Avalanche Peak – 12/24/14

‘Twas the day before Christmas and the Waas’ were hiking
We chose Avalanche Peak rather than running or biking
We could have stayed home in our pajamas all day
To await Santa Claus, his reindeer, and sleigh

All across Christchurch everyone was still sleeping
But up a mountain we climbed, to the peak we were creeping
The mountains were snowy, and the trail was quite steep
But the views were fantastic (minus the sheep)

We had our packs full of water and extra layers of clothes
Would there be rain or shine, in New Zealand who knows
To stave off our hunger, we had salami and cheese
‘Twas the most wonderful snack from Jesse’s thoughtful colleague

We saw gorgeous waterfalls, kea, and flowers
Up, up, and up, the trail went on for hours
How high did we climb? 3,600 feet or more
The scenery was beautiful, but man was I sore!

The track was relentless, the scree razor-sharp
But we had to keep going to get back before dark
We took selfies up top, to get every angle we turned
But we couldn’t stay long, we were getting sunburned!

The descent was brutal, Scott’s Track just as demanding
But after 3 hours of climbing, I was just glad to be standing
One final stop for food, peanut butter and jelly
We had a mouse join us, hoping to also fill his belly!

At the end of it all, in the water we went
After so long in the sun, we were all feeling spent
The water was cold, it felt good on our feet
The perfect end to the day, an enjoyable treat

If you’re up for an adventure, a full day can you stomach?
‘Cause few things are as grand as a mountain peak summit
It’s worth the sore legs, the hunger, and bug bites,
With my husband and brother, my summer Christmas was just right!

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Sumner / Taylor’s Mistake

Taylor’s Mistake is a beautiful bay just south of Christchurch near the cute beachy town of Sumner. Jesse took me there on a particularly stunning day and we enjoyed a casual hike along the coast, some ice cream, and burying our legs in the sand. The color of the ocean never fails to impress me and I almost forgot to be disappointed that we didn’t see any penguins!

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Earlier that week some of Jesse’s friends invited us to their running club’s scavenger hunt! It was such a fun evening gathering clues all over the Port Hills, dodging sheep, and braving the wind. We ended the night with barbecued pineapple, presents, and Santa!

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We’ve also been getting in some good slacklining around the city. We’ve had so many laughs in Hagley Park…it has the best trees (if you can stay on despite the wind)!

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Lake Waikaremoana / Cape Palliser

About a week and a half ago, Jesse and I said good-bye to Hamilton and began making our way south. Our first stop was a visit to Lake Waikaremoana, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks on the North Island. Neither of us can actually pronounce Waikaremoana, so we invariably say it to the tune of “My Sharona”.

The drive from Hamilton is around 4 hours and the trail is 46 km (28 miles), so it clearly wasn’t going to be do-able as a day trip. We booked some accommodation (the only AirBnB listing) in Wairoa, about an hour and a half from the lake and journeyed down. We sang Christmas carols in the car for a while and found that we’re both a little rusty on the lyrics!

The next morning, using the handy dandy Garmin because this Great Walk is, for some reason, not well marked, we found the official car park! To the top of the peak is where we were headed!

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Reminds me a little of my beloved Forest Park!

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We were mostly walking along the single track trail and could jut off to the viewpoints to see the lake. Often these viewpoints were completely exposed and featured gale force winds, though just a few feet in we were protected. It didn’t take long to cool off in those spots!

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We were only going to the first hut and back, which we found at 10km (6 miles) in. We ate some snacks, making friends with the other hikers and enjoying the warmth inside. It was a short rest, because they estimated our return time to be another 4.5 hours (which we see as “time to beat”). Easy!

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It ended up being a gorgeous 20km / 12 mile day, complete with ~3,900 feet of climbing. It was so very different from our Tongariro Crossing experience, but I couldn’t pick one over the other. New Zealand’s Great Walks do not disappoint!

After leaving Wairoa, Jesse and I travelled another few hours south to Masterton to stay with his old college roommate. They have a gorgeous character house in Masterton and it was fun meeting them and exploring the area. Jesse especially like playing with their chickens! On the drive down to Masterton, we stopped in the cute coastal town of Napier for lunch – Jesse was sad Burger Wisconsin was closed but Burger Fuel was a nice alternative. I was not brave enough to try this one though:

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I love the bottom left “Cage Free” – so funny!

We took in a little oceanside mini golf – someone is surprisingly good. A hole in one, even! I was a sore loser and was treated to ice cream for my valiant effort.

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After relaxing in Masterton for the morning, we made a quick trip to Cape Palliser, which is the southern-most point on the North Island. We hiked the 253 steps up to the lighthouse, hung out on the rocks with the seals, hunted for paua shells, and then did a short hike in to see some of the Putangirua Pinnacles (funky rock formations where some of the Lord of the Rings was filmed).

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*Bonus point round – count up the seals!

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This is by far the best road sign in existence. *Note, we did not see any penguins here. Though on the drive from Picton to Chch, I was falling asleep against the window for a few minutes when Jesse shouted “Bobi, wake up and see the seal!” I look from him to the window, groggy and confused while he corrects himself: “I mean penguin!” I caught a glimpse, giggling at the mistake.

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Friday morning, we were up at 4:30 AM, drove the winding road to Wellington to catch our 8 AM ferry, landed on the South Island 3 hours later, and drove 5 more hours to Christchurch. We arrived at Dan and Laura’s house saying “Hi, please feed us!” They did and everyone lived happily ever after.

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Thanksgiving and the Tongariro Crossing. Which one doesn’t belong in New Zealand!?

Obviously New Zealand didn’t have pilgrims in the way the US does, but Jesse and his brother did their best to give me a Thanksgiving dinner regardless. We are too broke to afford turkey here, so Jesse made a chicken, stuffing isn’t a thing so Jake made dumplings, and I can’t be bothered with green bean casserole so I made a salad. It was perfect. I am thankful for my husband, my family (new and old), for our travels, for our friends, and for my dog, whom I’m really missing!

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I had a few good runs in around Hamilton, including one with a gorgeous sunset over the Waikato fields!

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We traded in our road shoes for our Salomons and gaiters, woke Jake up ridiculously early and drove a few hours south for our first “Great Walk” in New Zealand: The Tongariro Crossing.

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Wikipedia says the following about Tongariro:

The crossing passes over the volcanic terrain of the multi-cratered active volcano Mount Tongariro, passing the eastern base of Mount Ngauruhoe which can optionally be climbed as a side trip.

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With Jesse, you can bet your bottom dollar we summited Mt. Ngauruhoe! I didn’t know this was happening at the time and was surprised when I was told we were adding an additional 3 hours into our walk, but I was quickly on board. I downed my sandwich and we began our ascent.

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Up and up we walked, sometimes hand over foot, often taking only a few steps then stopping for several minutes to catch our breath (I mean the view *ahem*), and to yell “ROCK” to those below us. We climbed a mile up the volcano, reaching about 7,400 feet. Sitting at the edge of the crater eating gummy worms, laughing, taking pictures, and feeling accomplished was definitely a highlight of the day.

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On the way down, we slid on our asses on the snow and did some scree skiing to make up some time. These two things might have been the highlight of the whole day! I was endlessly grateful for my gaiters during all of that!

Side tangent: while we were snacking at the summit, I realized I was missing a glove from my pack. I then realized I hadn’t actually opened the large zipper pocket on my pack at the summit, yet there it sat, wide open, contents visible. My merino hat and buff were missing as well. It occurred to me that at the bottom, when I took out my sandwich, I failed to zip it back up. My heart sank (I get such anxiety over losing favorite and/or expensive items). In the snow on our descent I found my hat and buff, but was still missing a glove. I was feeling seriously down, asking hikers still on their way up if they’d seen it. All said no. Alas, at the bottom, on the top of a reflective pole, someone had left it for me. My childish elation was real and I was ridiculously giddy! (I couldn’t help it, they’re my favorite running gloves!)

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We carried on across the desert…

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Up lots of rocks to the Red Crater…

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Down more sand and scree to the Emerald Lakes…

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And then down, down, down a gravel trail, traversing the hill, overlooking Lake Taupo.

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Through some forested areas and out the other side.

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15 miles. 10 hours. One grand adventure.