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…
Saturday, April 1: Nelson: Overcast
Auckland: Fine & warm with some high clouds
Walking: 8.1 km
Tracy’s (airbnb, $50)
Perhaps the last wakening at 7:30 summer time. Breakfast was the remainder of the crumpets with vegemite, some coffee with milk out of Genie’s fridge, and then the work of packing had to be done. Almost everything fit into where it should and Genie’s scales gave a reading of just under 20 kg for the suitcase (with more clothes to be discarded) and just over 7 for the backpack. Everything was checked and double-checked, the flat locked up and the keys in their hiding place, and I was on the street waiting for the Super Shuttle with 30 minutes to spare. The only thing that didn’t seem to work out was deleting played podcasts from the ipod (impossible; the podcasts have to be deleted from the master list first and then the ipod has to be synced, which might have triggered World War 3, i.e. the loss of all of the old podcasts that would then have to be downloaded again). Listening to the podcasts out on the street it occurred to me that having the pocket knife and the scissors in the backpack was probably not such a good idea, even if security at Nelson was going to be fairly laid back, so those were transferred to the suitcase without much of a problem. Read more…
Friday, March 31: Some remnants of cloud in the hills in Picton, becoming sunny and rather warm
The hostel was rather quiet last night with very few guests; at around 4:00 when I got up to go to the loo, one of Nikki’s bread machines was making a lot of noise and she was up, too, to turn it off so that it didn’t wake any other guests. Regular waking was around 7:30, and breakfast was three of the crumpets that I had bought last night with vegemite, coffee, and grape juice from Nikki. I was chatting with the American, Dave, who was also leaving on the midday bus.
I was out of my room @ 10:00 and proceeded to check the internet for anything I had forgotten yesterday. Itunes took up a lot of time and the result on the ipod was less than satisfactory but it will have to do for the trip. I saw that the university sports centre back in Hannover now had a sea kayaking group (Tuesday evenings, so finding time for swimming practice will be a bit of a challenge) instead of flatwater paddling, so I guess that is what I will have to take. Around 12:00 Dave turned up from wherever it was he had been & we loaded up our backpacks and headed for the ferry terminal. Read more…
Friday, March 24: Cloudy pretty much the whole day
Jugglers’ Rest, 8 Canterbury St., Picton, double room as single ($60, BBH)
The alarm actually went off @ 7:00 and the rest of the stuff was fairly easily packed away into two backpacks, the smaller one with the computer and the clothes, so that will be the satellite for this tour. Genie was up somewhat later and I had found everything for breakfast before she appeared for a shower. I gave her a copy of the book and after a short discussion of the room I grabbed my stuff, packed it into her car and we were at the bus stop @ around 8:45.
The bus driver was already loading passengers so I immediately had my stuff stowed away and chose a seat up front for the journey, and started on consuming some now month old podcasts. A couple of extra stops around town netted very few extra passengers and it was only after that were we onto the main road, some corners of which I actually recognised from 2009 or 2013. A bit of construction work along the way and the stop in Blenheim was very short. We were just a bit late into Picton. 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…
Breakfast at Genie’s was muesli & yoghurt; I had found some instant coffee and made my own, and the toast was first defrosted in the toaster before appearing for a dressing of vegemite. I started working on: Getting transport to and from Picton, accommodation there, all the while waiting for confirmation from Marlborough Sounds Adventures whether they were going to let us have a boat.
Genie’s car needed a new battery, but before that comes about she called the AA for a jump start and took me down to town where I started off trying to collect information about the campsites around the Sound. Seems that there are plenty, and we should have enough time to find another if one is full. It was the same bloke who had given me the tip of using Tapawera Settle on the way off the Wangapeka Track and I used the opportunity to thank him for it. Read more…
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…
Sunday, March 12: Heavier rain overnight, clearing to cloudy during the day, a bit of drizzle in the evening
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…