As we awoke in Te Anau and walked to the bus stop to catch our shuttle, we saw a rainbow over the lake.
Funny enough, the rainbow basically shows our hiking route. It's a loop that begins near the left edge of the rainbow, continues out to about the right edge of the rainbow and then loops back to the start.
We actually did the track in reverse from what most people choose. There is a steep portion of the track and we decided it would be easier on Andy's knee to go up rather than down the more treacherous part. This meant we had a longer first day of about 14 miles, but with an early start and a gradual incline, it wasn't difficult.
Crossing the swing bridge at Rainbow Reach
The Big Slip
We planned to take our hike slow and make a few stops for lunch and snacks. We attempted to do this, but the sand flies were out in full force. So we made great time getting to the Iris Burn hut, where we promptly took refuge from the bugs.
If I have one regret, it's that we went to bed and didn't try to see a Kiwi. They are in the area, and another man in our hut went out at night and was able to see one. They are shy nocturnal birds, but if you stand still they will come over, sniff your shoes and hang out for a bit. Instead, we got a good night's sleep in preparation for a steep climb the next day.
97 switchbacks steep.
It was probably the most difficult part of our entire hiking experience in New Zealand, but handsome rewards in the form of incredible views awaited us at the top.
A view of the trail ahead.
Andy leads the way
That hut on the ridge in the distance is our first resting point
Stairway to Heaven
Those stairs were like torture to my legs after tackling all those switchbacks. When we finally reached the hut to rest, my thighs were shaking. Here's the elevation chart for more of an insight into our morning:
That was a 3000 foot elevation gain to start our day. After a rest at the Hanging Valley shelter, we continued onward towards Luxmore.
The trail along the ridge line.
Two other hikers the size of ants hiking on the ridge line
Andy discovers New Zealand
The hike went pretty quickly thanks to the views. Finally, we had Luxmore in sight.
We planned to wake up early the next morning, so we quickly explored the Luxmore caves and then settled in for the night. We arose with the sun the next morning.
Sunrise out the window of Luxmore Hut
Hitting the old dusty trail
Clouds filling the valley
After a few short hours, we reached the shoreline and our end was in sight.
On that day's descent, Andy had developed a few blisters and decided to give his 5 year old hiking shoes the boot (pun intended).
We then boarded the bus for Queenstown.
Where they promptly set off fireworks to congratulate us on our hiking success.
Or perhaps it had something to do with it being New Year's Eve.
The fireworks brought a perfect end to our hike and our year.
Hoping for many more memorable hikes, views and good times in 2012.