Global Adventures | An Unexpected Adventure in New Zealand

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, read about a Mountaineers global adventure trip that didn't go exactly as planned, but sometimes making the best of a situation can result in pleasant - and tasty surprises.
Cheryl Talbert Cheryl Talbert
Global Adventures Leader
May 29, 2021
Global Adventures | An Unexpected Adventure in New Zealand

As we neared the ridge crest, the wind blasted snow pellets into my face like hot shrapnel. Just ahead of me, Bob’s blue pack cover snapped once, hard, then blew off his pack and into the white.

Our Mountaineers group of twelve hardy trampers1 had set out in a gentle snowfall that morning from the Luxmore Hut on the Kepler “Great Walk,” high above Lake Te Anau in Fiordland National Park on the South Island of New Zealand. We were heading for our next stop, the Iris Burn Hut. It was mid-February, high summer in the southern hemisphere, but the weather gods hadn’t gotten the memo. The forecast posted on the wall at the hut was heavier snow later in the afternoon, so we’d launched briskly ahead with the idea that we could complete the first six miles of high exposed ridge walking before the worst of the weather hit. Now I could barely see the hikers in our group, twenty feet ahead and behind.

At the lee of a bend in the trail, we gathered up. The snow and cold were beginning to alarm the group. “This is insane!” “We’re not doing six miles of ridge in this weather!” “I can’t feel my nose!” Reality demanded we surrender to greater forces and live to hike another day. Back down the trail we went, with a short warming stop at the hut where we’d started that morning (“no room for you tonight, sorry!”), and soon we had retreated all the way down to our starting point in the little tourist town of Te Anau on the shore of the lake.

One thing you need to know about New Zealanders: their reputation for hospitality is no exaggeration. Two nights of hotel rooms arranged for twelve, in the middle of high season – check. Bags transferred to the new accommodations by the proprietor’s husband – check. Hot showers and warm dry clothes – check. Just a few hours down from the maelstrom and still blinking snow from our eyes, we found ourselves sitting around a table in a lovely little Te Anau restaurant sipping fine New Zealand wine and sampling the culinary creations of a talented local chef. Who knew that in this small verdant country's tiny burg of 2,000 souls, we would find not one but several excellent chefs who serve up incredible fare and outstanding wine? Perhaps two days forced off the trail and away from our dehydrated meals wouldn’t be all that bad!

We met our bus two mornings later to head to our next “Great Walk,” fortified once again to take on the backcountry. The experience reinforced our realization that, if only you’re open to it, adventure in an unfamiliar country can take many forms – including an unparalleled foodie experience where you least expect it.

1 Tramping is Kiwi for backpacking

This article originally appeared in our Spring 2021 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive.

LEAD IMAGE of A tramper on Luxmore Ridge. Photo by Cheryl Talbert.

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