This afternoon, we got back from New Zealand. It was absolutely amazing. Last Monday, March 5, I went to work in the morning and saw some patients in clinic. After that, I quickly ate lunch and went out to REI to get a pair of trail runners and a day pack. The traffic was very bad. Anyways, I got the two items plus a pair of water shoes. It was only $2.00 over my dividend amount. After packing, Shane came over, and we left for the airport around 4:00 pm. We checked in and got some Chinese food. We thought we were early, but when we got to the terminal, we saw that it was packed full. The flight wasn’t too bad. We had a space between us because of a no-show.
We arrived in Auckland on Wednesday morning. I had slept well on the flight. At the airport, we kept hearing announcements about flight cancellations to Queenstown. Our flight still wasn’t canceled. In the meantime, Shane worked on his talks for the Pan Pacific Upper Limb Trauma Symposium. I had some sushi for lunch. We then boarded our flight, and it took off on time. Halfway through, the captain announced that we would be rerouted to Invercargill because of dangerous landing conditions in Queenstown. We got to a rainy Invercargill and picked up our bags. We then boarded a shuttle to Queenstown. The road was scenic, but I had a headache from the windy roads. After arrival, we checked in and enjoyed the social hour and buffet dinner. I did some final things to my T-condylar humerus fracture presentation. It was a long day.
The next day, on Thursday, I gave my talk in the first session. After all the talks, we went out and drove around Queenstown and explored some ski areas, the Remarkables, the Shotover River, and other places. We made it back in time to get dressed for dinner. The restaurant was accessible by gondola, and we saw people bungee jumping. The view was incredible. I sat next to Randy Bindra and his wife. During dinner, I stepped outside to photograph the night lights. I met this couple, and after talking to them, they said that they were from Tennessee and are now living in Modesto. They turned out to be Adventists. Carl will be going to photography school, and Rebecca is a CRNA. They’ve been spending weeks touring New Zealand.
Friday morning’s program went well. A few people didn’t show up because they decided to go tour the country. Peter Amadio reached over to tell Shane that he did a good job. Joe Slade and Nick Goddard enjoyed his presentation as well. I also enjoyed meeting JinBo Tang in person. After the meeting on Friday, we took off for Glenorchy to have a phenomenal weekend.
The north shore road along Lake Wakatipu was beautiful. We arrived in Glenorchy, and I stopped in to get a map for the Routeburn Track. We then went to Kinloch, where we checked into the lodge. I stepped in, and the lady said, “Welcome! You must be Montri.” At the suggestion of the receptionist, we went to the Greenstone-Caples Track and did the Lake Rere Loop. The waterfalls and lake were amazing. We left at 16:30, and it took us about four hours. At the road, during our return, we encountered sheep being herded in for the night. That was comical. That night at the Kinloch Lodge, we shared the dorm room with two British mountaineers.
The next morning, we packed and arrived at the Routeburn Track trailhead after having munched on dry granola mix. The night before, we ate instant noodles.
The trail up to the Routeburn Flats wasn’t too bad. Everything was covered in moss and ferns. There were some spectacular waterfalls. At the hut, we dropped off some of our gear. We forgot to print our tickets, but the warden took our names and radioed the information for confirmation. We then proceeded up to the Routeburn Falls Hut. This section was more strenuous than the first. The flora turned into beech forest. The terrain was steeper. The hut had a very nice balcony with great views of the Flats. We had lunch there. Above the Falls Hut, the vegetation changed into grasses and brush. We passed the lake and a series of waterfalls to reach Harris Saddle Shelter. A group of young people congregated there, soaking in the sun. We proceed to climb Conical Hill, which was very steep and rocky. Some parts required handholds. On the way up this mountain, my right contact lens dislodged. I met an Infectious Disease specialist from Baylor, now practicing in Dunedin, who helped me push the contact back in place. We reached the top and had afternoon snack consisting of bread and cheese. We could see Martin Bay and the Tasman Sea from the top. After taking some pictures and going to the bathroom, we descended back to the shelter and made our way back to the Falls Hut to shower in the stream.
At the Falls Hut, I went to bed early after having some dry food for dinner. I fell fast asleep.
The next morning, after breakfast, I met some people—Pat and Anne Marie—from Tennessee. I told them that I was planning to go see the Great Smoky Mountains. They were excited, since they were involved with park activities. We exchanged information.
Leaving the Flats Hut, we headed down toward our car. Halfway to the trailhead, we met Carl and Rebecca again. There, we took pictures of each other. From there, we got to our car and head towards Queenstown for a break before going to Milford Sound. The pizza lunch was decent. Starbucks was a treat. We headed to Te Anau, where we stopped for groceries.
The road from Te Anau to Milford Sound was beautiful. Although most of the grassy areas had turned brown, the streams and waterfalls were abundant. It started to rain as we neared Lower Hollyford Road. We both got out to take some pictures. After Homer Tunnel, we approached Milford Sound. The car was nearly out of gas. After some difficult time trying to find someone with a New Zealand credit card, since the machine wouldn’t accept foreign cards, we left and went to check in at the Milford Sound Lodge. We had dinner of penne pasta and then cheese omelettes. Later, we went back to the beach area again. This time, we were lucky and found some bikers from New Zealand who were very friendly. I got several pictures of the Sound and Mitre Peak at dusk. We went back to the lodge, got cleaned up, and went to bed. Shortly thereafter, in barges two kids from Invercargill who motorcycled to Milford. They were drunk and got bounced from the bar, but they were sent away with some tequila. It was awful, but I had fun messing with them, asking them questions. The one sleeping on the top bunk above Shane got up to go vomit.
I got up early the next morning to pack and get out of there. While taking pictures, I got bitten by a lot of sandflies. We then boarded the Mlford Monarch for a cruise. Their coffee and croissant-cheese breakfast was quite good. We enjoyed the pleasant surprise. The cruise was scenic. We saw seals. The most notable place was Sterling Falls. We got up close.
After the cruise, we made our way through Te Anau to Lake Manapouri. Checking in at the Possum Lodge was a little bit of a disappointment, since it was an outdated place. We took off toward Tuatapere on the southern coast, west of Invercargill.
Blue Cliffs Beach was a nice surprise. We spent some quiet time unwinding on the deserted beach and on the surrounding sheep pastures. It was a good ending for such an epic trip.
We returned to Lake Manapouri, got a converter, and charged all of our electronics. We made the rest of the pasta and had bread and soup with it. I held the bread over the heating element of the stove to toast it, since the oven didn’t work.
Also, there was an older couple. The husband is a retired magistrate from the U.K. There was a younger couple as well. Steve is from South Africa, and Emma is from the U.K. We had fun chatting. They will be visiting the United States in May and will spend one month on the west coast. We exchanged contact information, and I gave them some suggestions.
On Tuesday morning, I got up early and had an omelette and some granola with yogurt. After packing, we head to Queenstown. We checked in early, and then we went into the city for internet access and lunch at a Thai restaurant. They were lame that they didn’t have any tofu for the vegetarian option.
The flights back weren’t too bad. On all four legs of this trip, we were able to get window and aisle seats with one empty seat in between, which was really nice. Our bags made it, and it was really good to make it home safely.