I have enjoyed two weekends in a row with a trip outside of Queenstown. I love travelling to new or awesome places, but it turns out that I really love Queenstown - shocker! I also got a nice showing of Aurora Australis (the southern lights) just a few nights ago!
A weekend ago I took the bus to Wanaka. In these COVID times the buses are struggling, what used to be a mostly filled coach trip is now a quiet minibus ride. Just myself and one woman took the journey - on the plus side it allowed me to have a nice chat with the driver, someone who knew loads about the history of the area. The lady told me to enjoy my time in Wanaka, I thanked her and then immediately ran out of Wanaka bound for home. The Motatapu track is a very fun track, as long as you find constant steep hills to be fun. Most of 4000 metres of climbing and descending in 60 kilometres. I stayed overnight in Highland Creek hut, which was a delight! The view of End Peak at sunset while I ate my dehydrated dinner was a great way to finish the day. It was nice to retrace this section of Te Araroa - I could check the intention books and see when the people I met on Te Araroa passed through this section after me. It's basically very primitive social media! I was stalked a few times by protective magpies, presumably with young nearby. They'd swoop down right over my head to make sure I knew clearly that I'd best keep moving!
This weekend gone I took a trip south. Te Anau is a small town in Fiordland, although it's also the largest town in Fiordland! Fiordland is a large region with very little human activity. There are many missing planes that went down here and have never been found - the forests are thick, and you could be two metres from a wreckage and have no idea. It's a beautiful region of thick rain forests, steep-walled mountains, and deep lakes.
On my second day in Fiordland I fastpacked the Kepler track. This is the first time I have taken on a full New Zealand great walk, and probably the last. I enjoyed it so much, the view was amazing, and the people I met so kind and friendly. The great walk tracks are so well maintained, the huts so fancy and a warden in each all-season round! As nice as this is, something is lost from the experience. It's not so wild anymore. I'm glad I did the Kepler track now while it's quiet. The track is always at capacity, except now. The huts can handle 50+ people each night and there were just six people there the night I stayed. I would have not enjoyed the hut being busy nearly as much! I'd recommend Kepler to anyone, it's just not wild backcountry tramping. Give it a few years and they'll probably get Wi-Fi out there!
After my two-day Kepler adventure I did something... tourist-y. I went on a cruise! Doubtful Sound, or Patea, is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. I can confirm that it is stunning. I got to see a rare side of Doubtful Sound - it was sunny. It rains over 200 days a year and is rarely not overcast. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the water was so calm. We were able to sail all the way out into the Tasman Sea and view Doubtful Sound from outside. I missed out on seeing the incredible series of waterfalls that appear after rainfall, but still the fjord was amazing. I took many photos on the three-hour cruise. The geography was all good, but I didn't enjoy all of the experience. I felt uncomfortable on the boat, around the tourists. They were all nice, and some of them even weren't retired couples! But seeing people in this beautiful place, on a beautiful day, sitting indoors and staring at their phones for most of the cruise was just crazy to me! People can spend their time however they like, and I shouldn't judge them, but I can feel out of place and uncomfortable. I would have much rather hiked alone or with a small group to see Doubtful Sound from the water's edge, without the shout of voices over the roar of the boat's engines. Much like Kepler, it was a great experience but not quite the Matt way. On my return to Queenstown, I was surprised by how nice it felt to be back. To see the lake, and the peaks that I could name almost all of. I felt like I was home. I realised that I'm going to really miss this place when I leave in January.
The next update will probably be in mid-December just before I attempt the Harcombe Round. I plan to still run Queenstown Marathon in two weeks, even though the event is postponed until March.