Spent only 2 days on the Routeburn and Caples track/loop and ended up finishing much earlier than I expected because there arent many available spots to camp! I hadn't booked with the park service as I was planning on free camping (they allow it if you are 500 meters from the track and out of sight) but I didn't realize they also had no camping restrictions in all the area above the treeline so there wasnt much left that was flat, dry, not rainforest, and far enough away! I ended up hiking to the top of a mountain the first night and actually found a decent spot, but it was 3/4 of the way through the routeburn track so I finished the trak the next day and linked to the Caples track which I hiked most of the way down. I got a ton of great pictures of the area, and it is as beautiful as expected! All in all, under 48 hours to do the trek that I was planning for 4-5 days, so I got to see it all, but just had to hike a lot! My feet were definately sore, so I decided to head to Stewart Island, at the very south tip of New Zealand. My spanish teacher in Boise had given me a contact of a nice older lady there (he had helped remodel her house 15 years ago). The 1 hr ferry ride over was crazy rough - the waves were probably 10' tall, and at times the top of the boat was lower than the wave tops! it was like a roller coaster all the way over and fun for about 10 minutes... then about half of the boat got sick and it that was the end of the joyride! I had almost missed the ferry, and in my haste packing I ended up forgetting my camera which I regretted as soon as i saw the size of the waves but the trip is definately burned in my memory!
The island itself is almost all a nature preserve and the town is only 300 residents or so, so very quiet, quaint and beautiful. Its an old fishing, whaling, Maori village and some of that remains along with lots of B&B's and enough tourism to keep it alive. It was very nice and I did a few walks, spent some time in the fantastic local cafe, and relaxed while trying to avoid the rain. Had a really nice 2 days there and Coral (my hostess) was really great. more on her later.
Gotta run, but now heading back to Christchurch, then to Auckland and to Buenos Aires! will be there on the 14th, so a BIG change coming up.