Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman

Swimming at Apple Tree Bay

Swimming at Apple Tree Bay

Apple Tree Bay

Apple Tree Bay

Abel Tasman hike

Abel Tasman hike

Summit Track

Summit Track

Summit Track in Fiordland

Summit Track in Fiordland

We made it - Summit Track

We made it – Summit Track

Lunch (sans water) at Summit Track

Lunch (sans water) at Summit Track

Hooker Glacier

Hooker Glacier

Mt. Cook/Hooker Glacier walk

Mt. Cook/Hooker Glacier walk

J&ZHookerglacierwalkOne of the activities that Jonathan and I most missed in the early A.Z. (“after Z”) years was hiking. She just wasn’t one of those babies or toddlers who took to a sling, although we tried them all, so hiking was put on hold for a few years. Once we started planning this adventure, however, one of our goals was for her to be able to hike several miles without too much whinging.  Because she had taken to the colored ribbon achievement scheme at her swim school like a fish to water (couldn’t resist), we implemented a parallel hiking certificate system. Her initial rainbow ribbon was earned after a 3-mile hike at age 3 — fast-forward to age 6 and we now have a girl who (according to a close friend) could “probably hike competitively.”  Perhaps, but only if the route was lined with chocolate incentives.  As luck would have it, there IS a Cadbury factory in Dunedin.

For those who love hiking, NZ provides endless opportunities (just cover up on the S. Island if you are prone to sandfly bites!).  We only  touched the tip of the iceberg for hiking (although we did see several glaciers!) on our whirlwind camper van tour of both islands, but here are a few jaunts that are definitely worth checking out and fun for the whole family.

Abel Tasman to Apple Tree Bay:  As became our habit, we started the tramp mid-afternoon. (In the A.Z. world, we are no longer morning people and were unable to even once meet the 10am departure deadline from any campsite, which pained me each time but didn’t seem to ruffle Jonathan at all.)  Fortunately, the days still are long here but at first it was disconcerting to see people returning from their tramps as we were the lone ones setting off.  This one got off to a bad start. It was hot, and not just by NZ standards and yet, despite having packed enough food for 3 days and rain jackets when there was not a cloud in sight, 30 minutes in I realized that I’d left all of our water in the van due to a  misunderstanding about who was responsible for the drinks.  Jonathan had half a bottle of warm Grape Powerade and Z had a small amount of water in her pink thermos, but when I hike I sweat and need my water.  I spent a few annoyed minutes grumbling about needing to turn back but the day was ultimately too inviting for this to spoil our adventure.  When Z asked for water, I rationed out small sips accompanied by carrots on the theory that they were rehydrating and we powered on.  Fortunately, the track proved to be an easy coastal route, nicely shaded, and with gentle elevation gains and losses as we curved around the coast that regularly provided us with sparkling coastal vistas.  We stopped at Apple Tree Bay, a little over three miles in, for lunch and a bracing but gorgeous swim.  Except for the water’s temperature, we could have been in the Caribbean.  A handful of sailboats dotted the horizon, but the long, white-sand beach had only a handful of other visitors.  (Later I realized that some of those insidious sandflies first dined on me while I was eating lunch, but at the moment, I was blissfully unaware of these menaces.)  On the way back, Z serenaded us with songs from the Muppet Movie and we were fortunate to spot a family of Kiwis (the birds, not the people).  Total distance: 6.8 miles.

Key Summit Track: This track begins as part of the famous Routeburn Track, which is one of NZ’s Great Walks located within the Milford Sound region.  Once again, we hit the trail late, around 3pm.  It was a steadier climb, but mostly shady.  Unfortunately, we suffered another water supply mishap and this time only brought Powerade, which Z refuses to drink. Thus, there was some grumbling early on. Ultimately, however, her thirst prevailed and she was able to stomach (if not enjoy) the Powerade.  When we reached the summit we were rewarded with far-reaching views of the Fiordland mountains on another gorgeous day filled with blue skies (a rare occurrence in Fiordland) and we basked in the sun as we ate our late lunch at the top.  We also explored the self-guided alpine nature walk, which included beech forests, sub-alpine shrublands, alpine tarns and bogs.   Roundtrip around 3.5 hours.
Mt. Cook/Hooker Glacier Walk : This time, we remembered water. (We do learn, just not quickly.) We really hit the jackpot on this walk.  Although the morning broke with Mt. Cook being typically obscured by cloud, this was an instance where a 2pm departure worked in our favor.  As we departed, Mt. Cook was perfectly outlined against a crystal blue sky.  We began the walk at the Mt. Cook village campground and headed up the Hooker Valley towards Aoraki/Mt. Cook.  In the first half hour, we stopped at a memorial honoring Freda du Faur, the first woman to summit Mt. Cook in 1910 and also visited a memorial naming all of those who have lost their lives on Mt. Cook (of which there were an unsettling number). Shortly thereafter, we befriended a German family with a 6-year old and the girls were immediately off and running, no longer whinging about the distance or heat. The walk meandered up the valley hugging the Hooker River, which we crossed twice via swing bridges and ended at the Hooker Glacier terminal lake offering glacier views.  Highlights along the route included seeing a couple of minor avalanches in the distance.  My earlier blog post on “Spills and Thrills” talks about the other adrenaline rushes we experienced. This definitely ranks as one of the world’s top day hikes. Roundtrip: 6.5 miles.
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