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…
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.
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…
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…
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…
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…
Had a restful sleep until 8:00 and then started on a simple breakfast of two rounds of ham sandwiches with coffee. Had a little discussion with the American couple who were leaving later today. Cecile was a bit taken aback by being asked for $30 for the shuttle to the Heaphy and decided to hitch hike it.
Went down to the i-site for some basic internet, met a Belgian woman, Christelle, just off the Heaphy who was weighing up the pros & cons of the various overnight possibilities and she was asking me about Rongo which I could recommend. Then it was over to the hardware store, but their gas cans were just as expensive as in the supermarket and they only had citronella mozzie coils for exclusive outdoor use, and probably not as effective at killing sandflies as the genuine ones are. Anyway that meant going to the supermarket where peu a peu I was collecting stuff, so I decided to make a whole job of it and buy everything I needed. There was a sultana-nut mix (“trail mix” which corresponds closely to the German Studentenfutter) for $4 for 400 g, a salami from a local butcher that appeared to be genuinely dry, and wasn’t much more expensive than the prepackaged salami on special offer. That really only left some OJ (mixed juice was cheaper & chosen), the mozzie coils were nondescript, so were left out, some Pams muesli bars were bought & will suffice, some “bacon” bought for lunch today and breakfast tomorrow, to which only two hardboiled eggs from the old batch had to be added, both double-yolkers, then some beer for tonight. Then it was time to head back to the hostel. Read more…
I slept through from midnight to 6:00, and then some snoring started, so it was difficult to get back to sleep and although no one else in our dorm was making a move I decided to get up around 7:00.
Cheese was still good, milk was about to run out, but there are enough coffee, sugar and ryvita to last for the second leg. I had everything dry (including the sox I had brought in the night before and hung in the common room), packed away, and ready to go shortly after 8:15 and was on the track a few minutes later. Read more…
Wednesday, March 15: Sunny right from the beginning with some residual cloud
Tramping: 18.2 km
Heaphy Hut (Doc, $32)
I was up at 7:00, the preorganised breakfast was quickly dealt with. As there was finally a view of the mouth of the Heaphy River that was stable, a bracketed pan was on the agenda, while the spot was sending its message. Had to put the tripod up on the table on the deck to get a reasonable view but no one was complaining.
Was able to leave just after 9:00 & catch up with everyone else in the course of the morning. Track was very flat, except for a couple of trees that had fallen over & had to be detoured. Was able to get a couple of shots of the track, an inquisitive weka, and the confluence of the Lewis & Heaphy Rivers. Lewis Hut was soon reached and that was time for lunch (just under three hours). Had a look around the river and thought I could take another bracketed pan of the bridge before heading off; only, finding the way back to the track (and onto the bridge) was a little adventurous, but possible. Read more…
Tuesday, March 14: Rain overnight, clearing to cloudy and reasonably warm, light showers in mid afternoon
Tramping: 21.3 km
James Mackay Hut (Doc, $32)
The two brothers I was sharing with turned out to be excellent snorers but I managed to get some sleep at some point though it wasn’t very much. They did stop every now & then so that helped a little.
A couple of kea tried waking us around dawn and someone’s alarm went off @ 6:00; about then I shut the dormitory door as people were starting to use the kitchen. I snoozed a little while and eventually decided it was time to get up. Breakfast was – new – four pieces of Ryvita, the cheese (100 g), butter for the rye slices, coffee was two spoons of Nescafe, one of sugar, what remained of the cream, and one egg with salt. (By the afternoon the egg carton had disintegrated completely and a number of eggs were cracked & losing their shells. Perhaps next time smaller eggs.) Everything packed up neatly and I was ready to go soon after 8:30. Read more…
Monday, March 13: Heavy rain overnight, changeable during the day, some more rain in the evening
Tramping: 16.1 km
Perry Saddle Hut (Doc, $32)
Woke up around 5:30 and discovered that I hadn’t turned on the alarm, so I did so and it did go off on time, although it was not entirely necessary. Breakfast was a couple of wheatbix, a bit of allbran, some yoghurt and what was left of some milk with one of the packaged coffees.
Threw everything else into the suitcase and dragged it into the hall. All the food fit on top of the backpack and a plastic bag full of clothes was used to pad the pack. Put some muesli bars into the top compartment for a second lunch and was ready to go just after 7:00. Read more…