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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)

Adventures in Kiwiland


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I feel like a post is now long overdue but I have been quite busy these last weeks or too tired to take the time to upload pictures and write something. So rather than a long post, here is a selection of about 40 pictures taken during my 7 weeks in New Zealand, on both the North and South islands. I have also tried to update the map to show you where these pictures were taken. Finally, I will post a bit more in the next few days to cover some of the big hikes/treks I did and which I think all require separate posts to avoid surcharging the blog with pictures.

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  • North Island

First stop after Auckland was in Hahei and I took the opportunity to explore the sea while kayaking

First stop after Auckland was in Hahei and I took the opportunity to explore the sea while kayaking


Still Hahei, which apparently as an air of Thailand...

Still Hahei, which apparently as an air of Thailand...


Cathedral Cove beach, one of the main spots in Hahei. The rock forms an arch and link the two beaches on each side.

Cathedral Cove beach, one of the main spots in Hahei. The rock forms an arch and link the two beaches on each side.


Next to Hahei was "Hot Water Beach", a beach where streams of really hot water comes from under (almost 80 degrees). So people gather when the tide goes up and try to get a hole in the sand while mixing this hot water with the sea water, to have a nice bath... <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Next to Hahei was "Hot Water Beach", a beach where streams of really hot water comes from under (almost 80 degrees). So people gather when the tide goes up and try to get a hole in the sand while mixing this hot water with the sea water, to have a nice bath... :)


Next stop was Raglan, the most popular surf spot in New Zealand

Next stop was Raglan, the most popular surf spot in New Zealand


And they even named the beach after me! :D

And they even named the beach after me! :D


Learning to do the Haka with some Maoris... I'm definitely missing a few tatoos... <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Learning to do the Haka with some Maoris... I'm definitely missing a few tatoos... ;)


Nice water reflections near Rotorua

Nice water reflections near Rotorua


Fishing eels at night in a lake, here is my only catch of the night, but what a catch!

Fishing eels at night in a lake, here is my only catch of the night, but what a catch!


Bridge near Whakahoro

Bridge near Whakahoro


Waterfall, Whakahoro

Waterfall, Whakahoro


Same waterfall, Whakahoro

Same waterfall, Whakahoro


A few days later, here we are in the Tongariro National Park. Here is a view of Ruapehu.

A few days later, here we are in the Tongariro National Park. Here is a view of Ruapehu.


Next to it is mount Ngauruhoe which was used to represent Mount  Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies.

Next to it is mount Ngauruhoe which was used to represent Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies.


And still about the Lord of the Rings trilogy, here is the Tahui falls, used in a scene with Gollum (the second movie of the trilogy)

And still about the Lord of the Rings trilogy, here is the Tahui falls, used in a scene with Gollum (the second movie of the trilogy)


Tahui falls again, different angle.

Tahui falls again, different angle.

  • South Island

Beginning of January, it was time to take the ferry and to cross to the South Island, reputed for its amazing landscapes and home to a lot extreme sports.

First stop was the Abel Tasman National Park, where you can hike or even rent a kayak and explore the surroundings that way.

First stop was the Abel Tasman National Park, where you can hike or even rent a kayak and explore the surroundings that way.


Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman


Seals relaxing on the rocks in Abel Tasman

Seals relaxing on the rocks in Abel Tasman


I call this bird the "day kiwi" for its resemblance with the kiwi which has a longer beak.

I call this bird the "day kiwi" for its resemblance with the kiwi which has a longer beak.


More seals around Punakaiki

More seals around Punakaiki


Here in Punakaiki there is an interesting rock formation called Pancake rocks, because of the shape of the rocks which look like a stack of pancakes one of top of each other

Here in Punakaiki there is an interesting rock formation called Pancake rocks, because of the shape of the rocks which look like a stack of pancakes one of top of each other


Pancake rocks

Pancake rocks


Beach near Punakaiki

Beach near Punakaiki


Punakaiki

Punakaiki


Sunset on Punakaiki

Sunset on Punakaiki


Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier


Waterfalls near Franz Josef Glacier

Waterfalls near Franz Josef Glacier


Thunder Creek Falls

Thunder Creek Falls


And also on our way that day, we made a short stop to Lake Matheson. Splendid...

And also on our way that day, we made a short stop to Lake Matheson. Splendid...


Lake Matheson

Lake Matheson


In Wanaka, I decided to sign up for a course about piloting a stunt plane and doing loops and other stunts... I'm glad my stomach held up until the end!

In Wanaka, I decided to sign up for a course about piloting a stunt plane and doing loops and other stunts... I'm glad my stomach held up until the end!


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

Wanaka's team :)


A day later, we arrived in Queenstown, little town set in a amazing location, between mountains and lake.

A day later, we arrived in Queenstown, little town set in a amazing location, between mountains and lake.


Our group in Queenstown

Our group in Queenstown


View from a hike I did near Te Anau, in the Fjordlands

View from a hike I did near Te Anau, in the Fjordlands

Posted by manolo84 21:32 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls sunsets_and_sunrises lakes beaches birds nature kayaking english Comments (2)

Auckland and the Waitakere Ranges

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My first days in Auckland were how to say it... quite relaxed. I had been travelling non-stop for the last 6 months and a half and I needed to rest a bit (especially after that tiring flight). Besides I had no idea yet about what to see in New-Zealand, nor how will I see it.
So the first days were spent visiting a bit the Kiwi biggest city, catching up with my friend Dave I had met a few months before in Peru, trying to establish an itinerary and so on...

One of the ideas I had in mind was to find people in order to rent a camper-van or something similar. At that time it seemed the best option to travel freely without too much constraints. However as I would find out, there were a few issues to that last point. Indeed we were in the high season, when all New-Zealanders are also on holiday and that meant that renting wasn't an option anymore. Buying could have been ok but it would have meant that I needed more time to find the right vehicle and also allow time at the end of my trip to sell it back. And last issue, the costs for petrol is quite high here, and also the cost of the ferry in order to cross from the North Island to the South Island (and back again). Even with 3 or 4 people with me it wouldn't have been worth it.

Another idea was to use the bus networks like Intercity or Naked Bus but the problem with that is that you can indeed go to the cities or big villages but once there you are kind of stuck and cannot go to that nice spot a few kilometres further that you have heard of. Besides I would have had to book everything in advance to avoid the transportation being too expensive.

Finally someone (thanks Daniela!) recommended a bus company called Stray which offer different fixed itineraries throughout New Zealand in a hop-off / hop-on basis. Basically it means that if you find a nice place, you can easily decide to stay a few more days and to take the next bus passing by. Besides they allow time everyday for a few activities (which you are free to do or not if you don't want to) and are going "off the beaten track" which means that they make you discover some non-touristy places, which is always appreciable. It wasn't the best option but definitely the "least worse" and therefore I opted for that one.

During that time, we took the opportunity with Dave and his brother to go for an afternoon of waterfall jumps in the bush, in the Waitakere Ranges off the Lone Kauri Road, not too far from Auckland. And it was quite fun actually, even if we almost ended up lost in the middle of nowhere...

The Sky tower in Auckland

The Sky tower in Auckland

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Welcome to the Bush!

Welcome to the Bush!


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Caution, freezing water ahead!

Caution, freezing water ahead!


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Just before we got lost...

Just before we got lost...

Posted by manolo84 18:23 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls cities nature buses bush english Comments (0)

Torres del Paine


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Happy new year and all the best for 2014!! It's been now a bit more than 7 months that I have started my travelling quest and I have to say that I have never seen the time flying so quickly... There is so much to discover in this world and I have only started to realise that probably a whole life is not enough, so my advice for this year to all of you who are reading me, is to get out and do things you've never done before or go where you've never been, should it be 10km from your house or in an exotic location! There is little chance that you will regret it and who knows, it might convinces you to keep on trying new things or start travelling? ;)
Anyway I wish to all my friends (old and new) as well as to my family, all the happiness possible for this new year! Some people already told me that my blog (especially the pictures taken) really gave them new ideas for future travels so thank you, it really makes me happy when I hear that! Keep on reading, there is more to come! :)

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When it comes to Patagonia and its national parks, Torres del Paine in Chile receives a lot of praise. Praise which is really well deserved as the landscape can definitely blow your mind off. Besides, add extreme weather conditions and you will understand why hikers from all over the globe come to challenge themselves here.

There are two main ways to walk Torres del Paine (unless you only want to do a day-hike and therefore only seeing a small part of the scenery), the famous W trail or the full circuit. The W trek, as its name suggests, has a shape of a W and can be walked in 4 to 5 days, in opposite to the full loop "the circuit" which will take an average of 8 to 9 days to be completed.

With my new friends Matt and Gerry we decided to opt then for the W trail, not that the idea of doing the full circuit wasn't attractive but we all didn't have enough time to do so. I just had a bit less than 3 weeks left to spend in South America and I still had to go down to Ushuaia and then go back up to Santiago. We then packed up our food for 5 days, rented the camping equipment, and set up early morning for the bus which would take us to the start of the trail.

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And this trek really didn't deceive our expectations, on the first day we set up for a gentle walk, a bit windy sometimes but totally bearable and arrived in mid-afternoon to our first campsite, next to the glacier Grey. This allowed for a bit of time wandering around and taking a few shots of the second glacier I was seeing in my life, after the Perito Moreno. I also realised pleasantly that compared to the long trek I had done in Peru, the sun here sets very late, which allows for late cooking and especially allows you to start walking later in the morning as you have more daylight.

The following days would see us walking a bit more, through rain or really windy conditions (a few times the wind was so strong that we were blown away into the bush or pushed to the side of a mountain!), but always allowing us to see amazing mountains, rock formations, forest, glaciers, sunrises, etc... The nights were also actually quite cold, definitely colder than we expected, with a +3 degrees being recorded the last night and forcing us to sleep in our thin sleeping bags with all the clothes we could possibly wear....

But at the end of the fifth day, we had to recognise that we had been lucky with the weather and that the whole trek had been really smooth (maybe at the exception of a dodgy knee for Matt and the oat meal and tent pegs we had forgotten along the way...). There were also definitely more trekkers than in Peru and the last day was a bit of a motorway because of all the day-trekkers who took the opportunity of the nice weather to climb up to see the "towers". Therefore if you are thinking of trekking Torres del Paine and enjoy being alone in the nature or with very few other trekkers, I would definitely recommend doing the full circuit which receives less attention from the hordes of tourists.

Anyway to sum up, great adventure with great people! Patagonia rocks!

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Glacier Grey in sight!

Glacier Grey in sight!


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Backpacks really loaded!

Backpacks really loaded!


Chilean and Patagonian flags

Chilean and Patagonian flags


We can start seeing one of the famous towers...

We can start seeing one of the famous towers...


The water from the streams is so clear that you can even drink it "from the source" ! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

The water from the streams is so clear that you can even drink it "from the source" ! :)


One of our "friends" met during the trek

One of our "friends" met during the trek


Weird shaped mountain, which has a volcanic origin I have been told

Weird shaped mountain, which has a volcanic origin I have been told


A rainbow suddenly showing up with the wind gusts blowing the water off the lake's surface... Really impressive

A rainbow suddenly showing up with the wind gusts blowing the water off the lake's surface... Really impressive


More wind gusts, the same ones which will blow us off into the bush a few minutes later

More wind gusts, the same ones which will blow us off into the bush a few minutes later


Waking up at 5am and climbing up to see the sun rising on the famous towers, just incredible

Waking up at 5am and climbing up to see the sun rising on the famous towers, just incredible


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Our fine team

Our fine team


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The End!

The End!

Posted by manolo84 02:10 Archived in Chile Tagged mountains nature glaciers english treks Comments (0)

Arequipa and the Colca cañon


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One city I hadn't had the chance the visit when I first travelled to Peru two years ago was the colonial town of Arequipa, located near Cuzco and not too far from the Bolivian and Chilean borders. The city actually reminds a bit of Antigua in Guatemala, as it is surrounded by a perfectly cone-shaped volcano, El Misti (5822m), and others called Chachani (6075m) and Pichu Pichu (5571m). The town doesn't lack charm, as you can attest by looking at the pictures below, but is also a good place for several activities like trekking, mountain climbing, rafting, etc...

Arequipa's main square with the cathedral

Arequipa's main square with the cathedral


Pigeons (picture with drawing effect)

Pigeons (picture with drawing effect)


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Volcanoes in the background

Volcanoes in the background


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The volcano El Misti

The volcano El Misti


First time doing rafting in my life, it's quite fun!

First time doing rafting in my life, it's quite fun!

  • Cañon del Colca

One of the world's deepest canyons at 3191m, Colca ranks second only to neighbouring Cañon del Cotohuasi, which is 163m deeper. There are several trails around and into this canyon ranging from one to several days treks and I decided with other people met in my hostel to go down and sleep overnight inside the canyon in one of the "oasis" and to get back up the next day. I have never been to the Great Canyon in the United States so obviously cannot compare the two places but Colca canyon is definitely impressive with peaks higher than 6000m surrounding it.

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Condors circling around in the canyon...

Condors circling around in the canyon...


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An oasis down in the canyon where we'd spend the night

An oasis down in the canyon where we'd spend the night


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Serious picture with Mike, Dave, Jacek and Jolijn...

Serious picture with Mike, Dave, Jacek and Jolijn...


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

Then crazy one! :)


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El Misti and other volcanoes in the background

El Misti and other volcanoes in the background

Posted by manolo84 04:01 Archived in Peru Tagged mountains cities nature volcanoes canyons english Comments (1)

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