...but if you've seen a bunch of snow-capped mountains before, it was meh. It was great to put some miles on my boots, of course, but I was actually a little... bored. I know. I'm in New Zealand, hiking through one of the most outstanding national parks, and I'm just not blown away. Yet.
On the way up the trail, there was a sign warning against feeding the kea. Kea are alpine parrots. That's right: these boys don't fly through the jungle. They prefer the snow. Weird, huh? They have a reputation for being bold, curious, and rather cheeky. They have learned to open zippers, so you can't leave packs unattended, and they also have a reputation for stealing part or all of boot laces (unfortunate!). I was a little disappointed that I hadn't encountered one yet.
At the top of the trail, Dave and I stopped for a snack under the shadow of the glacier. Dave said that he was a little bummed that we hadn't seen a kea yet. I nodded and took a bite out of my apple. My butt was getting cold, sitting on a rock, so I stood up to stretch. Behind Dave:
He was standing maybe a meter from us, looking right at us and doing that funny swaying thing that parrots do, staring at our backs while we were oblivious to him. Once we noticed him and gave him attention, he circled us and came right up to us. He was observing us as much as we were observing him. He tried to pull some pieces of metal off a post. He tried to beg for our food. He tried to pull at my hiking poles. He almost grabbed Dave's camera. I was absolutely ENCHANTED.
Of course, we did not feed him. The only thing he got was a little entertainment, and the only thing we got was a few pictures.
Oh yeah, the rest of the day. We hiked down the glacier path, then out to the Mt. Aspiring hut, then back to the carpark. It was a full day hike, about 26 km/ 16 miles. A long day, but the kea made it worthwhile!