Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Headed Up

Just a quick update from Christchurch. It's been raining the last couple days so I hung out in Dunedin before heading north on the coast. Now the forecast is looking decent (or at least not thunderstorms and gale force winds) so I'm going to try to rent a car and head to Mt. Cook!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Into Malaysia

Well, now that we know that Lott is exactly 5140km south of me... I have crossed into Malaysia this morning, which, among other thinga, also means that I've been able to find decent internet to post pictures with. But first, about this getting into Malaysia... I showed up in Pontianac, on the Southern, Indonesian, side of Borneo yesterday afternoon. After taking a detour to see the equator I was back in town getting ready to jump onto an overnight bus to Kuching, across the border in Malaysia. Incidentally, this was all set to be my 5th consecutive night of insufficient sleep:
1) get up at 4:00AM to see the sunrise at the Bromo Volcano;
2) take overnight bus to Yogyakarta
3) get up at 6AM to get a pre-cloudy view of the local volcano, Guang Merapi (this after being up till 1:30 drinking with Aine, an Irish girl staying at the same hotel as me, but I still got the better end of that deal as she had to be up 4:30 because she was going with an excessively early morning tour)
4) take overnight train to Jakarta to catch my flight to Pontianac

By now, I was definitely getting good at sleeping on trains and buses... My bus was supposed to depart at 9PM, I leisurely showed up around 8, 30 minutes before we promptly took off at 8:30, and spent the next hour driving around town picking up passengers. By the time we left, the bus was pretty full - I mostly slept until we hit the border at 4AM, but I was aware that we kept stopping and more people kept getting off than on. Around 4, we were at the border, and I would've happily kept sleeping, except that the driver decided to put some loud atrocius music on. This brought to my consciosness the fact that the bus was now only half full... At 5, the border opened (6 on the Malaysian side... apparently the two different parts of the island are in different time zones!) - the border crossing was in the finest of Central Asian land crossing traditions - slow and poorly organized. (At least the people here know what the concept of actually forming a line means!). After taking an accidental shortcut around about 45 minutes worth of the line when I asked one of the border control guys if he could deal with me, was told no, he apparently couldn't, but then was led right to the front of the line, I finally got back to the bus about an hour and a half later.

At this point there were six of us on the bus. Plus the driver and the ticket taker dude. Apparently the rest of the passengers only wanter to get to the border crossing point?

On the way across Malaysia now, we suddenly heard some bursting sounds coming from the back of the bus and saw sparks near the ceiling. The bus was stopped, we all spilled out, the driver looked at stuff in the back and talked excitedly in Indonesian (or Malaysian... yes, I'm still an ignorant tourist, I feel bad), put everything back together, and we drove off. Another 30 minutes passed and we pulled into a town of Serian, where I found that the problem had been deemed to be a flat tire, so we were at a repair station, installing the spare. I went off searching for food, which quickly turned into a search for an ATM, as it dawned on me that I only had Indonesian currency on me. By the time I got back, the repairs were all done, but that wasn't the odd part - the surprising thing was that the rest of the passengers had now left! Maybe they just didn't trust our bus, but I suspect Serian was where they were actually heading. So, for the last 40 minutes of the trip, I had the bus all to myself... which I found to be a little strange, but, by about 9AM, I was riding into Kuching, Malaysia in style, in my very own bus. And then, naturally, I immediately caught a taxi to the airport and got on an Air Asia plane to Kota Kinabalu, on the Eastern side of Borneo. The Sabah province (of which Kota Kinabalu is the capital) is famous for some amazing dive sites, and I intend to visit a few of them over the next few days. Speding a full night here, in my own bed! Well, in a dorm-room, since Malaysia is back to having hostels for cheap housing options (but they are actually cheap, unlike Australia/New Zealand), but I fully intend to get a proper night's sleep tonight!

And on that happy note, A few pictures from my seven days in Indonesia:

The beautiful sandy beaches of Bali... This is Padong Padong beach, where I stayed for two nights, met a bunch of people who were there just to surf for several weeks or months, and tried surfing myself, but failed miserably...

Guang Bromo, an active volcano on the island of Java. That's Bromo's smoking crator in the foreground, and neighboring Guang Batok in the back, which is a less active volcano. Guang is Indonesian for volcano btw

I did make it up to the Bromo rim in time to see the sunrise. And it looked pretty spectacular, with the sun coming up over the mountains and the gathering low clouds in the valley

The smoking crater emits lots of foul-smelling sulfurous gas. I really can't imagine the State of Washington would let anyone this close if St. Helens (or Rainier) was smoking this much!

Further into Java, the spectacularly huge and intricate Boroburdur Buddhist Temple. Built between the 8th and 10th centuries. Then lost until the middle of the 19th century. I just couldn't figure out how you can lose something this humangous!

Stuppas, stuppas, and even more stuppas at the top of Boroburdur

Candi Shiva Mahadeva, the central temple at the Hindu temple complex of Parambanan, dedicated to Shiva

Somewhat surprisingly, the primarily Hindu Parambanan complex also contains this Buddhist temple: Candi Sewu nearby. The two religions apparently got along quite well here in Java. Oh, and I was there too...

The afore mentioned, but not particularly good looking, Equator Monument (Katulistiwa) in Pontianac, Indonesia

Malaysia, by the way, is pretty nice so far. Culturally, it appears dramatically different from neighboring Indonesia - it seems much more closely related to China, as a matter of fact (of course the British did encourage the Chinese to move into Malay en masse when they controlled the place). It's also not quite on the insane Singapore levels of cleanliness, but it's certainly the cleanest country I've been to yet in SE Asia. Especially after seeing the dirty slums of Jakarta and the smelly, dust and trash covered roads and canals of Pontianac just yesterday.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Decent Internet aka Pictures!

First a couple of pictures from the Routeburn Track! The valley you walk up the first day: Harris Lake (I think, it's in the Harris Saddle) that you pass on day two:
And a picture of me at day three's highlight: Earland Falls. Pretty rainbows at base:
and all 174m of it's dizzying height:
Finally on a side trip to Key Summit, another small tarn:
Next up, the Luxmore Hut, first night's lodging on the Kepler Track:
And hiking across a couple of high trails on day two:
Dawn breaks on day three over the Iris Burn Valley where it was a bit on the chilly side:

Then I caught a ride with Ewan in his funmobile (bike on the back, kiteboard on top, and 4 wheel drive on the floor):

To catch the ferry to Stewart Island:
And an amazing sunset:
Back on the mainland (South Island) the next day, we headed to Slope Point - further north than we'd been on Stewart Island, but still a nice photo op:
McLean falls: And Nugget Point:
Unfortunately the pictures I took of the sea lions and yellow eyed penguins didn't really come out. I'm still in Dunedin thinking about taking the Cadbury Factory and Spatez Brewery Tours and trying to figure out how to get to Mt. Cook!

Heading North

I, on the other hand, am on my way North, passing through a rather unremarkable town of Pontianac, on the Indonesian side of Borneo. The town isn't terribly attractive, but it does hold the distinction of lying right on the equator, so this afternoon I took a two hour detour (Lonely Planet lies about distances!) to see the equator monument and do the little 'Now I'm in the Northern hemisphere, now I'm back in the Southern' dance... Yes, I probably need to find better ways to entertain myself here, but I was quite amused. Also learned that deep-fried bananas are really, really tasty as the little stand across from the monument was selling them.

The other remarkable thing about this place is just how friendly the people are, which is saying something considering that Indonesians, in general, are quite friendly. Here I was a minor celebrity walking down the street. Most people's vocabulary is limited to 'Hello, mister,' 'How are you,' and 'Where do you come from,' but everybody gets really excited if you just say 'Hello' back or simply wave... A kid on the ferry, who actually did speak a fair bit of English, is a math student at the local university and after about a 5 minute coversation volunteered his family's house if I needed a place to spent the night. Had to decline because instead, at 9PM tonight I get on another overnight bus and head North towards Malaysia (staying in the Northern Hemisphere a bit more permanently this time). Leaving Indonesia after just seven days is going to be too bad, because I actually really enjoyed the place, perhaps because most of is a bit less touristy than a lot of the other places I've been to so far, but looking forward to Malaysian Borneo and diving with turtles too!

Pictures... Yes I have lots of pictures, and I'll post a few soon enough, but this process has been somewhat more difficult here in Indonesia unfortunately, so not yet!


Took a ferry to Stewart Island and biked around, saw a bunch of birds, bon fire on the beach and a bag o' wine. Then a day running through the Catlins with waterfalls, seals, penguins, and amazing seascapes. Pictures are definitely worth a thousand words. Crappy internet cafes that don't play nice with your camera mean that you all don't get to see them yet. Now in Dunedin, not sure where I'm headed next. But hopefully will find a place to upload some pictures!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Speaking of pictures...

For those of us not yet Facebook-enabled, here's a bunch of pictures from my two weeks in Australia:

Currently, I've made my way over to Indonesia, spent a couple of days relaxing (and trying to surf) in Bali, now on to Java, where I hiked to a big smoking volcano yesterday (amazing pictures coming once I get a decent internet connection...) and am seeing a couple of ancient temples near Yogyarta today and tomorrow. Then, it'll be off to Borneo, Malaysia to go diving!

Kepler Track

... was great - good weather and lots of spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and water. Also a little bit of spelunking and some mushroom hunting. Still no decent internets, but headed south to Stewart Island with a guy I met on the track. He's got a camper van, so I'm going to try the full on New Zealand backpacker experience! Forecast is for rain on Sunday so probably find some time to hole up in an internet cafe and post some pics...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Offroading in the outback

They wouldn't give me a 4WD car... Technically that's not really true - they'd give me one, it would just cost twice as much, so I ended up with a little gray Toyotta Corolla Seca, which looks very little like any Corolla I've seen back home, but a fair amount like a rally car actually, what with its stubby hatchback shape. So, I took the car into the outback and spent a couple of days looking at Ayers Rock, Kings Canyon, and various red rocks around them, mostly staying on sealed roads, just like I was supposed to, according to the Avis contract...

The Corolla... next to a monument commemorating a few people who had died in the Aussie version of the Cannonball run

And then around 5PM on Saturday, on the way back to Alice Springs, I had a choice - take the long paved road back, or take an unpaved shortcut and shave about 150km off of my travel time. It wasn't really all that much of a choice, since I'd already decided to take the shortcut (Safety Third!), so I was going offroadin'! The road was surprisingly decent as a matter of fact - very wide (at first), nice hard-packed sand and gravel for the most part (with exciting patches of loose sand on occasion), and even banked turns(!). All in all, this tiny shortcut road through the Australian outback, in the middle of the largely empty Northern Territory, was a better road than some of the major, arterial (but also unpaved) highways in Kazakhstan (which see cargo being hauled for thousands of kilometers from China...), and just about any road in India (paved or otherwise).

Seriously, this is a superhighway in Kazakhstan!

I started off a bit tentatively, in spite of the 110km/hr speer limit. Side note: does that seem a bit fast for an unpaved road in the middle of nowhere? Especially considering all the kangaroo corpses I saw lining the roads in the Northern Territory? Or the cows that I found leisurely grazing in the middle of the road? Back in Alice, I was told that Outback Car Rentals (the cheap rental agency my 3-yr old Lonely Planet talked of) had gone out of business becase backpackers kept taking cars and getting into accidents... wonder if there's much of a correlation with the 110 km/hr speed limit! Getting more comfortable, I was soon racing down the line, approaching 100km/hr, trying to decide if there are any lessons I may have learned from the Rally Racing video games that can be applied here - sliding around corners was a consideration, but somehow didn't seem like a good idea! (I did just read a Top Gear article about the amazing rally drivers that Finland produces - after some brief consideration,m I felt I wasn't Finnish enough to be sliding around corners. Related note: New Zealand managed to take a perfectly good British Top Gear magazine and screwed it up!) All in all, the front-wheel drive handling was holding up without a problem, even through the occasional loose sand. The suspension seemed just fine, in spite of me coming sorta close to getting airborne on a couple of occasions. I was both surprised and excited to pass a pair of campervans going in the opposite direction (considering that I had seen exactly five cars going in my direction on the 3 hr drive early that day from Ayers Rock to Kings Canyon on paved roads, I didn't figure it was likely to see any cars on the unpaved road at 6 in the evening!). These suggested that if the car did break and die in the middle of this, eventually somebody would likely be coming along to get me out... right? Also found a flock of cows just hanging out in the middle of the road - very India-like, except these cows weren't anorexic. Each of them looked about the size of a pair of skinny, malnourished, yet holy Indian cows.

I was also a bit distracred getting on as there was a fly in the car with me since Kings Canyon. I had summarily senteced the flight to death (the flies, which are perectly immune to bug repellant here, drove me insane while being outside earlier, so the one that had made it into my car wasn't going to get away by simply flying out the window!). Finally, about half way through, it lingered on the driver side window just a little too long and met its fate! I celebrated by almost getting the car airborne (again). Also about half way through, the road started to get a little more narrow and twisty, so I had to actually start using breaks - up until then, I'd been happy to just coast to slow down. At about 20 minutes after 6, the sun set, bringing the full moon into full view - between some sun light still coming over the horizon and the bright moon in the perfectly clear skies, it stayed light a while longer, creating a serene and beautiful scene. At about 6:45, I was back on paved Stuart Highway, racing towards Alice Springs at a very happy speed limit of 130km/hr! And thinking that it might be fun to try and catch a road rally race some time in Europe... and it'd be even more fun to drive a real rally car on one of those courses. Wonder how the mini would do? The Lada? No reason to wonder there actually - the Lada is indestructible!

I liked the long shadows the car was leaving on the road as the sun was setting... Taking pictures while driving on this road may not've been the best idea though

Oh, and I also saw Ayers Rock and Kings Canyon while in the Northen territory... The offroading was more memorable, I think, but the pictures are admittedly better here:

Sunset at Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Getting close to the base

Kings Canyon

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Nevis! (again)

So in the interests of keeping up with Slepak (see here), I too decided to take a rickety tram out to a tin shed suspended precariously over an impossibly deep chasm and hurl myself in. On the drive out they played "Learning to Fly" and "Free Fallin'," they tried to scare us with the 3x comparison to the little bungee we passed. We also passed a bunch of vineyards and sheep grazing in valleys covered with brilliant yellow aspens. When the van finally wheezed to the top of an incredibly steep hill we piled out and got the last minute jitters out of our system in the bathrooms:

Kind of reminds me of my trip to Thailand’s beach playground, Phuket:

So we were standing around for a while and heard there were "mechanical problems" and they weren't joking. After you jump, they lower an electro magnet down that clamps by your feet hauls you back up. But there was a short in the system and it wasn't connecting, so some poor bloke had to be lowered to the bottom and walk up the hill! This put a bit of delay in the process so we got a free pre-jump sausage, note the jump pod in the background:

The jump itself was amazing. The first second you go from heavy pump up music to silence and exhilarating acceleration. The next second you get over the oh-shit-ness of the moment and see the ground rushing up to you. And then all too soon you feel the cords take hold, slow you down, and bounce you back up. At the top of bounce you get a split second of weightlessness. And then it's just a nice hang in a beautiful river valley until they haul you up. I'll totally do it again - if someone else is paying! Look how small I look through the glass floor of the jump pod:

The weather is looking good for the next couple of days (and my bag finally arrived) so I'm headed off to the Routeburn Tramp for (hopefully) some spectacular views!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dude Where's My Bag?

Sitting on the plane to San Francisco (continuing to Auckland and Queenstown) all kinds of things were running through my head: holy crap this is for real - I quit my job and I'm heading to the other side of world; I forgot to pack a spoon; ummm I don't think there's a name tag on my bag. So naturally the first thing I planned to do in Auckland was tear open the plastic bag around my pack and add a name tag.

But suddenly I was all by myself and the conveyer belt was stopped. Air New Zealand has no idea where it is. They think it's United's fault. The real debate is do I continue to Queenstown or stick around here (and try to find Nate) in hopes that they'll find it. Ahh well the excitement of travel. If only they'd let me carry on my stove and pocket knife. Would have saved a lot of hassle.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

All I learned about the AFL in one afternoon in Melbourne

AFL is Australian Rules Football (or footy as the locals call it), Melbourne sport scene's pride and joy, and since I was here, naturally I felt that I needed to go! Seeing how, coming in, I knew nothing about the game, here's a few observations of things I'd picked up:
- it's a long game! (a bloddy long game as the locals would say). Four thirty minute quarters!? At least it is all running clock, so it still goes faster than an NFL game (or the boredom marathon that is baseball).
- There's also a lot of players on the field: my estimates were 15 or 16 per side (I later learned it's actually 18). Surprisingly enough, at least the two teams I watched, didn't play any zone defense - seems like with that many people, it'd be highly effective.
- It's also an awfully high-scoring game (in our discussions later, we condescendingly decided that the Aussies are just trying to have fun and feel good about themselves with these unnecessarily high scores). My game ended up 129-72, I think.
- The object of the game is to kick the football through the uprights. You get 6 points for doing so. If you miss, however, there are two more poles outside of the main uprights - if the ball at least went between them, you get one point.
- You seem to be able to run with the ball as much as you like, even though after a while, the players would take a dribble (the ball is slightly less impossbile to dribble than the NFL equivalent). I think you can also pass laterally (or backwards) and kick the ball forwards. If another player on your team catches a kick, you get a whistle and a free kick, so near the end zones, that's exactly what you try to set up. If the ball is loose, it's a free-for-all, and the referees seem to ae ttempt to limit the violence to some extent, but they seem to be willing to let the players get away with quite a bit.

Mid-air fight for the ball

- and that's really about it! The crowd's pretty lively as people were yelling and cheering throughout, in spite of the game being a 40 point blow out the entire way. The North Melbourne Kangaroos are apparently pretty good, while the Melbourne team (whatever they're called) sucks. Incidentally, the vast majority of the teams in the league are actually based in the Melbourne area - the rest of the country actually prefers rugby, I've heard.

Overall, the game flows sort of like a cross between soccer and rugby, even though ultimate frisbee may be an apt comparison as well. Much like 14's rugby they play here and in New Zealand, I tend to think the game would be more fun with fewer players on the field (rugby 7's are a lot more lively in my opinion!)...

The kids play at half time

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wild, Wonderful, Washington

So I’ve been waiting to blog about my trip home until they had the tournament pictures up from Fool’s Fest. They still don’t, but I’m running out of time before heading to New Zealand so here goes:

After the Wednesday night redeye to BWI, the first stop was the Dutch Country Farmer’s market to grab some scrapple for brunch. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but something about it just gets me in touch with my Pennsylvanian roots and lets me know I’m home.

Friday was the first day of Fool’s Fest - always a great tourney. It’s got a huge draw from the Mid-Atlantic so on practically every field you can run into someone you know from somewhere. Even better the Maryland reunion team I was playing with was in charge of the beer garden for a couple of rounds, so everyone drops by to say hi. The Saturday night party had a couple good photos of our games so imagine them here… We got rained out on Sunday but I stuck around to help clean up the tournament and hang out with friends.

Then it was time to wander around downtown DC. I do miss all the trappings of the monuments and museums of the Mall. The cherry blossoms were still around and tour groups were in full force. I’d wanted to visit the Library of Congress, but it was closed to prepare for a new exhibit. The National Gallery of Art had a great exhibit about mid 1800s painting and photography in Fountainebleau (a forest outside of Paris where a bunch of Impressionists got their start) and the U.S. Botanic Garden had an amazing orchid exhibit. Too bad I forgot my camera and had to make do with the one in my cell phone!

Too quickly I headed home to Seattle where I did my taxes and am busily trying to tie up all the loose ends before I head to New Zealand in two days!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Layouts 1, Dislocations 0!

Layouts for the win! Thursday morning, still in the bustlig metropolis of Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains, I was finally greeted my bright blue skies. A stark departure from the prior two days, and not a moment too soon, since I had already reserved a bus to Melbourne for that evening.

First things first in the morning, I went to finally see the mountains - basically I went to all the same places that I had gone the day before, but this time I wasn't just looking at a foggy mist... The Three Sisters really do exist, and really are quite spectacular.

Perhaps more importantly, nice weather meant that the frisbee lunch-time pickup in Katoomba was on! As you may have guessed, I actually managed to layout for a score at one point, and nothing got dislocated! The locals didn't seem overly impressed, so they probably just though the random American newcomer is dumb. The game overall was the definition of relaxed pick up as we played five on four (the four was mostly winning...) without subs or such formalities as dark and white shirts. I did finally get to use the cleats I've been dragging around Fiji and New Zealand with me for the past month and a half. It's starting to justify all these conversations:

- So, you are a big footballer, Alex?
- no, these are actually for ultimate frisbee...
- ultimate wha?
- uhm, let's just say there's a frisbee and lots of running involved

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Stupid Southern Hemisphere!

It's April - days should be getting longer, weather warmer, the summer's just around the corner... I hear we're already even paying for our boat slip back in Seattle. Unfrotunately, in the silly Southern hemisphere, specifically here in Australia, April lies squarely in the middle of autumn - days are getting colder and shorter, and there's lots of rain. Just to drive the point home, daylight savings time just ended here this weekend, and not being a farmer who actually has a need to be awake at 6AM, I much prefer the summer version, where it stays light longer... (incidentally, this also means that the time difference between NZ and California just went from 3 hours too 5 over the course of a month due to the clocks moving in opposite directions).

I am now on my third day here in Australia - Sydney was first, and was fairly unremarkable, since I had seen it before.

Obligatory Sydney Opera house and Harbor bridge shot

Yesterday, I ventured out to the nearby Blue Mountains National Park hoping to see some of the beautiful mountains around here - unfortunately Katoomba (the town where I'm actually staying) has been absolutely blanketed in fog and occasional drizzle since I arrived. Went out to see some of the park this morning anyway - got plenty wet, and saw a few things, but a lot of it was still covered by fog...

The Three Sisters are hiding somewhere in the fog

Nice views of the Katoomba falls though

Forecast claims nicer weather tomorrow - we'll see! If it is indeed nice, there's supposedly a pickup frisbee game here tomorrow as well! And then, on to Melbourne.

Antarctica awaits!

This is way far out in advance still, but I've just put down a deposit to take a cruise of Antarctica next February, along with Oliver. So far, I've done Asia, North America, and Australia on the trip - Antarctica is booked, getting to Europe, Africa, and South America shouldn't be all too hard to complete all seven continents...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Signs, signs, and even more signs...

In Thailand, we have elephant crossings:

In New Zealand, you don't actually get signs, you just have sheep in the middle of the road, on a fairly regular basis:

And now in Australia... there's this:

I'm not really sure what to make of it, other than to just take a picture and post it to this here blog.

Disclaimer: India not included in this whole discussion... There's more random things on the roads than you can possibly imagine: elephants, camels, horses, donkeys, hordes of sheep, bicycles, entire families (of five) on a single motorcycle, truck frames driving towards the rest of the truck body on the other side of the sub-continent... But India doesn't need signs - India simply becomes you, absorbs you, and you learn to expect everything and be surprised by nothing, especially on the roads, so they clearly don't need signs. Or proper roads for that matter... Or traffic cops doing anything useful... (collecting arbirtrary tolls does not qualify as useful by the way).

New leader in the clubhouse

An update on exotic airlines - I flew emirates airways from Christchurch to Sydney (they offer by far the cheapest rates for some strange reason), and emirates is clearly my favorite airline now. After reading the menu (yes, it comes with a menu) and the list of movies/TV shows that were available, I was rather inclined to perhaps spend a few more days just hanging out on the airplane. Add to that noticeably more leg room than any of the other airlines I've been on so far, helpful flight attendants, excellent meals (wine/spirits included, except for champagne), timely departure/arrival, and I'm sold! But it gets better - it's a little expensive, but they'll actually let you send and receive email in midair! Clearly a winner... now it's obviously time to try Singapore Air as they seem to be the universally accepted gold standard for airline service. Unfortunately, my next flight will actually be with an Australian discount carrier AirNorth - I'm not expecting much.

And now, for something spectacular!

We got back from the Routeburn two days early due to rather inclement weather (I've also seen pictures of the views we were supposed to have seen, and the weather really hid a lot of amazing scenery!), so naturally we decided we weren't going to just sit around Queenstown or Christchurch killing time! Well, Buster did go off to Christchurch, but he had a flight to catch. Nate and I, instead, decided to drive up to Mt Cook, (or Aoraki, the Maori name), and do a little more trekking there. We'd found a nice trail that lead to a hut about 1000m up, where we could spend the night, then hike back down into town in the morning.

Goin' up!

There were two concerns - space and weather: the hut can only sleep 6 and you can't make reservations ahead of time, and there was no point in going up if we weren't going to be able to see the mountains! Upon arriving at the mountain, we were assured that there was nobody at the hut so far, so it was all ours. The weather? It was 'windy and perhaps rainy,' but supposed to be nice in the morning. So we went! 'Windy and perhaps rainy' turned into an absolutely miserable two hour trek up (which likely explained why nobody else was in the hut) with driving rain and biting winds blowing right against us at first, then seemingly trying to blow us off the cliff. In the end we made it, spent the night, and the morning made all the wet misery absolutely worthwhile! The skies were completely clear at 7AM, and climbing to a nearby ridge, we got to watch the sun rising over the mountains.

The sun rises

And the mountains stand solemnly

The way down was easy and relaxing in comparison - apparently the ugly conditions the evening before were quite the motivating factor though, as we made it down in the exact same two hours that it took us to go up - up in driving wind and rain, uphill, and with fuller backpacks. But we did stop to take a few pictures on the way down...

Aoraki, Mt. Cook: 3754m

A glacier lake in the Tasman glacier