I have been busy gardening in the living room and planning a trip west, far west. I will be riding the shimmering beams of the setting sun through Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Scandinavia, and Central Europe, straight to a booth at Vinnie's Pizza in Brooklyn. I traded a day of my life to the Lords of Time Travel for the opportunity to see the world. Indeed, I will be taking the longest way home.
I am on a 30 day sugar-free[ish] diet [no added sugar of any kind; yes fruits/no fruit juice]. Day 14: I have lost my mind.
Back to my stories:
April 7, 2011The day could not have been perfect. The learning curve of a novice hiker rises steeply from zero to potentially fatal as you take your first steps on the trail. I have read about the risks, everything from falling off a cliff to hypothermia, and packed a medical kit full of Ibuprofen, duct tape, and band-aids. Luckily, there are no scary human-eating beasts in Fiordland, just adorable birds and glowing maggots, more popularly known as glowworms.
I arrived on the afternoon boat to the start of the Milford Track with about twenty other people. I waited for everyone to pass and began by myself, the 33.5 mile journey from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound. The trail is a spectrum of green that lines the banks of the Clinton River, oversaturated on land and reflected in the transparent water. Since Daylight Savings was over the weekend, it is now getting dark earlier, and even earlier than earlier in the forest. Welcome to winter. I was aware that I had to keep schedule but I promised myself I would not rush this journey. I dropped my jaw to the ground and spun my head around and around trying to see every big and small thing. I also packed at least 100 pounds too many and so slow going was the only going. Wow, I am going to get really fit.
Along the way there was a turnoff for a Wetland Walk. Sphagnum Moss is New Zealand's magical ground cover. The colors, oh! Pretty!
I was the last person to arrive at the hut, making it there around 5:30. Even though I am traveling alone, there are 39 other people also hiking the trail. Since the Department of Conservation regulates the number of hikers per day and prohibits camping, we are all in this together, sort of. Basically, we are all sleeping in the same small, stinky, snoring hut.
Ranger Ross monitors this segment of the trail and is exactly the person you would expect to find here: an old gentlemen about seven feet tall with spindly legs and a walking stick. He excitedly took us on a fascinating nature walk but I can only remember the whistle of his S's and the Lancewood Tree.
After, I went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. [By the way, it is totally possible -- EASY -- to be a vegan hiker. More on that later. When I tried to do research on what food to pack, Google told me nothing useful. So I will write a separate post and maybe make things easier for someone else.] I have never used a gas camping stove before today and even after reading the instructions, even after someone verbally instructing me, it took two people to help me get the flame going. I promptly boiled water to make some soupy thing.
The not perfect part to my perfect day!
I spilled boiling water on my hand. Apparently, you need to extend the handle of a billy pot before boiling the water. Do you know what a billy is? I just learned. I stood in shock for about five seconds with at least three people gasping at the not perfect part to my perfect day. I walked over to the sink, ran my hand under cold water for a few minutes and pretended like nothing was the matter. In reality, my hand tingled like bubbles of molten lava. I checked it out, no bones showing, no skin peeling off, and repeated cold water immersion. My hand is red and my skin feels fake, but I am surprisingly okay. Which is good because I have nothing in my medical kit to solve this problem.
Ross told us where to see glowworms that night, a short walk down the trail. I put on my headlamp but instead followed the path illuminated by Su-Lin's 'could have been a beacon in a lighthouse' lamp. Flicker, flicker, huh, my headlamp died. I trusted that when I paid for all of my rental gear, everything was set to go. Guess not. We turned off our lamps and stood mesmerized by the bright green spark of the glowworm's bioluminescence. A few seconds later, I realized I was in complete darkness in the middle of the forest on a fiord in the center of nowhere several feet from a million maggoty larva. Ahh! I kindly asked for headlamps to be turned back on. Whew, close one, I almost looked like a scaredy cat.
Swing Bridge #1, Clinton River.
Yes, it swings.
Hike, Day 1.
Hobbit Hole, maybe?
Ranger Ross and hikers @ the helicopter pad.