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 holes 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.

Wanaka Zero

Since we got here a day earlier than expected we camped out last night at the holiday park. It was also fairly expensive like the one in Arrowtown, and the ground conditions were way worse, but at least the showers here were free. It was super windy when we arrived last night and setting up tents in the wind was interesting but everyone’s tent seemed to survive the night, hooray. It also rained a bit which meant wet tents in the morning but the sun cave out and got everything dried up nicely!

Today is a national holiday in New Zealand, Waitangi Day. So lots of things were expected to be closed. Seems like most of the stuff in Wanaka is open though, so no delays on that front. I need to go get some arch supports and a new belt for my hiking pants at the local sports shop, buy some groceries for the upcoming 6-7 day stretch, and figure out what I want to do about accommodation on the other side. Also, given that the street after this one is a 50km stretch with 42 of it being along a canal where you can’t camp or do anything else and it’s just a flat gravel road and you have to do it in one day, I’m probably going to contact one of the bike hire services that can drop off a bike for me, haul my pack, and ride that stretch instead of walking it, so I need to line that up.

There’s a legendary movie theater here in town that has fresh cookies, an intermission, interesting seating, including the back seat of an old car, so we’re planning to see Molly’s Game at 8pm, after we have a little bbq / family dinner at the hostel most of us are staying at.

I’ve also heard good things about Puzzling World, so I’d like to check that out. When I was here last year I saw it but assumed it was more kid oriented, but apparently that’s not the case and it’s pretty fun for adults too. It, too is open normal hours today, so that’s awesome.

Fast forward a bit.

Got my arch supports. High confidence. The sports shop I went to had one of those mats that you stand on and it measures your arch and helps pick the right one. Got a pair and they feel pretty good. Since I’ve been walking for so long with bad arch support it’ll take a little getting used to but I feel pretty confident that it’s the right thing. The guy helping me also commented that my shoes were getting pretty worn. 18 days on the trail and they look like they’ve been through a war zone. I sent my replacement pair on to Methven so I’m still about 2 or so weeks away from my new pair. Gotta make these hold together (literally) until then.

Fast forward some more. We went to Puzzling World. Super awesome. The illusions were really nifty and well put together, especially the tilted room which seriously was making me motion sick just trying to walk through it. Then we went to the maze. There are 4 corners in the maze and you have to go to each one. For an extra challenge there’s a particular order to visit them in. The maze had some flyovers to take you between sections, which were part of the maze and gave you a view of the maze to try to strategize. Super super fun. I think I ended up visiting every corner multiple times both trying to find them in the correct order and then trying to get back out. Super fun. And there were puzzles in the cafe area you could try out. Some captured strings, a couple of sliding piece puzzles, etc. Did I mention super fun? Super fun.

After that we wandered over to the supermarket and loaded up a cart with food for dinner. Given that we were 5 hikers we bought way too much food, but managed to eat most of it, somehow. Tomorrow a lot of us are splitting up. Some pushing onward farther than others, some doing side trips, and one taking another rest day in Wanaka. So since it may be the last time we all see each other we had a nice goodbye and dinner.

Afterward we were going to see a movie, but it was sold out! I’m both sad and somewhat relieved. I’m tired. Today was a very packed day off. And I still need to go grocery shopping in the morning before I head out of town for 7 days! I’m really sad I didn’t get to see the theater and its experience, but “I’ll just have to come back”. My FOMO is definitely hitting me hard right now. But I also really want to get back on the trail, so another day in Wanaka isn’t something I want to do. Plus there are zero vacancies in the whole town, at all. Everything is booked up. I could camp at the holiday park but bleh. Onward I must go.

We stopped into the DOC center to see if there wa anywhere to camp between the town of Lake Hawea and the beginning of the next day’s climb but they said it’s all private property and people had been getting huge fines for doing it. Not to mention it’s not a great way to represent the hiker community. Our only choices are to camp at Lake Hawea and go up the next day, or try to push forward and do it all in one go. Which might be doable for a few of this group, but not for this guy.

Anywho, instead of going out for a movie we’re watching Trading Places back at the hostel. Such a good movie.

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!

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.