So we had a houseful for a few days, which was great fun. Dan obviously has been around for a few weeks, and then Mike, Chell, Lisa and Zeb came to Hawera on 19 April. We had a great few days, and they saw the local sights during the daytime--including dam dropping (Chell is wearing BOTH of Josh's wetsuits!).
Lisa, contemplating whether or not she actually wants to go in the water...
Great weather to look at beautiful Taranaki!
Lunch with me at the bakery.
Then Lisa and Zeb took off to go explore Christchurch and go dirt biking, while Dan, Josh, Chell and Mike first went up to the glow worms and then took a jet boat up the Whanganui.
Thursday we were busy packing for our great adventure.
We drove down to Wellington after I got done with work, had yummy dinner at a malaysian place with Lydia, then headed to the airport. Flew into Christchurch and went to bed!
Here's Dan aiming for Platform 9 3/4.
Funny story....when you buy the tickets, it asks you for a title (Mr, Ms, Mrs, etc) and somehow Michael made Chell's 'sister.' Don't worry, she's not entering the nunnery, but apparently Mike thinks she should.
Oh, the luggage!
So, we get to the Christchurch airport bright and early for our 8am flight on Sat to get to Queenstown (and meet up with Lisa and Zeb), get up to the counter and are all checked in, and then the girl gives me this sheet of paper that says 'due to weather conditions, we cannot guarantee your flight.' But the gal says that everything is ok at the moment, and we should get in. Mind you, the flight is only about an hour...
We finally get on the plane, take off, all is going well, and then the pilot comes on and tells us that due to the heavy clouds, it doesn't look like we're going to be getting into Queenstown. We circle the airport for about 1.5 hours, and then finally they tell us that we're being diverted into Dunedin, and finally land at about 11am. Unfortunately, our boat to get onto the Milford track was leaving at 2pm, and there was NO way we were going to make it, as it would take about 4 hours to get to where the boat was leaving, and we still needed to pick up some equipment. I was feeling quite sad at this point.
The track is interesting, as you have to catch a bus, to get to a boat, then you get dropped off at the start, and another boat and bus at the end (all to the tune of about $225). So we're calling the DOC (dept of conservation) people, who run the track, and ask what our options are. At first, they basically say nope, sorry, can't do anything about it, maybe you can get on another track. Seriously. So I ask for other numbers they might have for other boat operators on the lake, and FINALLY they give me another number for a ferry. Call them, they're not running, but they give me more numbers. Finally I get this guy who is very helpful, and gives me like 5 other people to try (including a float plane!). We dash around, get a rental car, cancel our other rental in Queenstown, convince the DOC not to give away our tickets, and wait on the phone for someone with a boat to call us back. Then we got a hold of a guy who would bring us, and all is well. So far. And Lisa and Zeb wouldn't be on the trail by themselves!
This is the view of Te Anau Lake, where we jumped on a boat for our private drive to the start of the trail.
and the boat ramp!
Great scenery on the way...
Yay! We're happy and relieved that we actually get to go on the hike...
Our fabulous boat man.
Here's Glade Wharf, where we got dropped off...remember this one, as they'll be a flooded picture at the end!
A little side trip to the wetlands trail.
Strike a pose.
Yay! We get to the hut, have a great talk from the warden, who tells us all about the scary stoat that kills off the native birdlife. They're doing lots to try and protect the birds now, of course.
Our homemade mood lighting--this is Dan's waterbottle over the lantern.
The next morning we get up and ready. So we had heard about rain warnings, so we were all quite prepared to be hiking in lots of rain. However, we weren't prepared for the warden to tell us that NO ONE was leaving, the rainfall was too much, we had to basically sit around and wait to see if we could move forward.
Hanging around on the deck!
We got told that we weren't moving that day, and actually, we probably weren't going to get to move foreward at all. Eeks. So we took a little walk to see what the trail was like. Turns out it was covered in water. Lots of water. I was in almost to my knees taking this picture!
Back to the huts!
So we passed the time by making coffee, snacks, lunch, dinner, talking, reading, sleeping. It was nice. Except we were getting a bit stir crazy. So we sleep at the hut on the second night, hoping that something was going to happen the next day!
A motley crew if I've ever seen one.
We woke up the next morning to the hut warden telling us that they're (probably) going to helicopter everyone out, starting at midday. YAY! At least that meant that we could do a bit of sightseeing...we were planning on maybe driving down to milford sound just to take a look at it, since we weren't going to be able to do the hike.
So noontime comes, and we start seeing the helicopter. It was fun. Then all of a sudden our hut warden was like, hey, we're all going to walk out instead of the helicopter--and the water is probably over waist deep! Mmmm. Wet boots.
So we hike out in the water and mud. It was quite fun, actually. It was all pretty surreal, trekking through water while hearing helicopters overhead.
It's kind of hard to see, but the picture above is the day we hiked out, while the one below is when we had come onto the track just two days prior. You can see that the water level of the river was up significantly. I think they measured about 750mm of rain in a 24 hour period on the milford track during the time we were there.
Everyone made it out unscathed, except for Dan, who got bit by the swing bridge. Bad swing bridge!
This was actually a news helicopter, not one that was bringing people in. You'd think they could offer some help! :)
Getting on the rescue boat!
And then it was a wet boat ride back to our cars, with a very sarcastic captain (his quips included 'so you'll all die'--after no one really listened to the safety presentation, as well as 'can't you all stop breathing?' after all the wet people made the windows all fog up).