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Jeff here,

I’ve got a project at work in construction at Castle Hill Village near Arthur’s Pass. Last Friday, my weekly construction meeting was moved to 9:30am so that gave me the perfect opportunity to go up Mt Cloudsley for a bit of fun and training for Nepal.

I wanted to get the work vehicle back before 7pm so I took the bike to make things a bit quicker as the first portion of the trip up Cloudsley is on the Hogsback Mountain Bike Track.

The route that I took to the top.

Got the bike out to start the track.

One thing I forgot was that I’m terrible at mountain biking so by the time I reached the point where the Hogsback Track intersects with Long Spur to begin walking up Mt Cloudsley, I was completely exhausted. I had to lay down in the grass and then eat my lunch to bring my energy levels back up. I pushed up the Long Spur and it began to get steep. It was really getting steep and then I saw Point 1855 so I pushed on. Then I realised that it was a false peak which was a major hit to my morale. I made it to the saddle and told myself that I was only going to go for 15 more minutes and then turn around as I was running low on water. Luckily I made it to the top within the allocated time.

Mt Cloudsley from the Hogsback Track with Long Spur in the middle of the photo.

It’s getting steep! It’s a long way to go to the top.

Above all the vegetation and it quite barren. Point 1855 is in the foreground with Mt Cloudley in the background.

I sidled around Point 1855 to the saddle. It looked like a moonscape up there.

From the top, you could see Lake Coleridge.

The view of Castle Hill Village from the top. You can barely see Lake Pearson on the left most part of the photo.

A very ragged me at the top. Trust me, I feel as bad as I look.  But, Amanda says I look handsome.

I only stayed at the top for a few minutes for a rest and photos and then made my way down as I didn’t know what time it was. I finally reached my bike and began biking down. By the way, mountain biking with jelly legs is quite scary. The bike down only took about 5 minutes instead of a 45 minute walk. All in all, I made the entire 1350m (4429ft) elevation gain walk/bike in around 5 hours.

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We recently celebrated Waitangi Weekend here in New Zealand.  We decided for the three-day weekend to go camping.  It was actually more like glamping – the cheating and luxurious way to camp.  After the two hour drive, most of which was on a gravel road, we made ourselves at home at a campsite next to Lake Taylor nestled in Lake Forest Sumner Park.  Upon arrival the wind was blowing a gale and when you have children who hate the wind, they end up spending most of their time in the car.  Luckily, not too long after our arrival the wind died down a bit and the tent was erected.  The boys had an absolute blast!  After much debate, we decided to only spend one night camping as it took us ages to get the tent set up and we knew bad weather was due sometime on Monday morning.  We didn’t want to risk it with two pre-schoolers and a baby.  Keeping life simple generates less stress!

Since we decided to end our camping journey early, we took the boys blueberry picking here in Christchurch.  They recently have enjoyed picking fruit in the “red zone” in Christchurch and thought they would also like blueberry picking.  And, as predicted, they had a blast.

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You can tell how windy it was by looking at E and C’s hair.  It was also so windy that the lake had waves.

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Our home for the weekend.  We borrowed Wendy and Peter’s tent.  It was massive!

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Nap time success!

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While M napped, Jeff took the boys for a little walk up the mountain behind our tent (which you can see in the bottom right of the photo).

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Keep life simple and enjoy nature.

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C really got into camping.  He sat by Jeff and “helped” cook tea.

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All three boys had a blast in the tent.  They giggled and chatted to each other until 9pm.  Then the next morning, I was woken up by all three giggling! I love how C fell asleep off his mat and outside of his sleeping bag.

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After bedtime, Jeff decided to hike to the top of the mountain behind the tent.  Great views!

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E has a great imagination.  Here is he pretending to fish with a bent piece of flax. 

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E wanted to sail on a boat.  He found a piece of drift wood and asked me and M to join him sailing on the lake.

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Family photo at Lake Taylor.  Can you tell who the cheeky one in the family is?

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On our way out, Jeff insisted we drive to Culverden to eat fish and chips.  Man, it was worth it!  These fish and chips were hands down the best fish and chips I’ve had in New Zealand.

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We treated the boys with ice cream afterwards.  They did a great job sharing their cone.

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M didn’t want to be left out either! (No, he didn’t get any.)

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The weather was prefect on Monday in Christchurch so we found a blueberry farm and took the boys pickin’.

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The boys kept showing me how many berries they had picked.  They were extremely proud.

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The boys hard at work.

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Mommy and M in the blueberry field.

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A yummy bounty of blueberries!

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A couple of weekends ago we decided we needed some fresh mountain air.  Our original plans were to hike to Manuka Hut with the kids, but while Jeff and I were packing up everything needed for an overnighter the realizations of making it became unattainable.  Once C can walk further it will become do-able, but until then we are confined to day hikes.  Instead, we decided to go to the mountains just for the day without a plan.  We found ourselves at the Cave Stream Track.  Without a doubt, we knew that the boys would not want to walk into the cave due to the darkness.  So we just walked down to the cave and the boys played in the water for a bit.

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E and C enjoyed the wide open space available around the carpark to run off some bottled up energy.

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Here are the jaw-dropping views from the track heading down to the river below.  I find hiking in New Zealand to be a very humbling activity as it constantly reminds me of how small I am in comparison to God.

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I’m fairly positive the white areas in the river are limestone.  The white bits reminded me of the gemothermal areas on the North Island of New Zealand.

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The cave is tucked in the mountain with the river running through it.  You can cave through the entire thing and come out on the other side of the mountain. 

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E and C enjoyed running around in the shallow river at the entrance to the cave.

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Hiking as a family of 5!  I’m really looking forward to all our future overnight tramping trips with this group of men.  It’s going to be so much fun. 

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This is the view looking away from the cave.

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Hiking back up to the car.  I was very impressed with C on this trip.  He walked the entire time.  He even carried his bookbag containing his and E’s PAW Patrol pups.

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Looking down at the cave entrance from the top of the mountain we just climbed.

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Jeff here.

A guy from work was moving back to Australia after being in New Zealand for 2.5 years. So we decided to have a ‘goodbye’ tramping trip. We decided to go to Devil’s Den Bivy which is located on Devilskin Saddle and from there climb Devil’s Rampart. We mainly wanted to do this trip based on its name. Unfortunately the guy who was leaving hurt his knee playing cricket so couldn’t go on the trip…so we went without him.

The track starts near the Lewis Pass walking up the Nina Valley. The walk by the Nina River was great and revealed some amazing deep clear pools that would make great day trips or camping trips to go swimming…in summer.

IMG_9456IMG_9467There were amazing clear deep pools like this one.

Once we made it to Nina Hut, the track split and we headed south towards Devilskin Saddle. The track turned into a route which was quite rough/rooty and somewhat steep. It was pretty slow going but we weren’t in a hurry. It took us about 5.5 or 6 hours to get to the saddle. The Devil’s Den Bivy was rebuilt in 2007 and was quite nice. There were two beds and three of us so I was on the floor. The water tank must have had a leak near the nozzle because it was completely empty. The journal said it was broken about a year ago. Luckily there is a small stream not far away to fill up but it probably dries up in summer.

IMG_9578Devil’s Den Bivy with great views.

IMG_9481IMG_9477Devil’s Rampart as seen from the saddle.

In the morning we set out to climb Devil’s Rampart, the top of which is about 500m above the bivy. The route has numerous bluffs and rock outcroppings so we had to determine a route. It was fairly steep but not technical. About 200m from the top, we finally found some snow. We could have gone around the snow but since we carried up our crampons and ice axes we put them on and went up the snow. It was really cloudy so we didn’t think we’d see anything but once we got to the top, the cloud cleared enough to get views to the south, west and north.

IMG_9484Navigating on the way up.

IMG_9494You still just see the Bivy if you squint.

IMG_9501Starting to get into the clouds.

IMG_9507Time to strap on the crampons.

IMG_9526This photo looked pretty epic.

IMG_9531The high peak of Devil’s Rampart

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On the way down we practiced self arresting with our ice axes.

IMG_9556IMG_9557IMG_9561We found a really cool frozen over tarn.

IMG_9562That is the steep valley that we came up…and went back down.

IMG_9572Pretty epic viewing point.

I was absolutely shattered by the time we got to the road and very relieved once in the car. We stopped at the Culverden fish and chips shop which is hands down the best fish and chips I’ve had in New Zealand. All in all it was a great weekend. Thanks Amanda for letting me go.

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This year for the Queen’s birthday weekend, we, along with our friends who are an Australian couple, decided to rent a bach together on the West Coast next to Lake Kaniere.  In typical C fashion, he decided to get sick right before the trip!  His timing for this sort of stuff is uncanny!  This time it was a ruptured eardrum!  The day before we left he was completely miserable and Jeff had to come home to help me.

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Sick wee man.  C finally went to sleep when Jeff arrived home.   Typical!

As we drove through the Alps to get to the West Coast, we were greeted with snow-capped mountains.  I just love snow-capped mountains and it’s massively bothering me that I can’t get out and tramp this winter!!  The snow came down to the road in some of the shadowy places.  The boys wanted to get out to build a snowman.  We stopped at the DOC visitor centre in Arthur’s Pass and the second the boys touched the snow their desire to build a snowman completely disappeared!  It was just too cold for their wee little hands.

When we stopped at New World in Hokitika to get our groceries for the weekend, I was utterly excited to find spaghetti squash!  Jeff said it was ok for me to get some.  Next thing he knows, I’m totting four massive squashes to the cart.  He gives me a strange look and says “Don’t you think that’s more than enough.”  I quickly responded “not when you very rarely find these sold in New Zealand!”

When we arrived at the bach, it was an ice box.  Mark and Fiona were sitting outside reading the newspaper, which I thought was odd until I entered the house.  The house made outside feel like it was a warm summers day; that’s how cold this house was.  But once we got the heaters going and a fire roaring, it became nice and toasty…as long as both of those were still going!

Before settling down for the night, we decided to visit the Hokitika Gorge.  It’s an absolutely gorgeous sight and I definitely think it’s better to visit it in the evenings.

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E posing at the beautiful gorge.

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Family shot at the gorge.

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I seriously love the color of the water.

I guess the main point of this trip was for Jeff and Mark to go mountain biking. While they were out and about in the mornings, Fiona and I stayed with the boys either hanging around the bach or walking around the lake.  When they returned around lunch time we were filled with stories of their trip.  From what they said from their first trip, they didn’t really enjoy it as much as they thought.  I think starting on the advance track first might do that.  But, they gave it another go the following morning on an easier track and seemed to enjoy the idea of mountain biking better.  Both afternoons the entire gang decided to hike parts of the Lake Kaniere Water Race Walkway and the Lake Kaniere Track.

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Lake Kaniere.  Down in the distance were two swings.

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32 weeks pregnant.

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I can see the advantages of having a chalk-able wall now that I have children. 

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The boys thought “Bambi” was hilarious.  Here they are feeding Bambi all the playing cards and eventually the magazines underneath the tv.  The boys also enjoyed “playing” Monopoly. 

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The water race walkway led us by multiple sluice boxes.  The boys walked really well with Mark and Fiona.  In fact, they did better with them than they do with us!  Although, they were spoiled a bit by them as they were picked up a lot.  I didn’t mind though.  Plus, the game of hide and seek is more fun with new players.

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Flying E.

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Mark and C are excellent hiders.

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The boys coming around the bend on the Lake Kaniere Track.

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Dorothy Falls.

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An attempt at a family photo at Lake Kaniere.

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Goodbye Lake Kaniere.  Thanks for four beautiful and clear days, which is pretty much unheard of for the West Coast of New Zealand.

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Jeff here.

A guy from work and I have been planning a tramping trip for the last few months but each weekend the weather was terrible. A few weeks ago there was finally a weather window large enough for us to tak a trip and ironically enough the best weather on the South Island was on the West Coast which is one of the wettest places on earth. We decided to go to Cedar Flats Hut.

The walk is very straight forward. You walk up the river and in some cases the track ends and you walk right on the rocky banks of the river. It is fairly slow going because of the boulder hopping. We drove from Christchurch to the start of the track and then walked to the hut and made it with plenty of time before sunset.

IMG_8676The view of snow capped mountains as we crossed the Waimakariri River.

IMG_8686Start of the track.

IMG_8788About 1km of the track was along the rocky river bank like this. Slow going!

IMG_8775There were lots of waterfalls into the valley.

IMG_8726Just before the hut, we had to cross this ‘1 person’ cable bridge. It was extremely bouncy and in the morning it was icy!

IMG_8728View from the cable bridge.

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Cedar Flats Hut. You can see the old Cedar Flat Hut in the bush to the left.

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It’s a very nice hut that must have been added onto over the years.

There was a guy from the West Coast staying the night in the hut as well. He said that the firewood was too wet to start a fire. My response was “challange accepted.” It took me about an hour but I got the fire started.

The next morning we were going to go to Adventure Bivy but we weren’t really feeling it so we decided to go find the hot pools instead. They were a little hard to find. There’s a track with a sign pointing to where they were but the track led to the river with no pools. We then crossed the river and found the pools on the other side. They were really shallow so we dug them out a little and built an earthen dam complete with spillway to deepen the pool. Once it filled up we lounged in the pool for about an hour.

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There was a rainbow the next morning as we walked to hut pools.

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We searched around the river for the hot pools and then finally found a rather manmade looking pile of rock on the other side of the river.

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We found a shovel that had been worn to a nub. I found a stick to use as a handle and dug out the hot pool.

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Warning:  Long post and lots of photos

Back in August a group of me and four other ladies decided to book our spots on the Milford Track in Fiordland National Park.  The week of April 4 couldn’t arrive soon enough!

Unexpectedly, I became pregnant in October.  The question of whether or not to still go through with the hike came up.  I decided, after talking to my midwife, that I would stick to the plan.

The Milford Track is a four day, three night trip.  We left early on Monday, April 4th, heading straight for Te Anua with multiple stops along the way enjoying cafes and Ferg burgers.

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Lake Te Anua at sunset.

Day 1: Tuesday: 5 km

The Milford Track is pretty much inaccessible without boats on both ends.   The boat ride to the start of the track is about 1.5 hours long on Lake Te Anua and it was definitely a gorgeous trip.  Once you arrive at the start of the track, you only have an easy 1.5 hr walk to Clinton hut.  The hut being so close to the start of the track seems pretty useless in my opinion, but it was still nice to just hang out and talk with other adults.

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Getting on the boat at Lake Te Anua.

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The gang.  From left to right: Melanie, Julie, Olivia, Janie, and me.

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On our way to the trail head.  No turning back now!

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The pile of packs belonging to our Milford Track buddies for the week.

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Only 54 km to go.

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23 Weeks Pregnant.

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Melanie and Julie having a prayer meeting.  They should have prayed for better weather…

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The Milford Track is divided into two groups.  The first group of people (which we were part of) carries in all their stuff and sleeps in the DOC huts.  The second group of people didn’t have to carry anything, slept in queen size beds, had hot showers, ate freshly cooked food…well, you get the idea.  This picture is the guided group’s first night stay only a five minute walk from the boat.  It definitely felt like segregation a bit along the way. We took solace in knowing they paid up to $3,215 each!

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Words just can’t describe the views.

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Even on the Milford Track the flush toilets are closed for cleaning.  Talk about pampered tramping, which I wasn’t complaining about.

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Trying out the latest camping gear….plunger coffee.

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Do you see the lion?

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The Milford Track is a walk in a rainforest so the track is mostly covered in moss and trees.

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One of the best places for a yoga position.

Day 2: Wednesday: 16.5 km

On the second day we attempted an early start as we knew bad weather was coming in that afternoon.  The second day walk is fairly easy as the track follows the river through the valley heading towards the Mackinnon Pass.  Then there is a gradual ascent to the hut for the last hour or so.  We pretty much timed our arrival at the hut perfectly as the weather started to turn.   Once we were settled in at the hut, we sat around enjoying hot chocolate and snacks.

When you are doing a great walk in season, there is a DOC warden present.  Every evening, there will be a talk from the DOC warden about dos and don’ts and what to expect the next day.  The five of us knew bad weather was coming for the third day.  The DOC warden confirmed that the storm was still coming which included gale force winds, snow down to 1200 meters, and heaps of rain.  It was expected to come in over night.  The DOC warden warned us that it was probably going to be a late start in the morning and that she would have to hold us until it passed.  But, she would provide us with more information in the morning.

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The Mackinnon Pass is in the far distance.

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Without it even raining, waterfalls stream down the mountains throughout the valley.

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Getting closer to Mackinnon Pass.

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Mintaro Hut.  It was a welcome sight. My feet were extremely sore by the time we arrived.  After some inspection of my feet, I discovered that they were swollen.  Talk about an unexpected pregnancy complication.  It also didn’t help that I was trying out new in-soles and I forgot to trim my toe nails!

Day 3: Thursday: 14 km up and over MacKinnon Pass

It poured and howled all night long.  Morning came with panicked, controlled chaos as we were awoken by the DOC warden informing us to pack and get out NOW.  The worst part of the storm was still yet to come.  I do remember thinking that these known weather conditions weren’t suitable for tramping, but I had no choice and had to leave.  I still feel uncomfortable about my own the lack of control over this.  Had this been a non-great walk tramp and it was me and Jeff knowing the same weather conditions and track conditions, we would have waited the day out in the hut.  The only reason why it was ok was because DOC can rescue folks with a helicopter.  Needless to say, we were off and out quite quickly.

The swelling in my feet had disappeared, but were still really sore.  Our group walked in two groups as I am a slow hiker and pregnancy makes me slower.  Plus, I didn’t want to over do my pregnant body.  But, I think it’s more an attitude change since having children.  I used to walk really fast while hiking to get to the next destination, but since having children and taking them hiking, I’ve realized there is a different type of joy experienced when you slow down and essentially smell the roses…or moss for the Milford Track’s case.  Julie, Olivia, and Janie carried onward while Melanie and I slowly walked to the top.  It took about three hours to get to the ridge.  Once on the ridge, we were no longer protected from the gale force wind and the worst of the rain.  It was so windy we were being knocked over.  Then it started to hail.  Talk about painful! We couldn’t see “the view” that I’ve heard so much about from the Mackinnon Pass, but the walk on the ridge was gorgeous as it was covered in tarns on both sides.  There was a shelter on top of the ridge and by the time we arrived, we were very wet and hungry.  We reunited with Julie, Olivia, and Janie and enjoyed some hot soup.

We still had the majority of the day’s walk ahead of us with a 1000 meter descent to our night’s destination, Dumpling Hut.  By the time we headed out of the shelter the track pretty much turned into a knee-deep river rushing down to the valley below.  Now, this is what the views looked like to me.  Imagine Victoria falls in Zambia.  Google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about.  Instead of a straight line of multiple waterfalls, it was essentially bowl shaped (as we were walking down into a valley).  At least 50-100 waterfalls were falling everywhere, including into the track we were walking in.  It, seriously, was absolutely gorgeous, not to mention dangerous too!  In some spots if you had one wrong slip you were going down the mountain!  I sadly have no photos as I didn’t dare take my camera out.  The other ladies in the group took photos and I will add some later when I receive them.  Melanie and I made it to the shelter at 2:30pm with the rest joining us around 3pm as they stopped to eat again.  On the way down I was worried about my body temperature, as I was shivering, so my focus was getting to the hut and getting dry and warm as quickly as possible.  When we made it to the Quintin shelter, we found that DOC had closed the track beyond the shelter.  They closed it at  noon because the track was flooded and impassable (Later that  night the DOC warden informed us that the river flooded 2.5 meters and at 4 meters Dumpling hut was under water).  Not knowing what was happening at the shelter, I quickly changed out of my wet clothes and into dry ones.  I’m so glad I did.  At the time, we didn’t realize that DOC was waiting for everyone to get down the mountain before rescuing us.  Going back to the two groups doing the Milford Track, the feeling of segregation became very apparent while we sat around waiting in our shelter. Just a few meters away from our shelter was the guided tour’s lodge.  You could see them dry, sitting on comfy couches, drinking hot drinks, eating, etc.  It was definitely an “us” and “them” situation.

At 5:30pm, we were informed a helicopter was on its way to take us to the next hut.  I quickly changed back into my wet clothes and prepared for my first ever helicopter ride!  Everyone was pretty excited about this!  I must say, I was taken aback by the lack of uplift in the helicopter compared to an airplane.  It felt no different rising into the air except for the fact that you were moving away from the ground.  Once arriving at the hut, we chose our beds, changed, and started to get tea cooking.  My feet were swollen again and my lower back problems were reignited.  Unbeknownst to me while I was cooking, my sleeping bag was being dripped on by my waterproof bag that all my stuff in my pack goes into.  I know!  Rookie mistake!!  Following tea and our DOC talk, I was emotionally and physically ready for bed.  I came back to a wet sleeping bag, which was the last thing in the world I wanted to deal with at that point in time.  After a moment of processing my emotions, I assessed the situation and remembered my space blanket (aka an emergency blanket)!  Problem solved.  I must say those emergency blankets do keep you warm!  However, it collects condensation.

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Our rescuer at Dumpling Hut!  The ladies think Jeff and I should name our third child “Steve” after the helicopter pilot.

Day 4: Friday: 18 km

We woke to beautiful, clear skies.  Not a breath of wind was blowing.  Not a rain drop anywhere near by.  I was slightly jealous about the folks getting to walk over the pass today with their amazingly clear views.

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The sun starting to shine on the top of the mountains behind Dumpling Hut.

The walk out is a long, but easy one.  I was slower than normal and my feet and lower back were literally in extreme pain. 8 km into the walk and I was pretty much done.  But, I knew I had to push forward.  I think we made it to the boat shed at Sandfly Point along the Milford Sound around 2:30/3pm.

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We made it! I feel like baby popped out a bit.

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The view of the Milford Sound from Sandfly Point.  The fog over the water to the far left is from a filming shoot.  The movie called Alien: Covenant was being filmed in the Milford Sound.  We were able to meet a few of the actors that evening.

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More of the Milford Sound from our 3 minute boat ride.

That afternoon we arrived at the Milford Backpackers Lodge where we immediately showered and enjoyed sitting around talking to a few of our fellow Milford Track buddies.  The festivities continued into the night.

We left Milford Sound the next morning.

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The driver of the van to Te Anua stopped before the Homer Tunnel for us to capture a photo.  The random man in the photo is our French/Australian buddy name Vincent who hiked the Milford with us.

Once we got to our car, we drove all the way to Lake Alexandria, or Lake Chamberlain to us, and stayed at Julie and Olivia’s family bach.  That night the ladies soaked in the Lake Tekapo hot pools while I stayed out and talked to Jeff.  The following day, after sleeping in, we all drove the 3ish hours back home.

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24 Weeks Pregnant

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Lake Alexandria

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