Debriefing: Wangapeka Track

This was one of the more enjoyable options of returning from the Heaphy Track, by as direct a means as possible, and as such is one of the classical combination routes. With accommodation and the supermarket in Karamea, this was also an ideal way of doing a much longer hike than would otherwise be possible.

Section (with links) Distance Track Time Break Mean speed Median time|distance Ascent Descent
Little Wanganui Road End – Taipo 20.3 km 6:56 h 0:47 h 2.93 km/h 2.74|3.66 km/h 1475 m (M+) 835 m (M+)
Taipo – Stone 18.6 km 6:09 h 0:40 h 3.03 km/h 3.12|3.52 km/h 889 m (M) 911 m (M)
Stone – Price’s Clearing 19.7 km 4:56 h 0:40 h 4.00 km/h 4.21|4.51 km/h 646 m (M-) 1033 m (M)
Totals 58.7 km 18:02 h 2:07 h 3.25 km/h 3.29|3.93 km/h 3000 m (M) 2772 m (M)
Summary of the Wangapeka Track. Climb categories are: Flat (< 1.9°/3.3%), Easy (> 1.9°/3.3%), Moderate (> 3.8°/6.6%), Demanding (> 7.5°/13%, < 15°/27%)
Wangapeka Track, speed distribution by time
Wangapeka Track, speed distribution by time

The only thing that was worrying about the track was the fact that it had been reclassified as a “route” from previously being a track. This means that upkeep of the track is downgraded, and any further slips, etc. which might impede progress will no longer be bypassed (as was the case near the Karamea end, where recent windfall has almost obliterated the track, but temporary signs have been erected to allow passage, and shortly before Wangapeka Saddle, where a detour around a major slip was well signed). This has meant that a telephone once present at the Karamea end of the track has been removed, although the telephone at Price’s Clearing was still there. These telephones provide (or provided) a secure means of arranging transport off the track at both ends. For alternative accommodation right at the Karamea end of the track, Atawhai Farmstay is a possibility (and they have a phone there as well).
Read more…

Debriefing: Karamea

Faced with almost immediately getting on a bus at the end of the Heaphy Track at Kohaihai, and arriving some time in the evening back in Nelson, or even taking the fast track by flying back from Karamea airfield to Nelson, I decided on a couple of days in Karamea. This is not an easy place to get to, or one that most people even get to, but I was wanting to return by hiking almost directly back in the direction of Nelson via the Wangapeka Track, and needed just two days to have a shower, wash the hiking gear, and replenish supplies before heading off again.

That was the underestimation of the trip. Karamea might be at the end of the longest cul-de-sac in the world, but that might just make it one of the last “hidden gems” from the hordes of tourists trampling down nearly everything else. I only wished that I had had at least another day (and as it turned out, I did the Wangapeka Track in a day less than I had planned, so I could have stayed that extra day). Read more…

Debriefing: Heaphy Track

With just over 71 km, the Heaphy Track is the longest of the pedestrian Great Walks, and I use the word “pedestrian” advisedly, because the Whanganui River Journey, a Great Walk that can only be done by kayak/canoe, is twice as long, and the Heaphy is open for pedestrians only in the Great Walks Season (November – April). In the winter time it is a mountain bike track, so be warned.

Section (with links) Distance Track Time Break Mean speed Median time|distance Ascent Descent
Brown Hut Access – Perry Saddle 16.0 km 4:09 h 0:25 h 3.87 km/h 4.14|4.39 km/h 1408 m (D-) 670 m (M+)
Perry Saddle – James Mackay 21.3 km 5:04 h 1:49 h 4.21 km/h 4.47|4.67 km/h 609 m (M-) 778 m (E+)
James Mackay – Heaphy Hut 18.2 km 4:17 h 1:12 h 4.25 km/h 4.64|4.88 km/h 341 m (E+) 1033 m (M)
Heaphy Hut – Kohaihai Carpark 15.6 km 3:35 h 0:23 h 4.36 km/h 4.79|5.09 km/h 504 m (E+) 508 m (M-)
Totals 71.1 km 17:05 h 3:49 h 4.17 km/h 4.47|4.72 km/h 2892 m (M) 3020 m (M-)
Summary of the Heaphy Track. Climb categories are: Flat (< 1.9°/3.3%), Easy (> 1.9°/3.3%), Moderate (> 3.8°/6.6%), Demanding (> 7.5°/13%, < 15°/27%)

Heaphy Track speed distribution by time
Heaphy Track speed distribution by time, in this case 75% of the time spent on the track was at faster than 3.6 km/h
However, the nature of the walk is very much determined by its dual purpose as a tramping/biking track. The major ascent – from the Brown Hut access in the Brown Valley to Perry Saddle Hut – barely just qualifies as being “D-”, and for the most part it is a comparatively gentle climb netting 830 m. The major descent from James Mackay to Heaphy Huts netts just on 700 m. Not only are the slopes much gentler than, say, the Dusky Track, but the path itself is for the most part well-formed and there is very little mud to wade through. And the speed distribution confirms it: 75% of the time on the Heaphy Track was traversed at speeds greater than 3.6 km/h. And I like to think that the daily increase in speed of around 0.1 km/h was due to progressive lightening of the pack… Read more…

Debriefing: Dusky Track

If there was one word for this track, it would be “tough”, t, o, u g, h. It’s not just the two alpine passes that have to be conquered, nor the mud, nor even finding the track. It must be one of the toughest walks I’ve ever done. It’s pretty slow going at best, as the table shows, and the climbs and downclimbs reach an average grade of D+, which is between 7.5° and 15° on average for the distance of the climb. On average.

Section Distance Track Time Break Mean speed Median time|distance Ascent Descent
Lake Hauroko – Halfway Hut 11.9 km 4:35 h 0:08 h 2.60 km/h 2.47|3.05 km/h 444 m (M-) 279 m (E+)
Halfway Hut – Lake Roe 7.8 km 3:58 h 0:07 h 1.95 km/h 1.77|2.42 km/h 643 m (M+) 106 m (E)
Lake Roe – Loch Maree 8.6 km 4:19 h 0:44 h 1.98 km/h 1.92|2.39 km/h 419 m (D-) 1245 m (D+)
Loch Maree – Supper Cove 15.0 km 6:39 h 1:04 h 2.25 km/h 2.06|2.78 km/h 505 m (M-) 552 m (M-)
Supper Cove – Loch Maree 14.1 km 5:59 h 0:55 h 2.36 km/h 2.21|2.90 km/h 506 m (E+) 452 m (M-)
Loch Maree – Kintail 11.3 km 5:22 h 1:02 h 2.11 km/h 2.01|2.60 km/h 563 m (M) 341 m (M-)
Kintail – Upper Spey 7.1 km 4:26 h 1:47 h 1.60 km/h 1.48|1.86 km/h 833 m (D+) 652 m (D)
Upper Spey – West Arm 13.5 km 4:39 h 0:12 h 2.90 km/h 2.71|3.81 km/h 275 m (E) 547 m (M-)
Totals 89.3 km 39:58 h 6:20 h 2.23 km/h 2.04|2.68 km/h 4145 m (M) 4134 m (M)
Summary of the Dusky Track. Climb categories are: Flat (< 1.9°/3.3%), Easy (> 1.9°/3.3%), Moderate (> 3.8°/6.6%), Demanding (> 7.5°/13%), Strenuous (> 15°/27%)

Two big hills: On the left the climb up to Furkert Pass and the descent into Loch Maree; on the right the climb over Centre Pass
Two big hills: On the left the climb up to Furkert Pass and the descent into Loch Maree; on the right the climb over Centre Pass

What was left of the boots. Repair to the boot on the left (rivet) was post-Dusky; later the eyelet below also tore; eyelets on the other boot show critical frying , as well as other damage
What was left of the boots. Repair to the boot on the left (rivet) was post-Dusky; later the eyelet below also tore; eyelets on the other boot show critical fraying, as well as other damage
So my advice for most people is not to try taking two stages at a time. Quite possibly the only section that might be done like this is from Hauroko Burn all the way up to Lake Roe, but the starting time is late, and the track, which is initially quite good, rapidly deteriorates. Read more…

Debriefing: Stewart Island

Granted: The short stay on Stewart Island was designed for a kayak-in/kayak-out version of the Southern Circuit in five days:

  • Oban, Golden Bay – Rakeahua Hut (kayak, pick up by water taxi in the evening)
  • Rakeahua Hut – Doughboy Bay
  • Doughboy Bay – Mason Bay
  • Mason Bay – Freshwater
  • Freshwater – Oban, Golden Bay (kayak, delivery in the morning).

Whether or not that would have been realistic – especially from the kayaking side – is another question. The tides were right, but not spending a day on the water getting to Rakeahua would have meant hanging around a whole day for the water taxi to take me there.

Topo Map with GPS

Still plenty to explore: The land, and the sea
Still plenty to explore: The land, and the sea. Stewart Island: Oban – Mason Bay, Topo+GPS (4517 downloads)
In any case, having no partner for either kayaking arm meant doing a trip out to Mason Bay on foot, even if the last leg of the return journey could be undertaken by water taxi. Read more…

Debriefing: Satellite Tours

An additional degree of freedom when travelling was the use of “satellite tours” where a stop would be used as a starting point for a longer tour, with an intermediate base. This meant carrying less luggage to the intermediate point, but it also required a good deal of planning and organisation.

A classical tour, such as the Dusky Track, required only a place to leave most of the luggage, while taking only what was absolutely necessary (for eight days!) on the tour. Since the starting point was Te Anau, and most accommodation hosts there are used to dealing with tourists going on longer or shorter tours, then it was just a question of asking whether storage facilities were available. At Steamers Beach/Lakeview Holiday Park, a vehicle can be parked safely for $10, and another $10 will get you a locker for as long as you need it. Everything else was packed into the backpack weighing in @ 18 kg for the tour.

The first real satellite tour, however, had already been undertaken on Stewart Island. Here the idea was to spend one night in the secondary base at Oban before beginning and after ending the tramp across the island. This would mean leaving a small bag with some fresh clothes at the hostel in Oban, as well as leaving the main suitcase in Invercargill. As there is a strict weight limit on luggage on the plane (15 kg) some of the tramping food would have to be bought in Oban (not much more expensive than the mainland, but anyhow). And this is how it went: Read more…

41. Nelson: Brook Waimarama Sanctuary

Thursday, March 23: Very cloudy in the morning and a little cool, but warming to clear, blue skies; in the evening some dark clouds

Walking: 2.0 km


Genie offered to take me to the Brook conservation area for a bit of a walk this morning. This is a predator-proof zone not far from the centre of town, along a couple of roads that I had not yet reached, and is in a valley whose dams provided Nelson’s first drinking water (entry $5 donation).

A couple of fantails, a few bell birds, and one weka were very much all that could be seen or heard; a few trees had the distinctive orange berries that I had seen on the Heaphy, but by the time I had returned the staff were out again and I could not ask what they were. Seems like karaka might be a possibility, but for the fruit size. Read more…

39. Tapawera – Nelson

Tuesday, March 21: Sunny to begin with, clouding over, with sun returning in Nelson

Tramping: 8.2 km

Genie’s (airbnb, $40)

Despite the late night I was up @ 8:00, had the last of the tramping breakfasts and was packed up and ready to go by 9:30. The plan was to walk to Kohatu and wait for the bus. On the way out of town I noticed that the school was also home to the public library and being shown there by the receptionist was told that for a small donation I could use the “senior internet” access. Got on and messaged Genie who reported back that moving the booking forward one night would be OK. Tried messaging Elizabeth, but wasn’t sure if it had worked. In any case I was out after half an hour or so and that relieved some of the pressure on the day.

Just before Kohatu was overtaken by Marcel & Jasmin and their small car which was packed full, despite which they offered me a lift. I wanted to walk the distance, however, and was in Kohatu just after 11:30. The only thing here is a cafe and I had a coke, had to restart the compass twice because the rucksack had fallen over, then went across the road to eat my muesli bars. In the course of waiting decided I would see what happened if the camera took some timelapse. First tried in “M” mode, but the camera stopped after a while; but in “Av” mode the sequence appeared to want to go on forever. At around 2:30 I packed up and kept an eye out for the bus, but it was nearly an hour in coming. Eventually it was there and despite the traffic in Richmond and Stoke was not delayed any further and arrived in Nelson at just 4:05 (fifteen minutes late). Marched up to Mount St, but Elizabeth was not at home, and then to Genie’s, where she was awaiting me with her friend Chris. He had tried intercepting me, but had picked the wrong bus. With a coffee to wake me up, things had to be organised. Read more…

38. Stone – Price’s Clearing (Wangapeka 3+4/4) – Tapawera

Monday, March 20: Mountain clouds to begin with, becoming fine and sunny

Tramping: 19.9 km

Tapawera Settle Motorcamp, 19 Tadmore Valley Rd, Tapawera 7055, cabin ($75, including on-demand transport from the track end), hosts: Colin & Tina

One last attempt at finding the glasses last night by waiting until it was dark and using the headlamp to detect any glint was not successful, but there was a probe standing around this morning, so after breakfast I made the very last attempt also, alas, to no avail. After which there was nothing much left to do except pack everything up, sweep the floor, take out the ash (not very much, the hard red wood took a long time to get to burn, but when it did there was a lot of heat and not much ash) and I was ready to go by 9:45.

The very first part of the track was a bit of river skipping but after a bridge the mule route took over and it was very high and dry over the river, and quite flat. About halfway to the huts there were a couple of stretches of mud but apart from that everything was OK. I wasn’t pushing it and arrived at King’s Creek for lunch after around 2½ hours, after briefly considering staying at Cecil King’s Hut (historical) with its two bunks. Read more…

37. Taipo – Stone (Wangapeka 2/4)

Sunday, March 19: Cloudy with some drizzle to begin with, becoming finer with a little sun shining through

Tramping: 18.6 km

Stone Hut (Doc)

The only noise in the night was the wood burning out, towards dawn some birds appeared (weka? kea?), and I slept through until about 8:00. Time for ryvita and salami but noticed too late that the salami had garlic in it and wasn’t particularly sliceable. In any case breakfast was soon dealt with and everything packed away for an early start.

Swept out the hut just prior to leaving, and the track was moderate. At about the point where the track to Helicopter Flat Hut left I met a couple from Sydney who were doing the Leslie-Karamea (to be followed then by the Heaphy from west to east, and the Abel Tasman). No one else on the track. Read more…