Is this Hobbiton or Nerdvana?

Bag End

For as little as I wanted to go to the stinky spa yesterday, Jane wanted to go to Hobbiton today even less. She’s not a big Lord of the Rings Fan. But our guide told us that nearly 30% of the people who visit Hobbiton have never seen even one of movies nor have they ready any of the books. Having seen all of the movies more than once and read the books, I was at the top of my class for our tour group of around 30 people. I think there were two of us that admitted to loving Middle Earth that much. Do you recognize where I am standing in the picture above? If you said Bag End, you are correct! The home of Bilbo and Frodo. I swear that even though I was with a very unruly tour group I could almost convince myself I was “really” there at times. Oh, yes my vivid imagination. Only slight eye roll from Jane.

We got there early thinking we might be able to get in on an earlier tour, but as we listened to the people who had not pre-booked their tour in front of us learn that the next available slot was 5:00 this afternoon or tomorrow we realized that we were going to have an opportunity to enjoy our crackers and cheese that we had been bringing with us for the last couple of days. Crackers, cheese, meat and Ginger Beer, make a pretty good picnic. I went into the gift shop to kill a little time and other than a bottle of Middle Earth wine, I was pretty much ready to leave immediately. I was struck by the fact that they were selling “The One Ring” in multiple sizes! (what!?) for only $190.00. To be honest I knew this was coming because our tour guide, Robo, on the great ocean road told me he bought one.

Hobbiton is largely preserved as it was after it was rebuilt for the Hobbit trilogy. Its amazing to me that for Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit there was less than 4 months of filming here. Our tour guide told us several stories about how much Peter Jackson was obsessed with staying true to the book and keeping things logical. For example we passed by some apple trees in a small grove, in the books this grove was described as plum trees. So, Jackson made someone take all the apples and leaves off the tree and put on fake leaves and fake plums for a shot that got less than 5 seconds of screen time. You can only imagine the outcry of true fans who would remember that they were supposed to be plum trees but saw apples on the trees in that little segment instead!

Another example; in the picture of me at Bag End, the tree above me is actually fake! It was a beautiful old oak tree in the Lord of the Rings, but since the Hobbit was supposed to be 65 years earlier than LotR Jackson made the crew chop it down and replace it with a fake younger tree! Even worse, the company in charge of making the fake leaves did a bad job on the leaves and they had faded by the time filming was supposed to start. So, Jackson ordered someone to repaint all 200,000 leaves on the fake tree!

We also learned a bit about film tricks for making people look bigger and smaller. Some of the hobbit holes were made quite small so that when an adult human stood beside the door they looked very large. Others were built at full size so that the door would look fine when a hobbit was standing next to it. In other cases parts of the set were created special to create a perspective effect. For example the wagon that Gandalf and Frodo are riding in the wagon together the wagon was constructed to be 3 meters long. Gandalf rode in the front so that he looked very big while Frodo sat in the very back so that when filmed he looked very small, and like he was sitting next to Gandalf.

Green Dragon

At the end of the tour we stopped at the Green Dragon for Ale! I don’t think this was where the scenes were filmed as every other structure here was created for filming from the outside in, or with just enough room for the camera crew to film from the inside out. All indoor scenes were filmed in the studio, but this is part of the process of making Hobbiton more interesting for visitors. We had a couple of choices of Ale, a cider, or a Ginger Beer. This was also a great place to get some pictures of the Green Dragon along with the Mill and the pond.

The tour really makes you appreciate camera angles! On the bus back to the gift shop we saw some video clips from the movie and its amazing how large everything looks compared to how it seems in person. I can’t wait to get home and watch the extended edition disks that Josh bought me for Christmas. Maybe with a few days off we will find time to watch them together.

Today was also our last day in New Zealand and marks the beginning of the journey home. Tomorrow morning we fly to Fiji! The Novotel airport is just 25 yards from the entrance to the international terminal, so one good thing is that we don’t even need a cab to get to the airport in plenty of time for our flight! I’m looking forward to a couple days of R&R on the water!

A Day at the Spa... or 45 minutes of Smelling Bad Gas

Hot Springs

I woke up several times during the night, and each time I did I could hear the rain battering the metal roof of our condo. Around 5:30 Jane woke up enough to say, “I don’t want to go mountain biking on muddy trails.” Then she rolled over and went back to sleep. I figured she was probably right, even if the sun did come out this morning riding 20 miles on mud would not be a good first go at Mountain Biking. Especially knowing that at the end of the ride we had to get in the car and drive to Rotorua. After 3 plus weeks on the road we have lost our will to stop at any more charming roadside waterfalls, so todays trip was just a drive through the countryside.

So, we lazed around the condo and made a leisurely drive up the east side of Lake Taupo. We walked around the shopping area and had an early lunch at the Master of India restaurant in Taupo. It was quite good, I had the Vindaloo and Jane had Korma, we split an order of Naan and Basmati and some Ginger Beer. I’m going to have to talk to someone at Fareway about stocking Ginger Beer! After lunch we made our way North for another hour to Rotorua. We had nothing special planned here as this was mostly meant as a stopover night (in close proximity to Hobbiton) on the way to Auckland. However the Novotel here by the lake is quite nice, it is right next to Eat Street and we have a view of the lake.

Jane has been wanting to stop at a volcanic hot spring spa for a few days now, and I have been resisting. But the brochure for the Polynesian Spa looked pretty nice and they had either a private option or an adult only group of pools. So, I gave in. I’m 75% done with Jack Reacher #13 so I could easily have stayed in the room and finished that book. But that seemed silly. We decided to go for the adult option because that gave us a choice of 8 different pools and there was no time limit. We would have to wait for the private pool and then we were limited to 30 minutes. Anyway, communal bathing is certainly illustrative of many interesting cultural differences. The pools are constantly fed by natural hot spring water from right under the pools. There are two types of hot springs here: One that is good for your joints, and one that tarnishes the gold of your class ring. – Yes there are warning signs, and I took note and left my ring in my backpack. Jane now has a black 6 in her Luther ring. Hopefully it can be restored.

My only addition would be to say that the Sulfur and other assorted gasses were rather pungent. You may have guessed that already. As a reward for being-a-good-guy-and-going-to-the-spa-with-my-wife, the hotel left a complimentary bottle of Volcanic Hills Chardonnay by our bed. Its now two minutes past happy hour so I will post this, and see what we think. Its from the Hawkes Bay region and so far those have all been good. New Zealand is really good with their Chardonnays and their Pinot Noirs. No wonder I like this country.

Later we have a booking for dinner at a nice Italian place right on Eat Street called Leonardo’s Pure Italian.

Hot Springs

No Mount Doom for You

The goal for today had been to bike the Timber Trail. But since the forecast was for lots of rain we arranged to postpone that until Friday. My next hope was that we would be able to see Mount Doom . But we didn’t get to see that version (thankfully!), I’ll just have to watch the Lord of the Rings again to see that one. We also didn’t get to see this version . It seems that the weather on the North island has been a bit unsettled. Instead we saw this . Mount Doom (Mt. Ngauruhoe) might be back there somewhere behind all the clouds.

Instead of hiking the Tongariro Alpine trail for seven hours we took the “easy way out” an hiked the 2 hour trail to Taranaki Falls. When we started out it was mostly just cloudy and misty. But just after the falls it got bad, really bad. The rain was coming sideways and even my mantra about good gear was not enough to overcome the chilling discomfort seeping through my pants and filling my shoes. The falls were nice but we have seen lots of falls like these in New Zealand.

More than anything this walk was to get us out of the hotel and doing something for a portion of our day. We can’t just hang out in our room all day. Although we have a really nice 2-bedroom apartment that we could enjoy. We had hoped that the forecast was wrong that that once we got to the visitor center there would be plenty of trails to hike and enjoy.

Thankfully, we have a washer and a dryer, so after today we will have enough clean clothes to make it all the way back home without washing again! Our shoes are going to require a bit of work to get dry. We learned a good trick on the Routeburn: stuff your shoes with newspaper to help them dry overnight. Our room is pretty short on newspaper though so we’ll see what happens. The dryer is pretty hot so I’m not very enthusiastic about putting them in the dryer and letting them tumble around.


As I write this, I think we might have gotten our day backwards! I’m looking out the window and at 2:00 in the afternoon the rain has stopped and we are seeing some blue sky. This is not out of line with the forecast this morning which showed a higher chance of blue sky and rain for this afternoon! There is a winery a few miles away… Pinot Noir Rose and wood fired pizzas!

Kayak Sailing


When Jane told me that if the weather was right we might be able to sail our kayaks I was perplexed. “How do you add a mast to a Kayak?” I thought to myself. So I had mostly put it out of my mind as an option until we were an hour into the first of two two-hour paddles today. But then “Captain Jack” told us to make a raft and he started talking about how we would sail the kayaks. The sail consisted of a big black square of fabric with big loops at each corner. We had four Kayaks so the women (Jane and Dani) sitting in the front of the two outside kayaks were instructed to put the loops around their wrists and hold on. The

men in the two outside back Kayaks (Brad and Michael) were instructed to put the loops around one end of their paddles. When we put the paddles in our laps and hoisted the sail we were off! Sadly Kayaking and photography do not go together very well so this is the best picture we have of our sailing adventure.


Kayaking made us both feel pretty old. about 5 minutes into the second 2 hour leg my arms started to cramp up. I’ve been having a little tennis elbow in my left arm lately and that really started to hurt for a bit, luckily after the initial flare up it worked its way out and I was able to paddle. After 30 minutes both of Jane’s hands started to cramp, fingers pointing in all kinds of unnatural directions that needed to be moved back in place manually. She wasn’t able to paddle for more than a few seconds at a time from then on except for a few key places where we really needed both of us to paddle hard. Incoming waves, outgoing tide, and a river flowing out make for some FUN kayaking conditions along the coast. I really wish we could have captured them on camera, but those moments will have to live on in our memories only!

By the time we finished our afternoon of Kayaking we were both done! Our final day gave us the option of hiking or kayaking and it didn’t take any deliberation for us to realize that we had reached our limit. six more hours of Kayaking was definitely not in our future. Looking back, we made the right decision, and we enjoyed our final day of hiking very much.

Sailing Lesson

Driving the West Coast

After two weeks of organized tours and bus rides we struck out on our own today in a rental car. New Zealand drives on the left and there are many helpful arrows painted on the road to remind the foreign drivers of that fact. As always, Jane took the drivers seat and I rode shotgun in on the passenger side. We left Queenstown after a nice breakfast at the hotel and headed toward the west coast. Our destination for the first night was Franz Josef. A small little town near the Franz Josef glacier.

A couple of observations about driving in New Zealand

  • One lane bridges are everywhere! We counted twenty seven one lane bridges on our 280km journey the first day. I think this is part of the great environmental movement in New Zealand that they think really carefully before messing with anything in nature. Sure it slows you down a bit and occasionally you need to wait for a couple of cars to cross before you can take your turn but maybe a reminder to slow down is a good thing.

  • They have these nice bullseye signs that say 100 its not a target, drive according to conditions. its pretty hard to drive 100km/hr anyway as the roads are very twisty. I would guess we averaged closer to 60km/hr.

  • Cell phone coverage outside the cities is pretty much non-existent. I’m pretty sure this is again related to the environmental focus of the country. Don’t mess up the countryside by installing thousands of cell towers. This also impacts things like Google maps where the travel time estimates are wildly wrong. If they don’t get any feedback on the actual speed people drive the only thing they can rely on is the posted speed limits, which are way higher than almost anyone drives!

We stopped in the grocery store on the way out of Queenstown to pick up some meat and cheese, bread, and Ginger Beer, so we could do a simple lunch somewhere along the way. Once we reached the west coast, we drove in rain most of the day, and nothing we could see in a two minute walk from the side of the road could compare to what we saw on the Routeburn Track. Our lodging that night was at a small boutique B&B (The Westwood Lodge). It was super nice, just like the host who gave us a nice recommendation to go to Alice May for dinner. We did and we had a nice meal: Fish and Chips for Jane and I had a stuffed chicken breast with Brie cheese.

The next morning dawned sunny and clear, so we felt really great about our decision to postpone our visit to the glacier until the morning. On the way to the glacier it started to sprinkle a bit again, but by the time we had hiked closer to the glacier we were rewarded with nice sunny weather again! We were also lucky that we didn’t try to go the day before because one of the wooden bridges across one of the many creeks had been washed out in a downpour the previous day. Bridge Out we picked our way across the stone in the now-very-tame creek and continued to the glacier.

Franz Josef

On the way back we noticed a couple of construction workers with their massive power tools standing around watching each other prepare to work. We assumed that they were going to excavate and rebuild the bridge. A project likely to take weeks at their pace. Yes, construction seems to move at the same speed everywhere in the world. But as we walked further we met up with a dozen cheerful red-shirted volunteers carrying shovels and pickaxes. They were headed to fix the bridge too. I recon they took care of it by lunch time.

After our glacier hike we continued our way north. We didn’t have far to go and todays destination was a small B&B called Breakers, just north of Greymouth. We were met by the owner, Jan, who was a very delightful person to chat with. She was amazed at how light we were traveling and suggested we may want to give lessons to some of her previous guests. We arrived in mid-afternoon, with nothing else on the agenda except for lounging around and enjoying the view of the Tasman sea. Huge wave after wave coming in from the west was mesmerizing. We didn’t even leave the B&B for dinner that night as Jan made us a nice homemade pizza to enjoy in the comfort of our room or on the nice back porch.

Tasman View

Our final day of driving was the longest, but we made some fun stops along the way to break up the driving. The first was at Pancake Rock. Once again great views of the Tasman Sea, Blowholes in the rocks and just really interesting rock formations to gawk at.

Pancake Rock

The second stop was a tourist trap, but we stopped willingly to wander across the southern hemisphere’s longest swinging bridge. Spanning the Buller Gorge it was a nice view, but not nearly so much fun to have to pass someone on the bridge.

Swinging Bridge

Once we got closer to Nelson and realized we had plenty of time to spare before the rental car drop-off closed we decided to head into wine country and visit a couple of wineries in the hills Northwest of Nelson. We made a stop at Kaharunga and Neudorf wineries. This region is known for some pretty nice Chardonnays and rightly so. We need to figure out how to get some Neudorf delivered to the US.


Milford Sound

As we walked back from Ultimate Hikes to the Lovely St. Moritz hotel we stopped at the Real Journeys office to check on our reservation for Milford Sound. We had sort of concluded that if the helicopter return was not going to go, and we could back out at this late time, we would cancel and just enjoy a day of leisure in Queenstown. The Helicopter was not confirmed, we were the only two booked, and they need at least four people booked to fly. But we couldn’t cancel either. – Real Journeys take note, this is a terrible and unfair policy! To charge someone full fare to cancel a flight that is not even confirmed is ridiculous. With the NSF grant deadline about 36 hours away I was ready to cancel anyway and stay in the room to finish up my work on the grant.

The morning came and it was sunny and nice in Queenstown, so I did a bit of grant work and decided I would take my iPad on the bus. After all, I had already seen the first four hours of the trip on our journey to the Routeburn Track! The first bit of luck for the day was that the bus had WiFi! At least until just after Te Anau. So, I had about three hours of time to work on the grant and upload things to the NSF website. By the time we got to Te Anau I was feeling really good and I had all of the stuff for Luther uploaded.

The next bit of good news was that our driver seemed pretty confident that even though the clouds were really low and the fixed wing planes were on hold, the helicopters would still fly. But we still would not know whether we had another four hour bus ride at the end of the boat tour of the sound or whether we would have a nice 45 minute helicopter tour back to Queenstown at the end of the boat ride. We would just have to wait to know for sure. But again, Barry the bus driver was optimistic.

The two hour boat tour of Milford Sound was really great. The boat moved along slowly just a few meters from the sheer mountainside. The walls of the mountain come straight out of the water and soar 5-6 thousand meters over us. You really can’t grasp the scale of it unless you see another boat or some people to give you an idea.

Milford Scale

When we made it to the Tasman sea at the end of the sound and looked back we marveled that anyone would ever think to try to bring a ship there! You can’t tell from the oceanside that there is this narrow sound leading back to a nice little spot to land and build a small town. Nevertheless Captain Thomas Cook did follow the sound back and mapped out the area.

The highlight of the boat trip was definitely the final waterfall. The captain took our boat right up to the base of the fall, and we looked straight up at water falling some 52 stories! The height of the IDS tower in Minneapolis, nothing but water falling straight down at you. It is really beautiful.

Milford Scale

When we arrived back at Milford the captain announced that we had made it just in time as the weather was about to “turn to custard.” Whatever that meant we were not sure but we were pretty sure that helicopters are not meant to fly in custard. So we walked back to bus 17 steeling ourselves for another four hours on the coach. Fortunately when we arrived at the bus we were met with a big thumbs up from Barry! At least one other couple had upgraded to confirm our helicopter tour back to Queenstown! Now we just had to get out of Milford before the custard formed.

We rode the shuttle to the airport with another couple from our bus and hopped off just in time to see one helicopter take off and another, the color we were looking for, come in for a landing. However… as the pilot got out of our copter and started toward us, a bus pulled up and dropped off another couple. the pilot looked at all of our tickets and got a very perplexed look on his face. the two people he had brought in were booked to go right back, and now there were a total of eight of us for a six passenger ride. After some time, and a lot of anxious looking at the clouds turning to custard it was finally determined that the previous pilot had left prematurely. He would turn around and come back for the final couple to arrive. The rest of us would be on our way. After a very short safety briefing we boarded and took off.

Jane was on one side of the helicopter and I was on the other. She was on the side closest to the mountain. As I kept looking at her side I kept thinking how glad I was on my side. Her side seemed to be just feet from the side of the sheer mountain! One gust of wind and we are goners I thought. But, no worries, these Kiwi Alpine pilots know their stuff. The ride turned out to be (mostly) smooth and really really beautiful. what a treat to fly over some of the mountains we had hiked through in the beautiful sunlight.

Alpine Lake

Our adventures were not over because the flight home included a short stop on a glacier! Well, more of a big snowbank than a glacier, and really I didn’t think there was any way we could land in the spot we landed. It didn’t look level and the pilot landed just feet from the edge. Did I mention these Alpine pilots are really really good? so we got out and tramped about in the snow for a few minutes, Jane in nothing but sandals! Pictures were taken and we were all in awe of the beauty. But very soon we piled back in the helicopter and took off for the last bit of our journey to Queenstown. We were back by 5:10, a full three hours before the coach was supposed to be back, plus we had an amazing helicopter adventure!

Heli Glacier

Three Days on the Routeburn Track

Day Zero

New Zealand Falls

We arrived in Queenstown just in time to appreciate the change in temperature. We left the 90 degree weather in Melbourne and arrived to 70 degree weather in Queenstown. It was a very welcome change in both temperature and scenery. It takes about 30 seconds to realize why Peter Jackson decided to film Lord of the Rings here! The steep Mountains and misty low clouds around Lake Wakatipu make you want to break out into some dwarf songs.

We had just enough time to check into the St. Moritz before a short walk down the hill to the Ultimate Hikes center for our pre-hike briefing. Now is a good time to note that Jane and I have. noticed that we are no longer the young couple on the tours we have chosen. Most of the people we have met and toured with so far on this trip have been 20 years younger than us. Life Happens! As we contemplated 3 days of hiking with 30 year olds we were getting a bit nervous. So, we were pretty relieved to see that the vast majority of the 27 people at our briefing were in our age bracket.

There is no bad weather, only bad gear!

If I didn’t take anything else away from the briefing it was this quote. And we were really glad that we had done our homework and invested in some good rain gear and merino wool.

Day One

The first day of the trek kicked by meeting our guides – Jono, Anthony, Sadao, and Jo – then a bus ride leaving Queenstown at 6:30AM. We had a two hour bus ride until our stop morning tea in Te Anau. Every tour in Australia and New Zealand includes a stop for morning tea and scones. Very civilized. We had a couple more hours on the bus after morning tea before we got to the start of the trek in the Fiordland National Park. This first day we had around four hours of trekking (7.5 miles) to get to our first night’s lodging at Lake Mackenzie. The first hour and a half was all up hill pretty steadily, so even though we were geared up for the 50 degree weather and rain we began shedding layers only a few minutes into the hike. With four guides, one was at the front, one at the back and two floated between people in the middle. It didn’t take long for us to stretch out with the back being about an hour behind the front. We were somewhere near the middle.

We carried our lunches in with us, and we carried the rubbish out. The National Parks in New Zealand have no rubbish bins to prevent animals from learning to scavenge food. It works well. I don’t think we saw one bit of litter anywhere along the track. We hiked uphill to Howden Hut where we had our lunch stop along with hot tea and coffee made by our guides. We walked out of the rain shortly after lunch and enjoyed a really scenic hike through the afternoon. The highlight of the afternoon was definitely the Earland Falls. Anthony said, make sure you have your inhalers, it will take your breath away. And he was right. As with many of the sites on our trip pictures don’t do justice to the actual scene.

Earland Falls

We arrived MacKenzie hut around 4:00 and we were definitely ready to stop for the day. We were met at the entrance by Chris who had hot chocolate (called Milo here down under) and snacks for us. He gave us a quick tour of the lodge and showed us to our room. We were blown away by the accomodations. Ultimate Hikes made some kind deal with the Department of Conservation (DOC) whereby they built new facilities for the park in exchange for getting the concession for guided hikes and the ability to build their own huts on the track. They were so clean and nice. We had our own room with ensuite and shower. There was a clothes washing area, and a huge warm room called the drying room. Then a really nice common area where we could hang out, have a drink, eat our meals and get to know the rest of our group.

For dinner tonight we had entrees of Hummus or Salmon spread with cheese and meat. For our main we had our choice between a New Zealand Rib Eye and Chicken. For desert we had brownies and ice cream. Yes we were “roughing it” all right. It took us a few meals to understand that in Australia and New Zealand they call appetizers “entrees” and the entree is called the “main.”


Unfortunately the first night we also got to watch a helicopter landing. One of our group had fallen on the track and broken her wrist and hurt her leg pretty badly. So, she and her husband were evacuated by helicopter. The rescue team landed on a tiny little pad right next to the hut. Clearly these guys know what they are doing to drop out of the clouds and land right on target.

At 10:00 the generators are shut off until 7:30 the next morning. But that really wasn’t a problem as we were all in bed by 9:30 that first night! I was talking to one of the guides about their arrangement with the DOC and he said that the generator times, along with every detail down to the dishwashing soap and toilet paper was negotiated to have minimal environmental impact on the National Park. Everything at the hut is flown in and out by helicopter once a week.

Day Two

Mackenzie Lake

Day two began with sandwich making at 7:45. Amazingly we slept solid until 7:00 when I needed to get up and use the ensuite. A few experimental steps revealed that all the limbs were still working as they should with amazingly little stiffness. Continental breakfast was at 8:15 followed by eggs Benedict at 8:30. At 9:15 we met for a group photo by Lake Mackenzie and then we were off for a good six hours of walking. The beginning was again steadily up hill, then we rounded the mountain onto the rainy and windy side! The distance for today was just 6.9 miles but it was slower going than yesterday! There is no bad weather, only bad gear I repeated to myself. Nevertheless we made it to the hut on Harris Saddle for our rest/lunch stop. After lunch I did the optional climb up Conical Hill while Jane continued on towards the Routeburn Lodge with a few others. After the Harris Saddle and the Conical Hill the rest of the day was down hill which was nice but pretty hard on my calfs.

Conical Hill

A couple times today we were rewarded with a glimpse of what a great view we could have on one of the rare clear days. Still it was all beautiful in a Lord of the Rings kind of way. Although I walked by myself most of the afternoon, I enjoyed just going my own pace and enjoying the views.

The second night we stayed at Routeburn lodge. By the way if you’ve been reading Routeburn as “rowt burn” you are doing it wrong, it is “root burn.” This lodge is very similar to the Lake Mackenzie lodge but with a great view of the valley and the Routeburn falls right behind. We were all bit more tired and a lot more wet than we were the day before. So dinner was served a bit earlier. Tonights fare included a delicious Pesto soup as the entree followed by a choice of Salmon or New Zealand lamb chops. By now we had gotten to know a lot of our fellow trekkers pretty well, so before dinner and during dinner conversation was very lively. We have met a surprising number of people from Chicago on this trip and we have really enjoyed getting to know them, especially Dave and Lynn Reiner. We also met lots of nice people from New Zealand including a couple women (Jennifer and Megan) who reminded me of Jane and Shirley if they had New Zealand accents and were to take off on their own adventure. Lots of the people in the group were involved in education including the two women I mentioned and Professor Tiano from Duke University in Singapore.

It was nice to be surrounded by other academics as I was beginning to stress about the impending NSF grant deadline back home. Leaving my co-authors to finish the proposal while I was totally off the grid for 3 days is not the best plan. Of course agreeing to do the grant in the first place when you know the deadline is in the middle of your holiday does not show the best judgement either.

Day Three

I woke up at about 4AM on day three, once again needing to use the ensuite. However my first couple of steps out of bed were so painful I spent the next couple hours in and out of sleep wondering if my muscles would loosen enough for me to walk down the track on my own power. Thankfully day three dawned bright and sunny for the final 5.7 miles of our trek. Once again we started our day with sandwich making followed by continental breakfast and then eggs and bacon. Sadly it took me until day three to get lesson in making a proper cup of Milo from Jono. To anyone who may happen upon this in preparation for a trip to New Zealand here is the procedure: pour a couple tablespoons of cream into your coffee cup, then add six, yes six, spoonfuls of milo and mix it into a paste with the cream. You may have to add more to get the right pasty consistency. Then after you have a good chocolatey paste you can add the hot water.

Routeburn Flats

Today’s walk was the easiest of the three with the route being mostly down hill to the Routeburn flats and then more gentle downhill for the 5.7 mile distance to the end of the route. We had several intermediate stops along the way including an early lunch along the river. By the end of the trek we felt like we had really experienced New Zealand at its best. Great people, great scenery, no crowds, just lots of great natural beauty.


Our final stop of the trek was at the pub in Glenorchy for a schooner of ale and the presentation of our certificates of achievement! Several suggested that this certificate of achievement would make a good addition to my bio for the grant proposal 😜