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.
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]
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
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
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.
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
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.