And this was my walk for today.
Total km: 397
The end result was two feet that felt and looked liked the children of Satan - dusted with volcanic ash, shrivelled up balls of red hot pain.
But I did have a belly full of delicious burgers and fries from The Blind Finch.
The day started when I was dropped off at the Ketatahi carpark end of the Tongariro Crossing. Walking towards the saddle, I moved from sulphuric smelling streams and forest to tussock grass - an almost 800m ascent landing me at Ketatahi Shelter
It was a wonderful view to Lake Taupo and further up to Hamilton.
From the Ketatahi shelter the landscape changed dramatically to fumeroles, lava flows, pumice boulders and Sulfur Lakes. And my feet were pummelling between weight and volcanic geology in suit.
And you can see Mt Tongariro, the volcano, in the clouds.
Even the landscape around my feet was magical.
By the time I finished the walk, so many people were bounding last me while I was pounding those red feet and scowling, swearing, trying to be mindful but returning to wincing.
The last 1km - so thankfully - was relieved when Phil from Melbourne graciously took my pack for me to give some respite to my feet.
Phil and his wife then drove me to National Park, where I rolled into the hostel.
At this point I was contemplating whether I am strong enough to do the TA and whether flying off to Bali to surf is not such a bad idea.
Well it’s still an option, but for now I also want to reduce my pack weight and heal my left foot particularly and see if I can go on.
I also reduced my kayak journey from 5 to 3 days because the weather in South Island may be improving.
After organising these changes, Karen from Tauramanui Kayak Hire called me and invited me to burgers that evening. Karen and family rocked up to pick me up in a 50 seater bus, complete with PA announcing my entrance onboard. It was a wonderful night. Wonderful burgers, beer and chips . They were wonderful.
Total km: 377
It is always challenging trying to take a dump in the woods at the best of times. At 3am in the morning because you have diarrhoea is another layer of complexity. Nonetheless that was the start of day 24.
After vacating my bowels I did feel better though conscious dehydration was setting in a bit. I then went to sleep and slept in til 7:20am, with Anne and Alex Borge packing up camp!
Within 20 minutes I completely packed my tent site and ready to walk. No breakfast was needed or wanted just yet; a muesli bar for the road was all I took and a heavy back pack - again!
It was a hard day. The 42 Traverse was long and my stomach was still settling from the night before. It was just really hot and humid at times. But green, almost tropical.
By the time I got to Waione-Cokers track the 42 Traverse was a dream in comparison.
The WC track became a muddy clay slip and slide theme park; with the ride of the day being the mud tunnel. Oh yeah, that’s looking upwards.
There were also a lot less creeks to get water than I anticipated. This meant throughout the day I was done about one litre of water I should have been drinking.
Once the rain set in the track became worse; at least my feet were not hurting as much in mud. Though my shoulders were always really sore today. So so sore!
It was just a hard slog.
And Tongariro got nearer ... and nearer ...
By the time we got to the holiday park I paid that extra $5 for the hot tub. It was the best $5 spent. Ever.
I also drank 1.5L of water and that made me feel better too.
Special mention goes out to Compeed and Whittaker’s caramel filled chocolates.
Total km: 349 km
I am writing this as I am laying in my tent listening to NZ song birds and wow what a big day it has been.
I woke up early at 5:45am at a tent in Taumaruni kayak hire. By 7:15am I was out the door, walking my first proper road section in the TA to Owhango. I was also carrying about 7 days of food.
The morning had glorious weather. And I saw an Ostrich for the first time in my life! By 1:30pm I got to Owhango with really sore shoulders, partly because I repacked my bag, listening to advice of others when I should have trusted my instinct and knowledge and put the weighty stuff towards the base of my pack. I think women typically have weaker shoulders and therefore best carry most pack weight so it sits on the hips. Nonetheless I listened to the advice of two men who said my pack was swaying. Sometimes I am an idiot.
In fact I was 3km outside Owhango sitting by the side of the road drinking water and eating melted maltesers while Alex and Anne came by and I ended up repacking my pack to how it originally was.
Alex and Anne ended up walking to Owhango and on to do a decent chunk of the 42 Traverse bringing our day to 34.5km. We ended up camping at a clearing past mako stream next to poisoned blackberries.
The only nub is my feet - callouses and two blisters are forming from all the unsealed and sealed road walking with a heavy pack. Still I have put my feet in my hand knitted merino socks and will check them again tomorrow morning.
While I would have loved to go tramping over the last couple of days. The utterly wet weather had other plans.
But boy what lovely plans they were!
I ended up staying with Sigrid and Phil and Saskia for three days.
I toured Sigrid and Phil’s farm - including shown how the calves are fed with milk and feed. I ate 6 amazing porterhouse steak from the farm and said hello to the black sheep. I met many lovely locals at Piopio. I drove through Te Awamutu twice and it truly has a sacred ring - yep that’s a Crowded House reference.
Sigrid drove me to Raglan and I stared at the surfers on waves, even in crazy downpour. In raglan I ate Vegetables and tofu. How I miss vegetables.
And Sigrid and I played scrabble; until she hit this beauty with all her letters and on a triple word tile!
So while I was a bit antsy not hiking I had a wonderful stay with Sigrid and Phil.
And how green are those pastures!
Total km: 311
It is a hard decision to sometimes shake things up and there is still a part of me which feels I am giving up. I know that is irrational but that is how I feel.
Nonetheless, I have decided to leave South Island NZ today and fly up to the North Island to work with the weather there.
This was despite Dan arriving in Wanaka at 9:30am and us catching up for two hours before I hitched a ride to Queenstown airport.
It was a bittersweet moment, mostly spent by both of us swapping weather and hiking stories over the last couple of days - first hand and second hand - talking about the snow line, ridiculously slippery snowy tussock grass, the snow depth at 1800m (up to thigh height), the probable rainfall and wind and terrain and surge levels for creek and river crossings and ending up for both of us in mutual hikers’ sadness.
I mused more than once as to how many minutes my feet would throb with pain in walking through snow - 13 minutes is my estimate.
Dan also informed me that Loic had escaped to Wellington to buy a mountain bike and do some cycling. Nora is now in the Catlins (!) and so our little group of NOBOs are now disbanding.
Regarding hitchhiking, it is interesting how you can wait a long time to get a hitch and also the suspicion drivers can give you while hitching, even as a woman. I think it is really funny because people see you as some kind of social outcast, not seeing my Arcteryx gear probably!
I think there is a fair bit of fear amongst people at the moment; but I did get a hitch from a lovely woman - Kay - who took me all the way to Queenstown airport even though it was out of the way for her. We talked about her charity work, hiking, the property market, cycling and skiing. Thank you Kay for a lovely 1.5 hours. It flew by.
So once I got to Queenstown airport I resigned to the fact that North Island and moving away from the TA trip is a reasonable option. It is a wise decision. It is a wise decision. It is a wise decision.
The plan? Doing the highlights of TA in North Island - probably Tongariro and Whanganui - and getting in some beach moments and surfing at Raglan. Getting into some hot springs and mud. Who knows?
For today, my goal is to bus and hitch to Piopio to catch up with my good friend Sigrid (who I used to work and learned to ski with in Australia) and Phil, who the universe should bless for having the patience to teach me and Sigrid how to ski.
I can’t wait for fine wine and chats and cheese and who knows what else with Phil and Sigrid
So while I think Auckland would be a lovely city; but because I am used to less people and more nature, I can’t wait to get out.
On to Hamilton!
Total km: 308
Waking up to majestic views such as this is what this holiday is about, well a bit anyway.
Then there is the realisation, getting back to town, that I can’t control things. While I was intending to move on north on the Te Araroa; the weather is so unstable and unpredictable that I have decided to stop going northbound on the Te Araroa on South Island until the weather settles and head southbound - roughly - in north island instead. Otherwise it meant missing out on most of the TA between Queenstown and the Queen Charlotte Track, with the uncertain river surges, snow and wind combined.
What is required today is a lot of planning in wanaka. And a lot of reading.
It’s frustrating because I have to change me set of expectations completely and also possibly waste three box loads of food - hopefully not.
Last night though I treated myself to a great dinner and watched a rollicking movie at the Paradiso cinema. I even stayed up to 11:30pm! My my. In the afternoon I even walked around an artisan market and picked up a little souvenir in hitting my 300km.
Total kms: 299
I got out! And my what a day! Thanks to the advice of wanaka DOC office i set my mind on doing an overnight hike through Mt Aspiring National Park to Aspiring Hut, with side trips to view Rob Roy Glacier and Lincoln Hut.
After a satisfying breakfast of bacon and eggs and an espresso, I walked a couple of km and obtained about three lifts to the trailhead at Rasberry Creek, the final hitch with Olivia, who is doing a similar job to me back home! But she is from the UK, so we chatted a lot about shop.
It was about 11:20am by the time I got to the trail head at Mt Aspiring National Park
I first started a climb to The Rob Roy Glacier lookout. It was a tremendously beautiful 1.5 hour walk.
I then continued to Aspiring Hut along the valley floor, arriving at the hut at about 3:00pm.
The pictures say it all.
So with a 2-4 day good weather window I decided not to pass up some quality hiking around Mt Aspiring National Park. While I wait for a better forecast, I am not sure what is happening with the Te Araroa between Wanaka and Twizel, but the unknown is rather exciting.
Tomorrow I hope to walk ahead towards Liverpool Hut further along the valley to get some more views, then walk back to the trailhead at raspberry creek. Hopefully I can get a lift back from the carpark to town.
For now I get to enjoy this schweet piece of view.
Total km: 282km
Getting caught in by rain and not being able to walk is actually quite frustrating. I think it will allow me to appreciate walking once I get to it. Even if I can do a short walk around Arrowtown or Wanaka. That would be nice.
Sometimes there are amazing TA moments that don’t involve hiking. It may be listening to The Doors in a Japanese restaurant, and practicing my terrible Japanese with staff; it may be getting my best hitch yet after standing 50 minutes in the rain. These things happened today.
By the time I got to Wanaka in 1 hour I received great tramping advice for the next few days from mountaineering tour operators and the DOC office, had a vegetable udon soup and found accomodation. One of the motorists who passed me while I was hitchhiking ended up being on the hotel reception. She apologised for not picking me up but informed me that someone had cancelled their room booking 2 minutes ago and so they now have one room left. It worked out well, given the circumstances!
At the moment it is raining. It has been raining all day and I am sitting in a cafe drinking a cup of earl grey tea and listening to German, Dutch, mandarin and Kiwi English. Many people are feeling cabin fever I think.
That said even in the rain, Wanaka is magical.
Total km: 280 (zero day)
It’s always nice to wake up to fat snowflakes, albeit unusual to do so 11 days before summer.
After waking up I had brunch at a cafe, picked up my box of food and repacked ready for the next leg up to Wanaka.
The only problem? The weather.
The forecast for the next few days is fine Wednesday and Thursday and maybe Friday, but then another storm cell hitting on the weekend.
I guess that’s the unpredictability of the TA for you. What that meant though was an afternoon of assessments and planning. I even considered flying to north island. I rang up three DOC offices to see what the condition was at certain points in NZ. It is becoming apparent that nearly all of New Zealand is affected by the weather. Indeed maybe the TA is about making the most of the situation. The problem about gaining altitude and walking in fresh snow is that you gear increases massively - gaiters, boots, crampons, maybe an ice axe and different sleeping bag and tent. These are the pieces of equipment I would need to swap out. Nah ...
So my TA experience includes bussing it to Arrowtown - which has a blanket of snow - and exploring Arrowtown tomorrow. After that ... who knows? The weather is pretty mercurial at the moment!
Total km: 280
I woke up at 5:50am after a good night sleep in the hut. At one end of the valley, snow was falling on the peaks. At the other end, sun and blue sky was hugging the peak. I guess that’s NZ for you!
We also got to see a couple of Fallow Deer eating grass about 75m from the hut.
By 7:15am Kaden and I hit the track to Greenstone Carpark - some 4 hours away. We are hoping the Tracknet bus will meet us at 12pm.
Walking with Kaden was great and made the time fly by. We talked about hunting and fly fishing, well he talked about it and I listened.
Despite having our wet weather gear on there was hardly any rain and the valley sheltered us from the forecasted wind. We could see snow gently falling on the peaks but it was quite temperate and sunny in the valley.
It was beautiful weather for tramping.
Once we got to the Greenstone carpark we only had to wait about 30 minutes to get a ride to Glenorchy. Once there, our hikers appetite settled and Kaden and I ate hamburgers, chips, beer, carrot cake and ginger slice.
We arrived in Queenstown at about 4:00pm and I checked into my room and did laundry while in the shower, drying my hiking pants with a hairdryer. Urban survival skills fast developing.
Dan, another NOBO hiker, and I met up and had a beer at a craft beer place. We also bumped into a group of people from Oregon, one of Dan’s home states, so we had a good time comparing Portlandia to the real city. Is it a documentary?