After New Zealand I spent about two months in Australia around Feb / March 2011.
Sydney, Melbourne, (quick trip to Tasmania) and finally Perth on the other side of the country. It was a lot of fun.
Australians are very proud of their backpacking trails. They enjoy reminding foreigners that there are “hundreds of things that can kill you”. It’s mostly BS if you ask me.
The South Coast Trail / Port Davey Track is however the craziest hike I’ve ever done…by far. It took about fourteen days to complete. I took a day off (in a green, half dome shelter) in the middle of it. I had a feeling a storm was coming. I was right. It rained non stop for 36 hours straight. When I came out the next day there was a foot of water absolutely everywhere around. A boardwalk that was supposed to be a foot above the ground was actually one foot under water. I hiked a few hours with water up to my knees.
Mud was also a problem. Turns out, it’s VERY difficult to get your leg out of the mud when you sink two feet into it. I crossed rivers by walking on dead trees that fell across. To this day I don’t know how I didn’t die 🙂
There’s something to be said about hiking along the south shore of Tasmania, looking south, knowing that there’s no more land…until Antarctica. One day maybe.
Hiking the “Te Araroa” took about five months so I had one month left on my visa to see a few landmarks that were not necessarily on the trail.
I traveled to The Catlins and did some kayaking in the Milford Sounds. There’s a lot to see in New Zealand and clearly I will have to go back at some point.
Funny story; after kayaking for a full day my body stopped generating heat. I was freezing no matter what. I was staying in a hostel in the evening and I ended up going to bed with two heavy blankets & sheets, plus my sleeping bag and all my clothes on. I was still freezing. It took several hours for my body to restart…To this day I have no idea what the problem was. It wasn’t Hypothermia (I had that twice on the Colorado Trail, trust me, I know…) but it’s one of the strangest things that happened to me on a trail.
I did lose a good part of my hearing (right side) for almost two days after a tiny branch went straight through my ear along the Te Araroa. My ear “popped” eventually and everything was fine. I also broke my arm there so I had to hike for six weeks using my camera bag as a “sling”. Luckily it fixed itself. In 2007 I lost all feelings in my right leg while backpacking late in the evening. Feelings came back. I think my backpack was putting too much pressure on some nerves. Who knows. Shit happens and people complain way too much if you ask me. Anyway…
After hiking the Te Araroa throughout the two main islands of New Zealand I decided to continue hiking. I flew to Oban, Stewart Island in one of these tiny propeller plane and did the “South West Circuit” track. It’s supposed to be a ten / eleven day trek but I was in good shape and decided to go thru two huts per day instead of one. It was a completely useless challenge since I wasn’t even using the hut system but it was fun to do…
In mid 2010 I decided to take a year off work. My visa situation was a mess (what’s new?) and one of my options was to leave the US for at least a year, come back and re-apply for a new visa. The US economy wasn’t going anywhere and my logic at the time was that I would be better off leaving my job, wait a year, and get a better paying job which meant the sabbatical would pay for itself. It worked perfectly. I got $10,000.00 more per year which happens to be what I spend while backpacking abroad. In the words of Hannibal; “I love it when a plan comes together”.
The plan was to spend six months hiking the entire length of New Zealand (about 2000 miles) along the “Te Araroa” Trail, then three months in Australia and Tasmania after which I would maybe spend some time somewhere in South Asia.
There’s a lot to say about this trail. In many ways it was a “compressed and intense” version of life. So many encounters (both good and bad) and so many adventures…I have many stories. I’ll write them down some day. In the meantime, a short series of photos will have to do.
Old insulation was some sort of cellulose powder. Not particularly good and very dusty.
The layer of R11 on top of it was definitely not good enough for Colorado.
I removed all of it, bagged everything and vacuumed.
Added some nice R15 / R19 between the joist and about thirty OSB boards so I could walk everywhere.
Finally, added a second layer of R30 insulation on top of everything. Voilà!
The electrical in the attic was a complete disaster (and potentially dangerous). I updated most of the wiring and all the electrical boxes.
I changed about 150 feet of wiring. Totally worth it.
New electrical boxes & wires 🙂
Overnight for Christmas Eve / Day at Herman Lake . About seven mile RT. First time hiking that trail. I camped near the lake next to a giant boulder (first photo). A couple hiked up Pettingel Peak early in the morning (second photo). I started hiking up towards Pettingel Peak as well but without ice axe or trekking poles it was a bit too steep. Good workout though.
3/3 – Reflection Canyon is also located in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
The idea for the weekend was to do a night photoshoot of the milky way in one of the most remote and darkest place in Utah…during a new moon. The weather was supposed to be mostly sunny. It wasn’t. It turned to rain and snow storm overnight while I was camping 7 miles away from the car…after a 75 mile dirt road 🙂
Oh well, I took photos of the snow instead. Better luck next time. Truth is; two feet of snow and I would have been cast away for days with no means of communication. I was quite lucky in that regard.
I spent part of the night pounding on the ceiling of the tent so the snow would not accumulate. I feared there would be more snow but it wasn’t too bad. Just crazy slippery and obviously no trail to be found most of the way…
This area of Utah is amazing. Honestly the entire state is just phenomenal.
2/3 – Peek-a-Boo & Spooky Slot Canyon
I’ve never done a slot canyon so I thought I’d try.
I was a bit surprised 🙂 Much narrower than expected plus some climbing on two locations. I was carrying a backpack with $8000 worth of camera gear and a tripod. Oops. Everything went fine though. These slots were 12 inch wide at time. A bit tricky to navigate.
These two canyons are located along The Hole In The Rock road in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
1/3 – Castle Valley and Capitol Reef, Utah
Clearly, a three day weekend is way, way too short for a trip to southern Utah but for now that’s all I have. This should have been a five day trip at least.
The first shot is a view of Castle Valley, Utah seen from the Dome Plateau. I got there via a fairly rough 4×4 road but that was unecessary. The highlands Road is an easy dirt road that goes to the same place. Live and learn.