Thursday, February 3, 2011

Voyages by Bus: Day 3 (Queenstown to Te Anau)

The Voyages by Bus mini-theme ends (albeit temporarily) with today’s trip from Queenstown to Te Anau: tomorrow morning I start the Milford Track, and will be hiking for the next four days and three nights. As was the case when I hiked the Heaphy Track in early January, I’ll be absent from my blog for the next few days, as I’ll be several hundred metres up in the mountains, devoid of any sort of computer or internet connection. All things going as planned, I will return Monday evening to Te Anau, so you can expect an update late on February 7th (the 6th in Canada).

This morning Kayla and I met for breakfast (croissants again!), and then I packed up my stuff and checked out of Base. I left my bags in Kayla’s room, in exchange for letting her use my internet connection to check her bank balance. Poor Kayla; she paid extra for her room to stay in the “Sanctuary”, which is a girls-only dorm, and ended up with seven other chatterboxes and a floor that smelled like vomit. I, in a regular eight-bed mixed dorm, had a fairly quiet room, with only three other roommates, and although it was uncomfortably hot, there was no vomit to be seen or smelled.

In wandering around the overgrown ski resort that is Queenstown (the Whistler of the Southern Hemisphere), our first stop was the Vodafone store, as Kayla is interested in purchasing a mobile internet key like I have so she can avoid paying for internet access at every hostel. (They ended up not having any in stock, but with an order arriving later that day, advised her to return this afternoon). Our second stop was the chemist’s (pharmacy), where I stocked up on foot survival supplies for the Milford Track; namely, athlete's tape, cotton gauze, steri-strip tape, and hiker’s wool (I already have enough band-aids). I’ll bind my feet tomorrow morning when I get up; hopefully this will help prevent blisters before they start.

Leaving the chemist’s, we ducked into a few tourist-trap shops to look at souvenir t-shirts, and then went to the camera store so Kayla could see if anything could be done to help her sick Olympus; every time she takes a picture the image is hugely over-exposed, to the point where everything is white. Unfortunately, the best the employee could suggest was sending it to be serviced when she is in Australia later this month, as the camera is still under warranty and there is really nothing they can do on-site to fix them.

Visits to the bank and grocery store for a little lunch followed, and as we were walking down Shotover Street, who did we run into but Thibaud! He came with us to the iSite, as he was trying to figure out what bus to take to Frankton; he has another WWOOFing host lined up there already. It was nice to see him again; I had been wondering how me made out in getting to Queenstown.

Our last stop before heading back to Base was the Department of Conservation office, where I picked up a Milford Track brochure/guidebook, and the MAC outdoor shop, where I purchased a quick-drying polyester shirt to wear while hiking (clearance; it was regular $100 and cost me only $20!). Between my fleece tops, rain jacket, and nylon pants, I’m doing well this time for avoiding cotton clothing (I learned that lesson on the Heaphy Track, where I got absolutely soaked on our day of heavy rain).

Once back at Base, Kayla used the travel desk to book herself on a cruise to Milford Sound tomorrow, and then we went up to the kitchen and ate the remainders of our Fergburgers from last night for lunch. Mmmm, cold Fergburger... they’re even good a day later. :-)

At 1:45pm Kayla walked with me over to the bus stop on Athol Street in the middle of the carpark; she very graciously carried my small backpack for me to lighten my load. We said goodbye (we may meet up again in Christchurch on the 8th), and then she headed off for the Skyline Gondola ride up to Bob’s Peak, and I caught the bus to Te Anau. The 2 hour and 15 minute drive was spent mainly a) cursing the weather (clouds and rain), b) talking to a nice couple from Upstate New York across the aisle, and c) listening to the Barenaked Ladies on my iPod.

Once in Te Anau, and checked into the Lakefront Backpackers, I headed over to the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre DOC Office, where I picked up my hut passes and transportation tickets for the Milford Track, and then to the grocery store, where I bought the remainder of the food I will eat on the track, as well as a few veggies for dinner tonight with rice. I also bought a replacement bottle of sunscreen for the one I lost; mercifully, it was a lot cheaper here than in Queenstown or Lake Tekapo (maybe because there are more clouds here? Nah, I think it’s simply because the supermarket can stock more kinds).

I spent this evening packing my bag for the hike; it’s already lighter than it was for the Heaphy Track, mainly because I don’t have to bring a tent with me this time (there are no campsites, just huts). I bought a pack liner this time as well, so everything is nestled within a thick, bright yellow plastic bag that will hopefully keep everything dry. I must say, however, the weather forecast has me concerned; tomorrow is supposed to be okay, but the three days after that are rain, rain, and more rain, and gale-force winds one of the evenings (thankfully I think it’s before we ascend over the track summit, so we should miss the worst of it).

I need my rest to save up strength for tomorrow, so I had best be off to bed. Goodnight!


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