Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Southern Alps | forest deep and mountain high

Disclaimer: posts that follow may not be in chronological order. It's been hard to keep an accurate accounting of all that has happened. This thing happened 2 weeks ago.

Laura had one more weekend to take in the best of the island. We had to drive through the blight of Queenstown to get to our destination. We were afraid the stench of this Aspen-esque tourist megaloplex might destroy our reverence for the unreal montane lands, but the cheapness got crushed like 3% copper ore when the long gravel road revealed our first night's hideout. The place is called, officially, Paradise NZ. Silver beech is aptly named, but the greenness is bigger. Any moss lover should take care when coming to Aotearoa. The sheer volume, variety, intricacy and stubbornness of the bryophyta on this island is more than enough to illicit fits of laughter, embarrassing episodes of drooling and wobbly-footed stumbling that would be painfully dangerous if it weren't for the guarantee of 5 inches of green padding between you and anything else you care to name.

The only other place I have seen growth like this is nowhere. We camped at twilight in the most available gap in the trees, and were woken by very friendly dusky-colored birds. The New Zealand Robin is not afraid of people. Or maybe they just like Weet-bix. They were down to about 9 pairs just a few years ago until a successful breeding program on Stewart Island bumped them up to their present commonness. Upon emerging from the forest we were flabbergasted to behold the most ridiculous mountains ever. While we watched, they began to bloom as the pink morning sunshine crept down snowy slopes. This was only day one.

Day two consisted of a cold soggy (still spectacular) climb/set of suspension bridge balancing acts to one of the huts on the Routeburn Track. The DOC hut system in New Zealand is positively the most glorious revolution in the world of walking since the shoelace. We stayed there and recuperated using tea. The next day saw us above treeline, so there was nothing to hide the variety of stupid expressions on our faces as we stared in all the directions we could come up with. Think Homer Simpson, doughnut shop. Photos will help the words here.

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