Abel Tasman Coastal Track

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.

Separation Rock
Easy walking
First night at Whariwharangi Hut, a house built on 1896
Cheeky wekas everywhere, waiting to steal gear

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.

We didn’t bother climbing all the way down to the lighthouse
Lots of nice picnic spots. I am always thankful for a table .
Mr and Mrs Duck
Awaroa Hut, second night.
Not too deep

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.

Oops a daisy

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.

A 4 year old who walked most of the track in bare feet
Anchorage hut

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.

Kebab and coffee

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.

Stewart Island. 8-12 March 2022

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.

Stewart Island

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.

The chain that goes under the Foveaux Strait and attaches to the mainland

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.

Groomed track
The mud
Sandy bays

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.

Lots of Supplejack in places
Freshly painted bunkrooms and new mattresses
Time for a read in the sun

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.

Kepler Track March 2022

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.

Empty bus

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.

Cheeky Kea
Clouds below us in the morning

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.

A Great Walk Track
Nice little bird 🐦

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.

Cheese roll of course.

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.

Hitchhiking and other stuff

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.

And a dog

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.

My driver was a young UK lad

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.

What a view!

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.

Long straight roads mean drivers are happy to have company

Recent rides

  • 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.

Working in Tekapo

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. 

Not too bad for a homeless person
One shop 100 metres away

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.

Nice path in the shade
And up we go
Interesting mushrooms 🍄
Lake Tekapo
Star gazing run by Canterbury University
A jigsaw to do

Update 24 Feb Tekapo

I hitched into Christchurch on 1 February to catch up with family and friends. I waited for about an hour fir a ride because it was lunch time and most travelers had stopped in Tekapo fir lunch. Bad timing as this was the longest I have ever waited for a ride. I tried dancing 🕺 but that didn’t help. My dancing is not very good, unless I am drunk, but with a pack on my back I was not much better.

Eventually a little blue car passed me and turned off on a side street only to return and go past me again. Then the 3rd time they stopped with an offer of a ride the whole 3.5 hours to Christchurch. The two women told me they had never picked up hitchhikers before but thought I looked harmless enough. Usually they had their kids in the car so thought “Why not?”. They said the long journey had flown with someone interesting to talk with. My happy place!!!

One was the staff manager of a large supermarket and shared the stress if keeping staff on safe and happy throughout Covid and the planning for the Omicron outbreak. We defunitely owe them our gratitude.

Her partner worked in despatch for a courier company and she was also showing the results of two years of stress and hard work behind the scenes keeping our parcels moving.

I stayed with Anne and Drew and their managery fir a couple of days (2 dogs who like to share my bed and morning coffee with me, a cat and a bunny)

My bedfellows at Anne’s in Christchurch

Then I stayed with my cousin Nicola and hubby Stewart and their wee dog, Jack a Jack Russel He is a real character and I would be stealing him if I ever decided I needed a dog.

Jack the Rus.

We wandered around Lyttleton and I dragged Nicky and Jack up to the top of the Bridle Track. We visited the markets had many coffees and I picked up some more suitable town clothes at the 2nd hand shops.

We completed one puzzle and started another one.
Lyttleton has many eclectic shops.

I also visited a friend who used to live in Palmerston North. Nearly 80 years old, Kay is a lady I want to emulate in my old age. She is as sharp now as ever, never getting her words or names mixed up like I do already. We chatted all day about family, friends and fixed all the problems of the world.

Kay enjoys following my outside adventures and I am amazed at her involvement in the community arts and dance etc. The world is made up of people with different strengths, interests and personalities. Everyone is imortant and makes life interesting in their own way. I am blessed to have many interesting friends and family who fulfill my life.

Lyttleton is the major port for the South Island

I didn’t know what was coming next on my wee journey until I received a message from Motel/Backpackers in Tekapo saying they had work for me until the end of February with free accommodation in the backpackers. Why not?? So I caught a bus back there.

Ohau to Tekapo 24 Jan to 28 Jan

We cycled for 2 days alongside canals where we met Tim and Isaac who I hadn’t seen since Colac Bay. They were still going strong and seemed happy.

Leaving Tekapo on another hot day
Tim and Isaac

We spent nights at Twizel then at Ohau Lodge. The Lodge was our bit of luxury with a spa pool to enjoy. However the ay was ho (about 28 degrees celcius) so too hot to sit in the water for long. The edges were also too hot to sit on but we persevered and enjoyed a beer to keep us cool.

TA section hikers catching up on the news

Next day we were onto the track towards the Ahuriri river crossing. Jane and Pip were planning a night at a little private hut, about 10km from the big river crossing and I planned to turn back at that stage.

Jane and Pip on a mission.

However we were passed by Ian and we knew two other men were ahead of us, so the lure of males had Pip looking as though she was going to follow them another 3 hours to the river.

So I decided to stop and spend the night beside the track. I was mostly influenced by the fact that I had a book to read that I picked up at Lake Ohau. I don’t usually allow myself the extra weight of a book but this one was too good to leave behind and I was keen to get on and read it.

My home for the night.

So I put up my tent all alone in a wilderness mountain area. Then I sat in the sun with a my book, loving the peace and quiet and being really entertained by the book and laughing out aloud with only the tussock grass to hear me.

Man who created the Coast to Coast race and many other adventures.

I needed to keep moving as the sun went down dehind the hills. Eventually I ate my dinner and crawled into my sleeping bag for the night.

It was a cold night and I enjoyed being able to snuggle down under my Zpacks quilt for a change. There was no wind so I had quite a lot of condensation in the tent.

When I woke up there was no sun yet so I quickly packed up and walked for 2 hours before finding a sunny spot to eat my breakfast and lay out my tent and sleeping quilt to dry.

Along comes the French girl who had met at Aparima hut making fresh bread She had had a very cold in a hut not more than 200 metres from me.

Also met Michael from Auckland (Originally South Korea). He is a well known character on the trail who had lost his fish’n’chip shop as a result of Covid. However he was very happy to be free and easy out on the trail. I totally get that!!

Somehow I left my cheese and crackers on a big rock and met 3 people in the following days who had seen them. No one had eaten them.

At one stage I wandered off track a bit and needed to climb straight up a slippery cliff to get back on track. My theory of just followed the river was not working out. I was not concerned about being “lost” as I had no real aim for the day. I could spend another night out here if I wanted to, but I did manage to make it out of the open tops leaving the last 3 hours of bush walking to do.

There I met a young woman who was on a day walk/ run who was happy to chat and walk with me. She then gave me a ride to the camp ground. Very sad looking place after a major fire last year and empty because of covid. The beautiful shade trees had been cut down so it looked desolate and sad and really hot, a 28 degree day in New Zealand sun is scorching.

As happened to me when I was here 2 years ago, a car stopped asking me if I needed a ride. A quick decision was made to go back to the Ohau Lodge as he was working there in the kitchen. So the young lad moved the cigarette packets, beer cans and half eaten pizza from the front seat and I jumped in. He explained that he couldn’t afford the beer out there so had been into town to buy a box of beer for his evening off. 10 minutes up the road and he was inviting me back to the staff quarters for a beer which I politely declined. I needed a shower and was hungry. My room had sink with a dripping tap and some noisey mosquitoes so not a good night!!!

I shared my dinner and breakfast with a lovely kiwi couple who has started Te Araroa on the Queen Charlotte Track where he proposed to her. I had heard this story and was pleased to see that they still appeared to be getting on well.

Hitched ride next morning with a bike company to main highway intersection where I nabbed an old lady at the intersection for a ride to Twizel 60km away. She was on a compulsory stop and a sitting target. When she dropped me of she told me that she had never picked up a hitch hiker before and now wished she had done so more often as we had had a lovely chat with me. I had talked at high volume as she didn’t have her hearing aids in. She drive at about 70km per hour so it was a nice relaxing trip and many cars overtook us.

Hung out in Twizel watching rowing teams going in and out of the shops as there was a big regatta on. There was no accommodation there as a result so I headed back to the highway 8 to hitch to Tekapo.

Along comes Geoff,obviously a T A walker because of his light oack and brown legs. He was also wanting a hitch to Tekapo.

He instantly recognized me as Karen from Karensdamnlongwalk.com saying he had followed my TA from Canada and decided to do some of it while over here on family business.

It took a bit longer than usual to get a ride because there was 2 of us. Kiwi Indian gave us a ride and he and Geoff had a lot to talk about as Geoff had spent quite some time in India.

We signed in to the Tekapo Backpackers and went out fir dinner. That night, Sev, another TA walker arrived. Ex forces and had managed a MIQ in Auckland, he had a lot of interesting stuff to share with us.

Very interesting guys

Both had a rest day so lots of things to talk about. Sev dropping things out of his pack after seeing my light weight packing.

There was no work to be had here at this time so I decided to hitch into Christchurch to catch up with family and friends.

Day 22 and 23. Decision Time.

We started our day a bit layer than usual, 7.30am, as we had a short day out to the end of the Motatapu Track. Then it was to be a 2.5km walk to Glendhu Bay motor camp followed by a 16km walk to Wanaka the next day. 

I remembered this as really easy piece of gentle downhill track through peaceful beech forests. I had nearly run it last time thinking it was one of the easiest parts of TA.

But they had changed the track dramatically!  There was steep drop offs, tricky bits, dodgy bits and I became more uneasy about the whole damn walk.

So I discussed my concerns with Kay. I felt good talking it out aloud and Kay as very supportive and understanding, agreeing that there are many other options for me. 

My  2019-20 Te Araroa was a significant feat for me; a milestone in my life; something I had planned for many years. I cannot repeat the magic of the trail, or being blissfully unaware of what was going to happen next.

So by the time we had accepted a hitch into Wanaka I had decided to look at other options.  I need to live in a decent body for a few more years yet. I have nothing to prove to myself oy anyone else. 

A good view of Lake Wanaka from our hostel

Friends,  Pip and Jane are on a SOBO and will be in Tekapo on Monday so I will hitch there and cycle a section with them.

Kay and I gave enjoyed our time in Wanaka, staying in our beds until 11am and  catching up on news around the country and world. Neither of us can get to Western Australia to visit our kids and grandchildren and the whole country has gone into Red Traffic Light. 

So watch has this space.

Adventure doesn’t only  mean tramping. The best job I ever had was planting tomatoes and there is lots of that kind of work going down here.  There are many  vacancies in hospitality although I am not sure how hospitable I can be these days. I have people to visit and people to meet.

Day 21 Another big hill to Furn Burn Hut. 6km. 5 hours

As has become our routine we were both awake at 6am and leaving the hut at 7am. 

Breakfast for Kay

Today would be an easier day with only one huge climb compared to yesterday’s 2 huge climbs. It was cool and we were in the shade as we went up up up, then just as we gained some decent elevation the damn track takes us down part of our gain into wee valleys.

The start of the track was quite narrow with very steep drop offs and parts were covered with thick bushes meaning I  couldn’t see where I was placing my feet. I began to feel quite anxious and was not in my usual relaxed mind set.

Close to the bottom the vegetation becomes thick and covers the track. These valleys are water courses so it becomes mushy underfoot and there are underground water ways.  So I had to concentrate to ensure I didn’t step into any of the holes into the water which would have been disastrous. There are high drop offs sometimes on both sides of a narrow track which made me unusually uncomfortable.

DOC needs to get in here and do some track maintenance,  cutting back the vegetation so we can see where to walk.

But then we would climb out again and be in the short tussock grass on a narrow ridge track.

Furn Burn Hut
Lunch stop. Happy.

We met along the way a Dad and son, a church group of 4, and mum and daughter. They were all going the opposite direction to s and give us a good excuse fir a long stop and chat. The SOBOS are always interested in hat is coming up and we are the same.

Today I was again doubting my sanity. Should I be going forward with RA again? Do I really need to put myself through the risks that I know it will present? This time I know what is coming up. I know how how much it will hurt if I fall. My body is another 2 years older and in good shape; do I need to risk accidental damage? Am I stupid to carry on? Maybe I should just do some easy stuff instead and there is lots of that in the South Island.

I was thinking this throughout the day to Furn Burn Hut.

We arrived early in the day and I had Granny nap before a Mother arrived with a huge pack full of fresh food. I was on the last of my food supply having no dinners left I ate a wrap with cheese and carrot for dinner. Mum was a but worried because 25 year old Daugherty daugher was late arriving but it turned out that daughter had been taking her time and having a nice day on her own. Mum and daughter time needs to be managed well I think!

Day 20 Motatapu Track Roses Hut to Highland hut

I had asked Garry to talk to the Weather Gods and cool things down a bit. Being in the high country with little shade is hard work when the temperature are high 20s. So he came to the party and there was snow on the hills above us overnight.

We had 2 huge hills to climb today so I was pleased to start off with my jacket, hat and gloves on. The grass was wet as we had gad some hail overnight so my shies were soon wet and my feet cold. However they warmed up as we climbed straight up the first hill. Each time we thought we were at the top there was another peak ahead of us. I set a slow pace and we had lots of little stops to look back down the valley below so it was quite enjoyable climb.

Finally at the top

Then it was down, down down to a creek for an early lunch stop in the shade. Then us was up and down another damn mountain with beautiful views forever.

I wasn’t really enjoying the tracks as we got lower because they are overgrown and very hard to see where to place my feet. There are underground water courses that can be stepped into if we are not careful. Also the tracks have long drop off that could be disastrous if I fell.  I was becoming a bit anxious about these parts. I know I won’t bounce well and a fall will hurt and take a lot of time to heal.  Am I doing the right thing risking this again?

On the way we met SOBO Isaac  used him as another excuse for a stop. An big,older Army man, he was going at a good pace, doing long days,  with a huge pack. He was known to pick up and pack out any rubbish left at huts and well liked by everyone who had come across him on their Te Araroa journey.

Isaac keeps a list of all the TA walkers he meets

At the hut Erin who was a SOBO having  rest day.  She has worked star gazing guide and ski instructor rest day.

Later Jacqui and Debbie from Waikato arrive. Jackie was pleased to meet me as she had been following me right from the start of my first TA and knew she would finally meet up with me on this section. I am always proud to have had some influence on others decisions to walk Te Araroa.