We were roused early from our sleep at 0530h by the Japanese couple who had no idea that we were spending the night in the dining hall. They came in, pots and pans clanging around as they prepared their breakfast by headlamp. It was only when they finally woke E out of his peaceful slumber, that they realised what was going on and toned the noise back down. Thankfully, E just whined for a few minutes and drifted back off to dreamland.
The rest of the crowd slowly started filtering in to the dining hall from about 0700h. I was quite awake by this time, so I peeled off my sleeping bag and shuffled over to the benches to have a bit of brekkie. The weather outside looked nasty. The wind had somewhat calmed down, but the mountain top was still coated in cloud, and everything looked a miserable grey.
J joined me after 15 minutes or so, and by this time, most of the residents from the night before had joined us in the dining hall, and there was a fair ruckus going on.
The miracle? E slept through the whole thing! In fact, it was nearly 0930h by the time he decided to stir, and he woke up cheerful as ever. At least someone had a good sleep huh! Seems like our little boy will be quite the outdoorsman in the future.
We took a short stroll out of the hut to visit the nearby Luxmore Caves. The mist made the air damp, and there was still no view, but other than that, the weather was relatively pleasant. It was a 10 minute walk to the caves, and when we got there, we discovered it was a little impractical to get too deep into the cave whilst trying to carry E. We settled for a little photo and a peek around about 50m in, then headed back to the hut to prepare for our descent back to Te Anau.
By the time we left, it was 11:45am. There was no improvement in the weather, but at least everyone was back in good spirits (compared to the day before anyway!). We also found heart in the fact that the uphill battle we faced the day before was now going to be literally downhill all the way. A quick family photo and we were back on our way towards the treeline.
The pace was much quicker now that we were heading downhill. Strides were longer, and we didn’t require as many rest stops. The crappy view also meant that we didn’t stop to take as many photos. We reached the tree line in a little over 30 minutes, and entered into the misty realm of the trees which we had missed the day before due to the fading light.
The forest in the morning mist had its own surreal beauty – beads of dew hanging off the lichen covered leaves like glittering balls of glass, the mist swirling gently through the trees. The air smelt clean and fresh, and we knew right off the bat that our walk down was going to be a whole lot more fun that the day before.
We got back down to Limestone bluffs in what felt like no time at all. The weather was clearing up slightly, and we were able to better appreciate the cliffs. The rain the day before had also created several tiny waterfalls that trickled down the rocks, creating quite a picturesque setting, something I quite enjoyed. J, on the other hand, has a significant case of acrophobia, and discovered that the mist the day before had been concealing a rather steep 30 foot drop below the narrow path. Needless to say, she preferred not to linger!
At about this time, we were just contemplating a lunch break when E decided to conveniently drop off to sleep. Thankfully he somehow managed to fall asleep with his head leaning back, and I didn’t have to spend the next hour or so staring at the ground. We decided to let him nap, and continued our descent back to the lake.
The constant downhill grade meant that we were able to walk for nearly 2.5 hours straight without any significant break, and by the time our little boy was roused from his nap, we were not too far from Brod Bay. We stopped for a quick lunch break, and got a visit from one of the local wood pigeons. That pigeon was massive and looked more like a flying chicken with a better fashion sense.
E decided to have a bit of a walk himself, and so the last 500m or so to Brod Bay took us nearly half an hour to get through, since he wanted to point out every single fern and trickle of water along the way. Talk about attention to detail!
We had dropped back below the cloud line, and stopped to take a better look at Brod Bay and its beach. We had the insect repellant ready this time, so we were able to avoid the nasties that had chased us off from our lunch the day before.
The remaining hike to the control gates was somewhat uneventful – we did take a little longer on our now fatigued legs, but we made it in the end, one tired and happy family at the end of a rather unusual adventure (for us anyway!). We hobbled back into the carpark, and I could hardly wait to get E off my back. J thoughtfully volunteered to walk the extra 50m to the car and drive it over, something I didn’t argue with. We all piled back in to the little vehicle, smelling like a pile of unwashed damp rags, but thoroughly grateful for the experience and the time we could spend together. We rolled off back to the Kingsgate Hotel, exhausted and looking forward to hot showers, and real food for dinner!