The rain continued all night but I was dry and warm in my tent. Because I had cellphone coverage I could see the forecast had changed to rain all morning and easing by 1pm. So I watched a series from Netflix on Pandemics. Very interesting. I had more muesli for breakfast, then an early lunch and prepared myself to hit the track a soon as the rain stopped.
The TA track from here is a very gnarly, muddy 9 – 10 hour day, but I had been sent through a short cut that only takes about 5 hours. Some of the track was on the maps but the latter part wasn’t. Others had used the track and said it was well marked. I had had enough mud walking to last me about a quarter of the rest of my lifetime, so decided to take the short cut. Below is the screen shot I had been sent of of the route. Looks simple. I had Googled the track this morning and it actually said that it was part of Te Araroa so I felt confident. Follow the orange track.
I would put my live tracker on my Topo GPS app on my phone so if I got into trouble I could easily retrace my steps. The trail notes warned us to stay on the track as there were numerous old mine shafts in the forest, covered with thick layers of moss. Dangerous country.
I packed up my wet tent and was off on a roll following markers on a nice dry track. It was a bit overgrown as not used very often but it was obviously an old track. It followed a water race for the first couple of hours to Turnbulls Hut. I was enjoying this wholeheartedly. I would be at the Colac Bay Hotel and Campground by 6 pm, all warm and clean with a beer in hand. I am in Southland now so it is colder than I have had on the trail. But I had the right gear so was warm and happy.
I stopped briefly at Turbulls Hut and wrote my intentions in the book. This was to be the last time I would write Karen Griffiths TA SOBO. I wanted a good trail for anyone to follow as I was off the marked Te Araroa.
The last 2.5 hours was to be the track not on the map. But I was pleasantly surprised at how well marked it was. This was obviously a track that had been around for many years. No problems at all. I stopped to check my tracking and could see that I was well on track to make it out in 2.5 hours. I congratulated myself for my good decision making and started off singing away out loud. I only sing out aloud when I am in the bush alone or in my younger days very drunk on Karaoke.
I don’t know more than choruses for songs but the nuns taught us a lot of religious songs so I was merrily singing “Away in a Manger” when I realised I hadn’t seen a marker for a while.
No markers. Okay I’ve got this as I had put on my GPS tracker on. I will just go back where I came from.
After 1.5 hours going in circles in bush full of old mine holes, I was getting cold and there was no sun to orientate myself with. I put on all my layers of clothes as I was cooling off fast, I ate and drank. I just needed to head South and I would hit the road eventually. It was probably less that an hour away. But the bush was too thick the moss soft and could well be covering mine shafts. I felt really ashamed and annoyed with myself. I tried to get phone reception, thinking I could get the local Search and Rescue guys to walk up the track and get me back on track. However I couldn’t get coverage: it just wouldn’t send any messages.
I didn’t want to wander around any more trying to get cover so realised I had to push the button on my Personal Locator Beacon, yet again. I could have spent the night there but would have still been lost in the morning
So push the button AGAIN.
A helicopter arrived about 40 minutes later. I was in very thick bush so waved my orange sleeping bag and shook a tall spindly tree to attract them.
Soon a guy was being lowered down to me as I scrambled to get everything back into my pack and be ready for him. The wind was blowing my stuff around.
I climbed into the sling, hooked onto the man and my pack hooked onto him Then we were winched up. It is all very noisy and windy and we had a few trees to negotiate through but soon I was up scrambling into the chopper and safe feeling very silly.
The helicopter came from Te Anau and when I said I could hitch back here they said they could drop me at my destination. So off we went straight to the Colac Bay Pub where I had a room booked. They landed in the empty section directly across the road from the front door of the pub.
The locals thought I was a rich celebrity come to town so were out with their phones filming me. How embarrassing! One of the crew insisted on wearing my pack right into the pub and delivering me onto the hands of the staff. He then told the 30 or so patrons that I would tell them how I managed to hitch hike to the pub.
I have no problem telling everyone about my achievements so I have to also be as open about my stuff ups. So it was ” Give that woman a big bottle of Speights” and listen to her story.
The locals said I was very lucky to escape a fall down a mine shaft. They all had a story about a hunter who had lost a dog down one. The publican told me that many of the TA walkers use the short cut, more successfully than me obviously. Maybe they don’t sing Christmas hymns?