The pub was only 12km away and didnt open until 11.30 so we were in no hurry to leave camp today.
There was 4 of us at camp last night, Peter, Scott, and Jess (both 39 year old Aussies, not together)
The walk was a bit varied today: through some pine forests and alongside Glen Mervin dam. I sat for a while in the shade just taking in the water. I hadn’t realised how much I was missing water on this damn long walk.
The temperature got up to about 27° today so the stop at the pub was very welcome. A pint and a burger and an icecream was a real treat.
The others headed off into the heat but I stayed in the shade in the pub garden reading my book until 3pm hoping it would be a bit cooler by then. I chatted to a Kiwi who was walking in the opposite direction to me for a while. He had walked some of Te Araroa too so we had lots to chat about.
Also today we passed, Tim who is going for the unsupported record. He looked fit and worn out at the same time. Walking about about 100km a day and carrying his own gear us a real feat of determination. Not my cup of tea or coffee!
Niggerup campsite was another one like the other one. Having the huts all the same means they are blurring together. Another funny name.
After having a few days to get over my cold and visit friends I will begin my 1,000km walk through Western Australia tomorrow 8 September 2022.
I think the extra few days rest has been good for me as has visiting Kiwi friends who have made WA their home (for now anyway). So I have done a lot of talking, eating and drinking too much wine. A damn long walk is needed.
Perth is an easy city to get around on public transport so I have been able to get my food and a few other necessities without any bother. New innersoles, tick tweezers a snake and a wide brimmed hat have been added to the gear I took on Te Araroa. I have a new Zpacks pack because my last one was no longer waterproof. The new one is slightly bigger so I have had to be careful not to add unecessay items. I need to be kind to my old body.
The nights will be cool, sometimes down to 0°C and it is the wet season so I am not expecting too many hot days for the first few weeks. The wildflowers will be beginning to bloom and the snakes will be waking up from their winter hibernation.
My 17 year old granddaughter, Rebecca, will walk the first 4 days with me using my old pack. I have added some sheepskin padding to the hip belt as she doesn’t have the natural padding that I have. I am really looking forward to spending this time with her. I have told Becca that it is her job to scare away the snakes and spiders and to deal with the Kangaroos, because she is the Australian.
My son, Cameron, will meet us and take over the Granny watch for a few days.
So sit back and enjoy my journey from the comfort of your homes.
I left New Zealand last week to fly to Perth planning to start the Bibbulmun Track on 1 September. However I arrived with a sore throat, lost voice and a cough. Covid-19 RAT and PCR tests were both negative thank goodness.
It is just a virus but I am delaying my start by a week to make sure I am well over it before I start putting my body under too much stress.
I have some friends to visit while I wait and have had some good time with my family. I have seen one Granddaughter off to her school ball and the other turn 16.
I visited the museum today and took notice of all the reptiles, furry creatures and birds that I will probably meet on my walk. Some look more friendly than others!! I may have to sing as I walk along because that would scare everything away.
Maybe not as the last time I sang in the bush ended with me getting very lost and needing a helicopter rescue.
On 25 August I will head off to Perth in Western Australia to walk the Bibbulmun Track. I would rather be cycling around Europe, rowing across the Atlantic or paddling down the Amazon but I can’t do that so another Damn Long Walk will have to do.
The Bibbulmun track starts inland from Perth and goes all the way down to the coast at Albany. The track has been specifically developed so is well planned out with camp sites built an easy days walk apart (Average about 24km). Being “only” 1,000 km long and with no mountains and rivers to cross I expect that it will be a bit of a breeze compared to Te Araroa. ((3,000km). I am not fit so the first week will be my training and will hurt. I am counting on my muscles having a memory so they will develop quickly.
The challenges will be different. Poisonous snakes, spiders and ticks, kangaroos and funny rodents will add to the adventure. I have been watching YouTube videos on how to use a snake bandage and remove ticks so presume I am ready for this. Most of the shelters have big sealed bins to keep our food bags safe.
It is a full year after I had originally planned to do this. Last August the borders closed 3 days before my flight as a result of the first outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19. I was all ready to go, with tenants in my house and my bags packed. I was very disappointed but this time I am sure all will go as planned. The only hold up I can envisage is that I get Covid, as I have managed to avoid it so far.
My son, Cameron, and family live in Perth so I will have a few days with them to buy food, gas and snake bandages. Then I start walking the 1,000km on 1 September. Starting on the first day of the month will make it much easier to know how many days I have been out there as the days and weeks become hard to keep track of.
I have been back living a “semi normal” life since the end of March 2022. I had walked 600km of Te Araroa NOBO (North Bound)and the Abel Tasman Track, then spent time hanging out in the South Island. I say semi normal because I have continued to be homeless as the nice man continues to rents my house in Palmerston North. As a result I have shared myself around the homes of my kids and friend’s trying to make myself useful doing most things except cooking.
To bring a few dollars in I have been doing contract accounting work back at a District Council I had worked at last year. Being a 40 minute drive from any of my kids homes I found a lady to board / lodge with Monday to Thursday nights and have been coming “home” for the weekends. At first I thought Margaret was just a small country town grandmother who liked to knit and dye wool. But every night I was surprised to learn more about her interesting life. A Masters in Education for Special Needs has taken her all around the world including time in the Middle East and throughout Africa. Another string in her bow was that she had been one of New Zealand’s first sex councillors. So be careful with first impressions of us grannies. I enjoyed her company and we fixed all the woes of the world over a wine or two during the evenings. She also fed me well!
Then during the weekends I shared my housework and babysitting services amongst the family. I spent a lot of time at the local playgrounds with toddler Finn, letting him run around, jumping and climbing on stuff with me watching from a distance, as I did with my kids over 40 years ago. This is different to how kids are parented nowadays. The mums and dads today hover over the kids keeping them less than arms length away all the time so according to Google I was doing it all wrong. However Finn gained a lot of physical skills, confidence and loved his time out with me. And he survived!! Five weeks ago a new baby arrived so I moved in with the family and had lots of cuddles with my 7th grandchild. My eldest is 24 years old so I have a good range and I am privileged to be able to have the time to spend lots more quality time with these latest batch than I was able to do with the older ones.
In June my son and his family came over from Perth, Australia for the first visit since the Covid pandemic. They have had three trips cancelled so we were all on tender hooks before they actually arrived. These grand daughters are 15 and 17 years old so a real pleasure to have around and very helpful with the little kids. I organised a family weekend away at a school camp venue where we did a day tramp, explored some caves, did a family quiz and spent the time eating and drinking and catching up on all the family news.
I have really enjoyed having time with my family and I am pleased and honoured that they allow me to share their lives with them and build strong relationships with my grandchildren. I knew that from the birth of my first child (47 years ago) that I was going to share myself with others for the rest of my life: that my life would never be my own. However it now time for me to do something for myself and have another adventure. They are all happy for me to go off and are well used to me disappearing for months on end. They are okay without me.
I hope that you can all absorb my experiences and that I can be influential in making people realise that dreams need to be made into plans. Only then can you do whatever you want in life. Just do it: plan the first day and the rest will just follow on.
After finishing the Rakiura Track and spending my final day with Kay, I flew up to Nelson. I was welcomed into the home of my brother, Nigel, his wife Keary and their 2 naughty young Burmese cats. They eat socks and shoelaces and burgle the neighbours!!
The last time I was here in Nelson was when I was helicoptered out of the Richmond Ranges. A packet of instant mashed potatoes that I had left behind then was still in their pantry.
My daughter, Cara, from Palmerston North arrived a couple of days later. She had a brand new pack and was excited to be going on her first multi night tramp. The 60km long Abel Tasman Coastal track is to be her first Great Walk. Cara has been busy raising her family for many years and has embraced the freedom to do her own thing since the girls have left home.
We spent a few hours at the supermarket buying food for the tramp. We had decided to move away from my usual boring Backcountry meals for dinner. As a result, we left with 2 nights of instant mashed potatoes, sausages, instant gravey to be mixed with a vegetable soup for the first 2 nights. Our 3rd night was to be a freeze dried vegan spaghetti bolgnaise with a packet of instant noodles. A Three Cheese Pasta was on the menu for the 4th night. They were all good and will definitely stay on the menu for my future expeditions.
Being one of New Zealand’s Great Walks I had to book ahead of time. Pre Covid times these huts and campsites can book out within hours of the annual bookings being opened up. However this year I booked only a month ago and was able to secure the first and last nights in huts and the other 2 nights at camping areas.
New Zealand is now in our first major outbreak of Covid-19, the Omicron is fast spreading around the whole country so I checked the website to see if there had been some cancelations meaning we could swap out the tent sites for huts. I was pleased to see that we could so attempted to use the DOC booking site to change the bookings.
Soon I was becoming very frustrated as I could not found the “alter booking” button. Stupid websites!! So I rang DOC and they suggested I use a different browser. That didn’t work either so grumpy me rang the lady back. She “looked in the back end” and saw that I had booked to start on 19th February instead of 19th of March. Dumb woman! You can’t change something that has already happened. I asked about a refund and was told that there was nothing in the terms and conditions that covered stupidity.
However we were able to book huts for all 4 nights and organisec our transport to the start. The water taxi trip to Totaranui was like a tour as we were taken to see seal colonies, lovely golden bays and some historic sights.
The five days walking was all easy being a very popular Great Walk. It meandours around the coastline through nice bush and many small beaches. Pre Covid the place would have been alive with kyajers, water taxis, people doing day walks, fishing and picnicking.
At the end of yhe second day we had an estuary to cross which needed to be done 1.5 hours before to low tide at 5.53pm, or up to 2 hours after. We took our time that day and did some side trips to fill in the day we arrived right on low tide and made the half hour crossing with water only up to our knees. The people who had arrived before us had water up to their waists so we were pleased with our timing.
The huts were only partly full the had the track to ourselves most of the time. These 5 days were probably the first time I have been alone with Cara for this long since she was a baby. It was very special.
Cara had a new pack and this was her first multi night tramp. Other than not sleeping well she enjoyed herself and managed well. We walked at the same pace which was good.
Cars had a trip and I managed to slip off a rock above Cleoptas Pool which had us both in hysterics. It wasn’t very glamorous but I did manage to get back up and not plunge down into to the water below.
The weather was overcast and we had one day of walking in light rain. The track was mostly sandstone so there was no mud and we were pleased not to be out in scorching NZ sun. Overall perfect.
I hadn’t organised transport back to Nelson as I was planning on giving Cara her first hitchhiking experience. We were planning on visiting the cafe for a proper cup of tea before trying our luck. However a nice young man pulled over and offered us a lift only a 100 metres from the end of the track.
It turned out that I had read about him as he was from India, had walked Te Araroa and was aiming to visit 900 huts in 900 days.
He dropped as at the Richmond Mall where we enjoyed some “real food”. We hoped we didn’t smell too badly after 5 days without a shower.
I throughly recommend the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk especially if you are not a hard out tramper. The days are easy and you can use water taxis transport your gear if you want. There are even flushing toilets and toilet paper at all the huts. There are options from 1 to 5 day walks too.
Kay and I decided to do one of the things that scares us by taking a 8 seater plane over to Stewart Island. Our other option was a 30 minute shuttle followed by an hour on a ferry across Fourveax Straight, one of the roughest pieces of water. The former was only a 20 minute flight and cost a mere $10 more. We waited until the last minute to book reasoning that we were probably better off on the ferry if it was rough. The day was perfect for flying, not a breathe of wind and clear blue sky.
There was 3 other women boarding with us and I volunteered to sit up front with the pilot. I obeyed the strict instructions not to touch anything and to refrain from talking to the very young looking pilot. That was a hard 20 minutes for me! We had a lovely flight and perfect landing.
The next day we took a ferry over to Ulva Island which is predator free so we saw and heard quite a few birds that are hard to find anywhere else in the world. We sat on a beach and ate our lunch and a naughty Weka jumped up and took part of my sandwich right out of my mouth. We were not allowed to feed the birds but he just stole it right from under my nose. Very cheeky birds 🐦.
Stewart Island sits at the bottom of New Zealand and is fairly close to Antarctica. It is famous for its fishing (Blue Cod, crayfish, paua) and its rough weather (wind, rain and mud). Oban is the name of the town that has one shop, a pub, a backpackers, a couple of food carts and lots of fishing boats.
The early settlers were whalers, sealers, and loggers. All frowned apon activities nowadays.
Many of us SOBO Te Araroa walkers had planned to go over to Stewart Island and do some of the walks there to finish off the trail however Covid-19 put a stop to that.
There are 3 main tracks on the island that range from 3 days to 11 days. They are all notorious for the mud, mud that can be waist high and relentless. We decided that 3 days was enough for us as we had experience enough mud in our travels to last us a bit more of our lifetimes.
The Rakiura Track is one if our Great Walks. These are designed to be walked by the general public and tourists so they are well maintained, with easy gradients and no life threatening bits.
I had asked Garry for good weather and he obliged. There had been a long dry spell so there was very little mud; our shoes were hardly dirty at all. But some people arrived at the second hut saying it was a hard day and very muddy. Obviously they had not done much tramping as we thought it was an easy and dry day. This shows that it is all relative to one’s previous experiences. Those of you who have experienced “Karen’s flat” will attest to that.
The huts were only half full, probably Covid-19 related. Most of the other trampers had huge packs and a week’s worth of heavy food which probably made the day a lot harder to start with. This time I had varied my ususal diet and had instant mashed potatoes with chorizo sausage and gravy for my dinner. It was good food but I need to follow the directions more closely to get the ratios correct. One night the mashed potato was a bit dry and lumpy and the next night a bit runny. But I have never been good at following recipes as my family will tell you.
We were really keen to see Kiwi in the wild having been told that there are 15,000 of the short, fat flightless birds on the island. There are only about 400 permanent residents and we saw nearly all of them, but, alas, no Kiwi. We walked softly and slowly for two whole days, in silence, hoping to spot one of them. That was quite hard for two very chatty women. Kiwi are nocturnal birds but the Stewart island breed come out during the day because it is too cold at night.
Some people went out after dark to sit in the bush for hours but wasn’t that keen. No one saw a Kiwi anyway so I was pleased I didn’t waste my sleeping time.
We did see a number of birds including a loved up couple of Kereru who entertained us at North Arm Hut. There were also lots of deer who were not afraid of us at all. The track is through a big hunting block but I think the deer know they are safe near the huts. Deer are a major pest in New Zealand.
We had dinner at the pub on Saturday night with a couple of trampers and caught the 8am ferry back to Invercargill. There was no wind and the sea was flat so it was a lovely crossing. The boat was filled with the chatter of about a dozen kids about 10 years old, goi g to the mainland for the day. It was nice to see that they weren’t glued to their phones.
We had a day wandering around the shops in Invercargill before we flew our separate ways. Kay back home to Putararu and me to Nelson. Kay’s will be then heading over to her family on Perth. I am staying with my brother in Nelson then meeting up with my eldest daughter, Cara, to walk the Abel Tasman Track.
I finished work on 28 February at noon then caught bus to Queenstown. The buses are only runing a couple of times a week instead of daily because of a lack of tourists. So, sadly, there are probably some unemployed bus drivers out there. There was only 4 of us on the bus so I lay down along the back seat and had a snooze for a bit before reaching Queenstown. The countryside changed from dairy farms to vineyards.
I stayed in a Juicy Snooze backpackers in one of their pods whuch are space age capsules to sleep in with recharging ports, blinds and shelves for all your bits and pieces. I booked one in an 8 pod room and had it to myself ( Much cheaper than booking a single room so I took the gamble that it would not be full). I was told they were closing at the end of March.
I went out for a beer before my dinner and got chatting to a lovely young couple from Mmy hometown of Palmerston North. They were out for dinner with their 13 month old son who was enjoying spreading his dinner all over himself and the highchair. They seemed a bit worried about this but relaxed when I reminded them that everyone in the restaurant was a baby at one time! I saw them later and they thanked me for my comment saying that it was just what they needed to hear at that moment.
Next day I got a bus out to the edge of town and picked up a hitch all the way to Te Anau, within a few minutes. The man had just dropped his wife sat the airport as she was off to see the grandchildren in Australia. The borders had just opened with no quarantine required I think the planes will be full of grandparents. My turn soon. Kay was meeting me that evening at the backpackers.
I had walked the 4 day 60km, Kepler Track in Fiordland, a few years ago but was keen to do it again with Kay. Being a Great Walk the Track is we maintained and the gradients good with little chance of falling off anything, getting lost or injured. Maybe I am getting soft in my old.
The first day to Luxmore Hut began with a walk around )Lake te Anau then up to about 1000m through fern filled bush. The track weaved its way up a reasonably gentle I climb for about 6km until we were above the bushline. The hut is huge and has many Keas to entertain us. They are cheeky birds who can rip anything you pieces with their very sharp beaks so nothing can be kept outside for even a couple of minutes. The huts are specially made to withstand attack. We spent the evening watching them.
The next day was a walk up higher along a number of ridges that were quite safe but not good for people with a fear of heights. The weather was splendid the views clear in all directions. Thanks Garry.
The last part of the day was a 2 hour walk with a descent of about 1000 metres on a zig zag track. It was a steep track that went back and forth and on and on forever. There was some very sore knees coming in after us that day.
We enjoyed really enjoyed the last day walking back o Te Anau chatting with the other trampers as we passed them throughput the day. We had a fun evening it one lot laughing over a couple beers.
Next morning we were out early as it was raining nd we needed a hitch to Invercargill about 200km away. There was a man loading his car boot in the hostel carpark so we ambushed him into giving a couple of gorgeous old ladies a ride. He didn’t look to eager but soon became comfortable with our company. He was a Chaplin at a big hospital who had been having some time out in the bush. He was interested in how Te Araroa affected our mental well being. I said we had to be mad to want to walk for 3,000km so any well being gained from it had to be good.
Ge dropped us at Lumsden where he turned off so we popped into a Cafe for a coffee and the local delicacy, a cheese roll.
Next ride was from a woman who owned a guiding company that was in recess because of covid. She gave us some good tips for our Stewart Island trip. Final ride was from an Indian engineer who was milking cows because he hadn’t been able to get a job in hus field. I do feel sorry for these immigrants.
Three hours after we kept were were in Invercargill and heading to the Southern Comfort backpackers which I rate as the best I have stayed in. I keep going back there.
I have been doing a bit of hitching around lately so will share some of my observations and experiences with you. I know that many of you will not have hitched a lift with a total strange before and may never do so. So here is my take on it. (Children, you are not allowed to hitchhike until you are a grey haired old lady like me)
Hitchhiking is a great way to get around. I don’t do it to save money but to meet people and see who else is out there. I like to find out about their journeys and it benefits the environment. Whilst walking Te Araroa there are quite a few times where hitching is necessary. For example there are 2 large, dangerous rivers and a big lake that cannot be walked across. Us long distance walkers are very special people but we can’t walk on water.
Most Te Araroa walkers will not have hitched before doing TA and may not do it after they have finished. The big pack on our backs and the long walk gives us the right to ask for a little bit of help on a long, hot and dusty road. The drivers are usually honored to assist and enjoy our stories. They are in awe of our achievements.
You have to be a bit thick skinned not to take it as a personal rejection when a car whizzes past without stopping. Some drivers are embarrassed so actually look away; they are probably the people who generally find it hard to say no. Others show with hand gesture that they are full up already or not going far enough. A few look at me like “Get a job you lazy git”. But mostly they smile and sometimes one stops. I only need one.
One aspect that I like is that there is not much of a plan, only a hoped for ending place. I don’t know what time my ride will arrive, or whether it will be an expensive car or the back of a rickety old truck, sharing a horse float with a horse, on a motorbike with a farm dog or in the back seat with some kids. I like the idea that not having anything planned means nothing can go wrong.
But in saying that I had a day off last week so decided to hitch to Timaru, a town with a population of about 29,000 people, about 100km away. Just for a change of scenery and maybe visit a cousin who lives there .
So I filled my pack with my puffed up sleeping bag and puffer jacket so that I looked like a proper traveler. People won’t usually pick up someone without a backpack as they have less understanding of why the person is out there wanting a ride. I made a sign saying Timaru on one side and Tekapo on the other, for my return journey.
I walked along the main route out of town fir about 10 minutes before a campervan stopped. The South African family from the North Island, were taking their daughtervdown to university. They were on their first trip in the South Island and like me presumed they would pass through Timaru. About 40 minutes down the road I checked Google Maps and realized I was heading in completely the wrong direction. How embarrassing!! Then they decided to stop at a rest eared to take a photo of the beautiful Lake Pukaki. Seeing a Te Araroa walker sat at a picnic table I told my driver that I would get out here and chat with him which I did.
I confessed my complete lack of direction. I am not sure what he thought of me but he did say he admired my honesty and that he wouldn’t have told anyone about it. As this is not the first time I have done this I seem to be more accepting of my geographical errors.
So I eventually headed back out to the road and was called over by another man taking photos. He was heading towards Timaru but stopping on the way at Geraldine, another small town before Timaru. That would do me. This man was planning to walk Te Araroa so we chatted all the way about gear, food, planning etc.
On another day off I hitched out to the Mt Cook/ Aoraki National Park for a look around.
I felt like I was driving into a postcard. obviously I have known about area and have seen many photos of it in books and on the internet. But knowing about something not the same as being there, not the same as creating your own memory if it. I feel that only then do I own the knowledge of a place as I have earned it for myself. I think that is the essence of why I want to travel.
The North Island is mainly hills and rivers and winding roads through lush green farmland speckled with small towns. The roads in the south of the South Island are generally long and straight going through flat and barren landscape with mountains in the far distance. And colourful lakes, so many lakes.
Parents taking their kid down to university in a very new BMW. The Dad asked me for some advice for his son so I told him to keep away from the girls and don’t drink too much
Another family in campervan taking their daughter down to Otago University. They were originally from South Africa and this was their first time in the South Island. They loved the freedom and safety of our country.
A couple of gay women having time away from their kids and covid stressed jobs
Christchurch couple heading out to Mount Cook Aoraki National Park to pick up their 18 year old son who had just completed the week as warden at the Meuller Hut. It was like having my own personal tour guides as they had spent a lot of time in the park.
A young french couple, driving a beat up old car that was also their home. They have been following the seasonal jobs while “stuck” here because of covid.
Business man who picked me up hoping I would be a Te Araroa walker as he plans to do it sometime. We discussed gear and food and everything else Te Araroa
A midle aged woman who had done some sections of Te Araroa who was heading to her holiday home in Twizel.
A young accountant from UK doing a quick trip around before heading home.
So next time you see someone with a big pack on their backs and a thumb out, consider picking them up. You never know who you may have for some company, maybe just a Granny from Palmerston North.
Cleaning Motel units is definitely not a job I would want forever but I am not complaining. I get to move for about 4 hours a day instead of sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours. I listen to podcasts as I go about my work and the only supervision I have is occasionally a visit from the resident cat.
I have free accommodation with my own room and bathroom as well as getting paid the princely sum of $21.50 and hour for my work.
The view out the windows is stunning and I am meeting new people every day.
There is usually a couple of Te Araroa walkers sharing the backpackers with me so I am keeping up to date with what is happening on the trail and help out with their planning.
This week has seen;
2 kiwi women in their 70s,
a 17 year old kiwi girl,
two friends from Waikato doing sections,
a retired man who was head of paediatrics in an Auckland hospital,
a young Japanese lad and French girl who have been happily “stuck” in New Zealand for the Covid time.
There is a steep hill walk up Mt John that I do some afternoons up to an observatory. Unfortunately the cafe at the top is closed because of the lack of tourists. This area is world famous for the dark skies and stars.