Portage Bay to Punga Cove zero

It rained today. In fact, it’s still raining. And hasn’t stopped once all day. Between that and the shin splints I decided I was not walking today. There wouldn’t have been anything to see along the trail, I would have been miserable, it wouldn’t have been a fun day. And I’m beyond the point of needing to prove anything, so no walking.

Instead, I took a water taxi! The sound is big enough with enough locals and enough tourists and such that there are actually 3 different competing water taxi services, some with fixed route and fixed schedule and others with on demand bookings too. Nifty. The boats range from fairly small to surprisingly large. The one I was on probably had capacity for about 30 people. I was expecting something like 8, maybe.

Despite the weather, the sound was actually quite pretty. And there are a lot more houses along the water than I could have imagined. Makes me wonder how many of them are residents vs baches.

After some cruising around picking up and dropping others off, I was finally dropped off at Punga Cove Resort. This place is pretty nice with a little bar and cafe by the water and a kinda fancy restaurant up the hill with great views. Their backpackers accommodation is actually a bunch of small private rooms with shared facilities. Mine is at the very end, and actually has a pretty great view.

Not too bad for $63NZD a night. I spent more than that on dinner, which was delicious. I had the steak. And the fanciest sundae I’ve ever seen. Also the head waitress was extremely good. Always awesome to watch a master at work.

With nothing much to do here during the wet cold rainy day I used the WiFi to book some things for after I’m done with the trail and read a book. Pretty relaxing day, if a bit boring.

The resident weka population was showing off just how cheeky they are. One had ventured into the laundry room and made off with a plastic bag of toiletries, many of which had spilled out onto the ground. But it wasn’t going to give up the bag. Silly bird. I tried to get a photo of it but it’s just not really possible to see it sadly. Mischievous little weird chicken duck looking things.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain most of the day too, but the route is fairly flat and pretty short, and there’s supposed to be a window of not rain in the afternoon so I’ll probably sleep in a bit, hang out at the cafe some more, and leave the moment the rain stops. The place I’m heading tomorrow night has pet pigs. It should be awesome.

Rintoul Hut zero

Woke up this morning to cloudy weather so we slept in.

I’d been wanting to zero in a hut. Let me tell you, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

This is a long section, so I had a lot of food. But I still have a decent amount of time left, so I can’t just do the thing I wanted to do all day, which was to eat. And despite having cell reception, I have only about half of my battery left, so I can’t just do stuff on my phone all day.

So, yea. I drank like 8 cups of tea, we played some cards, but the deck we had had some missing cards. We had a fire going but kept having to go cut up more firewood to keep it going. Then, finally, I laid down for a bit of reading and a nap and 3 more northbounders show up, so suddenly there’s a ton of activity and people talking and I just can’t get any reading done.

The worst part is that around noon we’d decided that 2pm was our cutoff to leave. We’d started packing up since there was some clearing, but by 2pm it was raining again. Then, about the time the nobos showed up, it started clearing more, and ended up being a lovely afternoon.

Suddenly I got a craving for a burger and then all we could do was talk about food for the next several hours.

John at one point had been pretty hangry and Christine started sorting through their food to make up rations so she could give him some food to try to take the hanger away. Eventually we all had dinner and then John apologized for his behavior earlier, and one of the other guys said he’d been so hungry he blacked out. And suddenly the term “black out hungry” was coined.

I’ve also spent the last several hours figuring out how to make this next section which originally was meant to be 4 days into 3 days, which is possible with either long days or beating estimates, both of which I’m starting to feel more like I want to do.

This section has been beautiful, but I wouldn’t mind being done with it a day earlier than originally planned. At any rate, I’m going to be happy to be back on the trail again tomorrow. Zero day in a hut isn’t the most exciting or wonderful thing ever, though I will admit that it would have been less bad if it hadn’t cleared up, and if we’d had a better deck of cards.

St Arnaud zero

Today I had one simple goal: make my pack smell less horrifying. Oh, and eat lots of bbq. Well, I got one of those things done.

Not that I didn’t try to get my pack to smell less horrifying, but at this point I think I need something a bit stronger than what Mirazyme claims to be able to do. Like a whole bottle of vinegar or something. I dunno. We’ll see how I feel after walking tomorrow.

I forgot I also needed to get my food sorted. I sent a box from Hanmer Springs with the majority of the food I’d be carrying for the next section, and picked up a few things from the local store to fill it out. Then I needed to repack the things that needed repacking and get it ready to go into my pack.

Over the past month and a half I’ve narrowed down what I eat on the trail:

Bumper bar or muesli for breakfast.

Bars of various types while walking. I don’t really stop for lunch, I just eat on the go and stop to rest when I feel like it but they don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

First dinner is pasta, half a sauce packet, pile of powdered milk, a cup a soup packet and a packet of tuna

Second dinner is the same without the tuna and with any cheese I might have.

So I made up meals. I have 9 baggies, in each one is pasta, 2 soup packets, and a sauce. Easy. No fumbling around for all of the ingredients, just grab a baggie and go. I’ll still need to dig out the milk powder but that’s ok.

For breakfast I had a 600g muesli package I split into 3 breakfasts and the others will be bumper bars.

I have cous cous for 3 of my pastas in case I start running low on fuel but I just got a new can so it should last me the whole time. Also just as a way to change things up a bit I guess. I dunno.

I also got a lot more candy this time. I was really enjoying having candy in the last stretch, so I doubled down on that. And brought a big bar of chocolate too. Why not. Junk food city.

I have roughly 10-11 days worth of food, depending how you split it as I have some extra dinners and one “day” worth of food that is just potatoes and a flavor packet. I am guessing this section will take me 7-8 days. But since it’s very weather dependent, having extra food isn’t a bad thing. Plus it lets me take shorter days here and there if I need to.

Speaking of which, in this next section there are huts basically every 4 hours. So I can half day full day long day whatever as I please. It’s pretty cool. Though I fully intend to give myself a full day to get over the Rintouls. Not so much that I’ll need it, the notes say it’s a 4 hour section, but it’s also one of the best views on the trail, and the last major obstacle between here and the finish line. If the weather is nice I will probably stop up there, eat lunch, read a bit, I dunno. It’s also the most weather dependent part of this section, so there’s a chance I’ll be hanging out for an extra day or so just before it waiting for a clear day. I really want a clear day for it so I have good views.

Pretty nervous about this section. 10 days of food is heavy. There is a 2 day stretch where there’s no water between huts. There’s one section that DOC has put out a notice about severe trail degradation, and I need to figure out the bypass route for it. Weather plays a big role in this section, and I have some wet weather ahead. The Rintouls themselves are physically difficult crossings. Lots to worry about.

One thing that’s nice about this section is 2 days from the end I can bail out to a town pretty easily. I can resupply there and head back out, or whatever needs to happen. But that basically gives me 2 extra buffer days in the schedule just in case.

Anywho, back to bbq. As expected, it’s not bbq in the Texas sense. It was grilled food. But a lot of it. And most pretty good. Definitely hit the spot!

Oh! And I learned a thing about sandflies at the DOC visitor center. They had a signboard outside with info. Sandflies are terrible things. They are up there with tussock on the list of things I won’t miss when I’m back home.

The lake is very nice.

Ok it’s like 1am I can’t sleep but I need to. Fortunately I can make tomorrow a short day if I want, and probably will, especially with the heavy pack and such!

Arthur’s Pass rain delay

Sigh. More delays due to rain. This time not because the storm was all that huge, though it did cause some problems. What it did for me was raise the levels of rivers I’d need to interact with to leave here to levels unsafe to cross. So, aside from leaving by road or train, I’m pretty much stuck here for a bit.

My original plan was 5 days from Methven. The first 3 days would get me to within range of Arthur’s Pass, and the next 2 days would take me up and over Goat Pass and down the Deception River, past Arthur’s Pass, and back to the highway on the other side. Arthur’s Pass is basically at the end of day 3 of a 10 day stretch, but you can get back to the road on the other side making it 2 5 day stretches. This would make it easier to resupply as my food box would have time to arrive, and would only have to have 5 days worth of food in it.

But rain came in really hard yesterday and put a stop to that. I had one option yesterday which would have been to skip the Goat Pass section and proceed up the river, hopefully getting to Locke Stream Hut before the river came up too much, after which I’d be fine. But it was starting to get later in the day when I had to make my decision and I still needed to unpack my food drop and get it into my pack. The forecast didn’t look promising to be able to deal with the rivers very soon, so I was kinda stuck. I dropped into the YHA and got a bed for the night, where I met another northbounder who was having the same dilemma.

This morning, I went to DOC and talked about river levels and weather, and it’s looking like by this afternoon I should be able to cross the rivers and get up to Goat Pass, but I’d prefer to wait a little longer for the river to drop more, especially since it rained a bit more this morning.

It’s supposed to rain a bit on Thursday and rain really hard on Friday, so if I leave tomorrow (Tuesday) I can get up to Goat Pass, down the Deception River Wednesday, (or, if that turns out to be a bad idea, back down the way I came up), and up the Taramakau river to Locke Stream Hut Thursday before the big rain hits on Friday. I’ll have some extra food with me in case I need to camp out at Locke Stream for a day or 2, but the river past there is much more manageable so even with heavy rain I should be able to get up and over Harper Pass without too much difficulty. That’s the plan anyways. Right now the rain has stopped and the sun is out but of course the rivers are still up or I’d hit the trail today.

One downside is there is very little to do in Arthur’s Pass village. There’s a cafe. And another one across the street. And that’s about it. But the WiFi at the hostel is fantastic, so rainy movie day it is!

One cool thing is the surrounding area is really beautiful. There’s a big waterfall about 5 minutes walk from the center of town. There are numerous waterfalls up on the mountains around, you can hear them, it’s cool. And there are Kea, which are an endangered species of Parrot and are rather large birds. They’re cheeky birds in wilder areas, here they mostly just beg for food from people who don’t heed the signs everywhere saying not to feed them. They have a distinctive call and are quite pretty and relatively approachable, so I’ll spend a little time trying to get some good photos of them.

Meanwhile here’s some of the area.

Ok, got a good one of some hanging out at the cafe.

Lots of people around taking photos. You can tell they know exactly what they’re doing.

Update: talked to DOC again and it looks like the weather won’t work out to do both, so sadly I’m skipping the Goat Pass section and heading straight to the Taramakau river tomorrow. If I can safely get across, it should be fine the rest of the way up, and past Locke Stream hut and up over the pass and beyond isn’t vulnerable to weather issues. Sad, but at least I’ll be leaving here tomorrow!

For now while the weather is nice I’m going to head up to Punchbowl Falls which is another waterfall real close to town here!

And here it is!

Now back to the hostel to read, watch some movies, and take a shower.

Methven Zero

The last day and a half or so I’ve been in Methven. The best part of this was meeting up again with Keaton, Gian-Marco, and Christian! I swear half of the town was TA hikers. At the cafe yesterday there were at least 2 other tables with TA hikers. Most of the people at my hostel are TA. Most of the people at Gian-Marco’s hostel are TA. Neat.

I went to see The Post at the local cinema. New Zealand’s movie theater popcorn is so sad. I didn’t even bother trying the one here it just didn’t look edible. But the theater was small and cute and comfy and the movie was really really good.

Fired off a couple of postcards. Mailed off my food box to Arthur’s Pass.

Oh! And I got my new shoes. Honestly, comparing the old with the new I thought a lot about just sending the new pair on to Hanmer Springs where I’ll be in about 2 weeks. They were beat up but seemed to not be getting much worse. I ended up leaving the old pair in the free box at the hostel, though I’m still a bit sad about this. I kinda wanted to “retire” them but I really don’t want to carry them nor box them up and ship them. So hopefully they’ll end up in a nice new home, or be a home for a rat at the landfill or something. 😦

I made a new friend too.

So much floof.

Back to the trail tomorrow. Looking forward to it but also a bit anxious about some upcoming weather and if that might delay me doing the Deception River section or not. It’s looking like it might. I’d be very sad about that. But we’ll see in a few days when I get to that area. Ideally I’ll be in Arthur’s Pass in 5 days, then a week on the trail to Hanmer Springs for a day or 2. Nothing but big stretches from here on out. This is what I’ve basically spent the last month training for!

Cyclone Gita zeroes

Due to Cyclone Gita descending on the South Island this week I’m going to take a couple of days off the trail and also skip a short section that is both very vulnerable to bad weather and also logistically quite complex. It’s a short section, so it’s just not worth the effort to stick around and wait just to be able to do it. That being said, here are some of my plans for my days off.

Currently I’m in Geraldine. I need to eventually get up to Methven where my box of spare stuff should be waiting, and then from there it should be straightforward to get to Lake Coleridge to get started on the next leg of the trail, 5 days up to Arthur’s Pass. There’s no direct bus service from Geraldine to Methven. But there is an Intercity bus to Ashburton, about 40 minutes away from here. It’s a larger town than both Geraldine an Methven and more suitable for taking a couple of days off. There’s also a place there I can buy a kindle to replace my dead one which will make me extremely happy you have no idea. Not gonna lie, this is a big factor in this planning.

From there I’ll probably hitch up to Methven on Wednesday, spend the night there and get myself up to the trail Thursday morning. Since the first day is moderately long I’m probably going to try to hire a service rather than hitch because I need to get there reasonably early to get walking. I don’t know what that’ll look like just yet but I’ve got plenty of time to do that over the next few days, between drinking lots of delicious coffee and reading my shiny new kindle!

I’m looking to stay at a backpacker in Ashburton, so hopefully I’ll be able to find some folks to hang out with there!

Lake Tekapo Zero

Today’s mission: clean pack. Fix leak in sleeping pad. Resupply. Find a book. Relax.

Fortunately there’s not a whole lot to do in this town, so I don’t feel compelled to try to cram it all in on my day off. I can just sit in my tent and do nothing and be fine with that. So other than my chores, I can just hang out today and do nothing. And I might do that again tomorrow, but we’ll see.

Just down the road from my campsite there’s a spa with varying pool temperatures. Similar to what was to be found in Iceland but not quite the same thing. I hung out there for a bit and used the actually functional WiFi at the cafe for a bit! Seriously this is the first usable (and free, too!) WiFi I’ve had in like 2 weeks

Edit: I am just now getting around to publishing this. It seems like I stopped mid thought and never came back. Posting for posterity.