Day 15: Queenstown to Arrowtown

Despite all of us heading to the same place tonight we were almost all in different hostels or even towns in the morning so rather than try to coordinate any morning meet up we just said we’d see each other at camp and whoever gets there first check us in.

Chris was already in Frankton so we were pretty sure he was going to get there first. I was the first out of Queenstown, so I also made it to the Countdown grocery store first. On the way there there was a fairly decent little track along the lake and a detour that required some road walking. When looking at the water from the road I was thinking I would probably have enjoyed it more if I’d taken the water taxi to Frankton, seems like it would have been real pretty. Sure I’d be skipping some of the walking but whatever, I’m way more after enjoyment than walking every step.

I still did get to see some real nice views though along the way.

Once I got to Countdown I grabbed a cart, unloaded my pack and took inventory of my food. I really only needed one dinner and some lunch stuff so that’s what I headed in to get. I mostly succeeded. I have more food than I need I think but it’s fine. It’s a manageable amount, and still less than what I’ll need in Richmond.

After that I rolled into the little cafe in the same complex and got some coffee and lunch and made use of the WiFi to look up any information I could find about our alternative route for tomorrow. Sadly, there’s very little other than a line on our topo maps, and we have no idea what the river conditions are like after yesterday’s massive rain. Rumors of people getting escorted out of huts or stranded places due to high rivers abound, but at the campground we met some southbounders who came from tomorrow’s destination so we know at least the “official” route is doable. While at the cafe I saw Frank arrive and waved him over to say I was grabbing lunch and coffee if he wanted to join. He went grocery shopping and came back in a bit. Meanwhile, Marius walked up and did the same thing. Frank came back, grabbed some lunch and chatted, Marius came back but had gotten some takeaway from the store so went on to eat it. Then Keaton and Gian-Marco showed up. Suddenly there were backpacks all over this corner of the cafe and we were talking a lot about the coming days. Eventually Frank and I left and headed on down the trail. I think I was at the cafe for about 2 hours, oops.

From here the official route diverts about 500m to cross a pedestrian bridge. Frank wanted to take the highway bridge. So we did. With barely enough shoulder for our feet we crossed a very busy 2 lane highway bridge. Eek. Fortunately only one big truck who slowed way down for us and one van with a trailer who was able to slide over and give us some room and we were across. Pretty sketch.

More walking then we got to Lake Hayes. The official trail goes up the west side but we took the east side. In large part to cut off some boring residential walking but also because the bus from Queenstown to Arrowtown runs along most of the route we’d be on, so we figured we could just take that if we wanted. Sadly, it doesn’t actually stop through that area so we had to walk it. Oh well.

Finally we arrive at the holiday park and find out what we’re spending $104NZD on. It ain’t much.

The campground charges per person for a campsite with a minimum of 2 people and a max of 6. 6 people makes $104 total. It’s … kinda terrible. But we at least get coin operated showers and actually a fairly reasonable kitchen. And it’s still cheaper than anything else in town I’m sure, so it could be worse.

It’s chilly here. We have potentially a lot of river crossings tomorrow. High of 62F. Or maybe some huge hills. Depends on river conditions really, which I’m honestly skeptical of. But we’ll get there.

Oh! And I officially know how to set up my tent properly finally. First try tonight! The ground was so hard I bent 2 of my stakes so that’s a thing, but at least the tent is set up properly! Time to go over and get comfy. 6am wake up tomorrow, and a long and potentially rather wet and cold day tomorrow.

Oh and I found some bars at four square (grocery store) which are 75g and 1450kJ (about 400 calories) which is huge. They look pretty tasty too. There may be a lot of these in my Richmond food drop!

And yes I am writing this while sitting next to the power strip charging my phone. Why so close? Because I have TINY usb cables.

They are way easier to manage than big king cables and work just fine. And they save grams too! More room for food!

Post delay

Greetings! I have WiFi again which means I can finally upload my posts! Sadly, the problem I ran into the other day is still happening and I’m waiting for a response from WordPress support for a fix. I can upload what I have but I need a computer to fix up the broken images and don’t have access to one right now. My next town visit is about 8 days away, so there will hopefully be a huge flood of posts then, but probably not before then.

In the mean time, enjoy this photo of Wanaka, where I’m currently at!

Queenstown Zero day 2

So. Much. Rain.

Everyone is indoors. And that means all the cafes are slammed. So in the 4 hours between checking out of one hostel and checking in to another, I did a lot of wandering aimlessly.

Fortunately, I also found a hidden not so hidden Internet cafe. Walked in, asked about it since google maps had led me there. Guy pointed to computers on the wall and said have at. No charge. No line. No limits. The library had a huge line, so I’d gone in search of paid but more featureful service and got so much more. This gave me time to fix all of the images from previous posts. If you’ve already read them, go back and look at the pictures! If any are still broken let me know and I’ll fix, but after tomorrow I’m dark again for a few days so it might be a bit!

I also wrote up some more postcards and filed support requests with WordPress and Day One about my woes. Turns out the Day One issue was user error and they got me sussed proper, which I’m very happy about. Now if I can just get WordPress to be so responsive!

Finally I got checked in to my hostel. And oh my did I time it right. 2 huge buses pulled up outside and started dumping people out. The lobby is utter chaos. I’m also glad I got my pack out of the storage room because that had already been super stuffed to the gills, can’t imagine what it will be like in a bit!

Currently I’m laying on my bed doing some reading and coordinating dinner plans with friends. Tomorrow the rain is supposed to stop, so I’ll pretty much hang out until that happens and hit the road. We have a reservation at the holiday park in Arrowtown for a campsite and an appointment with a New World (grocery store) in Frankton along the way for resupply.

At dinner we found out Keaton and crew’s alternate route to Wanaka was closed and they would now be joining us at the campsite in Arrowtown. So happy and sad at the same time. We had some really good Venezuelan food and then some cookie dough and I said my farewells to go to bed.

Tomorrow is a long day and I have a resupply in the middle, so I want to get an early start. But not so early that I’m getting rained on. But it should be fine. I’ve been chomping at the bit all day to get going anyways!

Image woes

So I have discovered what the problem is with broken images.

My flow right now is to edit posts in an app called Day One. It allows me to do some basic formatting and insertion of images and does this all offline. The WordPress iOS app does not do offline editing at all if you want images. Bleh. I then copy paste the whole thing into the WordPress app, final tweaks, sacrifice a goat so the WiFi gods will let the photos upload before it times out, and publish the post.

Somewhere in the middle there, the img tag that is put into the post ends up referencing files locally on my phone, which of course y’all can’t see because, we’ll, you’re not using my phone.

Further, this only works from within the WordPress app. So the posts all look fine from in WordPress but not on the site in safari. Since I’ve had fairly unreliable internet at times, I’d chalked up that discrepancy to jut failing to download the images, as some worked, and some didn’t, so whatever, moving along.

Also this would probably have been plainly clear if I’d hit view source on the page in my browser but as far as I know there is no such thing in safari iOS and I don’t have a computer with me and haven’t used one since Invercargill. I had to use the web interface of the blog and look at the raw post to be able to figure out the problem. Ugh.

Images added to the post from directly within the WordPress app seem to work fine.

So.

I know what the problem is. Fixing it is going to be pain, as I have to fix the urls. Which is probably going to need me to find a computer and spend an hour or so. I will try to do that today but no promises, sorry.

Going forward it means my day one workflow doesn’t work. On top of that, I can’t reproduce the problem since there seems to have been an update which changed the copy paste behavior that I’ve now pulled down since arriving in a Queenstown. So things are kinda hairy at the moment. I’m going to experiment a bit but the posts for the next few days might be text only.

But right now I have an hour to get out of my hostel and I’m still in bed and my room looks like my backpack exploded in it so I need to get moving.

Update: I’ve now successfully reproduced the issue without using Day One. Copy pasting from the iOS Notes app does the same thing (among other issues):

Update: the photos should all be fixed now. This was incredibly toilsome as the links that got added to the post had no relation to the files that got uploaded to the blog, and the only place they “worked” was in the WordPress iOS app, so I am sitting at a computer in an internet cafe with my phone comparing the photos in the app and inserting them one by one into the posts. Considering most of the posts since day 3 had this issue, there were dozens of images that needed to get updated. Fortunately all of them actually did get uploaded, they were just not linked properly.

Anywho, they should be fixed. I am not certain what I’m going to do about this going forward, but for the moment I’m going to continue my existing flow, but probably use Notes instead of Day One, and hope that something somewhere gets fixed or I can figure something else out. Otherwise, I just may need to use a computer for an hour or so in every zero day town before posts go up. There are worse things that could happen!

The crew, part 1

Since the cast of characters around me is going to be ever fluid over the next 2 months, I don’t want to make some sort of definitive “these are all the people” post because new people will have to be added all the time. So I’ll just kinda cover folks along the way in posts like this.

Also I’m really bad with names so some people I won’t have names for but “the German couple” or “the young American and French ladies” or whatever. Sorry about that.

And one last thing, no pictures because I don’t have pictures for most of these folks and haven’t asked their permission to post their faces on the internet. I’ll try to add pictures for the folks I’m still around later, though.

just2hikers

The first of the nameless folks. These 2 started on the same day I did, at least leaving from invercargill. They’re pros, as one guy at Birchwood called them. “Don’t try to keep up with them”. We’ve been bumping into each other a bit and they’re doing some side stuff so they’ll be back around I’m sure. I found them through my Instagram stalking of the #teararoa hashtag and we finally met in Riverton.

If I remember correctly they’re from NC. They’ve been traveling around for several years now. Super cool folks.

Their Instagram is https://www.instagram.com/just2hikers

First encounter: Instagram and Riverton

Most recent encounter: Te Anau

Water treatment: can’t remember.

[meta note: I’m adding this water treatment thing in later because I just remembered it’s something I’ve noticed, everyone has a method and they’re all different and I think I’ve seen almost all of them now]

Diana and Aurelie

(I hope I’m spelling Aurelie’s name correctly)

The aforementioned young American and French ladies. I met them first at Mahuru Cottage where they ended up after getting started in Colac bay. Which is like 5km from Mahuru Cottage. They had a short day. Except it was long because what happened was they missed their turn to go up to martins hut and by the time they discovered it and got back to the cottage (which is directly across from the track up to martins hut) it was too late to begin. I was with them through Birchwood Station. They have limited time in country so they were hoping to skip the early bad parts and get up to Wanaka before leaving. I see their names in hut books but they’re long gone now. Diana was on the same flight as Keaton on the way here and he took their idea to start in Colac Bay but was a day or 2 behind them to start.

They met each other while hiking a section of a big trail in the Pyrenees and have kept in touch since.

Not gonna lie. They were the first people I was sharing space with. And early on. And they’re fast, experienced, and are not fat smelly older dudes. I was pretty self conscious about my hygiene but also envious and pressuring myself because I was rolling into camp basically dead and smelling so and here they are clean and comfy and had a great day. It was difficult. They were of course super nice, but like … my brain kept wanting to compare me vs them and all of the emotions that go along with it plus they’re young women and I didn’t want to be the creepy old dude and … whatever. Brains are terrible things some time.

First encounter: Mahuru Cottage

Most recent (and probably final) encounter: Birchwood Station

Water treatment: I don’t think I saw them treat any so I don’t know. Other than martins hut I only ever saw them refill at clean sources. And at martins hut I was so gone I didn’t really care about anything.

Keaton and Gian-Marco

[edit: Swiss. Not Austrian. I left the evidence of my shame for posterity]

Or, the Austrian Swiss and the American who has the worst Austrian Swiss accent when speaking Austrian Swiss German.

I don’t remember if they met on the trail or … whatever. I can correct this later, I’ve been spending a lot of time with these 2.

Anywho, Gian-Marco is this super tall Austrian Swiss dude and Keaton is an American, also from NC, who spent a couple of years in Austria Switzerland and is pretty fluent in Austrian Swiss dialect German, and according to all the Germans (and Frank, also fluent in German) has a really thick Austrian Swiss accent in German. But also has very little accent of any kind in English. And what little he does makes him hard to place. Zero trace of southern twang.

Anywho, these guys are fast. They think only in terms of “kims” (kilometers) and hours don’t matter. I can’t keep up with them ever.

For several days on the Te Anau to Queenstown stretch I was fairly angry at them. I blamed them for leading me astray thinking I could do that leg in 4 days instead of the more leisurely 5 I’d been thinking, especially after the positive experience I’d had taking an extra day in the Birchwood to Te Anau stretch. I thought I’d made a huge mistake, kept trying to figure out how to not make this mistake cost me a lot of money etc.

In the end though, I was totally able to do it. There were some shitty days. Lots of heat. Pain. Pushing myself hard. But really, I was totally capable of it. I’m here. Now. In Queenstown. As planned. If anything they made me prove to myself I could do it. So I tell them I was angry, but, as I said at the dinner, I was now thankful because it turned out ok!

Anywho, I first met them after the short short day from Telford campsite to Lower Wairaki hut. They’d come rolling in from Birchwood Station. So not only had they done a section that had been incredibly hard for me, but then another one right after it! On the same day! Sure it was a short day, but it wasn’t all that way, and it still took me 5 hours to do it!

Anyways, since then I’ve been mostly pacing them day by day. We got a little split up after Kiwi Burn hut but it was only that they’d taken a short day followed by a very very long day (starting before where I had and finishing past where I did). We’ve been hanging out a lot in Queenstown and, while they’re going a different way to Wanaka and arriving a day earlier than I am, we’re all at the same hostel at least for some amount of overlap.

Funny story on that. Frank booked the YHA for Wednesday and Thursday night. Plans turned out he’d be in Tuesday. These two were getting in Monday. They suggested their hostel. Frank couldn’t get an extra day at the yha because they were super full. Meanwhile I call this hostel and book Tuesday and Wednesday. Then frank calls and says “I’m with Jeremy and Keaton who you just talked to” and books a night there. So we’re all kinda overlapping at this hostel and it was kinda funny. Meanwhile I’m trying to put together a campsite in arrowtown. At the holiday park you pay by the person for a site and can have up to 6 people. So I was trying to round up a group and we share a site. We have another person who’s half a day ahead of us in Frankton, where the grocery stores are on the way out, and he’s going to be with us in arrowtown. We joked he should call the Wanaka hostel and say he’s with us and wants to make a reservation. It was funnier while it was all happening!

Anywho, these 2. I’ll be seeing them again in Wanaka and who knows where going forward. Good folks, to be sure.

First encounter: Lower Wairaki hut.

Most recent encounter: Queenstown

Water treatment: purification tablets

Christopher

He’s kinda lumped together with Frank because I met them together and the 3 of us have been walking together for the last 2 days, but they aren’t really traveling together so I’ll make them separate.

He’s German. He’s carrying a dslr. Has had some foot issues but has new shoes now so it should get better. His face reminds me a lot of a guy Adam I know back in Portland. He’s half a day ahead of us because he hitched into Queenstown with the German couple and wanted to get past and into a cheaper accommodation and wasn’t super interested in Queenstown. We’ll meet back up in arrowtown and who knows from there. Cool guy.

First encounter: Carey’s Hut, when a couple of us stopped in to get out of the sun for a bit and met frank and a southbounder.

Most recent encounter: Greenstone Carpark. Actually just slightly past, he and the German couple were walking down the road as we passed on the shuttle.

Water treatment: pump filter

Tabea and Bastien

“The German couple”.

She’s a medical doctor. He does process simulation for manufacturing. They’re both fresh grads doing some travel before buckling down to the job hunt. They are also fast. I swear she’s part mountain goat, I’ve seen her blast over things I could barely negotiate. Cool people. They have quite the cooking setup with a fancy stove that passes the incoming gas (iso-propane) through the flame to pre heat the fuel before burning and it’s bulky and probably heavy but it’s for both of them so it’s fine. I remember that they have something else fairly heavy seeming but don’t remember what.

They made a push to get to Roses hut before the storm so they could wait it out without having to spend a bunch of money on lodging in the Queenstown area. They’re fast and not super interested in Queenstown at all so they’re probably sitting cozy with a fire for the next 2 days and I’ll never see them again!

Oh and they make really “fancy” meals. They take their time and stuff and it’s almost like real cooking not just boiling some water. It’s cool and they’re fast enough they can still manage that without getting in late at all.

First encounter: Aparima Hut. Which is actually 2 huts. We pretty much had Aparima full up with 3 southbounders (8 beds, 6 people, but the bed layout was basically 2 platforms with 4 twin mattresses laying next to each other. Enough space, but slightly more cozy). They figured out how to get into the other hut, which apparently wasn’t even hard but I hadn’t tried and didn’t even care so they had the place to themselves.

Most recent (and probably final) encounter: Greenstone Carpark

Water treatment: Steripen

Marius

Another German guy. He’s been walking a lot with Keaton and Gian-Marco, he’s quick but still thinks they’re insane fast and somehow manages to keep up. Also mentions how it’s sometimes hard to understand those 2 because their accents are so thick. Hah! He spent a couple of weeks in Te Anau because he did the Kepler track and since that’s a Great Walk, he had to schedule it, but he’s back on TA now. He’s joining Keaton and Gian-Marco on their bypass route to Wanaka. I’ll probably see him also again in Wanaka.

First encounter: Kiwi Burn hut? I don’t really remember, but since it was after Te Anau and I don’t think he was in Boundary hut, it must have been there.

Most recent encounter: Queenstown.

Water treatment: I don’t know, have barely spent any time around him.

Frank

Last but not least. Save the best for last? I dunno, there’s not really much in the way of ordering here but whatever.

Frank. Dutch. Speaks all the languages. All of them. Works doing something something utilities in Europe. Travels a lot for work. Super awesome guy. Rolls right about my pace, so for the last 2 days has basically been my trail buddy. It’s been super great. He’s fun to talk to, we keep a similar pace, though he’s definitely faster than I am overall. Super super super nice guy.

Since we keep a similar pace we’ll probably be together a lot in the coming days or weeks. He’s taking an extra day in Wanaka so I might get ahead of him but we’ll probably meet up again later. He’s been kinda gluing us all together socially. Suggested dinner out in Queenstown, then suggested again dinner at his hostel but let’s cook. And we’re probably all going to meet up again tomorrow in town for shenanigans on the storm day.

“Makes” lots of pictures. Carries a fairly heavy pack but doesn’t care. Hiked the PCT in 2016. Eats mostly bars for food and not that many. Honestly I don’t know how he does that, I eat a decent amount and know I definitely am not eating enough, especially throughout the day.

Also, I found out tonight his PCT trail name was “grocery store”. Which is hilarious because at the hostel in invercargill the lady working it asked me if we did trail names on the TA (I don’t think we do?) and mentioned this guy named grocery store because he bought so much food and was giving it away one time. Little did I know I would meet said grocery store. Small world.

First encounter: Carey’s Hut

Most recent encounter: Queenstown

Blog: https://dutchpct.wordpress.com

Water treatment: gravity filter system. Basically the same sort of filter as mine but I force water through and he just hangs up a bag and lets gravity take it. Mine is faster for small quantities but he can hang up a huge bag while making or breaking camp or putting lunch together or whatever while I have to do it manually. Honestly filtering water is one of the more time consuming and annoying parts of my day. But I keep making improvements.

# The southbounders

All of them. I’m bad with names as is. No way I’m going to remember your name after we chat for 5 minutes as we pass on the trail.

They’re dirty liars. The trail up ahead isn’t beautiful and easy going. It’s 10 times worse than anything I’ve yet seen! They’ve just been on the trail for 4 months and I’ve been on for 2 weeks!

However, they are, and especially will be later, an excellent resource for up to date trail information. As river crossings become far more common. In the Richmonds where there’s a good 2 day stretch where the only water is at the huts, so I REALLY need to know if the barrel is empty before I leave the hut before it.

Also they’ve been very helpful, especially the couple I spent a lot of time talking to at Birchwood Station, in figuring out food, resupplies, and off trail things. Instead of half a dozen resupply boxes I’ll probably send 2. They say hitching off the trail for resupply can be a huge pain but there’s cool stuff in those off trail towns and I’ll want to get off the trail for a day anyways. Even if TA is their first trip they’ve been on the trail for 1-4 months depending on where they started and how much road walking they did on the north island (vs hitching or otherwise bypassing it, because who wants to 80km of road walking in on stretch. On SH1. Nobody.) so they have a lot of experience by now and can offer useful advice and much needed encouragement. “You’re just getting your legs”. “The really pretty bits are still ahead”.

It’s also interesting to hear how few people are treating water and haven’t had problems. I am treating most of my water, but sometimes I’m lazy at the hut (it’s a rain barrel, it’s 99% likely fine. Yes, even Martin’s Hut), or if someone else says a source should be clean and I don’t feel like filtering, I’ll YOLO a bit. I have rehydration salts with me but I damn sure hope I don’t have to use them! I know in the higher mountain rivers I’m probably going to end up just drinking straight from the river, but some folks had been not treating any water, just avoiding water from stock paddock runoff. Braver than I.

# The non-TA walkers

Folks in huts who aren’t walking TA but are there for some other reason. There have only been a few. We had a trio of folks at Kiwi Burn who had been hanging out at the lakes all day and hiked in the 5km or so from the swing bridge with their friend who’d never been on a tramp before. So she was on a bit of a training run, the next weekend they’d be doing a “real” tramp, but I don’t remember where they said they were going. There were also a handful of people at Greenstone Hut since it’s an extension of the Routeburn Track (another Great Walk) and there are a lot of more accessible tracks in the area, also proximity to Queenstown. In particular there was a pair of Japanese women who we suspected didn’t speak any English as they stayed separated from the rest of the folks for most of the time. They were in my bunk room and the younger woman spoke fairly good English so the 3 of us had a nice conversation. She was translating for her Aunt, who was the older woman. We talked about my Japan trip and such. Fun. But I was also trying to go to sleep so at some point I had to cut off the conversation so I could do so! We pegged them as non-TA folk due to the quantity of fresh foods, including a bottle of orange juice, they’d carted up the trail with them. No way a thru hiker would carry a huge bottle of OJ anywhere but their stomach!

There were others at that hut and probably others I forgot, but really, if I see someone in a hut or along the trail and their backpack isn’t a daypack. I just assume TA and so far that’s been a pretty safe bet.

Queenstown zero, day 1

The weather today is quite beautiful. Tomorrow is not so much. So I’ve decided to both stay an extra night in Queenstown to avoid a huge storm coming through, and to try to do any outdoor activities I might want to do today, and leave the errands and indoor stuff for tomorrow.

With that in mind, I scheduled a skydiving trip for 1pm, with a meander out to Queenstown Gardens before, and a trip up the gondola for after, and fill in whatever.

Welp. I went to the gardens. They were lovely. And the view from the point was spectacular.

Afterward I wandered back over to the skydiving shop, sat down and waited for my group to be called. Shortly after the scheduled time, the staff came over and informed us that they’d cancelled the rest of the jumps for the day due to wind. Sad face. Major sad face. Thy had options for us like rescheduling or booking something else, but given the poor weather in the forecast for tomorrow I knew that was out, and Friday I’d be leaving town, so I opted to cancel entirely. There’s a possibility I can make it a day trip from Wanaka but I’ll worry about that when I get to Wanaka.

After I finish my lunch I may meet back up with some folks I’ve been walking with and hanging out at the huts with for the past several days, and take a trip up the gondola for some nice, if much lower than skydiving, views of Lake Wakatipu, which even from the ground is incredible.

Fast forward to late in the evening.

I ended up totally forgetting about the tram. I met up with some friends near the lake, we ventured out in search of food, split apart a bit, I ended up getting some curry at a Japanese place and then we all kinda met again down by the beach and just hung out, relaxed, and talked for a bit.

At some point a guy comes over and wants to join our conversation because he’d heard us talking about radio stuff. Eventually the topic shifted to cryptocurrency of course.

Eventually the guy, after chatting with us for a while, asks us what we think about iPads and Apple products in general. Most of us are using iPhones so clearly we like Apple. He starts in on this rant about how Apple makes it really hard to recover an iPad or iPhone if the previous owner hadn’t released it from their Apple account. It turns out, the context is that he thinks companies should want people using their products no matter how they were acquired. And that Apple “locking people out” is not in Apple’s best interests. I counter that the reason they do it is a theft prevention measure. If someone steals my phone it’s basically useless to them. Sure they can do a hard factory reset with iTunes, but the phone is still registered to me and you can’t undo that without my or Apple’s intervention. He says he doesn’t understand why anyone would want to buy something that’s useless to a thief because it can’t benefit the thief or something. I explain again it’s a theft prevention feature. I like it because it makes it less of a theft target. He says not all thieves know they’re useless. I counter that good thieves will. Clearly this guy isn’t a good thief. All this while he has this iPad he doesn’t have a charger for, and wants to sell it but wants to be able to turn it on to show people that it works. Keeps mentioning things like “finding” iPads or iPhones. Yea. Found. Sure. Meanwhile all of us are quietly putting all our valuables away. I even told the guy it’s just a lightning charger, can get that anywhere. Anywho, I got a kick out of it. Wish I had a better memory of the whole conversation because it was just fascinating how much this guy was pissed that Apple was making it harder for thieves and why would they do that. At some point also he asked about sql injection. “Could you do that and just update the record?” I laughed. If you could, Apple would probably pay you a lot of money to tell them that. Such a funny situation this guy.

Later we were going to all get together for dinner and cook a meal over at Frank’s hostel because it has a huge cooking facility. So we ventured out for groceries and beverages and reconvened around 6. Stir fry was the meal. Rice. Broccoli. Huge pile of mushrooms. Some other random stuff. We all pitched in, put it together and made it happen. The meal was great, but the best part was the conversation and general hanging out.

In fact, one of the most awesome parts was just before we started we had a bit of a saying grace sort of moment. Keaton suggested we share something we’re thankful of. Each of us shared something and it was a really great reflective moment. For me it was that I was thankful for the company and new friends of course but also that despite being very angry with 2 of the people at the table (see profile post later) for several days I’m actually in retrospect one very thankful for knowing them because they’re very cool people, but also, in hindsight, thankful for the push they gave me, even if they weren’t intending to, or if my anger was misdirected or whatever, that in the end, the motivation was actually valuable and that I was thankful. It was kind of a touching moment. Very cool idea.

We broke up shortly after 10 and I realized I’d forgotten about the gondola. Oops.

Since we were all guests at Frank’s hostel the 3 of us left walked back into town. Then Keaton and I ended up having a really deep philosophical conversation for about an hour on a street corner before finally heading our separate ways.

Now I’m in my hostel finishing this post. I’ve had requests to talk about the people I’ve been hiking with so I’m going to try to do like a mall profile post to capture some of the folks I’ve met recently. Also I’ve heard images are all sorts of broken so one of the things on the agenda for tomorrow is to fix that.

Day 14: Greenstone Hut to Greenstone Carpark

Today was just a short day. Given how I’ve been doing vs the DOC time estimates for sections, the 3-4 hours this section was meant to be I wanted to plan for 5. So for the past several days I’ve been stressing over this day. I have a shuttle picking me up at 10am and a 5 hour walk to get there. Fortunately I decided I didn’t really care and if I missed the shuttle so what.

We arrived at the carpark at 9am. Oops!

This morning I got up early. I’ve been setting alarm for 5am but this morning I was actually out of bed at 5am. I had mostly packed everything last night so just needed to pack up my sleeping stuff, change into trail clothes, chow some food and roll. We left at 5:45am. Still dark out. Using headlamps and my phone light to get down the trail.

About halfway in I got a surge of energy. We had plenty of time, and I was feeling good. I basically took off running and was just flying down the trail. Nice smooth beautiful trail. Frank, the guy who had been pushing me so much the day before, was now the one being pushed. He kept commenting on how fast I was going. It felt great. I dunno. Maybe the idea that I’d be done with the day well before noon was calling to me. Maybe it was the burger or pizza or whatever. I didn’t finish super strong, sadly. My left foot started hurting from the rocks. I’m thinking about hitting up a shoe store here to see if there’s an insole that can help with some extra padding under my feet. Rocks just destroy my feet and the last 4 days have been quite the mix of gravel, rocks, and other stuff, but mostly gravel and rocks.

At the carpark we met up with a couple of other people who had been doing some of the other trails in the area, had a chat with them, and all boarded the shuttle together.

One lady commented: all TA hikers talk about is gear and food, eh? We’d been talking about tents and cutting tags off and shaving grams, then started in on the food we wanted to eat once we got to Queenstown.

The shuttle was awesome. It’s like a 12 passenger van they take the back row of seats out for storage, but nothing super rugged. And then they drove it down this washboard road complete with fairly large rock berms and a handful of stream crossings. Think off roading with a minivan full of hungry smelly adults. It was great.

I was dying for a beverage so I asked if we could make a pit stop. Sadly no coke but I did get a karma cola and that was just perfect.

After arriving in Queenstown a bunch of us went for burgers and now I’m at my hostel waiting to check in. And to get WiFi. So I can upload this post. I may go skydiving. I really want to, but the weather may not cooperate. It’s lovely now, but I really want to do laundry and take a shower, so skydiving will likely be a tomorrow thing. We’ll see though.

Day 12, 13: Kiwi Burn Hut to Greenstone Hut

Both of these days were super super super hot. I met a couple of guys at Boundary Hut and and walked with them on the second day.

These days were super hard too. So many times I quit. In Te Anau, the guys I’d met before convinced me to do this stretch in 4 days, and the 4th day getting a ride at 10am. So, 3 long days in a row, followed by a short but very early day. I originally wanted to do this as 5 days. The whole day from Kiwi Burn to Boundary Hut I was in agony and roasting and just hating everything. So I spent the better part of the afternoon trying to figure out how I was going to change my plans to make it a fifth day. Since I had a hostel reservation in queenstown and a shuttle booked, it wasn’t going to be easy.

Fortunately, the guys I met at Boundary hut seemed really cool and the next day I walked with them most of the day so it made the day feel really short. My feet were absolutely killing me. Between walking at weird angles because of tussock and lots of rocks mashing my feet continually, I was in some pain.

Later in the afternoon about an hour before Greenstone Hut we came across a really lovely stream with some shade trees and stopped for lunch and to refill our water.

Tomorrow morning I’m getting up super early to try to make it to my shuttle. Things say the parking lot is 3-4 hours away but I’ve been consistently missing the estimates so I’m worried I won’t make it in time. At this point I’ve decided to just go for it and if I miss the shuttle, I miss the shuttle. We’ll see.

Lots of pretty today.

Day 11: Te Anau to Kiwi Burn Hut

Woke up early this morning and hit the road. I had to get to the edge of town and then start hitchhiking to get me out to the trail. Traffic was pretty light so it took a while but after about 20 or 30 minutes a guy picked me up and off I went!

Being the completionist that I am, I asked to be dropped off where I left the trail, rather than where the trail turns to head up into the hills a couple kilometers down the road. This meant some highway walking and some extra distance, but doesn’t matter, I needed it!

39km to Mavora Lake and it’s all gravel all the way. For the TA section, the official trail departs the gravel road about 15km in, but the trail notes say a lot of people just stay on the road and join back up later. I did that and I’m glad I did. I had about 3km of tussock to get through near the end and I could have gone farther and would have done nearly anything to avoid it. It was bad. Ugh.

Anywho, I’m in camp. Had some food. Long day. Very hot. Very little shade. And very little of interest since it was all gravel.

The southbounders I came across all said tomorrow is all really pretty and easy. Given that it’s a long day tomorrow, I’m looking forward to both of those things. Hopefully it’s not too hot!

Te Anau zero part 2

After coffee I ran over and booked a couple of tours for the day then went grocery shopping. This time still felt fairly chaotic, just indiscriminately throwing things into my basket, but I eventually went back, got a cart, spread out all of the food I’d selected into it, sorted into meals, and found that I was actually fairly close. I needed a few less sauce packets and another box of bars and I’d be set. I also had an entire extra thing of pasta, but I decided to keep that for spare food as it works really nicely with some milk and a sauce packet. It feels really heavy, but it also includes breakfast for tomorrow before I leave and I’ll be eating a fair amount of it tomorrow, so it’ll lighten up quickly.

Afterward I went out on one of the trips I’d booked for the day, an afternoon tea cruise on old sailboat. I’d caught the sailing bug pretty thoroughly in Auckland and decided to see what they had on offer.

The boat was very cool. Lots of history. Nicely kept, etc. being out on the water was fun, and the little guided hike tour in the middle was also quite nice. Yes, I went hiking on my day off. From hiking.

They served afternoon tea and put up the sails, but honestly there wasn’t any real sailing going on. Maybe today wasn’t windy enough, but I also don’t feel like the sails were big enough to make much of a dent trying to move this beast around. Overall it was fun, but I would probably have passed on it in favor of something else had I known more.

One interesting thing I did learn is that the lake here is 450+ meters deep. The bottom is actually 200 meters below sea level! It’s also very clean and pure water. You could drink directly from the lake with no treatment or filtering. Very cool, as someone who drinks primarily wild sourced water at the moment!

Afterward I bumped into the guys I met a couple of huts back. They were also heading out in the morning and they convinced me to do the next section in 4 days instead of the 5 I’d been thinking, which is really more like 3 long days and then a mad dash to get to our shuttle pickup at 10am. Should be interesting. So I booked my shuttle from the trailhead to Queenstown. They also suggested I book my Queenstown accommodation as soon as possible, given how busy it is there right now. Oof. Even further committing me to a 4 day stretch. Welp, I did. There really isn’t much available now but I managed to get a private room near the center of town so, that’s at least sussed.

Then off to my final excursion for the day, a trip to the Te Anau glow worm caves. Earlier today I’d seen a nice catamaran with a bunch of people on it pull up next to us at the dock. Now I’d be riding on it.

A short trip with some commentary and we were out at the cave. Sadly, photography is not allowed inside. Makes sense. They don’t want people dropping phones in the underground river or firing flashes in the pitch black cave. And black it was. The early part of the cave we walked through was really cool. The water flowing through it having carved it out over the last 12,000 year’s after the weight of glaciers from above fractured the ground and forced water through. Then they put us on these little gondolas and took us deeper into the cave, which at this point was pitch black. Darker than I’ve seen in a very long time. And all these little green points of light like the tips of fiber optic tree lights in clumps around the ceiling. Super super cool.

After a solid few minutes of that, back to the roar of the water and the lights in the cave. We were all really quiet in the “sanctuary” part of the cave, and we were still quiet after coming back out. I’d love to lay on a pool float in that cave for a few hours or years. Really cool.

Then some more hiking, of all things and a short presentation with live commentary about the glow worms and what they are: maggots. Multiple times the joke was made “you wouldn’t come to a glow maggot cave”. They’re pretty fascinating creatures, but to be honest I liked the cave and the boat part way better than the actual worms. They were cool, but I was expecting the ceiling to be completely covered in them. Again. Not bad. I would do it again. But as far as expectations vs reality, the cave itself and the boat was way cooler.

So, back to the boat. From below, the cockpit looks like a super high tech command center. Combined with how maneuverable and powerful this thing was, it just felt awesome. I asked nice and they let me hop up and take a picture and I chatted with the skipper a bit. She was controlling the whole thing with what amounts to an Atari joystick in the arm rest of her enormous seat. Super cool.

After getting back to the dock we were treated with a pretty magnificent sunset and then, tired as I am, and wanting to get started in the morning with my walk, I snapped a photo and walked back to my hotel.

I was on both of those boats today!

Now I’m using this last opportunity for WiFi to finish uploading photos and one last email check, then I’m going to bed. No luck finding a ride out to the trail in the morning so I’m gonna walk out to the highway and throw out a thumb and a smile and hope for the best. 4 days from now I’ll be in Queenstown!