Celia was the trip leader and planned out a nice loop for us to walk. This required a water taxi ride across a small river to the start of the track to Hope Arm Hut.
We paid "Skipper" $20 each to take us from one side to the other
We walked for about 2 1/2 hours. Along the way, we got some great views of Lake Manapouri.
Then we continued through the forest.
During one small stretch, we saw this stuff hanging all over everything. What on earth is it? It was really pretty; I half expected little fairy people to pop out from it.
Just before sunset, we arrived to a spectacular view of snow capped mountains across from the beach just beyond our hut.
Right before the sun went down the air temperature dropped substantially. We all made an effort to keep the fire going in the wood stove in the hut, but it didn't do much - hours after the fire was built, we were sitting in 41* air temperature indoors. Brr.
Kate and I took on the responsibility of making dinner (well, I sort of volunteered us). We brought pasta, broccoli, brie cheese, garlic, butter and pine nuts for an "easy" dish. Unfortunately, our canister of gas for the stove was a little on the empty side. We spent the better part of an hour waiting for the water to boil.
Kate took over boiling water. She didn't trust me with the second pot.
When it was almost ready, I stood up to get the pasta and proceeded to knock the whole pot of almost boiling water over. Man, I've got some smooth moves. Eventually, we ended up with boiling water, cooked pasta, and ultimately a garlicky dish of yumminess. (Note to self, do not make cheesy dishes on tramping trips. They are a p.i.t.a. to wash after the cheese has cooled down!)
Before we climbed into our sleeping bags for the night, we took a trip down to the water for some star gazing. It was freezing, so we didn't plan to stay outside long, but wow what a sky! Just being able to see that many stars makes a trip to New Zealand worthwhile.
The next day we walked back to meet "Skipper" to take us back across the river. On the way, we had to cross a river using a "bridge" made out of a thick wire rope. So, we had to walk it like a tight rope and use two similar ropes on either side for balance. Celia went first. As she was walking we heard gunshots. Odd. I froze and wasn't sure what to do.
Soon after we heard several more shots. Turns out, two farmers were in the woods hunting deer and pigs. One of them turned up at the bridge just as Kate was about to cross. He was pleasant while I made small talk; he was staying with his mate at Back Valley Hut (this is the hut Celia originally planned on us staying at - I'm SO glad she switched to the other one!). It made me a little nervous that he said his hunting skills were "rusty". This gave me extra motivation to zip across the river to get out of the way of the hunters, pronto.
The weather wasn't as good as the day before, but it was hard to tell in the forest.
We made a quick stop to check out the beach one more time (one of its inhabitants was the most obnoxious bird ever) and then carried on our merry way.
On the way back to Dunedin, we stopped in Te Anau. Unfortunately, the lake was under a blanket of fog, so we couldn't enjoy the scenery. I did get to enjoy a kick ass cup of coffee at the Sandfly Cafe, though! It was the BEST coffee I've had in New Zealand so far. M'mm. And, the best part for me was that the coffee came in a large size! This sounds silly, but if you're the kind of American used to all those size options at Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks and then you're cut off from those choices only to be given coffee in a dinky sized cup, you learn to appreciate the opportunities to get a nice big hot cup of Joe when you can.
Four hours in the car passed by quickly with such great scenery.
All in all, it was a great trip! I have another tramping adventure coming up this weekend and again the following weekend. I am a tramping machine. =)