Travelling Solo in my 40s why not I could do this...My daughter and son had left home - for the moment at least doing their thing was working in Hospitality, while also doing Therapeutic massage from home which I loved, helping people with ailments, but I yearned for some adventure, some fun.
I was Living in Noosa, Queensland an awesome place to be, lots of sun, surrounded by National Parks and the ocean, what more could you want?
My lifetime dream was to travel the world time to get going. I had been widowed twice, now single so with no-one to join me, I would go solo, the time is now. I had seen most of Australia, hitchhiked in New Zealand - in my younger days, bit of a rebel then but don't tell anyone LOL :-) however seeing Europe was my deep desire.
Flights Booked - New Zealand then Europe
By late that afternoon after some serious googling my flights were booked to Queenstown, New Zealand with a hike to Milford Sound the Eigth Wonder of the World through the Fiordland National Park - awesome. I would then fly to London, visit relatives in the Netherlands followed by Italy and Greece, returning home seven weeks later. The only accommodation booked was two nights in London the rest of my trip I was winging it, going with the moment. Besides, bursting with excitement and slightly nervous , I never felt uncomfortable getting out of my comfort zone, I couldn’t wait.
20th April, 2010 backpack ready hiking boots (I highly recommend Scarpa, Italian Brand - most importantly wear your boots in before you hike, you don’t want blisters!) sleeping bag and every other item I might need…mmm packing only what you need is an art in itself -much to learn in this department :-)
Arriving in Queenstown what an awesome village especially for adrenaline sports like skiing, bungy jumping, water sports, horse riding, hiking to name a few. Lets not forget enjoying fresh local cuisine along with some of the worlds best Pinot Noirs…where else would you want to be!
The next afternoon was a two-hour bus trip from Queenstown to the picturesque township of Te Anau situated on the eastern shore of Lake Te Anau, the largest freshwater lake within New Zealand.
Glade Wharf - Clinton Hut
After a great evening dining with fellow hikers who I met on the bus, the following morning we joined 40 other spirited adventurers from varying parts of the globe to catch the boat to Glade Wharf. This would take us across the glistening waters of Lake Te Anau to begin our trek.
Day 1 was a short walk only 5kms, but stunning scenery. Crossing our first of many suspension bridges while hovering over cool glass like rivers while watching a rather large eel minding his own business as he swam up the river before the magical world of beech forest to reach our first nights accommodation, Clifton Hut.
The huts were basic, much like a dormitory with bunk beds, mattresses, showers and toilets, including a well equipped kitchen, dining room, fire, everything you need for a cosy night in.
As the sun went down and the cold night air settled we all gathered in the kitchen, cooking meals, huddling around the open fire sharing stories, getting to know one another with a drink or two, a brilliant night.
Day 2 - Clinton Valley
After a night of listening to snorers mmmm, keeping away from those guys tonight LOL, I headed off with my hiking buddies for our 16.5 km stretch to Lake Mintaro through Clinton Valley before reaching the base of McKinnon Pass named after the explore "Quinton McKinnon". His expedition cleared this pathway in 1888.
As much as I enjoy company when I hike there are times to be on your own, like when I discovered the beauty of Clinton Valley. Ever wanted to be "Peter Pan" in Never Never Land or in my case "Tinkerbell"? I was there…the delicacy of fern trees overhanging pathways that were covered in fine moss, mushrooms springing up from the ground, elegant daisy’s - my favourite flower showing their faces through the greenery while little sparrows popped up to sing their songs as they followed me along the pathway. As crazy as it may sound to you I felt my late husbands Glen and Label were with me, guiding the way, leaving me with a feeling of sadness but also joy that I was doing what I loved.
Later that afternoon I arrived at the "Mintaro Hut", many had set up camp but I was in no rush. Myfriends had arrived earlier and saved a mattress for me away from the snorers, we had a little joke about it but hey we all needed a good nights sleep!
Close to the hut was a beautiful fresh water lake, I couldn't resist the temptation of not having a swim knowing the water was going to be freezing. I quickly swam across the clear lake about 20 meters, refreshed but not feeling my toes! Um maybe I should get out before hypothermia sets in ..LOL nothing like a warm fire and stiff brandy couldn’t fix!
McKinnon Pass - I'm an explorer!
14 km hike climbing 1154 metres, up to McKinnon Pass, thank goodness I had two days less of food in my pack today was going to be a challenge. The weather changing dramatically the heavens opening up quickly with strong winds and so much rain. The temperature dropping fast as we trekked along the zigzag track up the mountain, oh how I love a challenge.
The reward, breathtaking. I was in the clouds listening to the wind as it howled over the mountain, the rain becoming heavier by the minute but who cares I felt like an explorer discovering this wonderful place for the first time, it took my breath away.
After taking photos enjoying a hot cup of tea it was time to head down the mountain to Dumpling Hut, tonight’s accommodation. The scenery was quite different this side of the mountain. Dense vegetation, the pathways were muddy due to the continuous rain over the past 24 hours many more streams and swinging bridges, I was loving it.
Sutherland Falls - Spectacular
Before reaching our Hut for the night you were able to walk an extra three hours to see the famous Sutherland Falls, the largest waterfall in New Zealand. The rain was now heavier but my new friend Cheryl and I didn’t care, never let a moment go by when you can explore. As we came closer to the waterfall you could hear the roar of the water falling from a 580 metre drop, sounding like thunder, spectacular, so worth the effort.
Day 4 - Then the rains came!
It was dark when we returned to camp, drenched but happy. It rained heavily all night by the morning it was worse. The park rangers decided we wouldn't be walking the last day of our trek to Milford Sound the tracks had been washed away, severe flooding. Everyone so disappointed, nature had spoken.
Helicopter to the rescue - Fiordlands
Helicopters arrived the next day taking groups of six back to Glade Wharf, where we started. The flip side of having a helicopter ride instead of hiking was the spectacular breath taking views over the Fiordlands, not too shabby :-) The streams turning into torrential rivers gushing through the valley. There had been so much rain in less than 48 hours it had washed away the tracks we hiked only yesterday. So lucky to get out when we did.
On returning to Te Anu drenched to the bone we were greeted by the press taking photos, interviewing hikers and rescuers, even making the New Zealand news!
This called for a celebration! Everyone gathered at a famous local restaurant “The Redcliffe”, for a memorable feast before heading to the local hotel enjoying the locals hospitality until the early hours of the morning, hey we were the talk of the town.
The following day everyone went their separate ways, not before exchanging numbers, many of which I have kept in contact with over the years. Thinking to myself if this is how exciting the beginning of my trip is what can I expect from London Europe.....
To be continued. ... :-)
Come back to my blog soon, I will be sharing many stories of my travels, hoping to inspire you 😊