Not only are the physical attributes of New Zealand perfect for breathtakingly beautiful hikes, the “vehicles” sometimes used to get from point A to point B are also quite singular. To get into the mood, let’s harken back to my favorite hiking tune from childhood:
BY FOOT – I had a frisson of excitement/fear when I crossed my first of many suspension/swing bridges – they are well-built and quite sturdy but are flexible to withstand wind gusts. My brain told me this, but my body was a little freaked out by the swaying and the bouncing – fortunately there were never many people on it so I was able to cross very quickly.
The first swing/suspension bridge I crossed was over Hooker Valley River in Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park. The Hooker Valley track is about 3 miles long each way and the views are of course spectacular. The hike starts across rocky but flat meadows with glimpses of the extraordinary views of the glacier lake:
After a steady climb we see the first bridge in the distance:
When we reached the bridge this did not give me ease:
Nevertheless we crossed the bridge with the Hooker Valley River roaring below us:
Two other suspension bridges followed but the end was well worth the trepidation of crossing as we got an up and close view of Mount Cook:
The Milford Track bridges in Te Anau offered completely different but still stunning views of a more forest-like environment:
OFF ROAD JEEP SAFARI – I think this description is somewhat misleading, although the official meaning of safari is indeed a journey. However, I believe a safari may involve a jeep, but the purpose is to find animals in their natural habitat. Instead we raced across rough landscapes and narrow and shallow riverbeds but did not see any creatures except for birds. What we were looking for was gold as Arrowtown is an abandoned gold mining area of Queenstown. While the ride itself was kind of fun I opted not to pan for an infinitesimal fleck of gold and true to my obsession looked for birds and found a couple of unusually colored sparrows:
JETBOAT – I was a little concerned after reading the description of this adventure – not about the high speeds – but more about the 360 degree spins taken at that high-speed. Add fairly shallow water and narrow paths – so I was apprehensive despite the heavy body gear:
Even after an in-depth pre-flight checklist and precautions drill – I wasn’t sure that I was going to like this type of trekking:
It was awesome.