A Travellerspoint blog

Nelson Lakes

Trek to Lake Angelus and the Travers Mountain Range

sunny 60 °F

We left James and Barbie Wilson’s Green Shed last week following one of our most enjoyable wwoof residences so far. After spending our last 3 days in their wonderful ocean front Bach we had one more hot breakfast before leaving. Leaving took a little work. Kari forgot her Nalgene down at the Bach and had to run and get it while I tried to pack all of our stuff back into Mister Shifty. It is amazing the system we have in place so that things fit and we don’t have too much stuff piled in the back seat.

We headed south back to Sophie and Mark’s place in Blenheim on Wednesday the 9th . They were happy enough with our paint job on their roof to invite us to leave some of our stuff in their house while we went for a tramp into Nelson Lakes National Park. The drive to Nelson Lakes took us up through the valley that is home to the best Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in the world. It was a truly amazing site to watch row after row pass the window for almost 100 km.

Patrick enjoying the evening trek past Lake Rotoiti
In the shadow of Mt. Roberts

St. Arnaud is the town at the entrance to the park. In many ways the area reminded us of Lake Tahoe, only New Zealand size (small). There are two beautiful lakes that are surrounded by towering 6000 ft peaks. Our tramp took us out along the edge of Lake Rotoiti to Lake Head Hut for our first nights stay. It was an amazing 2 hour walk from our car along the edge of the lake to a river crossing that took us another hour to navigate. When we woke the next morning there was a hard frost on the ground that made the ground look white and the river steam. This created a bank of fog that hung just off the ground not far from the hut. We ate breakfast, warm oatmeal instead of muesli and dried milk for this trip, and headed out on what was to be our only taxing day of the trip.

Kari next to the morning river crossing
After the morning river crossing the sun breaks into the valley

It started with crossing back over the river and then following it up the valley for about an hour. At this point the track turned off the main river valley to follow a side stream up into the mountains. What we had ahead of us at this point was just over 1000 vertical meters (≈3400 ft) of elevation change over the last 6 km to Angelus Hut on top of the Travers Mountain range. The trail followed along the stream as it quickly climbed the mountain giving us many beautiful waterfalls to look at as we trekked upwards. After a few hours we broke through the trees and into a clearing caused by past rock slides and were able to see our destination. Only it was straight up the side of a steep and rocky slope that the stream cascaded down. The rest of the hike danced between the rocks and the intertwined sections of the stream as we headed for the source of the water, Angelus Lake, our hut for the evening.

Stream side on the Trek up the mountain side
Patrick crossing the high mountain stream
First look at Lake Angelus
Kari exploring the deck at Angelus Hut

The hut was conveniently located right at the top of the climb so it was a true sense of accomplishment to crest the ridge and be done for the day. When we arrived there were only about 6 other people at a hut that we had been told could be one of the busiest in New Zealand. We got a good pick of bunks and set out our stuff and took some time to relax and enjoy the lake as we read our books. A few people started to trickle in and we thought that maybe it would be close to full for the night but nothing to bad. Since people were arriving we decided to eat early and get out of the way…Good Thing… Just as we were started cooking 6 Israeli men about our age showed up and we heard them talking about the rest of their group coming in behind them, a large group. By the time we finished cleaning our dishes and dusk had fallen the hut was packed. We woke up early so we could get back to Blenheim before dinner and found that the hut was a bit of a disaster. There were beer and wine bottles scattered around the tables and tons of food and cooking equipment on top of the cooking areas. We moved this aside and cooked breakfast before the sleeping hoard woke up and took over again.

Early sun hitting the peaks around Lake Angelus
The Travers Ridge looking down past a small alpine tarn
Kari above Lake Rotoiti

Our hike this day was going to take us along the ridge of the Travers Mountain Range and then down a steep slope right above Lake Rotoiti. But we didn’t leave before soaking up the early morning light on Lake Angelus. We made a quick climb up to the top of the ridge from Lake Angelus and got another wonderful view of the small lake before we headed off to the north. The view from the ridge line was amazing and showed us both valleys and the mountains stretching away to the south. The way was easy and Kari and I had no problem navigating the rocky outcroppings and slips of stone. We came to the last peak, Mt Roberts, before the slope down to Rotoiti and saw a few buildings scattered around on a small plateau below us. We later found out that these buildings made up a hike in ski resort in the winter months. The hike down from there was mostly switchbacks and as Kari and I have discovered we don’t like switchbacks at all. I don’t like them because I have to listen to Kari complain about how much she hates them the whole time, otherwise I can tolerate them. They did however provide for more stunning views of Lake Rotoiti and we were quickly off the trail and into the car.


Posted by patandkari 17:15 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Marlborough Sound

Weeks of wwoofing

sunny 68 °F
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We crossed Cook Strait with some uncertainty in our hearts. After two months of WWOOFing without a real base we were beginning to feel a bit homesick and with our finances dwindling we were anxious to find a place to either get jobs or just settle down for a few weeks. The beauty of Marlborough Sounds combined with the hospitality of our WWOOFing hosts James and Barbie banished our worries.

We spent our first two nights on the south island camping in Kenepuru Sound. It is renowned for its beauty and marine life. The cove we camped in seemed like it belonged in the Caribbean or some other tropical paradise; with its turquoise waters we could hardly believe the area shares roughly the same latitude of southern Oregon.
One of hundreds of jellyfish carcasses that lined the beach
After two nights of relaxing by the beach we headed to our next hosts, at the “Green Shed”. We arrived to find that James (whom I had spoken to via email) had promised his wife Barbie that when we arrived he would “send us away”. They had just had a pair of American WWOOFers who proved to be less than ideal. With Easter coming up Barbie had declared that she wanted no more WWOOFers. We sat at the kitchen table which looked out onto Queen Charlotte Sound and took in the bleak news. James told us we were welcome to stay; he’d discuss our situation with Barbie when he picked her up at the airport. Needless to say our first dinner with our new hosts was slightly tense. The next morning we got up and started killing passion fruit vines (a particularly virulent invasive species) and tried to charm Barbie. Apparently it worked. James and Barbie offered us the use of the Bach (holiday home) just down the cliff from their house and we thoroughly enjoyed our five day stay. Since they wanted a quiet family Easter weekend we found new hosts in Nelson and “buggered off”.
The “wild” Weka we befriended at the Green Shed
We spent Easter weekend camping outside of Nelson and exploring Tasman Bay. We walked a small section of Abel Tasman National Park, took care of getting our car’s warrant of fitness updated (which involved having a small piece of metal welded onto some rust inside the driver’s door) and spent one night in town at a hostel where we checked our email and found or next hosts had cancelled on us. Without a host we knew we’d continue to eat our money and go a bit stir crazy. We posted a piece about ourselves on the WWOOF website and emailed James (he and Barbie had mentioned if we ever wanted to come back we’d be welcome) letting him know that our plans had evaporated.
We are now WWOOFing for James and Barbie’s daughter Sophie and her husband Mark. We went back to the Green Shed for a few nights and then moved slightly south to Blenheim. Here we’ve shared meals and conversation with our youngest hosts (mid thirties) and worked for room, board and PAY. We’ve been working full days painting their roof (roofs are almost exclusively tin in NZ) and scrapping off the paint our notorious American forbearers had neglected to do properly.

Though we’ve been working hard we found time to borrow bikes and ride the highly publicized Marlborough wine tour route. We managed to bike 30 km and visit four different wineries for tastings; the crisp and fruity Sauvignon Blanc that Marlborough is famous for exceeded my expectations so much so that I purchased a bottle of Matua Valley Paretai Sauvignon Blanc. It was my first time in a vineyard and I thoroughly enjoyed myself (even if the women administering the tasting were a bit aloof).
We’re heading back to the Green Shed tomorrow. We’ll spend three more nights enjoying James and Barbie’s stories of traveling through Africa and living in Malaysia before we depart for our next tramp in Nelson Lakes National Park.


Posted by patandkari 18:15 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

The Northern Circuit

A trip around Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom) and Mt Tongariro

sunny 62 °F
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As expected Tongariro National Park was breathtaking; being in the presence of three active volcanoes was quite humbling. As we drove into the park we were able to see the glaciated top of Mt. Ruapehu, which had a minor eruption just last September. With the dangers of our intended trek in mind we booked two nights in the Tongariro Northern Circuit huts. Most backpacking tracks in New Zealand are regulated by night and have huts of varying luxury. So for slightly more money we decided to leave our tent in the car and enjoy the world of hut camping. We also decided to catch a shuttle (for the modest price of a dollar per minute per person!) to the base of Mt. Tongariro in hopes that we would have time to climb Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom).


We started the hike surrounded by people attempting the Tongariro Crossing (a way to see the scenery without camping). In a line, that amounted to follow the leader through the national park, we walked through lava fields and to the base of the Devil’s Staircase (we later learned that 1,200 people completed the crossing the day we started out). Though the staircase didn’t seem to get the best of Pat it left me huffing and puffing, humbled once more as people more than twice my age zoomed on up the jagged boulders.

At the top of the staircase (cliff); we reached the base of Mt. Doom. After a few minutes discussion we decided we’d better climb it lest we regret not trying later. An hour and a half later we rewarded by looking into the caldera of a live volcano (no there was no lava) and enjoying the panoramic view. After a few quick pictures it was back down the mountain to finish the three hour hike to our hut.


The hike to the hut took us through a large crater created by eruptions a millennia before and the Emerald lakes. The lakes are colored by sulfur and are the most vivid turquoise, a stark contrast to the craggy volcanic rock that surrounds them.


We reached our hut as sunset was beginning to color the sky, there we found almost all 26 beds were filled. We were lucky enough (though I wasn’t feeling too lucky at the time) to find two beds next to each other on a top bunk with a German couple for bunk mates. The huts are quite interesting because while camping in the United States has a strong focus on solitude and reflection camping in New Zealand is slightly more like moving from one dinner party to the next.

After falling asleep to the voices of fellow campers we awoke early and hit the road. The track to our next hut took us through some exposed ground with strong wind and clouds. Then we were back in a sheltered crater and enjoying the alpine vegetation.

After covering 12 km or so we entered a beech forest (beech trees are one of New Zealand’s dominate plants species). After spending the day exposed to wind and sun the forest was amazing, we found ourselves unexpectedly cut off from all the harshness of the volcanoes. After the forest we reached our hut and spent another similar night nestled next to strangers (friendly strangers though).

The next morning we hiked out, and headed south towards Wellington.

Wellington proved to be a beautiful city. We stayed in a hostel near downtown and enjoyed the sites. We visited the Wellington Zoo (where we saw our first live Kiwi) and the Te Papa museum. Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum and it was gorgeous –great design and waterfront location, with over 6 levels of exhibits. Other than that we relaxed and explored the nation’s capital.

Posted by patandkari 14:25 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

The South Island

Sorry no pictures at this time

sunny 71 °F
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Kari and I are on the South Island now. We came across on the Ferry on the 14th. The Ferry ride was fun and quite smooth. It was more of a cruise ship than it was a ferry. We then camped for 2 days in the Marlbourough sound before going to our new Wwoof residence. The place we are staying is located on the road between Picton and Nelson along the Marlbourough sound. It has splendid views and is very comfortable. Our Hosts James and Barbie are very nice and feed us very well. It may be some time before any more pictures are uploaded for your enjoyment as we do not have computer access at James and Barbies and we cannot upload unless we can hook Kari's laptop in.

That said you will just have to wait to hear about our trip around Mt Doom and to see the pictures. We are planning to stay at James and Barbies for at least the next 7 to 10 days so you will have to wait, sorry.


PS: It seems to me that those of you who have commented on our posts have had to sign up for an account with travellerspoint. Since this is the case anyone else who wants to comment I believe this is the way to do it.

Posted by patandkari 16:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

From Kerikeri to Waikanae

Putting some kilometers on Mr. Shifty

semi-overcast 73 °F

Today Pat and I will depart from our third WWOOFing address. Though our original plan had been to travel south directly after staying here in Waikanae, circumstances at the WWOOFing address led us to slightly modify our plans (don’t worry it wasn’t all bad the family was nice; the room had an amazing view of the sea and we had a hot tub at our disposal…however the food was mediocre at best and apparently our hosts hadn’t realized the word organic is a key component to the WWOOF acronym and at the end of the day we’re WWOOFing to learn about organic gardening and farming or at least get fat on delicious wholesome foods). So we are now planning on driving back up north briefly to visit Tongariro National Park.

Tongariro National Park contains three active volcanoes and was the site of Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings. We plan to tramp in the park for four days and stay in our first NZ backcountry huts. Then on the last day we will throw the one ring into the fiery pits of Mordor from whence it came and the world will be freed of evil, or at least that’s the plan.

Hopefully the weather will hold, though we’ve decided we will set out rain or shine – we’re both aching to do some backpacking.

We’ve fallen a bit behind with the blog, it’s difficult because the internet infrastructure in NZ is quite different from the States (generally pay per upload) so here is a quick synopsis (in photos, you know a pictures worth a…) of our last two weeks.

Pat and I exploring mature Kauri forests.

A.H. Reed Memorial Canopy Walk

Gorgeous Whangarei

Morning outside of Auckland

In Egmont we stumbled across hundreds of people waving American Flags in celebration of Americana, a classic car show. Naturally we stopped and had a look around, we even enjoyed a Coney Island hotdog (or so they mislabeled it).

The coastline of the South Taranaki Bight

Hiking in Whanganui River Valley

Also I haven’t seen a possum yet, but I have sadly added hedgehogs to my list of road kill mammals.


Posted by patandkari 13:16 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

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