As previously discussed, day 1 of our Great Walk was a little rough. It was in the 40s and poured all day. After finally finding our cozy (see also: soaking wet/freezing) tent pad, we awoke after a rough night of sleep the following morning to an only mildly damp morning.
Foggy, but not rainy. Thank Mithrandir!
After an hour or so of this, we started seeing hikers coming from the other direction of the walk. Every one of them told us that "just around the corner" the weather was beautiful and sunny. For an hour and a half, we heard that. Just around the corner. Sun.
That evening we camped at the Routeburn Flats campsite (the pictures of flat-ish places, with our tent), down the mountain from Routeburn Falls. We had an incredible view of the clouds trying their darndest to get over the mountains to us... and failing.
The following day we hiked out of the wilderness and caught our shuttle back to Queenstown.
Have I mentioned how awesome Queenstown is?
Rata before we left. And oh my, was that a great idea. Amazing local food (honey goat-cheese puff tarts! Smoked salmon and capers! More goat cheese!), local wine (wiiiiiiiiiiiine), and The Husband had the biggest steak (and, I was assured, potentially the best) I have ever seen in my entire life.
We spent a couple relaxing days in Queenstown before heading back up to Christchurch for a night, and then our flight back to the US. Fun tip - basically no one rents cars in Queenstown to take north. Everyone tends to rent cars in Picton (the ferry from Wellington drops you on the south island in Picton) and drive them down to Queenstown, then fly out from there. Because they have trouble moving the cars back north, they will sometimes give you a rental car for free.
So we got a free rental car to drive to Christchurch. Way to go, last-minute-planning!! We were able to stop where and when we liked along our (admittedly, 8-hour) drive.
I am totally not kidding when I recommend checking out the Queenstown Lawn Bowling Club. An octogenarian taught us the rules and how to actually roll the bowls so they don't go all the way across the lawn and mess up someone else's game. It was a blast and we met some great people.
And then we had to leave. :'(
If you ever want someone to bore you to tears talking about New Zealand, give us a call. It's unreal.