Wednesday, March 17, 2010

From East To West

We had just crested Arthur's Pass and the view in front of us was noticeably different from where we had just come.  The drier, open landscape of the eastern  Alps was replaced with the lush, dense forest of the west.  Our drive through the Otira Gorge was made even more incredible by the impressive display of the flaming red-flowering southern ra̅ta̅.
We were on a quest for a campground.  Since we had not yet picked up the Conservation Campsites Brochure we were driving aimlessly.  We eventually decided to head towards Lake Brunner.  We figured that a lake that size--40 square kilometers-- had to have some kind of facilities.  Unfortunately, there was not a public campground and we had no choice but to stay in a caravan park--which in all fairness was very nice.  In fact, it wasn't in the distant future that we would reminisce about our stay in the Moana caravan park, a tranquil place that not only had an excellent view, but that wasn't over run by tourists in search of the ultimate adventure.
In addition to a good campground we were excited to learn that there were several hikes in the area.  So first thing the following morning we hit the trail.  From the start I knew that it would be impossible to make it to the summit of Mt. Te Kinga.  The Mt. Avalanche climb had left me extremely sore, and I could not face another steep climb.  However, we were able to make it up the Ara O Te Kinga Track as far as the second look out.
The marked trail head is located on the eastern edge of Lake Brunner.  The well formed track, which is currently being re-routed in the lower parts, takes hikers through a magnificent podocarp forest.  The forest is so dense with vegetation that it is nearly impossible to see something that is not green.  Even the trunks of the trees are blanketed in moss.  The only  time the vision of green is broken, is when there is an opening in the trees and you can catch a glimpse of the sparkling blue water of Lake Brunner.
As we made our ascent I was astonished by the tranquility of the temperate rainforest.  There was not the crunching of the dirt, that we have come so accustomed to on our Australian treks.  In fact, as I watched Mark's feet in front of me it was as though I could see the ground gently sink and rise. The sound from each step was muffled by the moisture-ladened dirt.
My attention was soon drawn from the saturated ground to the thick and heavy air that surrounded us.  Each breath lay heavy in the lungs, and droplets of water gathered on my brow and at the small of the back--not because of exertion but rather because of condensation.  Hiking in such wet and humid areas has become such a foreign experience for us that I felt as though I was somewhere exotic.  The only thing lacking was the appearance of some extraordinary animal.
Our arrival to the second look out came much too quickly.  However, as much as I would have loved to continue to the summit, I knew that I was in no condition to do so.  Instead we returned to our vehicle and set off to see what other delights New Zealand had to offer.


  1. The rain forest in NZ are amazing. I love the huge tree ferns. We didn't make it to this region (Arthur Pass) but there are some really nice (and wet!) rain forests on the West Coast down towards Haast Pass.

  2. Oh, Maya, your photos and descriptions are so vivid. Thank you.