Travels: Update 9

Published: January 18th 2020
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Total Distance: 0 miles / 0 kmMouse: 0,0

The Walk

Day 1: Admittedly, a little hungover but grateful for the quiet buses to Te Anau. Driver of 2nd bus borderline racist, true Southlander as it were. Very much in love with the landscapes. Paired up with Dutch elephant zookeeper, adventure guide, Stefan. Wonderful 20km in thick rainforest. Crystal clear waters. Nutters at the hut, one very against radiation and lived off the grid for over a year (See letter for more context). Sandflies aren't as bad as I thought they would be. Gambling without a tent...36km day in two days time...

Day 2: New year's Eve. Birdlife is off the charts. Greeted by a resident local on his dingy, of which turned the day from scenic walking and waist-high bog trudging to jetting up the Pyke river with Bruce Reay. Learning about the place from someone who had lived for 40 years was awesome. Several great stories, dodgy driftwood sourcing, and Bruce's favourite women visited over the years. Olivine Falls worth the off-the-track excursion through the forest. Large day tomorrow has me a bit apprehensive for waist high river crossings. 6 man hut for 10 people tonight...6 pack rafters joined the serenity late and resulted in about 3.5 hours sleep, maximum.

Day 3: The hardest and most testing day of tramping I've ever had, but also the most sublime and rewarding. Heading off at 7am solo, I sought to complete two of the hardest sections of the loop in one day - primarily driven by the forecast of heavy rain and desire to not carry the heavy tent. Both acted as great incentive, knocking off the 36km in 10.5hours. Day included one face plant fall, many slips and stumbles, over two dozens 'lost sight of the track' moments, 12 waist deep crossings and not a single person in sight. The majority of the track was challenging, with the guiding orange triangle's only useful in bits. With no elevation on the track either, line of sight was minimised by the aesthetic beech and Rata forests and huge flax's, demanding even footprint tracking (deer and boot), climbing tree's to sight the next triangle. That apart, the best scenery I've ever had on a walk. Currently camped up alone in the most remote hut of the route. Swiftly arrange some candles and fire after being caught in a huge Fiordland downpour in the final hour. Three wire crossing was rather tense balance between speed and safety!

Day 4: Turns out yesterday's yellow hue and dark lighting was the Australian fire smoke - I was wondering why it felt like 7pm when in the forests! After a great night's sleep amongst giant claps of thunder and lightning shows I set off for what I was hoping/gambling was the low tide turn around! A tough day on the feet going over the coastline for five hours, but a lovely setting nevertheless. Navigated a few aggressive seals and got to hut for a late lunch. Group of 14 here for ten days hunting, fishing and drinking, with all the gear having been flown in. Have got some fresh food out of it however! Enjoyed a bit of a dip, although halfway through it dawned on me the helicopter tour on the other side of the estuary may have thought I was some nudist exhibitionist! The huts location is stunning. Sandflies an ongoing battle! Stars out here are unprecedented.

Day 5: Hokuri hut exactly what was promised - quaint and scenic setting. Officially on the Hollyford track and the place continues to be beautiful. Relatively short day at 16km today, allowing me to indulge a nice bit of the book. Evening spent with Colin from Christchurch - a mildly racist retired builder.

Day 6: Unintentionally a very long day. Finished at Lake Alabaster where I'd left my tent and spare gear as I wanted to avoid being flooded in at Lake McKerrow Hut. While I had no weather forecast, the few I crossed over with promised rain for the next two days. As such I completed the loop completed in just five days!

Day 7: No walking today given I am day ahead and the hut itself nice quiet spot. Contributed some firewood to the store, although my axe skills probably need some work! Was joined by a lovely Christchuch couple, Baz and Lou. Talked for hours, including a mutual interest in Microsoft Excel and how they met at 16 (40 years ago!). Another good days reading.

Day 8: Easy day up to the next hut, especially in the fine weather. Hidden Falls a very special spot. Evening spent with Greek professor who insisted on making me dinner and indulge on hours of rather personal and philosophical chat - wine included ofcourse. I must admit, I'm now rather proficient at hut fire starting and maintenance if I do say so myself!

Day 9: Walked out of the Hollyford Valley today and up the road to Gunn camp. Humboult falls a very nice detour - a stunning three tier waterfall. Attempts at hitching failed. Got really lost in book for a few hours. Rather sad to be off the track, but a sense of accomplishment nevertheless. Actually in the tent tonight!

Day 10: A final trudge up the road to Lake Mirian. Not many vehicles around at that time of day to even attempt hitching with. The track to the lake was the most elevation I'd done all trip, but a lovely way to end off the 180km or so covered. Stayed lakeside for an hour and 'enjoyed' the final dehydrated meal. Already decided I'm having very meat-based dinner and a vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate from Patagonia for dessert. Should balance out the calories in no time!

Day 11: 8 scenic hours watching mostly British comedy on a bus up the coast to Franz Josef. Not a drop of rain on the wet West Coast was a miracle also. Indulged in a pleasant lunch at a salmon farm Midway lovely stuff. Upon arrival I quickly darted for the mountains, attempting to squeeze a '5hr walk' in before sunset. With darkness avoidance as an incentive I actually did it in 2hrs 15mins and was somehow slower going down than up. Rather nice view of the glacier however. Enjoyed some more nice swing Bridges and saw a goat. Excited for the train tomorrow,

Day 12: A rather peaceful day soaking in a few philosophy videos and podcasts. No rain once again, which was rather nice. Went to see the Gentlemen (new Guy Ritchie movie) across town. Nice to stretch the legs if anything. Hostel was a converted Jailhouse, which was rather eloquently done.

Day 13: New Lane 8 album has complimented the trip. Really enjoying time in the 'open-air' viewing carriage. Saw dolphins and Sealions. People's desire to wave to and from trains is something i've found bemusing - why just trains? Front row seat on the Ferry, although was the last bag out on the carousel - first time that happened on my travels to date! Went to see 1917 - another amazing movie.

Day 14: Stuck next to an chatty elderly botanist who's missing a few marbles, but pleasant chat. Albeit slightly racist next to an Asian gentleman next-door. An 11 hour train ride, with much time spent in the open are carriage. Going around National Park was rather scenic, and mightily impressed with the engineering feats at time over gorges and spiralling around hills. Blessed with another blue bird day for the entirety of the trip. Also finished my book, and thus my book series.

Trip has been a success, feeling rather refreshed.

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