The Fellowship of TriBlanc

December 22 – Narrated by Alaina
A few days ago we were driving and I mentioned to Mike that we are, in fact, living his tattoo. For those of you that are unfamiliar, Mike has a tattoo on his inner right arm that features three designs that represent: Fortune Favors the Bold, Live for the Moment, and Make Memories. This trip has truly represented his life mantras and we both are extremely grateful.

 Today Mike had his adrenaline pumping experience and I don’t think I have been prouder. To witness someone overcome an absolute huge fear and see them rejoice after doing something out of their comfort zone is unbelievably exciting. For today’s post, I am going to work backwards.

Currently we are sitting in Dora finishing a bigger dinner because we just finished the Hooker Track, a 14km hike to the base of Mt. Cook, the largest/tallest mountain on the South Island. I had read that this was a medium difficulty track and it had two suspension bridges that went over a river carrying glacial waters to a lake below. We started the hike around 6 and were happy to see lots of people exiting the track and few beginning, it meant we wouldn’t be surrounded by people.img_9585

The views driving in had already been stunning, but walking through the valley was unbelievably cool. New Zealand has the most jaw-dropping scenery either of us have experienced. This track made us feel like we were on the way to Mt. Doom to drop the ring in the volcano. I digress… We were excited to start the track and I had forewarned Mike that there were a couple bridges. img_9597

We got to the first one. Nothing like a raging river below and large slats through the wood floor holding it together. Mike took a deep breath and he followed me, until we felt that the bridge moved. Significantly. Mike somehow followed me and made it over the first bridge. High five to Mike! img_9611

We then enjoyed the walk through the valley until we saw the second bridge. It was over a canyon with the rushing river underneath. This bridge was significantly higher and longer than the first… And we also noticed that it moved. Significantly. Mike walked out a little bit, thought things through, thought some things through some more and then it happened. He just started walking over it. I followed without saying a word and just watched it happen. Folks, I was even nervous to cross this bridge, it was wobbly, there were inch gaps on the floor and there was a huge drop into a raging river. Mike did it!

We were done with bridges! So we continued our walk and it was absolutely beautiful. We had an amazing view of Mt. Cook and even heard a very large rumble… We realized that the snow pack above was falling and making a thunderous noise… It was really cool. Until we came to a third bridge. I swear I only read that there were two… Poor Mike saw the suspension cables and was not thrilled. But then when we got closer? It wasn’t as high! Mike cruised right over, no fear what-so-ever. Fighting back his fear allowed us to see floating glaciers, the real glacier and the base of Mt. Cook. I honestly think the track was amazing because he went out of his comfort zone and felt so unbelievably proud of himself, which he had every right to feel.

 Now, this is all from my perspective. I will have Mike share his:

Heights suck. They make my knees wobble & usually I either freeze up and can’t move or just start immediately stumbling around like a drunkard the second I’m anywhere near something that triggers the fear. Alaina had given me fair warning that this track had 2 bridges, the second being a bit scarier than the first and that I probably wouldn’t even want to attempt it. img_9602

When we got to the first bridge it didn’t seem too high to look at so I approached confidently.

 Then, as she mentioned, it wobbled and swayed as we stepped on it. Awesome. It also appeared to be much higher once I was on it so my freak out instincts tried to kick in. Not wanting to cut the hike short I just focused straight ahead on the mountain across the way and thought happy thoughts. A minute or so later, after passing another group of hikers who stopped to take pictures forcing me to release the death grip I had on the railing and switch sides, I was safe on solid ground no worse for the wear except the start of a little indigestion :-).

 Ho hum, the trek continued until we got to the big mother – the 2nd bridge. Holy god. It was high, it was long, it was over a raging, rocky river of death, and it shook the second we stepped on it. Alaina even mentioned that she was considering turning back around at this point. I really wanted to see the summit of Mt. Cook and the glacier itself though & that required us crossing this bridge. So I slowly stepped on it and tried to work up the courage. About 5 different times I took a few steps forward & then retreated. Then I said to hell with it and started moving forward! Until a group approached from the other end of the bridge & not wanting to deal with the possibility of having to switch sides again or the additional bridge movement from extra people, I went back to the beginning again. I had to psych myself back up but as I saw another group approaching I knew I had to just get started before they reached the bridge so off I went! I don’t even know what was happening really outside of just focusing straight ahead and remembering to breathe. The other group got to the bridge as I had about 20 feet left & I think they could tell I was about to puke so they kindly moved to the side and let me finish up. What a rush once I got over and back on the ground. I don’t get super proud of myself or toot my own horn often but I was VERY happy with me after that!

After that monster, even though the 3rd bridge was unexpected I was able to power through with relative ease. And even on the return trip – having to do all 3 bridges again – while I didn’t enjoy any of them per se, I didn’t hesitate to cross any of them or even hold the hand rails on the way back. HOORAY ME!!

 Now back to Alaina….

Mt. Cook was one of the things I had been looking forward to and I will tell you, the drive alone is worth it. Coming into the mountains, we followed Lake Pukaki which has the most unbelievable turquoise color. The sediment from the glacier water is heavy in this lake so when the sun hits it, it looks like the Caribbean. The scenery is so beautiful and I think we may have stopped five times to get pictures.

  We left Wanaka this morning with the hopes of having a leisurely drive north. We strolled the town before getting on the road and were finally able to get a Christmas ornament of a kiwi for our tree! We then checked out Puzzling World which appeared to us as a complete rip off (although the exterior was cool), so we quickly left without even seeing the different exhibits.

 Yesterday, a local we met at the Dino slide and is also a retired professional snowboarder, told us about the Lavender Farm, which was on our way out of Wanaka. We are so thrilled she did as the farm was beautiful, smelled like lavender from the minute we pulled into the drive and there were sheep! Mike and I kept saying how much Jackie would have loved visiting this place, it is right up her alley! There was lavender drying from the rafters and an array of products to purchase, but the grounds are really what impressed us. There were different varieties of lavender with the mountains in the background, tables to eat lunch and just pretty gardens in general.

Most importantly, Mike was able to meet and pet a sheep. It was a comical event where he was rebuffed by a mom and her two lambs, but then sheep #2 (who we named Fluffy) came over and let us spoil him a bit. Mike attempted to befriend the alpaca but, they were a little too timid.

 We finally left the farm and began our way north. Halfway through the drive we saw a sign “Clay Cliffs”… It sparked our interest but once we turned in it said 10km… Do we or don’t we? Hey, we are traveling with our entire house, why not! A paved road became a dirt road, the dirt road became an open gate/close gate road and then it got dicey… We were both thinking that it better be good, and boy was it! All of a sudden these gorgeous cliffs came into view, but not the type of cliffs you are thinking. The clay cliffs looked like massive sand drip castles

 We made the five minute walk up the dirt path and were excited to see that we could actually go into the cliffs and be surrounded. I will let the pictures do the talking:


It was such a cool place and definitely off the beaten path. This just confirmed why we are traveling the way we are… We have the flexibility and freedom to go wherever we want and not be on any time table. It’s awesome!Having said that, I am writing this entry in the camper at the base of the Mt. Cook Mountain Range. I look out my window to huge mountains with melting snowpacks and it is so cool to know that tomorrow, we will see the mountains in the morning sun. Another successful day and 350+ photos in this magical place.

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