Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Taking That Once in a Lifetime Photo

Picture of a Kea - the only Alpine Parrot
Photo shot by Paul Cook on an iPhone 6
on the Kepler Trek
I snapped a picture that every tourist wants - at the ridge of a mountain - which was so high - you were walking in the clouds and being pelted by snow and hail. This is the story of how I got that picture.

I journeyed to the Fjordlands of New Zealand, which is in the Southwest corner of the country. Fjords are where the glaciers have cut through the mountains and the forest and have let the ocean flow in.

I hiked the three night - four day - Kepler Trek. On each night, there's a cabin with about 50 beds in it for travelers.

On the first night, I hiked up and up and up to through the forest, all the way to the top of the mountain ridge. I was slow because my pack was heavy. My pack was heavy because I packed too much food and good food.

Most people pack dry food, like instant noodles and spaghetti. But how could I eat like that? Seriously: cardboard and dust. I don't think so.

So, I packed wet food, like potatoes and steak and smoked salmon and red wine poured out into an empty coke bottle. Of course, this added to all my weight. And that, in turn made me slower. This is an important fact for later.

On the first night of the hut, I met some Irish people; some English people; a young Canadian; and some high school boys from a New Zealand school. The New Zealand boys were the first to say to me.

On my first night, I ate boiled young potatoes and steak and had a cup of pinot noir. The other hikers couldn't believe I ate like that.

The next morning it snowed, and it was beautiful. When I woke up, this is what it looked like outside the cabin:

View from the Luxmore Hutt on a snowy day

On the second day, I walked on the ridge of the mountain. The mountain ridge reminded me of walking on the scales of a dragon's back, with sharp points and constant hiking up and constant walking back down.

The mountain was a mile above sea level, meaning I literally was walking through the clouds and the gale force winds and snow. The winds were so strong, if a snow flake hit your face, it felt like a rubber band being shot at you and stinging you.

I was by myself on the ridge because my pack was heavy and the other hikers were further ahead. Then, the bird spotted me, screamed, and called out to me. I looked behind me and it was about 300 feet away. I could see him standing at a scenic point (which you could see in the next photo.)

I dropped my pack and walked back to him. At first, he let me get about a yard away. I talked to him calmly. So, he let me closer to him. And he was making eye contact and scoping me out. Once he found me safe, he let me get half an arm's length away. I could pet him, but the keas are rumored to bite and claw; so, I didn't.

He let me snap a number of photos of him. Then, I asked him to fly - and he did. And I took the shot above.

Then we talked some more, and he got bored after 30 minutes, and flew away. At first I thought he was after food, but I don't think he would've spent so long getting to know me if that's what he was after. The Kiwis say the bird is as smart or smarter than a dolphin.
Kea perched on a scenic point on the Kepler Trek.

On the next day, we stayed in a cabin in the rain forest. There, I met two young flight attendants from Air New Zealand. It was one of their birthdays, so the other one baked her a cake and brought a candle. It was quite an amazing thing to do for her friend. The cabin sang happy birthday to her.

On this night, one of the high school teenagers gifted me with smoked bacon because they were leaving the next day. That was kind.

The next two days were spent walking in the rain forest, which was interesting but not as spectacular as what I've shown you above.

On the final night, I made smoked salmon and risotto. It tasted really good, but was far too difficult to cook for a hike. On the other hand, you need rice or bread when you hike long distances. And this was a good tasting one.

But, I made too much food. So, I had two and half meals from it.

On the last day, I walked out through a swamp and made it back home. The last picture I'm showing you is rare sundew plant, which is a carnivorous plant. The fly gets stuck on the sticky tentacles of the plant, and the plant eats it. I was surprised to see it.

Red Sundew - a fly eating plant - taken in the Kepler Swamp.
I finished the trek on the fourth day. My knees hurt from all the weight and my shoulders were sore too.

Anyways, it was worth it, and I enjoyed it much.

Next destination - Stewart Island.

No comments:

Post a Comment