Te Araroa blog | 100 days of walking . . .
100 days of walking?
It’s sure possible to have enough of a good thing.
For the record there were 16 days on Stewart Island, getting down below 47º S, then moving immediately into 85 days heading, mostly, north on Te Araroa, Bluff to the end of the Queen Charlotte Track near Picton.
The 100 days of . . . phenomenon is going to be big in 2015, apparently, showing your commitment to self portraiture, eating a donut, whatever, anything creative, or self enhancing.
I thought I’d get in early.
100 days of walking?
Any day walking from Bluff to Invercargill mostly along the highway is never going to be inspiring, particularly when you throw in, for my case, the ferry trip over from Stewart Island, the strait quite choppy, that’s the technical term.
Plenty of fresh air today, I knew I’d be catching up on any deficiency from my two backpacking nights. Actually a flawless day, I know every day is flawless but today failed to have a cloud show itself and it was even calm early on.
Better to camp here in Paradise on my lonesome than struggle on to be surrounded by people, car doors slamming and all night lighting.
And this morning, sun rising over the sea, almost, the tide at its zenith, not much enthusiasm to move, just better to watch the sunlight on Mount Anglem on Stewart Island, the gulls and shags cruising past, the waves getting bigger as the tide retreats.
The whole forest was wet and you have to push through the ferns on this crazy wiggly, woggly path, the water race following the contour and on a map just looks the zaniest of paths, surveyed by someone with attention deficit disorder.
Today it was the whackiest pure silver beech forest, moss everywhere, sphagnum on the ground, other species on the tree trunks. It’s essentially untouched forest, other than the trail on the ground.
I’ll just continue with my 20 km a day, it’s hard to sustain much more than that day after day, at least for me with my current baggage.
That was lucky with the water last night because there didn’t appear to be much around along the route today, just traipsing down farm roads and forestry tracks for the most part.
I’m sure I won’t be needing to count sheep to go to sleep tonight.
Eventually I bunged up the tent in some pasture, only moderately sloping, still an hour from the hut. I haven’t seen anyone at all today.
I’m starting to see a pattern here with my fellow travellers, all determination, a fair level of discipline, but an entirely jovial disposition. We generally stop for a chat and swap hints for the next section and have a little five minute session on the meaning of life.
The last two days have not been a time of stretching my legs, too many obstacles, tussock, crown fern, ups and downs, so today was that opportunity.
Later a couple of cheery French guys, on the same route, no Milford for them, on 29ers, the bikes bought in a supermarket, belongings lashed with string and sticky tape to a feeble carrier, waterproofing achieved by plastic bags, joking and laughing and having the adventure of their lives.
Man, it was as if we were old friends from childhood, that’s the way it is with us TAers.
Some fresh food and a shower. Doesn’t look as if I had as much of a tan as I had thought.
Today was cars/buses/trucks, construction zones and diversions, the surreal suburbville of the Lake Hayes Estate, some country club, daytripper cyclists on the Queenstown Trail, until I finally came into the excessively picturesque Arrowtown with all the twee shops and shoppers.
The weather forecast was the shortest ever: New Zealand — Fine.
Looking forward to a non-deflating mattress tonight, this is the first night I’ve had a hut since I was at Careys Hut a week ago.
The country getting into Highland Creek is simply amazing. I know that gets overused these days but it is remarkably broken landscape, the mountains high, lots of bluffs, a steep stream, and big views of all of this. And the line of the track clearly visible heading upwards again on the other side.
Ha, you camped THERE?
There will be much longer days than this which will be far easier, guess there’s a buildup of tiredness that just crashed in today.
The major achievement of today, other than excessive amounts of not much, patching a hole in my sleeping mat which now at least doesn’t suffer from rapid deflation.
The climb from the lake edge is 975 m, quite the steep grunt and somehow I never got into my climbing groove, just a case plugging away, having lunch, more climbing, lots of climbing that’s for sure.
She was proud that her pack base weight, that’s everything she carried, except for food, was a scanty 2.8 kg. Sheesh, my pack on its own weighs more than that.
Fortunately the rain had stopped by 6 am, but everything is damp once again, except for the tent, which is soaked.
Tin Hut might’ve been dusty, musty and dirty but at least it was dry.
I woke early and managed to listen to the forecasts. Seems it’s a good day to come down from the mountains, storms are brewing.
First flat day since leaving Queenstown so I’m cranking.
there was a fair level of wiggly woggliness, in and out of bays and as the day progressed it was more of a smash into the wind that was scooting down the lake.
I suggested today was the halfway mark of the South Island, in distance, but they corrected me, it’s crossing Camp Creek tomorrow.
I’ll sleep well again tonight, that’s 60 km cranked out in the last 36 hours.
Best day of Te Araroa so far.
Four creek crossings to rinse the socks and I was ready to call it a day.
I’ve been lucky to have these last two rainy nights in a hut by myself and now I’m snug in my tent, sun down, dinner eaten, clear sky, maybe another frost tomorrow morning but with this wind probably not.
There’s a huge backdrop to the Rangatata, that Two Thumb Range and plenty of others, but I was soon pointing in the other direction, heading north once again.
Man, people everywhere.
I didn’t count the exact number but it was certainly more than 20 crossings, 40 maybe, towards the end I found myself just walking in the middle of the river for a bit.
Some relief that the three biggest river crossings on TA were now over with, the Ahuriri, the Rangatata and the Rakaia, although suddenly I realised there was still the potentially difficult Taramakau River coming up.
Today marks quite a demarcation in the South Island part of Te Araroa.
Bigtime food, a long shower with much of my tan disappearing, internet and phone connectivity, all the accoutrements of civilisation.
At the bushline the clouds are around my ears, visibility is indeed quite low, but the track is clear on the ground and it’s just a short hop to the empty hut.
With the new rigid boots, the only ones I could find in Greymouth that were my size were alpine boots, and now ten day food ballast I’m feeling almost enthusiastic about walking down 1000 m+ inclines, and trudging up trackless rivers.
The blue duck/whio day.
Man, oh man, that was a day.
Just as I turned into the Mingha Valley it started to rain, a bit more than a drizzle, and for once I’m out in my tent for the night.
The Goat Pass Hut is in a dramatic location, looking across the top of the Deception River to some fairly steep bluffs.
The sandflies were thick where I pitched the tent and it took a while to eliminate them from the confines, now it has started to drizzle.
Actually it never drizzled last night, that was just the sound of the sandflies trying get into the tent.
Oh, maybe the easiest day on the track, just wandering down the wide Hurunui valley, narrow at the top, plenty of red beech forest along the way.
A stroll yesterday, today, humm, a whole heap of energy expended.
It was just a short stroll up to the Pussy Stream turnoff to get up and over Lake Man Saddle, the track was well marked to start, but then it was the complete reprise from yesterday, windfall trees in a narrow valley, another gorge, only this time just half the length.
I’ve been ravenous over the last few days but sadly, when I cracked the package open, there was little more than base rations, not much in the way of frivolous goodies, looks as if my weight will continue to decline.
Indecision in the morning, I couldn’t work out whether to head into the Nina Valley and zip over the tops to the Lewis Pass, the hard version, or just hitch directly up to the Lewis Pass.
Maybe I shouldn’t describe today too completely or I might have a hard job finding a tramping companion in time to come.
We talk geology and earthquakes off and on during the day, and other random subjects, two scientific minds interested in the world around us.
It’s a lesson in the speedy ups and downs of the rivers in New Zealand. This morning was certain drowning, a few hours after the rain had stopped, not much of a problem.
This is the first real day of heavy rain I can remember, I’ve had days of many short showers but not the whole time with the weather just seriously coming down.
That’s the last of the truly adventurous days for a while, all the remainder of the trail I’m intending to travel will be well marked and after three nights on my lonesome I may well be back to having company tomorrow.
You get a more immediate brush with nature in your tent, but I must be getting soft, avoiding more dampness and enjoying a solitary time in a big hut.
I think I should mention this, it’s almost 3 weeks since I left Greymouth and I’m unbelievably hungry.
The lake is completely calm, the standard grey mirror, but with huge raindrops dotting it. Even with the tedium of a busy hut there’s just this astonishing moment.
Shared adversity, it’s the fastest method to create friendship.
Welcome back to the human race, bro.
Three nights solid eating and talking and all the rest of the boy meets girl thing, has given more spring in my step despite once again having my pack loaded with ten days of ballast, ie, food.
On the way down from the saddle there’s some extensive tracts of ugly boulders to cross, large dog sized, just stacked on top of each other, a few unstable, a lot of air underneath them, slow going for the less than agile, particularly going down the slope, but the traction is outstanding, patience is required, the consequences of a fall here rather savage.
Hill climbing, now that’s a productive way to fill in couple of hours.
I’m going through a productive creative period. I sat the forest for a while, it’s a clear sky, no wind and cranked out some words.
And in the hut, the usual, a fair congregation of mice, one runs across the floor then notices my eyes, a startled look, and a rapid scuttling as mice are prone to do, they really are quite busy in their movements when their home is invaded.
Life can be character building but somehow I feel I’ve had sufficient experience of this inconsiderate type to have a sufficiently strong character already.
I staggered into Middy Creek Hut just on dark and there’s one of the last TA SOBOs. I’m thinking it’s going to get mighty cool in that tent for him as he makes his way south over the next two months but he’s a Kiwi with alpine experience and doesn’t seem too fazed at the prospect.
Was I really on Mt Fell this time yesterday?
See, that’s all it takes. All is right with the world.
Sleep was sporadic, I was in the Havelock camping ground, catching up with major calorific intake and standard hygiene issues, but my tent had a mussel processing facility nearby and a huge compressor started and stopped at regular intervals, noisy revellers, a lot of car horns heard, trucks reversing. It did go on, as well as a few orange floodlights nearby, might as well have been daylight.
I sense I might have overdone this solitary thing. Or maybe it’s just the standard end of trail blues kicking in.
“Some of that grunting wasn’t me,” I said to the other camper, but it seems some clearly was. She maintains distance from me, my task of providing her reassurance she wasn’t going to be eaten by cannibals overnight having been accomplished there is no longer need to be friendly.
You might have thought that I’d be excited, take 100 selfies, jump up and down, etc, but I’m curiously flat.
This was the way the trail should end, not just the wet, lonely mess that I had been feeling.
The self reflection that solitary travel allows, mostly at a subconscious level, particularly when the distraction level is low, can be important to processing life, and deciding how to live it.
Our spirits are undimmed, both euphoric and sad simultaneously.