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i met a possum!

I’ve been in the Westland (aka the rainforest) for about a week and a half now, and have been having incredible luck with the weather. Lovely sunny days and astounding clear skies at night. The moon is full tonight, but because the days are so short this time of year (sunrise 7:30, sunset 5:00), the moon is still out, and at the moment I can see it through the window of the internet cafe, round and white over the ferns and other greenery.

Returned last night from a three-day tramp through the mountains. Walked part of the Copland Track. The full walk starts in Mt. Cook Village (on the other side of the alps) and ends over here on the west coast, but you need mountaineering experience for that, so I only hiked in about 20km and then back. Found two guys to go with – a German and a Brit – and met a whole group of Americans on an “Active NZ” tour who were doing the hike at the same time. The trail was quite gentle. It climbed gradually up the Copland river valley, crossing well over a dozen creeks as they plummeted down the mountains to meet up with the main river. Slippery rocks and swift water = wet feet. But, warmish weather and sunny, so it was all good. Big, jagged, snow-covered peaks to the east and west, capping the ends of the valley, and on the second day of the hike we caught glimpses of the Copland Pass itself, through the snow and ice of the alps – oh, what a tease. Someday, someday I will have the mountaineering skills to tackle the really big guys.

The hut was large and comfy, and I actually really enjoyed the company of the Americans, though I didn’t quite feel like I belonged – like I was enjoying their company through the eyes of a non-American. Interesting. The best part, though, was the hot pools…ooooh yeah. Two minutes walk from the hut was a natural, geo-thermal hot spring, which fed several shallow, bright orange pools of steaming water. After a long, seven-hour hike with wet feet and a heavy pack, to sit in the hot water and gaze down at the sun setting into the valley…divine.

The first night was clear as anything. I walked out to use the toilet and was actually struck dumb, mid-step, by the beauty of the snowy mountains glowing in the moonlight. I would actually venture to say that the combination of the purplish sky, the big moon, the mountains, the stars and the whole FEEL of the night was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Describing it further would just cheapen it. On the way back from the toilet, still reeling in wonder, I spied something rustling in the bushes – a possum! Little reddish guy, totally unafraid and unconcerned with my presence. First time seeing one alive – they’re like squirrels here: roadkill. Wicked thunderstorm the second night, and a group of drunk college kids from further south, so didn’t get much sleep, but the skies cleared for the hike back out to the carpark, and last night I stayed at a backpackers. Oh, the wonders of a warm bed and hot shower!

Today I will head even further south, leaving the glacier region and working my way toward the fjords…

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