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: 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…

36. Wangapeka Road (Track End) – Taipo (Wangepeka 1/4)

Saturday, March 18: Sunny to begin with, clouding over in the mountains, but then sunny again

Tramping: 20.3 km

Taipo Hut (Doc)

Time to pack up again. I was up just after 8:00; Sally had already left. I made two bacon sandwiches for breakfast, forgot the last of the size 8 eggs until afterwards and in the course of the morning managed to finish off both the milk and the fruit juice. Another couple of sandwiches were made for lunch on the track, then everything was ready to be packed.

Brian, my driver for today, wanted to know whether we could leave a bit before 11:00, which was fine by me; I only needed to check whether the ATM in the Four Square was going to be coughing up anything at all; after one last failed attempt I asked and was told that foreign credit cards weren’t honoured, so that’s that. Back at the hostel I packed everything up and the backpack was suspiciously light. Read more…

35. Karamea

Friday, March 17: Sunny and warm

Rongo

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…

34. Heaphy – Track End (Heaphy Track 4/4) – Karamea

Thursday, March 16: Some clouds in the valley at dawn, otherwise quite sunny

Tramping: 15.6 km

Rongo Backpackers, Waverley St, Karamea, $65 for twin as single (independent hostel)

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…

30. Nelson

Sunday, March 12: Heavier rain overnight, clearing to cloudy during the day, a bit of drizzle in the evening

Elizabeth’s

Another relaxed breakfast with Elizabeth and Friederike. I took it it was time to start reckoning up so I gave Elizabeth a copy of the book which I dedicated to her and she asked me to sign her visitors’ book which I was happy to do. Having secured Elizabeth’s permission to leave my case here for the tramps before moving elsewhere, I confirmed a booking which turned out to be at the end of the street. Then it was to be a morning for sightseeing. The ladies had had differing success tangoing last night, with the younger Friederike having a better time and Elizabeth rather frustrated at not being able to find enough men. Read more…

28. Nelson: Tahunanui Beach

Friday, March 10: Overcast during the day with some sunshine in the afternoon, rain expected in the evening

Walking: 8.1 km

Elizabeth’s

Another variation on Elizabeth’s breakfast this morning was to have weetbix with the ground up seeds, a plum and milk, and to forget the banana at some stage. Toast was a rather teutonic type of bread and it was plied with marmite. Not much sign of the torrential rainfall expected from the north.

First call of port was to tidy up the Wangapeka Track. Got an offer from Tapawera that they would pick me up and rent me a cabin for $75, which would have to be unbeatable. An Intercity bus @ full price can be cancelled up to two hours in advance for a full refund, but that has yet to be booked. In Karamea the very rainbowy Rongo Backpackers was taking $65 a night for a twin room plus $20 for a pickup which comes to much the same as Tapawera above, and was promptly reserved. Two things I will have to keep in mind: Taking enough cash to pay for everything, and a shopping list for Karamea. Shampoo & shower gel will have to be topped up before I go so that I can get some personal hygiene done in Karamea and Tapawera. And some decent meals. Read more…

27. Nelson

Thursday, March 9: Sunny, windy, not particularly warm

Elizabeth’s

After all of yesterday’s excitement I thought I might need a bit more sleep than usual, but was up just after 8:00 giving Elizabeth enough time to show me some stuff for breakfast (Allbran with yoghurt & cream, a banana, some toast, one of those in-the-packet coffees) before she was off to her work.

I wanted to see a bit more stuff around town so I headed off to Victory Park to see if there was a Four Square there with reduced price sandwiches (no such luck, no supermarket, but various convenience stores) and there was a cricket match in action in the park. Back along Vanguard St I opted to have a look in countdown for some milk, apples, and chocolate for emergencies; they had PAMS/Woolworth’s instant peas ($2/200 g) so if the Heaphy/Wangapeka comes into effect that is something worth taking.Read more…