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:

  • Tuesday, February 14: flight Invercargill – Oban, overnight stay at Bunkers Backpackers
  • Monday, February 20: Sea kayaking in Paterson Inlet before return flight (ferry). Overnight stay with Tina and Tony in Invercargill, suitcase picked up from Randa’s

The next satellite tour was the combined Heaphy/Wangapeka Track, and it was unusual in having the intermediate base in Karamea between the two tramps. This was to allow time (but only just enough) for washing and reprovisioning before starting on the second tramp. Everything else was left in the suitcase at Elizabeth’s in Nelson. This is a good alternative to coming directly off the Heaphy Track and then travelling back by plane or bus to Nelson. The timetable:

The mother of all satellite tours was the final tour, involving the five-day sea kayaking trip with Christelle in the Queen Charlotte Sound. First of all, a real intermediate base had to be set up in Picton, whilst leaving the suitcase behind in Nelson. The laptop had to be taken to Picton (to ensure communication with Christelle who was arriving just before the tour), as did all of the camping equipment, including the tent. This required two backpacks and it was quite a weight to lug back up the hill to Jugglers’ Rest. One of the backpacks with fresh clothes and the computer was left at Jugglers’ for the duration of the kayak trip (no additional cost). It all worked out perfectly in the end, and I was back in Nelson to repack everything for the flight back to Auckland on the following day:

All in all the satellite tours lasted 7, 8 or 9 days, and this alone speaks to the advantage: Time. I think there is a tendency for tourists in New Zealand to race (often quite literally) from one sightseeing highlight to the next, and missing huge swaths of landscape in between. The satellite tours freed up considerable amounts of time without having to forgo everything in your luggage. At the very least, there were fresh clothes waiting for you at either the intermediate or the final base, or both.