The bickering walkers juxtaposed. Aiming east and west, Walking north. A friendly poet clarified their quandry. Far from the city, Far from the lake. They retrace their steps. The evening’s argument already brewing. The poet smiled.
Welcome to the final installment (baring some random additional content if I think of anything worth writing about) of my Te Araroa journey, from Te Anau to Bluff. I ended up ahead of schedule again (I think I just walk a lot faster than I think!), so I was content to go slow for this section.
Coming out of Te Anau I did not have the same luck with hitching that I’d had on the way in. After a fair while stood at a good hitching point (a lovely long layby just outside Te Anau with a fair bit of traffic) with not even a sniff at a ride, I started walking the road, which was a good 30km of hard shoulder trudging to get where I wanted to be. After two hours of road walking in which I’d abandoned the thumb-out approach, a lady pulled up and offered me a lift, so I squeezed in with the shopping and was under way again. Turns out it might be easier to hitch when you aren’t hitching than when you are!… or perhaps people don’t like my thumbs for some reason.
Anyway, after 10 minutes of delightful conversation about the area, we arrived at the Princhester road (a little farm road in the middle of nowhere) I hopped out, said thanks, and literally 2 minutes later it started raining heavily. Ace.
It was only a 6km walk to the Princhester hut, but I got drenched, and as ever with these things, on reaching the hut it almost instantly stopped raining. Arriving at the 6 bed hut, I found 5 people, a Czech, a Frenchman, a Swede (Swedish person, not vegetable), and 2 argentinians, who were busy trying to bake a pizza over a fire in the rain (it took about 3 hours, but did look tasty at the end). We had some great conversation (and a lot of Anglo-French mockery… an awful lot… but he started it), but unfortunately I also passively inhaled more nicotine than I’ve even seen in the whole of the rest of my time in New Zealand (on a serious note, broadly speaking I’d forgotten that smoking was a thing over much of this trip, maybe it’s the people I’ve been meeting, or a New Zealand thing or something).
After choking my way through the night, I decided it was time to delight in the fresh New Zealand air, and so instead of heading to the Aparima hut (the next one on the TA trail) I took a little detour and went to Beckett’s hut. This was only a little off piste, but clearly wasn’t regularly visited. There was no real track to the hut, and indeed I spent much of the walk wandering down the middle of a stream, because it was easier going than tripping over tussocks the whole way. On reaching the hut though, it was a delightful clean, well stocked 4 bed hut, and though there has been 2 people there the night before (according to the hut book), I was all alone there, giving me the chance to sew together all of my various items which were falling apart (which was pretty much all my various items…) and do a bit of reading (an activity which I hardly did at all before leaving the UK, and now I’m getting through a book every week or
From Beckett’s hut to Aparima hut was a very casual 2 hour walk, so I took a lot of breaks and just enjoyed the scenery (which this time was heavily grazed, as I inadvertently chased a herd of cattle down the valley). The weather was holding out, and hadn’t rained since I reached the Princhester hut. Indeed if anything it was getting brutally hot with no shelter anywhere along the way. At Aparima hut I was all on my lonesome again, though at about 5pm a pair of Americans turned up, stayed long enough to shovel down literally about 300-400g of crisps, snickers, gummy bears and nuts each, and then got back on their way. They’d Started that day in Te Anau, and were walking nearly 40km over rough terrain with a lot of ascents and descents. Just to put that in context, my longest day has been approx 45km, walking along gently descending roads, and it was knackering. Nutters.
The following day I had a lovely stroll through forest and reasonably well trodden paths, to the Lower Wairaki hut, where the rain set in just as I arrived at the hut. Arriving there I found a French girl and two English girls. These were the first UK TA walkers I’d met on the whole trail! They were all heading northbound, and somewhat ominously were writing a journal entry which they said was entitled “a day of mountain climbing”. This made me a little concerned that the next day, though fairly short, would be pretty tough.
As it panned out, it wasn’t, and if they thought that was ” mountain climbing”, I think they’ll be learning a lot about kiwi trails over the next few months. This did give me my first view of the South coast, and indeed a very distant glimpse of Bluff, the final destination. Then it was down into the farmland valleys, and a night at the FIND THE NAME campsite, which stole the record from Macetown for the “lovely place most ruined by the presence of an infinite number of sandflies”. Arriving at about 3pm I had to seal myself in my tent, and every time I opened the door I then spent about 20 minutes killing sandflies inside. On the plus side, I got the technique down to a fine art.
Leaving the campsite indicated the end of the wilderness. The walk out was just along farm roads, and in absolutely driving rain, with relatively no redeeming features. Indeed the best thing about it was that it wasn’t the road walk which followed. The TA notes suggest to stop at Otautau on the way south to re-supply, but a little further from the trail was a little town called Tuatapere, which I headed to. As a side note, Tuatapere looks like a French word, perhaps “two-a-tap-e-rey”, or “two-a-tap-err”, but no, this is New Zealand, and so after a bit of mocking from the locals on my “European” accent, I was told it’s “Two-ta-pree”. Since that though, I met a Maori person in Invercargill, who tells me that’s wrong, but I can’t even phonetasise the pronunciation she suggested. So long story short, after 5 months in the country, I still can’t even start to pronounce Maori names.
From Tuatapere I should have gone back up to the north of the Longwood range, but the weather was miserable, and I’d heard nothing good about the Longwoods, so instead. I headed round the coast via Orepuki, where I spent a strange evening chatting to a very drunk old bloke who talked endlessly about his work at a meat processing plant, to Riverton, which is a lovely little harbour town. Sadly the end of Te Araroa is a huge anticlimax after the wonders I’d been through, with endless road and farmland. From Riverton to Invercargill is a pleasant enough (but rather long) beach walk, but then the weather really closed in, and the road from the beach to Invercargill was one of the most miserable walks of the whole trail! The advantage of course being that you’re so near the end, there’s not much that can dampen your spirits.
For the final day’s walk from Invercargill (approx 20km of unadulterated road) I was going to wait for a sunny weather window, but in the end I decided just to get it finished. Rain was due in around lunchtime, so I started walking extremely early… for a whole kilometre, before someone pulled up and offered me a lift to Bluff. So I had another great conversation about differences between the UK and New Zealand (long story short, in the UK no one talks to anyone), and then wandered over Bluff hill to the final signpost at the South of Mainland New Zealand, and the end of the trail.
This of course was a time for reflection on the journey, remembering the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, and the skills I’ve learned. The rain even eased off, and I found all of the bad parts of the trail melting away to nothing. Ah, such bliss.
It was whilst lost in this revelry that the (many expletives deleted) sandflies realised I was an easy target, and thus was my final experience of the Te Araroa trail a sandfly biting my knuckle.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures and rambling nonsense of the blog. It may well return at some point down the line, with more content of one form or another, but for the time being I’m going to order a massive cooked breakfast and a coffee the size of my head, and put my feet up.
Welcome to a blog post which will be pretty long, covering Wanaka all the way to Te Anau, due to missing one out at Queenstown, for reasons which will become clear later in the post. I had planned for the Wanaka to Queenstown section to take 4 or 5 days, going very gently from hut to hut. However unfortunately I ran into overpopulation problems, and ended up storming through in 2 days (well, 2 days to Arrowtown, and then a very gentle day through to Queenstown).
From Wanaka I followed the lake shore round to Glundhu Bay, which as far as I can tell is just one giant campsite. On the lake were a ton of people water skiing and cruising about in boats, but there were surprisingly few people out walking. I reached Glendhu bay pretty early, so decided to push on to Fern Burn hut, the first of a series of newly built huts over the section, which travels through land owned by Mutt and Eileen Lange (Mutt Lange being a music producer, and Eileen Lange being aka Shania Twain), who funded the building of the huts. I met a couple of people on the way who were heading back from Fern Burn and warned me that there were “quite a few people” heading that way. The approach was fairly steep, but nothing compared to other “trails”, and so it didn’t take me long to reach the hut.
On arrival, I discovered that the hut (a comfortable 12 person hut) was full (yes, full) of the Auckland Tramping Club, and there were 8 (yes, 8!) tents outside the hut (I think there was another tramping club there too). Now call me old fashioned, but when I head out to the wilds to get away from the bustling city life, I generally aim for population densities which are smaller than most city centres. With this in mind, I ended up shifting on another 8km over several high saddles and through a load of soaking vegetation to the next hut. This was another 12 person hut, and had another 6 of the Auckland Tramping club in it(!), as well as an American and Canadian TA walkers heading north. At least I actually had space in the hut this time.
Unfortunately, I’d entered cloud just above Fern Burn hut, and had been inside the whole way to the second hut. After sleeping in a little, the cloud continued the next day over to Rose’s hut, with visibility around 30 metres, leaving the ” fantastic views” which my guide book promised, thoroughly hidden. When I arrived at Rose’s hut (about 7 hours of walking through clouds), I caught up with the 6 ATC members who I’d stayed with the previous night, and discovered that they were waiting there to rendezvous with the other pile of ATC that evening. Time to move again…
From Rose’s hut to Macetown was another section which was rather beautiful, but would’ve been more enjoyable if I could have seen beyond arm’s reach. This involved a “shortcut” down the arrow river, which (in true kiwi style) was quite literally “down the Arrow river”. However my boots were soaked anyway from the vegetation anyway, so I just went full kiwi and strolled down the river, boots and all. Macetown is a gold mining town from the day of the goldrush, however since the gold trailed off, everyone moved out, and now it’s empty and just a tourist attraction. While the human population of Macetown is zero, the sandfly population is about 3 billion. This meant I was quickly chased into my tent, and lost about a gallon of blood on the way.
In the morning, packing up took about 2 seconds, and then I ran from the campsite… not that I would let simple insects get to me of course. The road to Arrowtown was a 4×4 track with “several river crossings” (I counted 22), down some lovely steep sided valleys. Arrowtown itself seems to be one very touristy street, but quite pleasant nonetheless.
Arrowtown to Queenstown was quite a generic walk through golf courses and rural farmland, and on arriving in Queenstown I found the cheapest accommodation I could get was $25 per night (gone are the days of the $10 campsite). Though I was very tempted to just leave there and then, I needed to print out a new set of maps and get some food etc, so stayed briefly. As it turns out, Queenstown is without doubt the most expensive, overcrowded, and alcohol fueled place I have been in New Zealand, and hence I didn’t stay long enough to write a blog post, never mind post one.
Though the Te Araroa notes say you should get a water taxi from Queenstown to Greenstone wharf (about 40km up a lake), that would have cost me the vast majority of my remaining money, so instead I took a bus up the lake to Glenorchy, and then walked round to Kinloch and then Greenstone. It was only an extra 38km walk… it seems I’ll go to great lengths (pun intended) to avoid spending money.
For this section again I had intended to go slowly, and I almost managed, but it turns out even when walking slowly/short distances I still eat a lot (as an example, my museli suggests a single portion is 50g, I’ve been eating 250-300g for breakfast, and still been a bit peckish…). The Greenstone hut was very pleasant, with a Ranger and flushing toilets!
Heading up the valley was one of my favourite parts of the Te Araroa so far, with amazing scenery, hardly any people, fantastic silence, and perfect weather. On reaching the Boundary Hut, I found an American fisherman, a Luxembourgian (is that the right term?) northbound Te Araroa walker, and a campervan housing two English fisherman (almost in their 70s), who were clearly enjoying their second childhood. That night that 5 of us stayed up until about 11:30 (very late for me), looking at the totally cloudless night sky (the stars were only rivalled by my experiences out in the northern territory) and enjoying some wine and beer (and pasturised Brie, which had the consistency of cheddar) which the fishermen had brought up.
I then took a detour up the next valley, to go to the Forks hut, where I found another pair of fishermen (who were just leaving, but not before they gave me a bit of the rainbow trout they’d just caught and cooked). This was a brilliant decision, as the Forks hut is well out of the way, and gave me my first (and possibly last) totally remote experience in a long time. Truely magical. Unfortunately, doing the maths, I discovered that my “9 days worth of food” was going to last perhaps 3 more days (totalling 7, at a push), and so it was time to get moving again.
The shore of Mavora lake is a beautiful Beech forest (for Lord of the Rings fans, it’s where they filmed the bit at the end of the first film where the they get in a fight and Boromir dies… er, spoilers) and with the peaks all around it really is rather spectacular. In a feat of unparalleled trudging, I ended up getting nearly 4 hours from the bottom of the lake when I camped that night.
The following day was just a fairly generic road walk, with very sore feet, down to state highway 94. Though the trail continues straight across the highway, I had to head to Te Anau (the nearest town, and where I am now) to pick up some more food, and have a bit of a break, so I tried my first ever actual hitchhiking. Standing at the side of the road (for about 20 seconds) I saw my first vehicle approaching, stuck out my thumb, and it pulled over… well that was easy. As it turned out, the driver was going to his friend’s wedding in Te Anau the next day, and was a really nice guy, so we had some hilarious conversation (which of course swung round to the rugby world cup eventually), and he gave me a tour of Te Anau before dropping me off. Kiwis are just lovely folks.
Now I’m in the final few weeks of the journey, and becoming somewhat sad that soon I’ll be leaving this fantastic country. That being said, my feet, knees, and hips will be glad to reach Bluff, and I fear most of my clothes/equipment will reach the end of the road at Bluff too. I’m increasingly noticing that when I’m in settlements, even wearing my absolute best clothes, I still look pretty much like a homeless person. Ah well, I understand why the kiwis call it “tramping” rather than hiking now.
Welcome back. I had a fantastic time doing some extra curricular walking with my brother (there might be a post on that occurring in the future at some point), but right now I’m back on the Te Araroa, having skipped a bit (…quite a large bit). As I have to fly out in a month or so I’ve ended up starting again at Tekapo (see the map below). Ideally I would’ve started further north as Tekapo to Bluff won’t fill my remaining time, however a couple of huge rivers mean that I would just have walked a few days and then need to arrange a bus round the rivers anyway. Instead, I should have time to head out to Fjordland (the south west of the South island) and do a week or so’s walking there (Fjordland being a region which the Te Araroa spectacularly misses).
Anyway, this section of the walk is in an area called the Canterbury Highlands, which is a wonderful land of mountains and lakes (essentially a higher, wider, larger, more remote, and dare I say it (yes) more picturesque version of the Lake District… with less rain and more sandflies). Arriving in Tekapo I found it full to the brim with bus loads of tourists looking at the church of the good shepherd, and a statue of a sheepdog. These are the two landmarks for which Tekapo is famed, but its situation at the South end of Lake Tekapo is why I wanted to head there. Unfortunately, low cloud and rain totally blocked the view of Mt Cook (which my book tells me “effortlessly dominates the view”) and made the lake look a bit mediocre. This, combined with the fact that the entire village of Tekapo is just one huge tourist land meant that I stayed long enough to eat a quiche and drink the obligatory coffee, and then it was back to the trail.
From Tekapo to Twizel is essentially a 2 day road walk, however I saw around 5 cars on the road once I was off the state highways, and it’s one of the most picturesque road walks I’ve done, so I really didn’t mind too much (indeed it was nice to have a simple walk to ease me back into the flow of things. Also, despite having spent nearly a month messing about doing other things, I found that mere hours after setting off from Tekapo, I met Luke again (who I’d previously met heading out of Whanganui and heading into the Tararuas!). He tends to be pretty fast, but that means the rest of the folks I’ve met along the way can’t be too far behind.
Twizel was a fairly generic rural town, but heading out of Twizel, it was clear that I was back on the trail proper. Walking to Ohau takes you round the shores of some fantastically pure lakes (who am I kidding, all of the lakes here are stupidly pure) surrounded by heathy hills and cliffy mountains. I saw very few people here (a joy after the super busy Abel Tasman track and Wellington and Christchurch) and with cool but dry weather it was great to be out in the wilds again. From Ohau though, it was up and over a hilltop which was inside a cloud, and this brought about the problem of losing the trail for a while (with no obvious track and markers spread out further than I could see). Fortunately it turns out I’m not a moron and can navigate with a map and compass easily enough, so when I rediscovered the trail it turned out I’d been travelling parallel and about 50m west of the trail the whole way. Indeed speaking to Luke later on, he reckoned the trail just wasn’t marked for a while in the middle, so maybe I didn’t lose it at all.
Beyond that, with the exception of a waist deep river crossing and a valley which should be called “the crucible of sandflies”, the journey from Ohau through to Wanaka is fantastic mountainous landscape, which is tough to traverse, but the feeling of being in the wild and the views are just magnificent. The track peaks (pun intended) at breast hill (a summit only beaten in the amusement stakes by “Richard’s knob” in the Tararuas) which provides fantastic views over lake Hawea, and back over the track I’d just traversed.
Wanaka it turns out, is a very busy little tourist town, with not much going on for the skint individual, however sketchy weather has kept me here a few days, as the next section (through to Queenstown) involves a few river crossings which become dangerous in wet weather. Nonetheless, at some point boredom will overcome safety and I’ll head off anyway. At least there are plenty of coffee shops…
This time I’ll be chatting about the journey from Palmerston North to Waikanae, through the Tararua mountains (kiwis refer to them as hills, but I think they refer to anything less than Everest as a hill). This is a pleasant (if tough) enough route as is, but assorted unexpected occurrences occurred which turned it from a good walk, to probably the best part of the Te Araroa so far (for me at least). My apologies, but this post ended up huge, so grab a coffee if you plan to read it all in one go (any excuse).
Walking out of Palmerston North was a fairly generic road/park walking experience, but once again I was amazed at how quickly you can go from the middle of a city to the middle of nowhere out here. It took me about an hour to get from middle of city to country road. The first day’s walk was reasonably relaxing, walking along country lanes and paths along river banks and through countryside, and conveniently, I found an actual campsite at around 4. I was in no rush, so it made sense to camp for the night and have a slightly longer day the next day.
At this point the weather was fairly beautiful, and the scenery was not too shabby either.
My second day out from Palmerston North unfortunately found me diverted onto some main roads because of logging work going on through the forest. As I later discovered, lots of folks ignored the closure signs and found no logging going on anyway, which was a little irritating, but hey ho. This road walk was about as bad as the walk out of Whanganui, with a lot of large trucks and no offers of a lift, but once I was away from the state highway it was not so bad. Indeed I walked past the Shannon hydropower station, which has a white water kayaking course running past it, so that was pleasant.
After a night spent camping next to a very quiet road, I found myself A) inside a cloud, B) in a serious downpour, and C) about 2cm above a vast and increasing area of waterlogged ground. Suffice to say I packed up my tent as quickly as possible, and commenced the day’s walk, utterly drenched to begin with…. perfect. As it turned out, an hour or so after starting the walk the rain stopped, and the track, whilst a little rough, wasn’t too bad to start with. As ever with these tracks though, it deteriorated fairly quickly. The rain had done its work on the ground, and the track which was littered with steep ascent and descents had turned to deep slippery mud. Fortunately though, 2 months of “training” in the ways of New Zealand’s northern forests had made me accustomed to swinging from tree to tree, and spotting the islands of relatively solid ground in the vast lakes of mud which are “the track”. This track introduced a whole new facet of kiwi terminology to my lexicon though. Being a nieve Englishman, I tend to group paths and tracks into one group (along with roads and pavements), and rivers and streams into another (the group which contains lakes and swimming pools). For kiwis however these two groups blur somewhat. Now don’t get me wrong, stream crossings are part of walking in the bush, and help to remind you that broadly speaking you’re off the beaten track. However, 28 stream crossings over the course of 500-1000m did make me question why they bothered building sections of “path” at all. The only reason I can think of is that they didn’t want to write “just walk down the middle of the river for a kilometre” in the track notes.
Anyway, after a bit of “extreme paddling”, I was pretty worn out and it was late in the day, and I began the 8km road slog to Levin to re-supply and have a shower. However, t’was not to be. A couple of kilometres down the road, a car pulled up, and the bloke inside said ” you look like a T.A. walker” (I’m still not sure if this was a reference to my various walking gear, or the fact that I was utterly filthy). Long story short, he (John) runs the Makahika outdoor pursuits centre which I was a few kilometres beyond, and he offered me a place to camp for the night for free. This is becoming quite a common occurrence on the trail, however from my arrival at the Makahika centre, things gradually became more and more surreal.
I arrived with the offer of a free place to camp. Fine. John offered me something to drink, I opted for water (I don’t like to overextend my hosts’ hospitality). Fine. Then 2 more TA walkers (Georges and Morgan, who have a blog at https://5millionsteps2people1adventure.wordpress.com/) arrived. More drinks were offered, and this time I went for a beer (everyone else was drinking beer, so I felt less bad about squandering their supplies) and biscuits appeared. John then announced “the corporate event down in the hall should have finished by now, I’ll go and see if there are any leftovers”. What he returned with was a vast plate of burgers, and giant salad, and bread buns for days. Well, it was going to go to waste if we didn’t eat it. We then ate until we couldn’t move. At length (and another beer later) 3 more walkers arrived (Jeanette, Sally, and Brian), and John said “I’ll go and see if there’re any more leftovers”. This time a giant plate of pork, a vast dish of roast vegetables, and another salad arrived. John then announced that they had plenty of spare room in the dorm rooms in the hall, so we wouldn’t need to camp. As a final ludicrous step to this ludicrous turn of events, we got onto the subject of the next section of the walk (through the Tararua mountains), and John said we should check the weather forecast. So we did, and it looked damp and miserable for the next couple of days, so John said “why not just stop here until the good weather window in a few days”…. so we did, and John and his wife Sally continued to treat us like royalty! This was without doubt the most overwhelming in a long line of overwhelming acts of generosity from the lovely New Zealanders.
Anyway, at length we were joined by Jim and Simon, another two TA walkers, and Jeanette, Sally, and Brian headed back to Wellington, and so a group of 5 of us headed off on our way through the Tararuas in glorious weather… and a fair bit of mud. Well that’s not quite true. We vaguely started together, but it was quite clear that we all liked to walk at different paces, and so we spread out along the track and then met up again each evening in the huts.
Our first day in the Tararuas was largely ascent, but I was slightly surprised at how successfully I handled it again. It seems that ascents aren’t too bad at all… relatively speaking. Anyway, I made it to the Te Matawhi hut and discovered that we would be sharing the hut with a group of 4 soldiers, out hunting/training. This was all very comfortable in the 12 bunk hut (note: cunning sentence of anticipation for future discomfort). Up here I also discovered my first interesting food chain of New Zealand (“interesting” being defined as: “doesn’t end in a possum or weasel”). I’d been told about the giant earthworms up here, and had read signs regarding giant predatory snails which fed on them, which is fascinating to hear, but in reality, it’s great when “giant” actually means giant.
The second day was a fantastic but long day following a ridge line along to Nichols hut, high in the mountain range. Here we kept crossing above and below the tree line, with some spectacular views and brilliant ambiance. At this point I was very good that John and Sally had delayed our departure for a few days to hit the perfect weather up there. Unfortunately, every silver lining has a cloud, and it turned out that the 4 hunters weren’t going to make it to their intended hut for the night, so they were staying at Nichols hut too… Nichols being a small 6 person hut…. and there now being 9 of us in it. Nonetheless, a couple of the hunters volunteered/were volunteered by the guy who seemed to be their boss, to sleep on the floor. While this gave us space to fit in (just about) the hut turned into a furnace of industrial proportions.
After a night of steadily desiccating, we found ourselves inside a cloud in the morning. Not great considering this was the day of traversing the highest point of the Tararuas, from which the views were reputedly fantastic… if you aren’t inside a cloud. Nonetheless, we set off, and headed up the steep ascent and delicate knife edge walking through to the peak of Mt Crawford. The cloud remained all the way to the peak, however about 2 minutes after arriving at the peak the clouds to the west just totally cleared off, as if someone had opened the curtains, giving some breathtaking views out to Levin and over the west coast. To the East however, the cloud remained impenetrable the whole way along… ah well, not to worry.
Fortunately we were heading south and west, and so as we progressed on the walk, the views just remained spectacular all day. To round out a brilliant day, arriving at the hut we were greeted by some food left by a pair of Department of Conservation staff who had been doing bird surveys. There’s nothing like free food to complete a day.
From there it was a fairly smooth walk down to Otaki forks and onward to Waikanae, though finally the rain caught up with me. At least when it rains just before you reach civilisation it’s not too bad.
Waikanae marks the start of a long fairly urban (urban by New Zealand standards) stretch of walking over 3 or 4 days to Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. Whilst this was fairly generic, it never fails to amaze me how close you always are to countryside out here. Even on the way into Wellington itself I followed the skyline walkway which takes you along hills to the West of Wellington, and only for the final hour to the city centre was I actually in urban area.
Anyway, the blog will now be silent for a few weeks, as my brother has come out to visit, and so we’re doing some more “holiday” like things. However I’ll be back on the trail somewhere in the South Island around mid January, so expect the next post somewhere toward the end of January… if I can find internet access (this is liable to be a serious limiting factor in the South Island).
I hope everyone had an excellent Christmas and has an excellent New Year.