Well done, Sandflies. We’re out!

My Travels
53.5 kilometres of Mountains, glacier water and birds! Milford sound gets an insane amount of rainfall: the average in Seattle is 958 mm, and Milford boasts 6715 mm.
Around 100 years ago, the Milford Track was deemed the ‘finest walk in the world’, which made headlines even in London.  Quentin Mackinnon was an explorer and surveyor who discovered the track alongside Ernest Mitchell in 1888, and was the first to do guided tours on the track.  People have continued to go on guided tours through to today, and it has expanded to allow independent walkers as well (i.e. us!) in the past 50 years.  That being said, only 40 independent walkers are permitted onto the track each day. 
January saw 30 days straight of rain in Milford Sound. We were 2 of the 40 people with the pleasure of starting February 6, with rain, followed by 3 days of incredible sunshine.  Had we started one day earlier, we would have been tramping in waist-deep waters on the river crossings. Instead, we hopped from rock to rock, hardly getting wet at all. 
New Zealand has mosquitos, but also Te Namu- sandflies. Maori legend says that when the mountains of Milford Sound were carved out by a great god, the goddess of death saw it and said people would want to live there forever, it was so beautiful.  So she created Te Namu to make sure that anyone who goes there doesn’t stay long.  Sandflies only bite at you if you’re staying still- not when you’re moving on.  Captain Cook made a visit to the region way back in 1773, and noted: 
The most mischievous animal here is the small black sandfly which are exceedingly numerous and are so troublesome that they exceed everything of the kind I ever met with…”

Not that we found them to be so treacherous (our bug cream gives us some edge over the Cap’n), but it became time to move on from NZ.

Brad and I with a new trekking friend, Meagan. – they call this spot the “prairie”… uhhh… 🙂
This and that: NZ
 We loved New Zealand, and it is definitely worth a visit… in in fact, we’ve plotted out our “someday” second visit here! Here’s a mildly factual mix up of what we’ve learned along the way: 
– New Zealand was the first to get women the vote, in 1893!  It was the first self-governing country to do so; the likes of Britain, USA, and Canada didn’t allow the vote until after the First World War.
– The ozone: There is a hole in it, and it effects New Zealand!  Little did I know that I would burn easier and more often in 9 weeks on these islands than during 6 months in West Africa.
– There is a Danish man working at a backpackers on the West Coast that did geological surveying in Swan River in the 90s.  He enjoyed the breakfasts at the Westwood. … Small world 🙂
– Coal: 80$ will buy you 1500 kg of coal, which would last you over a month of heating.  Valuable information when freezing your buns off on the West Coast.
– Deer hunting in New Zealand was done by helicopter from the mid 1960s onward.  First, it was to pick up carcasses that were already shot.  But it later evolved to jumping out of the helicopter, trap the live deer with a net and then strap it up and fly it away to be killed.  Fresher meat, right? Worth it? As you might imagine, there were a few casualties here and there… it ended abruptly with a simple tax that poked a hole in the industry and it lost all appeal.  Deer are now farmed instead and you’ll see a paddock full of them- a strange sight for a kid from Charleswood!
– Speaking of taxes… NZ aims to be smoke free by 2025, upping the price of a pack of cigarettes to between 19.90 and 26.10 (depending on where you are).  
– Gas is also highly taxed, at over $2 a liter all the time.  
– In the prohibition era, there was a policy to close the pubs by 6 pm, which caused a speed-drinking effect where people would try and consume as much as possible between finishing work and before closing time.
– One of the birds, Kea’s are quite cheeky. They will pick the rubber lining out of car doors in car parks and pick up cameras, fly a ways away and drop them, smashing them to smithereens when they hit the ground.  
– Te Araroa: you can walk the length of NZ (Top to bottom). It will “only” take you 3-4 months, and we met many people doing it, or parts of it.  One person we talked to said he averaged 25-35 kms/day! 
– Kmart exists here. Amazing.
-Pies pies pies… we have tried some great individual sized meat and veg pies.  They are in all the bakeries here. Favourite flavours: Jamaican jerk chicken with jalapenos, Butter chicken, nacho, steak and cheese, pepper steak, curried veg, Thai chicken, hoki scallop and shrimp,  and -of course- the classic, mince and cheese.  Okay, that list is a bit too long to be called “favourite”. We like pies.

Ok… I better sign off as we are on a speed jet (fast ferry) from Hong Kong to Macau and people scream with delight & throw their arms in the air when we go over other boats wakes!  FUN!