It turns out that I could walk the next morning (after that marathon 40km hike), but just barely. It was my first sunny day in NZ, and I decided to drive up north to Mt. Aspiring National Park. It took me about 3 hours to get to Wanaka, where I turned off onto a road that claimed to dead-end in the middle of nowhere 51km later. It turns out that this was a dirt road with lots of cattle guards, sketchy one-lane sections, and at least 6 places where I had to ford streams with my car. I was a bit disturbed by all this (I didn’t want to wreck the rental car), but when I reached Raspberry Flats Car Park there were at least 60 cars, most of which were nicer (and lower to the ground) than mine. Apparently this area is really popular for both hikers and climbers.
I put on my pack and started hiking up the river valley. My thinking was that a river valley would be a pretty flat and easy hike compared to the day before, and would give me a bit of a break. It turns out that it didn’t matter how flat it was–it still hurt. After a little over 2 hours of hiking through cow pastures I reached aspiring hut, which is a giant stone hut from the 1950s on the boundary of Mt. Aspiring National Park. The views of the glaciers from here were truly awesome, and many mountaineers who were headed for these glaciers passed through the hut that evening.
Unfortunately, I had left my wallet in the car so when the hut warden came for the hut fee I had no money. Luckily everyone is honest in NZ, so she just wrote me an invoice and told me to pay at the visitor’s center on my way out of town. The next morning, I woke up after everyone else (again) and hiked out. I had had a short trip in Mt. Aspiring National Park, but I had a mission for the day: I needed to make it all the way up to Welcome Flat. I hope to go back to Mt. Aspiring National Park someday with some mountaineering equipment and a climbing partner.