The Plan

Well as everyone knows the One Ring gets destroyed, the Three and the Nine are accounted for, but of the Seven given to the Dwarf Lords, four were consumed by dragons. What has me thinking is what of the three remaining Dwarven rings? Lost? It is hard to lose a ring of power, or to destroy one. Gandalf who is wise in such lore believes that Sauron had recovered them, and indeed the dark embassaries offered them to Dain. But lies come naturally to the Dark One and if he really had them why were they never used in the war? Anyway, I go in search of what became of them as the search will undoubtably take me to dark and lonely places full of danger and adventure!

Leaving Singapore late at night to avoid the spies of the dark one, I chose the high route over the pass of Caracas. But the will of Sauraman still lay on the area and a fell voice was on the air. It was not to be and our party was forced to turn back. Of course so as not to alarm the passengers the pilot made up some story about the landing gear not retracting back into the plane so we had to return. But first we had to fly in circles out over the ocean dumping fuel so we wouldn't crash. All this may be true, but I noticed as we sped down the runway after landing that we passed a bunch of fire trucks lined up along the side with their lights flashing!
Back in the airport waiting to hear the airlines plan I resumed chatting with a girl named Lital from Isreal. She is also headed to Christchurch for a two month trip around New Zealand before continuing on to Melbourne. We were both thinking a car would be better than taking buses everywhere so decided to look into buying a used car in Christchurch.
Eventually the airline loaded us onto another plane, BTW: the 777 are really nice with your own little movie screen you can program seperately for any of a number of movies and tv shows the airline offers on demand. The flight was uneventful if long and I finally arrived around 2 in the afternoon.

I stayed at a backpackers called Charlie B's a few blocks off cathederal square for the next 3 nights. Spent the time walking around the city which has a nice river running through it to the botanical gardens. The museum has a large exhibit on antartica as well as New Zealand. Most of the day was spent looking for a car to buy, although we did go iceskating one day of all things. Heard a really good band called "Celtic Roof" at a pub called the "Bard" the second night. Also found an outdoor shop with a sale going on and bought a sleeping bag and other unnessessary junk that you buy at outdoor shops :)
After some hassels we finally bought a blue Nissan Bluebird stationwagon, and after a stop at the supermarket headed out hwy 75 for Akoroa and Banks Peninsula. Driving into the Banks area there was a surreal wall of fog coming down a hillside into the valley. We got to Akoroa to late for the Banks walk so found bunks in the Bon Accord backpackers. Had a long talk with an american looking to buy land in NZ. The trek was full the next day so we took a day hike called 'round the mountain' which gave great views of the bay which Akoroa sits along. The whole area is the crater of an old volcano which erupted about 10 million years ago. One side of which the sea has eroded and used to fill the inside. The next day we got a bus in the evening to a great hut overlooking the bay in time for sunset. The hike the next morning was a stiff climb up to 700m as we walked up the inside of the old crater. The top should have a great view, but this day was covered in clouds with a cold wind discouraging lingering. The rest of the morning was a walk down through forest along streams and waterfalls. Stopped for a bit at the hut the people doing the four day walk use, before we continued along the coastal cliffs with Philip from germany who had started out the day before. Saw some of the fur seals in a sea cave along the coast as we left Flea Bay. Early afternoon we reached Stoney Bay which was our stop for the night. Approx. 19 km. The Stoney Bay huts were unique wooden structures, with a shower up in a tree and a tub outside you built a fire under to heat. The second day of the hike wasn't as long (16km), starting again along the coast and then turning up through a nature preserve they are using to re-establish the native forest. Several hours spent climbing back up the crater and back over at the Purple Peak pass. Back down to Akoroa followed the path we had hiked two days ago. Back at the Bon Accord for a last night before leaving the Banks area.
On the 27th, we left for Arthurs Pass and checked into the Mountain House BBH. After stowing our gear in a cottage overlooking the valley we drove another 5km up to the Otira valley track for a 2 hour walk. Back down in town we spent another hour walking up to the Devils Punchbowl waterfall before heading back to the cottage to cook dinner. Spent the evening in front of the fire discussing different treks with a Kiwi who had spent the last two weeks hiking down from Nelson.
Next morning left for Greymouth, where I dropped my bags at the Global Village backpackers. Lital found another HIT house like in Christchurch where a local lets Isreali's stay for free. Apparently such homes are scattered around NZ. That afternoon we drove up coast to Westpoint and back with stops to see the "Pancake rocks" and blowhole at Potapori and to do part of the Cape Illwind trail. Next day went caving, got some local culture about the underworld and went through some rituals to protect our souls below ground. Spent several hours scrambling through the cave, wadding the streams, and inner tubing underground. Saw the New Zealand glow worms and generally had a good time. Met a couple from Colorado. On the 30th left for the Franz Joseph glacier and got rooms in the Glow Worm Cottages. Nice place with a hot tub! Following day we went on a all day glacier hike as it poured down rain all day for the first time in weeks. The glacier of course was cool as we wandered through huge fissures in the ice and caves made by the water running off. On the downside, the constant rain and clouds limited the pictures we could take. In fact the most dramatic parts were too precarious to be digging cameras out at all. Not the type of hike you could safely run in a lawsuit prone U.S. With the wind and rain it was also quite cold and to further challenge my desire to see the whole day through, the left boot the company provided for use with crampons had a nail in the bottom work loose and poked up inside my instep. So it felt like having a sharp rock in the boot the entire walk. Next morning got up at 4:30 to drive to Lake Matheson to see the sunrise on the Fox glacier. Unfortunately the clouds made the sun a no-show :( Took a side trip up to the Fox glacier anyway before continueing the drive to Wanaka. A great little town on the edge of the lake Wanaka up in the mountains. Spent the night at Wanaka Bakpaka, while Lital found another HIT house. Listen to a couple of musicains at the local Irish pub until midnight. Today drove up into the mountains to hike along a valley to Aspiring Hut with a Isreali guy from Miami. Plan to do the Rob Roy hike tomorrow to see another glacier and maybe the Puzzle House, but more on that latter.

At this point a couple of notes:
New Zealand is a beautiful place reminding me of the better parts of the pacific northwest.
Driving on the left wasn't a real issue and within the first day I no longer even thought about it. Being a passenger on the wrong side while Lital drives happened once and doesn't bear repeating :)
New Zealand has these great little pies full of meat and cheese.
They also don't believe in building bridges for both lanes of traffic, so most are one lane only which may also have railroad tracks on it as well.

This is John signing out...4/02/03

The trip up to Aspiring Hut wasn't much, a long walk up a valley. The view was nice, but didn't change much. The next day I did the Rob Roy which was much better. Starting up through the jungle and then climbing above the tree line for views of the glacier and surrounding mountains. From Wanaka we drove past Queenstown and Glenarkey to the Kinlock lodge where we spent the night before being dropped at the start of the Routeburn Track. First day was a easy hike of less than 3 hrs, through forest and across rivers on swinging cable bridges. The rain of yesterday has stopped leaving a cloud cover in the morning. It did rain in the afternoon, but not before we had made it to the lodge at Routeburn falls and settled in for the day. Cooked up some noodles in the kitchen and then played cards. A girl from Seattle named Erica taught me Casino. Then we roped 3 others into a game of Wizard. My sleeping bag is too thin for the high mountains and I was quite cold at night the whole trek. Next day we left early and climbed up over the saddle. Lital continued on toward Mckinsey as I climbed Conical hill for some great views from the summit. The route to Mckinsey runs along the ridge line above the trees so great views that morning, luckily the whole day was sunny and clear. After catching up with Lital at Mckinsey we continued on to Howden past tons of waterfalls where we burned lots of film. Howden was by a lake and cold again, so I stayed up in the downstairs room quite late stoking the coal burning fire. Next two days where easy hikes out along the greenstone valley. Saw a little mini helicopter fly into the Mid-Greenstone hut to deliever some antibiotics for a horse that had tangled with a fence. The last hut was quite crowded as a bunch of school kids (12 and 3 teachers) only got that far by nightfall and had to stop well short of the hut they were expected at. A final night at Kinlock lodge and then off to Queenstown. First thing in the morning I took a bus up from Glenarkey to Chinaman's bluff along the Dart river and then after a short hike got on some jet boats for a run up the river and back to Glenarkey. The driver pointed out Middle Earth spots along the way like Isengard and Fanghorn forest. Queenstown is more touristy and not as nice as Wanaka IMHO. Did get a bunch of pictures of Lital taking her first bungi jump at Nevis, the highest bungi in NZ at 134m. After two nights at the butterfli lodge, went back up to Wanaka for a day to pick up Erica who was finishing the Dart to Aspiring Hut trek. Next day it was down to Te Anu. Erica and I hiked the Kepler track in two days instead of the usual 3 or 4, while Lital went kayaking at Milford Sound. The views along the Kepler were great, but not as nice overall as the Routeburn. About 55km total in two days, but legs were suprisingly happy. Wednesday drove out for a cruise of Milford sound with lots of rain which made for great waterfalls, but too many clouds covering the mountains. Thursday drove down to bluff to drop Erica off for the ferry to Steward Island and headed up through the Catlins. Staying in Surat Bay tonight, but Easter has everything booked up for the weekend so we will have to see. 4/17/03

Next day went walking along the beaches and saw a bunch of sea lions hanging around. Lital and Yair had trouble with the car overheating the night before, but we found a hose coming off the back of the engine that seemed to have slipped a little. So after a lot of trouble with the hose clamp we got the hose resecured and more water in the radiator which seems to have fixed the problem. Luckily for us since all the mechanics are closed for the holidays. After the sea lions it was off to a waterfall and then up to Milton where we stayed the next two nights since Dunedin was full for Easter. A trip to the hospital to have Lital's foot checked out which was a waste of time as the doctor didn't seem to know anything. On Saturday went driving out on the Otaga penisula to the Albatross colony. Milton isn't much of a town, but the hostel was great.
Next stop was up the coast to Timeru and then into Mt. Cook for a walk up Hookers track. Spent the night at lake Tikapu and after a walk in the morning around part of the lake it was back up to Christchurch. Lital has been running out of money and wants to look into getting a work visa to pick fruit up around Nelson. She may be getting tired of New Zealand because she eventually decided not to work and to try and move her flight to Australia up. So leaving her in Christchurch I headed up the coast to Kaikura to go whale watching. Nice hostel with a hottub, but the weather kept all the boats in the next day so no whale trip :(
Instead I drove down near Hammer Springs and up through the center of the country ending up at the Abel Tasman park. Went to make reservations that night for the great walk the next day and found that hut 2 of the normal 4 day 3 night trek was booked full. Since I only wanted to spend two days I went ahead and reserved space in the third hut. Next morning took a water taxi (i.e. boat) out to the far end of the track with stops to see the fur seals along the way. Then had a long walk until almost dark to make it to my hut leaving only a short walk out the next morning. Crossed some inlets which you had to time for low tide or they were impassable. Basically more cool senery which is impossible to describe here. After the Abel Tasman took a couple of german girls who were hitching with me to Picton where I hung out for 3 nights. Took a boat out along the Queen Charlotte Sound and did some of the track there, also walked out along the Snout track along the other side. Otherwise caught up on laundry and chatted in the hottub. Met Lital of all people, she had hitched up from Queenstown and went to do the three day hike along the sound. Finally this morning took the ferry across to the north island. A minor problem when the boat engines quit, but all was soon fixed and other than a huge pod of dolphin swimming through the passage was uneventful. Wellington is a big city by New Zealand standards and after finding a room and paying almost half again as much for parking I went walking around the town, riding the cable car, and visiting their famous museaum. Finally found one of the Dwarven rings at a LOTR exhibit, along with most of the other rings from the movie. Went out to the movies and saw X-men2 tonight.
One of the things no-one back home will beleive is how much cooking I do here. The standard arrangement at all the hostel is a fully equipped kitchen where everyone brings their groceries and cooks dinner crowded around whatever stoves are available. I usually go for steak or chicken with brocolli and corn, and have cooked more in the last month than I did in Boise in a year. :)

Signing out...4/30/03

North Island went by quickly, from Wellington I drove up to the south end of Lake Taupo and spent the next couple of nights at a hostel in Tengaru with a rock climbing gym attached. Hung out playing cards the first night with Shawn from Vancouver, a swedish guy and a dork from England. The dork was into telling tall tales of how rich is father is and such. Next morning he was gone having stollen my Sipidan t-shirt and Shawn's sweater. So much for trusting your dorm mates. The weather was too bad to do the Tongerrara crossing so Shawn and I drove up to Roturuea for the day and back. Rained all day long, so spent the evening playing more cards and chess. I slept in the next morning expecting the weather to stay bad, but finally got up to a sunny day so I drove to the end of the crossing and hiked it backward. Meet Shawn along the way and gave him my keys so he could drive the car around to the start and pick me up. Great walk! Takes about 5 hours if you walk at speed. That evening went to the local hotsprings for a thermal soak. Then up to Taupo. Spent the evening down at the Irish bar. Next morning went out to the local airport to look into skydiving, but decided against it on a cost basis.
Then on to Waitiamo and an adventure caving trip in the afternoon, nice enough cave with lots of glow worms, the rappelling was not extreme enought. Following day was driving up past Aukland to Whatatngi (sp?) to try and dive the poor Knight islands. Got picked up the next morning and driven about an hour up the coast and after getting gear we left on a 57 foot boat for the islands. Unfortunetely after about 40 minutes of fighting the waves the skipper decided the seas were too rough and turned the boat back for port. So not much activity that day. Meet a family from Seattle that were taking a year to bike around Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. They were trying to change plans for Taiwan to Fiji because of SARS. Next day looped along the west coast to see the big Kauri trees on the way to the bay of islands. The trees are big, but the sequoias in california are more impressive. Did get a couple dives in the bay of islands along with a boat trip through the islands. Nice area. Meet Anja, a german girl we meet down by Taupo again. After the dives, Shawn took a bus back to Aukland to catch his flight out, I talked to a realitor about property in the area and then drove down to Waipu for a last night before heading to Aukland myself. The Ebb and Flow in Waipu is a really nice hostel with Kayaks and bikes to use. Here in Aukland I am staying at the Bamber house a larger and less personable place. This morning took the car to the sunday car fair and sold it to a local father/son for a little more than the dealer would have given me, so made a little extra, but now no wheels for the next three days until I fly out. Will probably stay at Bamber House so I don't have to try and move my food and everything. Figure this is the last New Zealand update unless something unexpected happens. Probably spend the next few days walking around downtown and sleeping in and reading books. Wednesday it is on to Melbourne Australia.

End of transmittion. John 5/11/03....