Jean and I took our last vacation before becoming parents to Vanuatu, a place that before our trip was only a vaguely familiar word. It is a Pacific Island nation, known as New Hebrides before independence, northeast of Australia and almost due north from here in Oamaru, enough to have a much warmer climate. We stayed at a small resort outside the capital Port Vila. We took it pretty easy and did not see too much of the country which includes many islands. The food was very good with plenty of fresh fruit and fish, which we also saw at the market one day we went in to Port Vila. We took a kayak out in the lagoon most days and paddled out to a deserted island for some exploring and snorkeling.
Back in Oamaru it is spring and lambing season. On my run yesterday so many little lambs were sunning in the grass. It’s nice to be coming through winter.
We enjoyed a final weekend with Mom and Dad before they departed for Australia today. We had such a good visit with them! We spent a couple nights in Akaroa on Banks Peninsula before they left since they were flying out of Christchurch. We went for a kayak on a rainy Sunday and saw some Hector dolphins very close to our boats. A couple of cruise ships were docked there and the town was busy; also lots of buses coming and going taking the passengers all around Canterbury.
Monday on the way out Jean and I ran a beautiful route on a sunny morning thanks to Mom and Dad shuttling the car ahead. We also got a chance to see the very impressive Scott exhibit at the Canterbury museum before heading home to Oamaru.
Last week Jean’s clinic was closed and we decided to plan a last minute vacation to experience one of the places we came all this way to see, Fiordland in the southwest of the South Island. First up was one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Kepler Track. The Great Walks are the most publicized and maintained of the New Zealand tramping tracks with staffed huts during the season which require bookings. Shelter, water, bathrooms, bunks and gas cookers are all provided. And in our case at Iris Burn hut on Kepler a very engaging and charismatic hut ranger, Robbie.
The first day was indeed a great walk in to the Iris Burn hut, rain only coming just before we finished our day.
The second day the weather was much worse, record rainfall and high winds. We started anyway but up on the alpine section of track the winds were really high. We encountered a group up on the ridge that had a woman with them that was experiencing severe hypothermia. Two of her friends were helping her down and they were moving OK, at first Jean and I continued on. But Jean decided maybe she could be of some help and it wasn’t that fun with the rain slamming you in the face from the side so we turned around back for the hut. Once everyone got to the hut Jean helped the ranger evaluate the woman’s condition and decided on a helicopter evacuation since it would otherwise be a couple days before she could hike out on her own. Meanwhile I went up with another woman in their party to retrieve some packs they had left to be able to help her down the mountain. So I got my hiking in for the day even though we ended up in the same hut as the night before. I also hiked to a nearby waterfall that was raging with all the recent rain.
The next day we had to hike out the way we came in so we missed the second half of the track and Luxmore hut. However we loved what we did see of the Kepler and I am thinking of running the Kepler Challenge if I can get an entry.
We then had a rest day in Te Anau which we were both glad for.
Next up was an overnight kayak in to Doubtful Sound. Here we got absolutely blessed with conditions. Skies cleared as we made the schlep over to the start of the kayak which involves a shuttle from Te Anau, a boat ride across Lake Manapouri and then a bus ride on a road over a pass to Doubtful Sound, a road that connects to nowhere else. We saw dolphins, waterfalls, birds.
We didn’t encounter much wind except for on the last day when we used it to sail part of the way back to our cove. We had a great guide, Josh. The only downside was the masses of sandflies at our camp. They are vicious little buggers.
Well engineered bridges
Near where they filmed the Dead Marshes scenes of Lord of the Rings.