Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Home From a Great Adventure

On April 23, seven of our OM crew (and three friends of OM) embarked on a great journey to New Zealand. Our goal was to explore one of the outdoor capitals of the world, and NZ exceeded all of our expectations. We started the trip by flying into Christchurch and immediately getting out of town to Lake Tekapo and Braemar Station where we enjoyed the serenity of staying on a sheep farm (in the sheep shearer's quarters), taking in views of Mt. Cook, and going for an icy morning dip in the lake. It was the perfect way for us to start the trip with a clear head and then jump in our 10-passenger van that took us safely through the South Island for two weeks and on countless adventures.

Next we headed to Queenstown to gather supplies for our first NZ "tramp" on the famous Routeburn Track. Unfortunately, we were greeted in QT by rainy weather and news that the Routeburn was closed until further notice due to flooding. We weighed many options (including jumping a flight to Fiji!) and decided that we came all the way to NZ to experience a "Great Walk" and wanted to stick with that mission. The Department of Conservation informed us that our only option would be the Kepler Track, 3 hours southwest of Queenstown. The track would be twice as long (and arguably twice as difficult) as the Routeburn, but we were up for it!

Along the Kepler Track we encountered lots of rain (a sustained downpour for most), lots of wind, lots of laughs, and a few tears. However, I think we would all agree that the tramp was one of the most challenging and rewarding things many of us had ever accomplished. After each day on the track (about 10 miles and 4-5 hours), we were rewarded with magnificent views from our huts, delicious backpacking meals, woodburning fireplaces, and much-needed mulled wine. Even some of our most trying times on the track made for some of our favorite memories... Seems like I don't even need to point out the obvious metaphor for life here.

After the tramp, we headed back to Queenstown for showers, beds, massages, and BUNGY JUMPING! Queenstown is home to the Nevis Bungy, the world's highest jump, and an amazing canyon swing that is no less harrowing. Six of us opted for the bungy and four of us the swing. Luckily, we were allowed to watch one another take the plunge and vicariously experience the thrill over and over again.

The next day, we headed out on a 14-hour road trip through Wanaka and all the way up to Abel Tasman National Park. Surprising to most, we had a blast in the car with some good music and plenty of snacks. Our next stop was a campsite on the beach to which we were taken by water taxi. A boat dropped us off on our own private beach where we had some beers, green curry, a campfire, and tent sleeping under the stars. When we woke up, we enjoyed coffee and yoga on the beach before taking another great hike to our boat pick-up location. Along this path, we made a slight mistake when we took the low tide track during high tide and ended up wading in chest-deep water. Again - most trying time = favorite memory.

We ended our trip with three days in a luxurious home that overlooks the marina of Picton. We did a wine tour, some trout fishing, a boat trip around the sounds, and cooked some great family-style meals.

When it was time to catch our flight home, we were sad to leave NZ but knew that we had definitely made the most of our time there. The trip surely meant different things to different people, but it was a shared experience we will never forget. Read more about our trip at

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