Time for the third week recap already. Where has this month gone? I am feeling both ready to go back to Australia and anxious at the thought of leaving Queenstown. Luckily, I have been very busy today (Sunday 4 November) getting ready to host the first ever Women’s Adventure Film Tour NZ screening tomorrow night, so I haven’t had too much time to think about this confusing juxtaposition of emotions…
However, I DID have A LOT of time to think whilst tramping over 80 kilometres in 3 days. So this week’s report is mainly a jumble of my thoughts and ideas…feel free to rumble with me on any of them in the comments. Everyone who knows me, knows I love discussion and open conversation and there is nothing that I don’t like to talk about!
MONDAY 29 OCT - QUEENSTOWN
I can’t remember what I did today. I think I just lazed around town, reading and writing :)
TUESDAY 30 OCT - FROM QUEENSTOWN TO LAKE SYLVAN
I picked up my rental car this morning and went grocery shopping. Then, I packed everything that I had with me into the car and drove to Lake Sylvan, outside of Glenorchy. I sung pretty much all the way. It was the best.
I strolled 30 minutes through a forest before arriving at Lake Sylvan, just in time for sunset. I love these mountain lakes. They feel like closely guarded world secrets that are only revealed to those who are willing to work (walk) for them.
Back at camp, I was so snug in my sleeping bag and only emerged when I had to brush my teeth and get ready for bed. When I looked outside, I honestly lost my breath at the crazy night sky above me. It felt like every inch was star-filled. I stood there, head craned towards the heavens and stared and stared until it all felt two-dimensional; as if I could reach out and steal a star and stash it in my pocket. The night sky is something I will always marvel at with immeasurable wonder.
WEDNESDAY 31 OCT - ROUTEBURN TRACK
Due to bad weather, I wasn’t going to be able to do the entire Routeburn Track without paying for a helicopter to fly me over the saddle where there was avalanche risk. I probably wouldn’t have done it all anyway because it starts near Glenorchy and ends near Te Anau and logistically, that is a pain. My plan was just to hike to Routeburn Flats, set up camp, hike up to Harris Saddle and back. Then, the next morning, hike back out, drive to the Caples Track and hike the other end of the Routeburn Track to Lake Mackenzie. That was the PLAN. I ended up only making it from the start of the Caples Track to McKellar Saddle and didn’t even touch the other end of the Routeburn Track. It doesn’t matter at all though. I am super grateful for everything that I did manage.
As I walked through the vast, prehistoric-looking alpine meadows of the Routeburn Track, I had this thought: I think the question is not “what can’t you live without?” - because humans can be resilient beyond belief - but “what does your life seem lacklustre without? What do you feel dull and muted without?”
I also thought about “the simple things”; about how everyone (including me) preaches for us to enjoy + appreciate the simple things but we never actually DEFINE “the simple things”. We just assume they are the same for everyone. But there are people who love cooking and take so much pleasure from preparing a meal from scratch and then there are others who absolutely hate cooking.
Well, so often, my need for adventure is seen as an excessively high expectation of life. But what is more simple than walking from Point A to Point B with everything that you need on your back?
Those are two thoughts I had on the Routeburn and I will definitely be exploring them some more.
Anyway, in the photo on the left-hand side below, can you see the series of cascading waterfalls in the distance? When I saw them, I honestly felt as though I’d walked straight into a myth…
THURSDAY 1 NOV - ROUTEBURN + CAPLES TRACKS
So yesterday when I was up at Harris Saddle, it snowed. SNOWED. It’s practically mid-spring but it snowed. It was only a very light flurry but I was the only one up there, overlooking that immense, ancient landscape and it felt absolutely magical to me. It then rained once I was back at camp but it must’ve cleared during the night because IT WAS INCREDIBLY COLD. I had to wake up at 2am to make a hot water bottle to get me through to 6am.
When I pulled back my tent fly door, it was so beautiful. There was cloud floating through over the frosty flats, so close to me that I felt like I could just bundle them up to keep. The tip tops of the peaks around me were tinged the prettiest rosy pink. Morning light in the mountains is one of the most special experiences in life I think. I remember when I had never seen alpenglow before. I’m so grateful that I have since been able to see it so many times. The changes in those early hours of the day are almost imperceptible from second to second but as I carried on with my morning, I’d look back out at the mountains every now and then…and well, it always made me smile from ear to ear. Out of Moke Lake, Iris Burn Campsite on the Kepler Track and Lake Sylvan, this was my favourite campsite so far.
There was an REI 2-person tent upstream and out of it emerged two women. And then the hut warden came out to give us all a weather update; she was also female. So for the night before and that morning, the four people at Routeburn Flats were all women! I loved that.
It was still so, so cold this morning that I couldn’t bear to leave my sleeping bag for ages. I just stayed as rugged up as possible, listening to Alex Honnold on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. I love how he responds to when people say he takes too much risk. He always says that it has been a lifelong process building up to the ‘risks’ he takes. He’s not just rolling the dice; he has built the skills and knowledge in order to do what he does. Which is what we ALL do with all our hobbies and jobs and skills. It’s just because what he does is so left-field that we label it as reckless and risky and ridiculous. What is ridiculous is people who are wasting their lives, living without passion and intention.
As I hiked off the Routeburn, I also listened to Andrew Zimmern on the Finding Mastery with Michael Gervais podcast. Did you know that his mission behind “Bizzare Foods” is not just going around sampling weird cuisines but to share a message of patience and tolerance? SO beautiful. He was also an alcoholic and drug user and he spoke about his journey out of it. He talks about this moment when he goes to a 12-step meeting and he sees this 60-year old woman who is so dignified and he goes to cut a wide arc around her to avoid talking to her…because he was so used to “people like her” wanting to avoid him. Instead, she stopped him in his tracks, gave him a half-hug and said that she was glad to have him there. He said within seconds, he burst into tears and that “it’s those little moments of dignity that we sprinkle on others that revives the human spirit”. BEAUUUTIFULLL.
It reminded me of a chat I had recently with Luke about our obituaries. I said I wanted to be remembered as someone who loved unconditionally - who shared in others’ joys and excitedly and kindly supported them all throughout, who inspired others to find their way of living fully and adventurously and who personally just lived + loved the fuck out of her own life.
FRIDAY 2 NOV - CAPLES TRACK
Today, I walked about 35 kilometres bringing my total to over 80 kilometres and it almost 100% shattered me but also really stoked the fire within me.
As I trudged along the Caples Track back to my car, my legs were trashed, my little toes blistered, my shoulders burning, my brain foggy and fatigued…but I also felt a clarity that I’d been seeking for months. And I remembered something that someone messaged me on Instagram before I’d left for New Zealand. She said she had felt she needed to completely break herself down physically, mentally and emotionally in order to rebuild and so she went trekking in South America…
There have been thoughts, feeling and concepts floating in my head that have felt so complex that they were irreducible, meaning they couldn’t be dissolved and so they just kept drifting around; sometimes sinking enough so I could function, other times resurfacing and making such a splash that I felt I was drowning.
Now, I have the exact words to synthesise them AND the ideas to address them to become a better woman, living my best life.
The power of unplugging, re=grounding and unscheduling in the outdoors is so strong that it IS irreducible. Because it is elemental. Putting ourselves outside in as basic a form as we can handle (and don’t underestimate what you can handle) is as primordial as it can get. It is a need that can lay dormant + unmet in people for their entire lives but it is still there, unshakeable. Fulfilling it, fulfils everything.
I only stayed up on McKellar Saddle for 15 minutes because the wind was strong and bitterly cold. But every single one of those minutes were electric. I love the mountains so, so very much. I would hike those 3 hours and 50 minutes just for 15 minutes feeling so close to the mountaintops over and over again. When I left, I was really sad because I knew it could well be the last time I am that high for awhile…
And then I was overcome with gratitude. Over the last 72 hours, I had had mountains within my sight for like, 95% of the time. I felt SO thankful to have seen + done all that I had seen + done. And I knew that it would never have been possible without the support and means that I have from back in Australia. I am very thankful for my job, my privileges and my loved ones, especially Luke, my sisters and certain friends who I see as my twin-flame friends; friends who love me so openheartedly and who support me, not just ‘at the end of the day’ but all throughout. It made me feel ready to go back to Australia in order to continue giving my best to my work, my relationships and my life.
SATURDAY 3 NOV - QUEENSTOWN
Yesterday, I picked up a hitchhiker in Glenorchy and drove him all the way back to his hostel in Queenstown. He was from Poland but lives in China doing event management for some kind of jewellery/precious gem company. He had been walking for 90 minutes before I picked him up! Hitchhiking is a real thing here in NZ and I love it.
Rolling back into QT, my heart almost exploded of happiness and yet also was impossibly content at my first sight of the Remarks again. After dropping Boris off, I sat around for awhile wondering what to do with myself. I hadn’t planned to be back in town so soon but with the worsening weather out there, I had to cut my tramping short. Well, not “had”. I could’ve just braved the rain like many others but nah. Anyway, I actually entertained the idea of checking into some nice AirBnb or lodge just for a night of R&R…but I didn’t want to spend the money. And it didn’t feel right to check back into the hostel. So I drove out to 12 Mile, just outside of Queenstown, and camped just metres from the shores of Lake Wakatipu and it all felt VERY right.
I slept and woke up to the sound of rain lightly beating my tent. I strolled down to the lakefront with my little gas stove, oats and coffee and watched the soft, muted, gently golden light dance above the Remarks. At this point, I hadn’t showered since Monday, my oats and coffee were actually lukewarm because I ran out of gas, I was sitting on a plastic bag and my feet were all wet and gravel-covered…but I was so happy and I was so proud of myself.
Okay, there is so much more that I want to say but I think I have made this long enough and also, my laptop is at 15% battery and the cafe staff probably want to get rid of me as I only bought a $4 tea and have sat here for over an hour. I also need to go “check in” to my accommodation tonight…which is my new friend Josh’s place! Josh and I met on the Caples Track at Mid-Caples Hut and then I went out last night with him and his 3 friends (a couple and their friend). They’ve offered to have me for tonight so I don’t have to camp in the cold and wind because there are some serious gusts blowing around QT today.
Okay bye! Please leave a comment below xxx