This was our concluding view on Day 1. We were at the top of the Te Anau area. The end of the "worst" day was over. Setting our packs down, and claiming our bunks we decided to wander off to see the cool side attraction by the Hut.
I have never had so much trouble walking in my life. The joint just refused to bend, and even when I limped it so it swung around unbent the act of bearing any weight caused me to make involuntary yelps of pain. I nearly just collapsed there, done for the day.
At the point where we reached the "top" of the trail, and prepared to make our way down for the first serious distance in the day we hit this highlight. The most Lord of the Rings thing I've been too in New Zealand. I fought off the urge (which with my legs was sadly too easy) to jump under these rocks and hide from a swarm of evil crows...
Though they look the part, had I run up to get underneath them, sadly these rocks were hobbit scale. If I were in the photo bent over my back would be JUST lower the top of these outcrops! Still they fit the bill in this photo, and I stick to my guns here.
So there we were. We'd walked for 6 hours along the top ridges of 4 or 5 mountains, and to finish this day off we were going to head down. Right down. In this picture the I was as high up as that yellow point of the mountain on the right. I was going to have to walk down the equivalent distance of to nearly the lake in this photo!
There were a set of some 16 stair cases right off the bat on this downhill turn (that I neglected to take a picture of... no doubt due to the most pain I've ever experienced from my legs in my life!) that did my knees totally in. Seriously. For the rest of the trip I just couldn't bend them!
It took me till Dec. 28th before I could bend them both properly again.
The last day proved the easy walk we'd hoped the previous day would be. Despite a few slight ups and downs overall day 3 proved a conceptually pleasant walk. The only thing against us was distance. We had the distance of both days 1 and 2 to walk, and me and Clare (though me especially) were not in prime walking condition anymore.
My knees had both ceased to function as they should. Which most of the time wasn't an issue.
Though you'd be surprised how critical bending is to going up even a small hill. Clare was having trouble going down the hills. Meaning we played a funny game of grow apart and than catch up as the up and downs of the terrain played out. The worst point of the day was climbing a naturally staircase of roots around a landslided part of the track. With the steps occasionally being nearly a metre high I was crying out in pain by the last 1/3.
Now before you think I didn't enjoy myself, I did, but this trip was the strongest case of "no pain no gain" I've ever experienced. The two were nearly equal while walking (especially on day 2).
I immensely enjoyed the company of my two hiking mates, the scenery was awe inspiring, and I got the heart warming experience of seeing the decency in people, that is often lacking in civilization, when many other hikers expressed concern over my knee (as they passed me).
At the same time I've done it, and to be honest I think its one of those kiwi experiences that I'll be more than will left done simply once!