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New Zealand

Tramping in the Huxley Valley

Last post about New-Zealand....

sunny 20 °C
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Here we are, my last post about New-Zealand, which covers the last big trek I did with my friends. I think I pretty much went through all the major activities and events which occurred during these amazing 7 weeks spent in Kiwiland, and I could have stayed easily longer, if it wasn't for my bank account which was definitely crying by the time I left... New Zealand is amazing but definitely expensive when you are on a budget! :)

So that last week, I actually caught up with Thomi and his girlfriend Deborah, who I used to work with in London, but who had moved back to their home country a few years ago, in Dunedin. My other mate Seumas who was also back in NZ for some holidays joined us a day later after flying from London and Auckland, and soon enough we had our backpacks in Thomi's 4WD and were heading to the Huxley Valley to spend a few days tramping in that remote area. Having a local with you (and a car) is actually the best way to go off the beaten track, as we would see no tourists during the 3 days we spent hiking... Definitely like it should be!

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After leaving Dunedin early in the morning, we finally reached Monument Hut, our starting point by mid-afternoon, saving some time by driving with the 4WD as much as we could through some rough paths. From there, it took us at least 3 more hours walking along the valley to reach Huxley Forks Hut where we spent our first night. We were lucky to be the only ones in that hut as it could only accommodate 6 people max, so with another party we would have definitely packed.

In the early morning, during our breakfast time, we actually saw a helicopter flying low in the valley and coming right for our hut. The whole scene was a bit surreal and it felt like in a movie with the FBI agents going down and starting to run away from the helicopter. Fortunately the reality didn't really match my imagination and instead of FBI agents, it was simply some people who had been contracted by the Department of Conservation to clear the paths ahead of us. Still it was still an impressive scene for 8am!

That second day, we took off early morning, leaving our big bags in the hut as we were planning to come back later to spend a second night, and started to head off towards another hut, Brodrick Hut. It was a very steady climb, and unfortunately for us some landslides and floods had washed away the path, meaning that the quickest way was to follow the bed of the river, jumping from rocks to other rocks. Not that difficult but very unpleasant after a few hours as you need to remain concentrated to avoid twisting an ankle or just falling down. After having lunch at the hut and admiring the view of the surrounding mountains, we went back the same way, and spent our second night in Huxley Forks Hut. The weather was perfect and we would have loved spending the rest of the afternoon chilling out near the river or near the hut, if it weren't for all the sandflies which were definitely considering us like their dinner. I love New-Zealand but come on guys, do something about these bloody sandflies! They are definitely worse than mosquitoes in my opinion.

Finally the third day we started going back to where we had left the car, following the river and even crossing it quite a few times. Fun and refreshing experience! A few hours and a fish and chips later, we would find ourselves back in Dunedin, enjoying a well-deserved sleep. It was definitely the perfect way to end up my Kiwi experience, thanks a lot Thomi and Deborah for hosting and showing us around!

The next day would see me flying back to Auckland with Seumas and spending a few days at his parent's, enjoying the Auckland sunshine, before flying out to the final destination of my trip: Asia. Thanks a lot New Zealand, I really had an awesome time! And as would say my dear friend Arnold, "I'll be back" ! ;)

Thomi driving us to new adventures!

Thomi driving us to new adventures!


More waterfalls, can't get enough!

More waterfalls, can't get enough!


Amazing scenery...

Amazing scenery...


Seumas showing off on the swing bridge <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Seumas showing off on the swing bridge ;)


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That's what happens when you spend too much time in London, Seumas is so happy to be back in NZ that he's now making love to the trees... <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

That's what happens when you spend too much time in London, Seumas is so happy to be back in NZ that he's now making love to the trees... ;)


Thomi wondering why he bothered taking his riffle :p

Thomi wondering why he bothered taking his riffle :p


The view from the hut, where we came from. Not bad hey!?

The view from the hut, where we came from. Not bad hey!?


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Couldn't do a trek without taking at least one shot from the stars!

Couldn't do a trek without taking at least one shot from the stars!


Stream crossing

Stream crossing


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The view from Brodrick hut

The view from Brodrick hut


Our amazing group

Our amazing group


Our hiking path that day...

Our hiking path that day...


And we're back to Huxley Forks hut

And we're back to Huxley Forks hut


Deborah enjoying some sunshine (and sandflies) near the river...

Deborah enjoying some sunshine (and sandflies) near the river...


A trekking trip wouldn't be complete without a bonfire

A trekking trip wouldn't be complete without a bonfire


On our way back the last day. I found myself trying to take a "shortcut"...

On our way back the last day. I found myself trying to take a "shortcut"...


New-Zealand rocks!

New-Zealand rocks!


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We decided to cross the rivers to save time

We decided to cross the rivers to save time


What a beard! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

What a beard! ;)


Another swing bridge

Another swing bridge


Freedom! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Freedom! :)


A young couple crossing the river, hand in hand, how lovely! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

A young couple crossing the river, hand in hand, how lovely! ;)


Weird shaped cloud

Weird shaped cloud


The team enjoying a well-deserved beer!

The team enjoying a well-deserved beer!


Back to Dunedin

Back to Dunedin

Posted by manolo84 09:04 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains rivers nature english treks Comments (3)

Scuba diving in Milford Sound


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I already mentioned it briefly in the last post, but today I am going to talk a bit more about Milford Sound, one of the most beautiful and famous fjords in New Zealand. Milford Sound (Māori: Piopiotahi) is a fjord in the south west of New Zealand's South Island, within Fiordland National Park (see last post's map). Some people even called it the eighth Wonder of the World...

Most of the tourists who come to this majestic place take a boat tour or a kayak trip, but this time I wanted to do things a bit differently and contacted a scuba diving school which offers a combination of the boat tour (to admire the fjord and waterfalls) and 2 x 40 minutes dives. The specificity of Milford Sound when diving is that you dive through a layer of blurry ice-cold fresh water, which is stained with tannins from the forest trees, and when you reach the clear salt water huge trees of rarely seen black coral greet you. When you exit the water, giant waterfalls surround the boat. I also wanted to experience diving in cold waters and Milford Sound didn't disappoint as the water was ranging between 13 degrees Celsius at the surface, with a minimum of 10 degrees around 26 meters, which was the maximum depth we reached that day. I can say that even with the two-piece 7mm wetsuit they provide you, you really start feeling cold after 20 minutes! But overall it was a truly a great experience.

Milford Sound... Truly majestic

Milford Sound... Truly majestic


View of the "harbour"

View of the "harbour"


When suddenly dolphins appear! Everyone on the boat got excited!

When suddenly dolphins appear! Everyone on the boat got excited!


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Nico jumping in the water to catch the dolphins <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Nico jumping in the water to catch the dolphins :)

Check at 0:25, the dolphins were really quick and hard to get on video!

Myself in the water, a few minutes later. © Descend Scubadiving

Myself in the water, a few minutes later. © Descend Scubadiving


Here are the legendary black corals. Milford Sound is one of the rare places in the world where we can admire them, because of the layer of fresh water which blocks the sun. Otherwise black corals are usually found at about 100m below the surface, too deep for recreational diving. © Descend Scubadiving

Here are the legendary black corals. Milford Sound is one of the rare places in the world where we can admire them, because of the layer of fresh water which blocks the sun. Otherwise black corals are usually found at about 100m below the surface, too deep for recreational diving. © Descend Scubadiving


Hello! - © N. Martens

Hello! - © N. Martens


© N. Martens

© N. Martens


© N. Martens

© N. Martens


A fish, can't remember the name... © N. Martens

A fish, can't remember the name... © N. Martens


Back on the boat, the captain gets really close to the waterfall. © Descend Scubadiving

Back on the boat, the captain gets really close to the waterfall. © Descend Scubadiving


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A colony of seals enjoying the rare sunshine

A colony of seals enjoying the rare sunshine


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Back to the harbour

Back to the harbour


On the way back, a Kea was playing on our car...

On the way back, a Kea was playing on our car...

Posted by manolo84 04:35 Archived in New Zealand Tagged diving fjords english Comments (1)

Randonnées en Nouvelle-Zélande

Tramping in New-Zealand


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Je voulais à l'origine écrire des articles séparés pour chaque grande randonnée que j'ai faite en Nouvelle-Zélande mais avec le retard pris sur le blog je pense qu'il est plus avisé de condenser un petit peu... :)

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  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Après donc ce superbe parcours sur la rivière Whanganui, je suis resté quelque jours autour du Nouvel An dans un village appelé National Park. Village très tranquille entouré des chaines volcaniques Tongariro, Ruapehu et Ngauruhoe. Je parlais des "9 Grandes Randonnées" de Nouvelle-Zélande dans un article précédent, et bien ici il est possible de faire une randonnée d'une journée (environ 6 heures de marche), appelée Tongariro Alpine Crossing (la traversée alpine du Tongariro). Le chemin nous fait passer à travers la chaine volcanique du Mont Tongariro avec une option pour aller au sommet du Mont Ngauruhoe (celui-là même qui a servi de modèle pour le Mont Doom du Seigneur des Anneaux). Les paysages sont splendides, les couleurs magnifiques (on peut clairement voir les anciennes coulées de lave), bref on a vraiment l'impression d’être dans un autre monde...
Le seul point négatif fut la présence de milliers de randonneurs sur le même chemin qui donne vraiment des airs d'autoroute à ce trek. On ne se refait pas, j'aime la randonnée quand je suis le seul ou presque sur les chemins. Pour cette raison je donnerais à ce trek un 9/10 quant à sa beauté, mais la présence de touristes du dimanche le fait descendre a un misérable 2/10. Vraiment trop de monde à mon goût...

Le chemin suivi cette journée

Le chemin suivi cette journée


Mont Ngauruhoe / Mont Doom

Mont Ngauruhoe / Mont Doom


Admirez ce paysage lunaire où rien ne pousse

Admirez ce paysage lunaire où rien ne pousse


Quelles couleurs!

Quelles couleurs!


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Une ancienne cheminée / coulée de lave

Une ancienne cheminée / coulée de lave


Beaucoup de monde sur le chemin... <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_sad.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':(' title='' />

Beaucoup de monde sur le chemin... :(


Lac volcanique

Lac volcanique


En gros "faites pas les cons et allez pas vous faire explosez la figure!"

En gros "faites pas les cons et allez pas vous faire explosez la figure!"


L'activité volcanique est encore intense...

L'activité volcanique est encore intense...

  • Gertrude Saddle's hike

Dans les Fjordlands, cette région au sud-ouest de la Nouvelle-Zelande, se trouve le Milford Sound, magnifique fjord qui attire chaque année de nombreux touristes qui viennent admirer les cascades qui se jette dans le fjord, ou bien encore les chaines de montagne environnantes. Du coup, un des treks les plus populaires en Nouvelle-Zelande est le Milford Track, randonnées de quelques jours finissant sur le Milford Sound, mais malheureusement les permis de trek sont limités et pour celui-ci il faut même réserver plusieurs mois à l'avance! Il me fallu donc trouver un plan B pour admirer ces somptueux paysages sans avoir besoin de réserver quoique ce soit.

Alors que mes amis avaient décidé de passer la journée en kayak dans le fjord lui-même, je me fis déposer à l’entrée du fjord, dans une vallée adjacente, et entrepris de faire une randonnée assez difficile appelée The Gertrude Saddle's Hike (La randonnée de la selle de Gertrude, ça fait moins classe en français je l'avoue) dont le nom vient du fait qu'une fois en haut, on se retrouve dans un col faisant vraiment penser à une selle de cheval car entre deux vallées, avec une vue magnifique sur le Milford Sound. Par contre cette randonnée intense (3 heures de montée raide qui parfois est à la limite de l'escalade) ne peut se faire que lorsque les conditions météorologiques sont réunies: s'il pleut ou neige, les rochers deviennent glissants et dangereux et jusqu’à la toute fin de l'hiver, les avalanches sont très nombreuses... Mais bon au moins j'étais sûr de ne pas me retrouver avec des millions d'autres randonneurs!
Et je ne fus pas déçu, cette rando fut sûrement une des plus belles que j'ai jamais faite! (une des plus dures aussi)

Bon bah c'est parti pour le sommet!

Bon bah c'est parti pour le sommet!


Hum.. au moins ils annoncent la couleur d'entrée de jeu!

Hum.. au moins ils annoncent la couleur d'entrée de jeu!


Même pas peur! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Même pas peur! :)


Superbes cascades tout au long du parcours

Superbes cascades tout au long du parcours


La vue du sommet sur ce que je viens de monter

La vue du sommet sur ce que je viens de monter


La vue de l'autre coté, avec le Milford Sound (la tâche bleue) au fond

La vue de l'autre coté, avec le Milford Sound (la tâche bleue) au fond

  • Mueller's Hut Hike

Enfin, la dernière grosse randonnée que je fis en solo fut celle du refuge Mueller, près de la plus haute montagne de Nouvelle-Zélande, Mont Cook (3,724m). Cette fois je voulus tenter de passer la nuit en altitude pour pouvoir profiter des coucher et lever de soleil. La montée fut assez difficile, un peu comme la précédente même si cette fois le chemin était bien tracé mais de même, les vues au sommet furent splendides. Je pus même avoir la chance d'assister à des avalanches en continu car la montagne en face du refuge perd ses glaces tous les jours et cela crée de mini-avalanches qui font un bruit du tonnerre de dieu! Le coucher de soleil fut splendide avec des jolies couleurs rougeâtres mais malheureusement, il ne me fus pas possible de prendre des photos des étoiles ou du lever de soleil car les nuages s’invitèrent dans le ciel...

Le départ du trek, avec vue sur Mont Cook

Le départ du trek, avec vue sur Mont Cook


Le refuge est en vue, avec des passages assez techniques à travers des névés

Le refuge est en vue, avec des passages assez techniques à travers des névés


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Le soleil disparait...

Le soleil disparait...


Mais fait apparaitre également de superbes couleurs sur Mont Cook...

Mais fait apparaitre également de superbes couleurs sur Mont Cook...


La nuit d'apres (au village) etant clair, je sortis le tripod pour capturer ce paysage étoilé

La nuit d'apres (au village) etant clair, je sortis le tripod pour capturer ce paysage étoilé


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Posted by manolo84 01:52 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls mountains volcanoes french treks Comments (0)

Whanganui River Trip


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In New Zealand, the DOC (Department of Conservation) which takes care of all the hiking trails, forests, huts, etc... have chosen 9 hiking trails and called them the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand. Most of these hikes take a few days to complete but however, one of them is not a hiking trail but a river trip, in the North island. Basically you pack in some waterproof bags whatever you need for 3 to 5 days, rent camping gear like tent and cooking tools, rent a canoe and you go down this amazing river called Whanganui, going through small rapids and very quiet sections.

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So when preparing my trip in New Zealand, I saw this "great walk" and decided that "yes, this sounds pretty awesome"!

Therefore just before New Years' Eve, my friend Daniela and myself took out on the river, with all our equipment in waterproof bags and barrels, on an indian canoe. The weather wasn't perfect as during the first two days we got washed out by the rain a few times but soon enough the sun came back to dry us out.

Instead of the 5 days circuit, we had opted for the 3 days option (you start lower down on the river) because of the timing and availabilities of the camping sites along the river, but still, this was an amazing and relaxing experience. We had really the feeling of becoming one with the nature...

The river is surrounded by some kind of cliffs, giving you the feeling of being in a small canyon. And the colours were so green... Simply surreal!

The river is surrounded by some kind of cliffs, giving you the feeling of being in a small canyon. And the colours were so green... Simply surreal!


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One of the several waterfalls we saw along the river

One of the several waterfalls we saw along the river


Stretching my legs...

Stretching my legs...


The Bridge To Nowhere

The Bridge To Nowhere


The last campsite, Tieke Kainga

The last campsite, Tieke Kainga


Our campsite the last day

Our campsite the last day


Preparing food

Preparing food


A possum (considered as a pest here in NZ) trying to steal our food...

A possum (considered as a pest here in NZ) trying to steal our food...


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Finally, here is a short video I took while on the river:

Posted by manolo84 23:50 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rivers english canoes Comments (0)

Looking for Bilbo and the Hobbits


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Being a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings (the books, the movies a bit less), I wasn't going to spend almost two months in New Zealand without seeing nothing of the movies stages, where some of the scenes were filmed, etc... And here in New Zealand, the Lord of the Rings and now the Hobbit trilogies are a big thing so throughout the country you will find countless tours to visit some of the movies location or buy the movies merchandising...
And probably one of the most impressive locations is where the hobbits village scenes were filmed, in a village called Hobbiton, near Rotorua, on the north island of New Zealand.

Actually after the first Lord of the Rings movies, most of the hobbits houses and other things which were part of the landscape got teared down and only rebuilt for the Hobbit movies a couple of years ago, in an agreement between Peter Jackson (the director of the movies) and the farmer's family who owned the property where the scenes were filmed.

Anyway now it has become a very successful attraction, with a LOT of tourists visiting every day, and a bit overpriced in my opinion (about 70$) for a couple of hours but it still allow me to take some great shots and to be honest, I was feeling a bit like a kid in Disneyland (though Disneyland never attracted me that much...).

The only disappointing thing was that I didn't get to see any real hobbits. And I swear I have looked everywhere! :)

Welcome to Hobbiton!

Welcome to Hobbiton!


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All the details have been thought about, even the very small hobbit clothes

All the details have been thought about, even the very small hobbit clothes


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Welcome to my humble house! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Welcome to my humble house! :)


The real Bilbo Baggins's hobbit hole!

The real Bilbo Baggins's hobbit hole!


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The massive oak tree in front of which Bilbo does his last speech before disappearing

The massive oak tree in front of which Bilbo does his last speech before disappearing


The Green Dragon's inn

The Green Dragon's inn


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Inside the Green Dragon's inn, some real ales...

Inside the Green Dragon's inn, some real ales...


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My friend Daniela and myself celebrating this rainy day with a hobbit ale <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

My friend Daniela and myself celebrating this rainy day with a hobbit ale :)


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Posted by manolo84 11:29 Archived in New Zealand Tagged english hobbits Comments (0)

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