Day 1: Bluff to Invercargill

The weather forecast looked bleak today. 30C (about 84F) and sunny. And there’s very little shade on the route which is mostly a road walk, at least according to Google Maps. But hey, I thought. 84 isn’t that bad, and I have a hat and long sleeves and pants so I should be fine!

Hah!

But more about that in a minute.

I hopped on the shuttle that picked me up right outside my hostel and off we went to Bluff! Along the way I had a chat with the driver as I was his only passenger and that was cool. I was slightly zombified, not having gotten the most amazing sleep last night and also super nervous about the day and trying to remain calm. I probably wasn’t the most stimulating of conversation partners, but fortunately it’s only a 30 minute trip.

When we got to Bluff I had lost the postcards I wanted to send myself from Bluff. I had no idea where they’d run off to, but the driver suggested maybe I’d dropped them when I got in and he’d swing by he hostel and look for them on his way back through town. Fortunately, he did find them, sadly they won’t get the Bluff cancellation stamp I was hoping for, but oh well.

So here I am, at the start!

Hooray, I’m here, at the farthest south I’ve ever been, and one of the farthest south points outside of Antarctica, about to spend the next 2 months or so walking north. Do I look nervous? Hint: I was.

Fortunately, the track started quite nicely. Good amount of shade, some lovely views, gravel path (I would prefer softer track but gravel makes sense for high traffic areas)

Some pretty views along the way. Then up we go to the top of Bluff Hill. 326m and several stops to catch my breath later, I was at the top! The views were quite lovely, nearly a 360 view from the top, aside from the cell towers!

Then it was off to start the road walking. I was sad it started so early, I thought I’d at least get back down into Bluff first. Oh well.

On my way through Bluff I came across a lady and her husband I had met the day prior at a cafe and had a lovely conversation with. They said they’d come down to walk the track, I suspect they were also hoping to come across me and see me off! It was very cool of them!

He asked me if I was hot. I said not yet, ask me in a few hours. And sure enough, if he had, I’d have informed him that yes, I was indeed hot. Very hot. At first it was fine. The air temp wasn’t bad. Sun at my back. A nice breeze. Then the pavement started heating up. I started running low on water. I was tired of the pavement. My deltoids hurt. Heat was starting to get to me.

Along the way I stumbled across a sign for a museum. Way out in the middle of nowhere. I thought at worst I could get some water and rest in the shade. What I came to find out was I’d stumbled upon a really wonderful collection of radio and radio adjacent gear. It was a big collection. Very well curated. Even the museum itself had nice touches. A sound cone for one of the displays that had a video component, which are rare even in major museums. A small theater with comfortable seating and a 35mm projector. Apparently they have screenings of old movies there from time to time. The museum itself is the Arawua Communications Museum. Apparently back in WW1 Germany built a radio monitoring and communications station there. The area was particularly well suited for reception and could pick up signals from around the world! It had a major role for the Allies in WW2 as well. The towers were later removed, but this museum is there to commemorate and document the story. Really great stuff. And all of this for a museum that is only open 4 hours once a week! Amazing.

Anywho, when I pulled in the fire department was doing something out on the road and after being there for about an hour suddenly the power went out. The power lines had been arcing and they had to shut off power for a bit to fix it. So I filled my bottles and left.

More road. More heat. More sun. Finally I make my turn to get off of the main road and onto a trail to take me into Invercargill. Turns out the trail was gravel (read: hot) and had NO shade for large stretches. I finally found a tree and rested for a while, but it wasn’t enough. Was still hot, miserable walking.

Eventually I came into town after several side opportunities presented themselves to get me in via a slightly different route. Being a bit of a purist though I ended up sticking to the official trail until it turned away from town.

I landed in a pizza place and stuffed myself a bit silly, though my appetite still wasn’t fully working so I had some leftovers. After rolling into my hostel I took a shower and booked another night. Tomorrow would be even more exposed, even less water, with my full pack, starting later in the day (I have some things I need to do before I leave town and they open late), and the heat wasn’t going to be much better. So I called it. I’ll stay another night, my first zero day of the trip, but I think it’s the right call. Not a bad one at any rate.

All in all today could have been worse. I knew it would be bad. 26+ miles I walked. Mostly on roads or bad trail. Add to that the heat and sun. But it’s over now. I didn’t have to finish with this like some people do. I get the Queen Charlotte Track as my reward for completion!

Now I’m off to bed with sunburn, some treated blisters and lots to do in the morning.

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