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Part 2 of World Travel
by Dez Bartelt

Leaving Queenstown, I head north along beautiful country roads with my eyes set on Mount Aspiring National Forest. After a couple hours, I find myself going across cattle guards from one station (ranch) to another and come in to view of the glaciated peaks in the distance. The foreground is spectacular with the New Zealand sheep herds grazing in the pastures. I have to stop and get photos of the animals. So, I don’t find myself in the ditch.

As I find myself at the end of the road, I head up the river valley towards Rob Roy glacier. Rob Roy was a fellow Scotsman. I have to see what he had found. So, I hike amongst the thick woods and outflow of the glacier. After a couple hours I reach the glacier view point, but in ever search of tranquility I decide to head up on what is about as wide as an animal track beyond the main trail. I hike to a place suitable to sleep and pitch my tent a bit rocky but it’s all mine and directly across the valley from the ice fall and water falls from Rob Roy. Thunderous ice avalanches keep me in awe, but it is time to build a comforting fire.

What’s for dinner? Chicken filets, but how to cook them is the question. Instead of a stick I decide on a thin piece of slate over the flame and soon the dinner is sizzling away. A nice glass of wine yum, yum, yum. After filling my belly, I feel somewhat mellowed by the wine, so it is time to sleep in the mountains.

The next day I awake to a Kea bird, which is a large parrot native to the area squawking away. I think he wants breakfast, but I remember the rule to not feed the wildlife so eventually he flies on. Ok, how to make my coffee. I got it!!! The wine bottle from the night before heats up the water nicely on my trusty piece of slate. Now the decent and off to my next stop- the famous Mount Cook.

As I pass the green blue glacial lake, the big mountain finally comes into view. I had driven a few hours and am happy to be arriving with clear skies and a fabulous view. Tonight I treat myself to the Hermitage lodge where the Sir Edmund Hillary climbing center is. The view is spectacular with glaciers all around and the prominent peak strait across from the lodge. I go to the old climbers café and sum up out my approach for tomorrow. I decide on a route to a glacier to the side of mount Cook that is doable as a overnighter unfortunately the approach to Cook is too far and not smart to do solo.

The next morning is clouded in so I decide on a leisurely day of writing and reminiscing. The clouds are persistent no climbing for me, so the next day I decide to fish. Out to catch the big one. I head back down valley and head for Tekapo Lake, which gets it’s water from the Mount Cook forest. I see on the map that a dirt road leads to the far end of the lake where the river feeds the lake, but I find myself stopped short by a private station. What to do? Can the rental car handle the little track towards the lake before the fence? Let’s give it a try! After fording a few small streams, the little Toyota bumps and scrapes along and I find myself on gravel bars from the higher water flow in the spring, but actually make it out to the edge of the lake and am soooo relieved.

I look miles around to a beautiful landscape and set camp. What were all those little traps I passed on the way in I started to think. Well it turns out they are for those pesky weasels I heard about and so I guard my camp and food. The next thing is- What is that large booming sound? What is that rocket doing shooting towards the stars? Is that automatic gun fire? Am I in Iraq? Why are there so many birds here? Do they think I will protect them?

It turns out there is a military range the next valley over. What I thought was the perfect destination turned out to be a weasel infested paradise bordering the weapons range. I drift to sleep to find the birds nested all around me stirred up by those pesky weasels and ongoing bombing. Needless to say I did not sleep well! I wake up early and head to the nearest town for my strong coffee and then back to Queens town for my next adventure to the famous Milford sound on the coast.