I’ve decided to stay in New Zealand until the end of February to volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity project in Invercargill! They would like me to speak (or be interviewed) about my personal Habitat experience. It’s a great opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. In the meantime, I’m thinking about spending some time up in Dunedin. I keep hearing about how great it is so I’m thinking that’s where I’ll spend Christmas.

More to come…. :)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Playing tag with calves...

They chased me down! :)





I've been enjoying farmsitting though it's very quiet. I've been doing a lot of baking and talking to the animals (in the kind of way you do when you get cabin fever). My mornings have been a bit quiet as the two lambs under my care died of bloat, BUT another orphan was found so I have another morning (and afternoon) chore! The thing is, this lamb is a bit older and feistier. It wiggled it's way out of the initial paddock it was put in and found it's way to the calf paddock. This paddock also has two ewes which are pet lambs. They aren't afraid of people...in fact, they come baaing and running after me when they see me arrive. Naturally, you'd think that if you put a little orphan lamb in with two young female sheep, they would look after it and accept it into their group but they weren't having any of it. If a ewe doesn't recognize the scent on a lamb as being her own, she will chase it down and butt it away and that's what was happening here, poor little lambie (I've since moved it to another paddock).

One of the mean hoggets...

Yesterday I went into the paddock with a hot bottle of milk to feed it. Ideally, the lamb should be in a small enclosed place for the first few days, just so it can get used to you bottle feeding it and you can catch it easier. I knew this was going to be a funny task. I'm certain that anyone driving by got a good laugh. Picture this....me, with a bottle in my hand, running through a huge field after this lamb with a herd of calves and two big ewes trailing around behind me...all kinds of mooing and baaaing going on, thinking it was their feeding time. Then I started to think that the calves were ganging up against me because I was chasing the lamb. They were charging around me and kicking their hind legs up like they wanted to trample me (but really I think they were just playing). I was about to give up because the milk was starting to go lukewarm when the lamb managed to get itself cornered in a fence and I dived to tackle it. I had to pry it's mouth open to take the bottle but once it got a taste I let go of it and it was feeding on it's own.

The wool shed...

I'm also in dog heaven here...there are 6 total....I've fallen in love with a sweet little year old pup. I will take a pic tonight and you'll see why. :)

Pretty-faced Song (but not my fave!)



A couple more days here then I'm off to Te Anau...


Monday, October 29, 2007

Queenstown



Another great city, and surprisingly my favorite big city of the trip so far. You hear lots of negative things about Queenstown, especially that it's just a big party city and too expensive. While these things are true...it's still a lot of fun, lots to do and beautiful scenery. I spent 4 days there...walked around, did some shopping, went on the skyline gondola and watched a "haka" performance. I went to Arrowtown, a small old goldmining town 20 minutes from the city.

Saturday night I went out with my roommates (two girls from Long Island) and met up with some other girls from the UK. Such a fun night...did a little bar hopping...got into a little trouble. :)

The girls...

Winnie's Bar-It was their Halloween Party!

The roof opened up with hydraulic pumps!

After a few rum & cokes...

The girls catch me flirting with a cute Brit...

The "Remarkables" mountain range...

View from the top of the gondola...



I've left Queenstown and am now on another sheep farm for a little over a week until I head to Te Anau for the Milford Track.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Till the cows come home...

I feel like I’ve fallen so far behind in sharing my stories and photos. It’s just hard to find places to hook up my laptop at times….so….I’ll start with Abel Tasman, round two.



I had a beautiful weekend in Abel Tasman and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. I arrived on a Thursday to Marahau and decided to stay at the Marahau Beach Camp for three nights. It was only $20 a night for a dorm bed so I thought it was a great deal, and they are right on the water. When I arrived, it was like a bit of a ghost town aside from a few other people staying in RVs. The hostel was a small one floor home. It had a dining and kitchen area, bathrooms, a living room with a TV and two large bunk rooms…one with six bunks, the other with five. I was the only one there. At first I was psyched to have the place to myself…but as the sun went down and unfamiliar noises crept around me, I realized that a little company would have been nice! It’s such a strange feeling to go to bed at night alone in a quiet house when you are used to sleeping with at least 4 people in the room with you. Anyway, the next morning I went out by boat to Torrent Bay, but first our skipper drove us up to the seal colony which was really cool. They were just lounging around on the rocks, mostly females with their pups. After being dropped off, I hiked the same route I did last weekend but this time went a bit further to Anchorage Bay. I crossed one inlet which is only possible during low tide. I’ve never walked across such an interesting landscape. I felt like I was in the desert, with nothing but flat barren land around me, except I kept crunching down on occasional spatterings of shells and sometimes my foot would sink into a sludgy section of sand. The coast at Abel Tasman is really neat because it’s shallow for what seems like miles.





At low tide, you can walk out pretty far. So once at Anchorage, I had two hours before the boat arrived so I walked around, took some photos (which I’ll post soon) and just relaxed on the beach. I stayed at the same hostel Friday night, but a couple had now occupied one of the rooms so it wasn’t so eerily quiet. My last night there, I decided to stay at a different hostel called The Barn, on the other side of the village. I wish I had stayed there the whole time because it was so charming. The owner had an adorable jack russell terrier named Doris, who sat at your feet with a ball in her mouth, looking up at you with pleading eyes. ☺

On the bus ride back to Nelson that Sunday, my mind was wandering about travel. It’s strange how when you wander, with no set plans, wherever you are feels like home. For a bizarre second, the bus felt like home. Maybe because I didn’t know where I was going to stay once I got back to Nelson and it was just a passing feeling of living in the moment. I’ve just finished reading a book called “The Global Soul” by Pico Iyer. It’s basically about multiculturalism and Pico’s travels to find “home” in a world that is getting smaller. The following is a quote from the book that I’d thought I’d share:

“Birds in flight, claims the architect Vincenzo Volentieri,
are not between places, they carry their places with them.
We never wonder where they live: they are at home in the
sky, in flight. Flight is their way of being in the world.”----Geoff Dyer

Back in Nelson, I spent two nights at the YHA Then the next morning, I took a 5 hour bus ride to Punakaiki, which is on the west coast, in the heart of Paparoa National Park and home to Punakaiki Rocks and Blowholes. Punakaiki means “pancake” in Maori.





The rocks are stacked like (big surprise) pancakes and it’s a spectacular site. I stayed at a great hostel called Te Nikau Retreat, and it’s in an absolutely stunning setting. The west coast has a very different feel to it, in terms of landscape. It’s more rugged with the dramatic mountains and crags meeting the ocean. The beaches are rougher, the sand is darker (black in some spots) and the vegetation seems more like an ancient rainforest that you’d see back in the time of dinosaurs. The hostel is an 8 minute walk from a beautiful beach, with a waterfall, but you have to be careful as it’s a bit rugged. When they say, “Keep to the track” you don’t question them. It’s by no means a swimming beach due to the currents, strong rip tides and gigantic waves, but you can walk along the sand if you are brave enough to endure the sandflies! I thought I was going to be alone again that night, with the hostel to myself, but then arrived a sweet guy from Leeds in the UK. He invited me to join him in the morning to go to the Pancake Rocks (since he had a car). We got up around 10:00, and luckily the rain was holding off.



The rocks were beautiful and the blowholes quite a force of nature. After snapping lots of photos, we decided to go for a hike along a nearby river trail. The rain started to pick up and the guy at the info center said it would be a nice hike, just avoid crossing the river due to the heavy rain. Initially, we were confused about where the start of the trail was so we started driving down a gravel road and then realized we were actually driving on the trail! So we parked, got out and walked for a couple of hours. I was more engrossed in conversation than the scenery…It turns out that my new friend is touring New Zealand for 4 weeks and then he is headed to Australia to work for a year. We decided to turn around and head back for some lunch. It was only after we were driving back into town that we realized we were not even on the trail that we meant to be on! Nonetheless, it was fun. He offered to drop me off in Hokitika, my next stop, the following morning. He was off to the Franz Josef Glacier. On our way to Hokitika, we came across the most unusual thing. It was a single land bridge for cars, but it was also a rail track for trains. The thing was, there was no warning system in place to tell you if a train was coming. No lights, no bar….you’d have to drive up, and if there was a train coming, you’d have to back up really fast to get out of the way! It was unbelievable. It must be quite an attraction here because when I got to Hokitika they had postcards of these bridges!

Most recently I spent a week in the Waitaha Valley, not really a town….



just a community of farms, 40 minutes south of Hokitika. I worked on a dairy farm and it was an interesting experience. We started milking at 6:00 each morning and it usually takes 4 hours or so, then we have to do it again around 5:00 at night. It’s a very, very messy job. The milking machines are in a shed, in a line, and there are maybe 35-40 of them. The cattle are pushed in on either side and are lined up with their rear ends toward the middle and their heads on the outside. To keep them distracted, they eat molasses out of a trough. The milkers walk down in a sunken area in the middle where the machines are. I had to wear old work clothes, rubber boots, and a long rubber apron.




The process starts with Stu (the farmer) hosing down the cattle when they first come in. Then we have to clean off the teats with warm water. Once that’s done, we put on the milking machines. Initially, you can see the milk just flowing through a little glass bubble that indicates how much is coming out. When it’s done, you take it off and place it on the cow on the opposite row. Once the entire row is done, we spray the teats with antibacterial glycerine and then send them out. In total, we milk around 200 cows. We are constantly being pissed and crapped on. I don’t know if any of you have ever been around cow shit, but it’s not firm. It’s like a niagra of green goo. I’m constantly rinsing off my hands and arms. I had no idea that it would burn! We also feed baby calves. One day we had to pull a calf out of a cow. We had been watching her because she was long overdue and she was giving us signs that she was in labor. So we brought her into the yard and had to reach in, put a rope around the calves front feet and pull it out. It turned out to be a HUGE bull calf, but it died because the mother couldn’t push it out on her own. We also had several other incidents like a cow with milk fever (a dangerous fever that's caused by the lack of nutrients-they all go into the milk) and a couple of sick calves. So the team was Stu, Rina, a young woman from Japan who has been here for 6 months, and Ellie, a 19 year old from Germany.






It’s long hours and hard work…I dare say that was the toughest work I’ve had to do yet. We usually finished eating and cleaning up around 11:00 PM, then it was back up at 5:45 AM. The day I left the farm, I started to get sick. I had a fever for around 5 days or so with no other symptoms. The nurses I spoke to said it was a flu that's going around, and I'm starting to finally feel better, though still a bit tired. When I left the farm, I went to Franz Josef, site of the Franz Josef Glacier. I was so excited about being there, I went and booked a full day glacier hike for the following morning at 8:15. I should have rested for a few days...but oh well. The hike was amazing, although it poured the entire time. Franz Josef gets more rain in a day than some countries! So I didn't get any photos unfortunately...but there are lots of things online if you want to see what it looks like. They supplied us with all our gear such as coats, overtrousers, hats, mittens and crampons. It was like another world out there. At one point our guide decided to take us through a crevasse. It was so thin, you had to take off your pack and walk sideways. Our guide got stuck at one point. It was a tight squeeze for me! An Irish girl in our group got completely stuck and it took them about 15 minutes to get her out. It wasn't a nice place to be stuck. If you think about it, the ice could shift at any moment... It was great fun though. I was happy to get home and get into bed. :)

Currently I'm in Wanaka, an hour north of Queenstown and it's a beautiful town right beside a huge lake/mountains. I'm not sure how long I'll be here... I'm trying to decide what I'm doing next but I'll keep you posted! :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Exciting news...

I'm hiking the Milford Track in November!!! I originally thought it was completely booked up but there were spaces available late October and mid-November. October and November is a bit of a dangerous time to hike it because of the risk of avalanches, but the DOC staff seem to keep everyone well informed, so I think it will be fine. The only thing is, if there is a track closure, you either need to be lifted around the danger by helicopter (!) or cancel the rest of the hike. The Milford Track is one of the "Great Walks" here in New Zealand. I'm doing it independently, although 40 people a day are allowed to begin. Bookings are essential due to the hut capacities. The hike is only accessible by boat.

Read about it here

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A day in Abel Tasman...

I was so excited to get out to Abel Tasman National Park http://www.doc.govt.nz/templates/PlaceProfile.aspx?id=38455. I booked my ticket for this past Sunday. The whole track takes 3-4 days with stops in huts or campgrounds along the way. I'm not quite prepared as I didn't bring my sleeping bag or a tent so I just decided on a day trip. Hopped on the bus at 7:30 AM and headed an hour north to Kaiteriteri. The plan was to take a water taxi from Kaiteriteri, be dropped off in Torrent Bay, then hike up to Bark Bay, get picked up by the water taxi and brought back to Kaiteriteri. It was a great plan until the sky decided to open up. I stepped into a small shop while waiting for the taxi. A lady walked from out back and started chatting with me about what I was doing. She said, "It will be an interesting ride for you today!" For a split second I thought I should cancel it for the day and reschedule, but I was optimistic that the rain would subside. Several of you will scold me for this but I wasn't prepared as much as I should have been. I had my raincoat, but not my pants (just some hiking pants).

As we boarded the small motorboat (there were 4 others silly as me to attempt the walk), our driver handed us life jackets and said, "it's going to be rough out there today." I thought to myself, "it can't be that bad. I've been on choppy water before" I was so wrong. I've NEVER been on water like that before. It was terrifying and so much fun! The swells were enormous. We would climb to the top of a wave, be airborne for 2 seconds then KA-BOOM! slam back down onto the water, then up, up, up, KA-BOOM! Each time the boat came back down, it sounded as if it were going to split in half and the impact rattled our brains as we lunged forward. I was holding on to the bar in front of me with a white-knuckled grip. The waves were coming from all directions and the driver was constantly looking around us for waves that might come down over us. All the while I was trying to keep my eyes on the horizon towards land, but it was difficult. The boat would lean sideways while we were at the bottom of a swell, then I could feel the boat rise up, the land would appear but suddenly a giant wall of water would block it again, leaving us encircled. It was hard to get a sense of direction. We finally arrived at Torrent Bay. He pulled the boat up to the beach and we quickly hopped off. The rain was torrential and I was already hopelessly soaked and chilled. The scenery on Torrent Bay was stunning. I had my camera in my bag but was unable to take any photos obviously. I took time to appreciate the beach as much as I could, and then hurried to the trail where I could be under the cover of the trees. They didn't help much and the trail was a river of mud. At that point I began to wonder how I would survive two hours of this. I began to walk quickly, keeping in mind there was a hut with a fireplace at Bark Bay where I could eat my lunch and dry off. I took in as much as possible, I didn't want my time here to go to waste. The rain let up for a half hour period as I approached a huge swing bridge. It had a warning sign of a maximum of 5 people. It crossed a river which came down from the mountainside. Looking up there was a huge raging waterfall and down river it led to the sea. It was beautiful. I stood in the middle of the bridge for several moments, listening to the water and feeling the wind rock it back and forth. I noticed movement in the water below and saw that there were seals playing and fishing directly underneath me! It was so cool to see them pop up, sometimes leap up out of the water and carry fish along in their mouths. They looked up at me curiously. I did manage to snap a couple of photos of them. I then realized that my camera bag was soaked through. Time to keep moving!

I arrived at the hut where there were other people taking shelter, their clothes and boots hanging over the tiny gas stove, trying to soak up as much heat as they could. My hand were numb and my fingers barely able to function as I tried to eat my lunch. I had walked so fast that I now had three hours at the hut. The others arrived shortly after me. None of us had the will to explore anymore...we just wanted shelter. I took a nap after eating my lunch, as did everyone else. The rain wasn't letting up. People started to slowly clear out of the hut and head back out on the trail. The water taxi was picking us up from this beach so we just had to wait. At 3:00, the three of us left put our sopping wet gear back on and headed down to the beach. We had to jump on board quickly as the waves were crashing and it was quite dangerous for us and the boat. The ride back was just like the one in, except this time the driver was looking around much more cautiously, and several times he had to go full throttle to avoid waves chasing us down. Two of the ladies on the boat were supposed to be dropped of in the bay above Kaiteriteri but they had to come in with us because it was too dangerous in that bay. So we all breathed a sigh of relief as we pulled up to the shore. As we were handing our life jackets to the driver, he laughed and said "Thank god that's over."

I'm hoping to go back on a nice sunny day. There were so many moments that I wanted to pull out my camera but couldn't. Perhaps if Marmy and Jim come out to see me we can go there. You would love it. :) (hint, hint)