mardi 15 mars 2011

Matiu Island

Strangely, Wellington is the best place to see some native NZ wildlife: not far from the Kapiti Island reserve, the Mount Bruce park, and hosting the Karori reserved, and Matiu (or Somes) Island in it's harbor. The later has an interesting history as it was the quarantine island (for animals and humans) back in the days, and a defense spot during the second world war as bunkers were built, in case the enemy would attack Wellington...

Anyway, we visited first the island with Dion and Bastien. The day time was good to see a few skinks and some birds, but the ranger really recommended us to come back and camp overnight on the Island. Which we did a few weeks later with Aurelie and Nicolas.

The two later kayaked to the Island on Sunday afternoon, while I was supposed to take the ferry. Their kayak trip went well, taking the ferry revealed challenging for some reasons... (it a long story by itaself!) Anyway, I managed to reach the island eventually. Indeed, it is really good to spend the night on the Island: it's close to Wellington but far at the same time, the views on the city are excellent at sunset and sunrise. Even better, you can see tons of native animals such as the elusive geckos, some giant wetas (some really large insects), and the old Tuataras. These later are huge sort of lizards reminiscent from before the dinosaurs. They don't do much at all, and don't move most of the time, and need to eat a weta once a month to survive. This laziness imply that they can live old, well over a century... Should we tale some lessons of them???

Considering the way back to Wellington for me and Nicolas, we definitely won't live long: while Aurelie took the Ferry back to Wellington, we kayaked early morning back to Petone, facing a strong head-wind, with the associated surface current... We had to paddle really hard in a relatively rough harbor, and couldn't stop at all during the 3 kms journey... My (untrained) left shoulder got sore for one week because of that...

Anyway, Nicolas made it to work not so late, and we spend a relaxing day shopping in Wellington with Aurelie (she took the day off). Fun trip in any cases!!!

PS: Unfortunately, it was the wrong season for spotting the 280 blue penguins present on the Island. That would have been great, maybe I have to come back a third time!

Matiri loop

Dion managed to get a week of holidays for some tramping in the South Island, in the idea of visiting some remote huts on the westcoast. Bastien (a French dude doing an internship at IRL with Nicola) joined us. After meeting in St-Arnaud (where I ended my week of tramping in the Nelson Lakes), we decided to change a bit the plans, and go to the Matiri ranges in the Kahurangi National Park. It's not exactly on the westcoast, but it was fitting better with the weather forecast and our tight timing, I though. I needed to argue a bit with Dion since he really wanted to go to the westcoast, but managed it.

It was a really good trip in again a not so much traveled region, and a varied trip including:
- a nice lake with some good wildlife, and apparently some very rare native bats (which we didn't see)
- a steep climb to the 1000 Acres plateau
- some unusual landscapes on the plateau, which has a high biodiversity with 437 - different alpine plants... Didn't name the all of them...
- some wild tramping along a very though and long route, not traveled more than once a year. Thanks to the though kiwi lady (I forgot her name, shame on me) who gave us good info on the route, we might not have tried if not!
- a nice high Valley around the Huricane hut
- stuck one day in a hut cos the river was flooded, so was the track...
- some nice small huts
- and some Nachos at the end! Bastien discovered Nachos then, and got so found of them that he had 3 meals of them in 2 days, with an excellent fish&chips* (in Nelson) in between.

* it's Dion who insisted to get all this fat food... You know, those kiwis...

Ngaruhoe with Jerome and Gaelle

By luck, my traveling plans intercepts with Gaelle&Jerome round-the-world, and we can catch up in NZ! I meet up with them in Wellington. As usual, the westerlies are on, with means average weather for tramping... Did I said that was a classic in NZ??? Anyway, we run to the east again, and get some good weather around Napier. After a quick visit to the Gannets reserve of Cape Kidnapper, we split, but decide to meet up again on the volcanoes, for the famous Tongariro crossing. Since I went there many times already, I propose them an original loop, via the Ngauruhoe and the Tongariro summits. This suits them since its a really nice loop, and this suits me since I never had the chance to climb Ngauruhoe. The reasons were:

  • not allowed by the guide the first time (I didn't really get the choice...)

  • bad weather the second time, with a bunch of friends from Palmy

  • not allowed by my mum and my aunt the third time

  • after some slacking around, not enough time the fourth time, with Matthieu “Burger”

So I was much happy this time, especially since the view from the top is worthwhile!

Tramping in the Aorangi Forest Park

Classic New Zealand pattern, the forecast is for north-westerlies. This means shit weather all the mountain ranges of the North Island, so, lets go east! Dion suggests the Aorangi Forest Park, not very convinced since it isn't a well known tramping place. Nevertheless, it should be well protected from the bad weather, and I have never been there, so it's on! Laureen, Aurelie&Nicolas, and Cyrielle join us.

And what a good idea it was: the weather was rainy and windy in Palmy or in Wellington, and it was sunny and almost too warm in the Aorangis! The park is really nice as well, with a very varied forest, and some excellent views of the coastline from the tops. For some unknown reasons, the park is underrated and not well traveled, which you can see by the not so well defined tracks, and the bad state of the huts... We circumvented the later issue by camping nearby a cute stream, and the first is not problematic I reckon.

"It does not have to be fun to be fun"

Or what can happen in one day of tramping in the Nelson Lake National Park....

The same day as the Christchurch terrible earthquake, I left Blue Lake Hut in the morning, in the aim of traversing the Moss Pass over to the D'Urville Valley. The D'Urville river is supposed to offer excellent trout fishing, so I hurry up the pass and arrive at the George Lyon Hut late in the morning. I can start to look after trouts from now on. While trying to spot one, I drop my backpack on the ground... Ten seconds later, my back starts to burn, I ear many wasps around me... I stepped on a wasp nest!

I start running on the track, fall over cos of some roots on the way, run, fall over again... I feel that some wasps are still stinging my back, stuck in my shirt... I take it off... Things are getting better. Now I start to be scared: my brother is dead allergic to wasps stings, and I can't remember when was last time I got stung by a wasp. If I start to feel bad, I wouldn't be in a good situation, alone by myself at 3 to 4 days of walking from civilization.

I tell myself that I am not allergic, and that I should walk to the d'Urville Hut by tonight, where I know there is a radio... So I can call somebody in case I fell bad. First step, jumping in the water. It cools down the many stings, a bit. Then, get back my backpack, which is on the wasp nest... Scary job: I run, pick it on the way, run for a little while... No trouble, I can relax... Walking now, which should take 7 to 8 hours to the targeted hut.

"I am not allergic, I am not allergic"

I realize I lost my sunglasses. I broke my rod as well. Things are adding up... I feel a bit dizzy. Then I remember Travis's favorite citation, i.e. "it does not have to be fun to be fun". I start laughing. I make it to the d'Urville hut just before night, with just enough energy to eat a bit, before to fall asleep.

The day after, on my way to St-Arnaud, I met up with the guy maintaining the fancy Sabine hut, who happened to be a former elite climber, from back in the 70s (a climbing buddy of Graeme Dingle for those interested). I show him my back: "Bloody hell, there are at least 50 stings. I can tell you you are not allergic, you would't be there if you were (...)"

He tells me as well about the terrible quake in Christchurch. I think I shouldn't complain about my case.

PS: the tramp was nice nevertheless, and I managed to catch my best brown trout that same day... Busy day I tell ya!