Ship Cove to Havelock

After an easy three days rest in Wellington, we set off for the South Island on a 9:00am ferry. A quick three hour ride would get us to Picton and from there, another two hour ride on a smaller water taxi to Ship Cove, the Northern end of the Queen Charlotte Track. The ferry was pretty quick and painless but another classic example of New Zealand being very dear (expensive). $60 for a walk on passenger. Don’t worry, in that $60, we each got 100MB of free non existent wifi and also complimentary toilets. Sarcasm aside, it was a lovely ferry with lots of options to spend more money but also some nice live music in the café area. We also couldn’t have asked for a better day to cross and approach the South Island. Blue skies all around.

Our transfer was quick in Picton jumping on our Beachcombers water cruise taxi within an hour of jumping off the Interislander ferry. We all sat atop the top deck until the scorching hot day and crazy winds got to us and we ducked inside for some shelter. We had quite a quirky captain (or so we thought). He commented on wildlife, history of the Sounds but also the asking and sale prices of almost all of the houses along the inlet. He also commented on the very people who lived in them! We all thought it was a bit odd. After all, the people on this cruise were either going hiking, or just holidaying with a little boat cruise. Why should they care about real estate? Turns out we had jumped on the NZ post cruise. The one rural post delivery service by boat in the country. As we winded around the inlet, we stopped at various docks to deliver packages and letters, all in dry bags, to the locals.

When we arrived at Ship Cove, we all had a BEER to celebrate the top of the South.

Our first trek was the Queen Charlotte Track, not one of NZ’s “great walks”, but a very popular and a scenic one. It was a surprisingly graded and wide track for the most part. Surprising because we assumed that the minute we stepped onto the South Island, it would be straight up, straight down, and a repeat of that for all remaining days on the T.A. It is true thus far not a day has gone by without seeing a mountain, but the mountains on the Queen Charlotte Track were much easier to climb than what we knew was coming for us in the next ranges. We spent two full days plus two days of 4.5km and 3km to complete the track.

l almost think to fully appreciate the QCT, it would be worthwhile to take advantage of the five day pass you have to purchase to walk the QCT. By doing shorter days, you could take advantage of the stunning beachfront campsites and go for a swim at the end of each walking day. There’s also so many great picnic spots along the trail for lunch, as well as some private campgrounds and lodges. We didn’t check out the latter but we would’ve had we taken more days. I definitely think taking it slow and soaking up the views is the way to do this walk.

Us T.A. Hikers are always a bit anxious to get going though. So off we went to Havelock!

Where we slept

Schoolboy Bay DOC Campground
Bay of Many Coves DOC Campground


Davies Bay DOC Campground


Havelock Holiday park and Campground

Highlights of this stretch

Secret Sugar Santa! In Wellington, we chose names for Sexrst Santa and lucky me, my Santa was the only prepared Santa. Whenever I happened to put my bag down somewhere, I’d always return to a red Lindor truffle hidden in one of my pockets. I’ll not go into too much detail about the time it was in my black as night hip pocket and melted alllll over.

LINK pathway from Anakiwa to Havelock. This is an ongoing project to link these two towns to avoid all road walking so it’s currently incomplete. However, the portion of the path that is complete is almost as stunning as the QCT itself. Our clear sunny day definitely helped the views.

Dinner at The Captain’s Daughter in Havelock. Not our usual splurge but we thought with Christmas coming up, we should indulge ourselves in some real food. We all had delicious salads, drinks and dessert. Sounds simple, but the lack of veggies on the trail is real.

Waikanae to Wellington

The home stretch of the North Island is finally here!  The Tararuas were our last major challenge and from the end of them, not much stood in our way before we reached Wellington.  Matt and I were extra excited to arrive seeing as we had lived there for 2 months prior to hiking.  We missed our Airbnb host Anna, her dog Maisy, and our two little neighbours we babysat and hunted for treasure on the beach with.  We also missed the Greek Food truck, Pizza Pomodoro and all of the good coffee.  Still 75km to go though.  We predicted 2 days of walking.

From Waikanae, we worked our way to the coast where we waltzed down the beach for some 10 or 15km down to Raumati where Anna’s (from Wellington) mom , Rae, lives in a beautiful house right on the beach.  In that 10km we managed to help a lady dig for a geocache under the footpath!

With a picture of Rae’s property for reference, we walked until we found a match and sure enough, Rae popped out onto her deck and waved us in.  We spent a lovely evening, admiring the high tide and sunset while eating dinner, listening to Maori music and chatting up a storm about travelling, New Zealand and our eating habits (not our proudest topic of discussion) with Rae.  Brad also took the time to bounce around a bit on the trampoline.

The next day we were Porirua bound via the Paekakariki Escarpment track.  The Escarpment track had just opened early this year and ran in the cliff side parallel to the railway tracks, the highway and the coast.  It gains 200m above sea level and has two swing bridges towards the southern end.  It was definitely the highlight in this last stretch and an amazing addition to the Te Araroa trail.

After camping near Colonial Knob in Porirua, we began our last day of walking on the North Island, following Colonial Knob up and into the hills, down through bush and then up to the top of Mt.Kaukau, where we got our first real views of Wellington up close and also our first taste (or for me and Matt a reminder) of Welly’s famous wind.  From the Mt.Kaukau summit onwards, Wellington was constantly in view but of course we would have to zig zag and loop around for a long while before we actually entered the CBD.  It wasn’t all that bad though.  Matt and I were seeing Wellington from angles we had never seen it from before.  We were so used to exploring the south coast, it was nice to walk along the Northern walkway for a change.

After teasing Anna and ourselves with a number of texts about our predicted arrrival time, what felt like it took forever finally happened.  We arrived at the end of the T.A. on the North Island.  Beautiful Island Bay.

After picking up a 6pack of beer and a big bottle of soap, Matt and I walked up the familiar alley, street, and steps to Anna’s house.  Maisy barked up a storm at us for a while before catching on to her memory of us.  (She made up for it by jumping in the bed with me the next morning).  Despite arriving much later than we had said, Anna was all ears to our stories and welcomed us back with a fantastic home cooked meal of fresh fish, salad from the garden and roasted veggies.  It was everything that we had been missing for the last two months.

Our next three days off in Wellington were a blur of indulgence in delicious food, catching up, meeting new people, doing laundry, and stressing out over not having enough time to do all we wanted to.  Then again, a lamb barby, pizza pomodoro, homemade pizza on the barby, the Greek food truck, ice cream, dessert, coffee… I say we did pretty well!

The first full rest day started off with a peach cobbler production in the kitchen.  Anna was having her niece and her partner over for a lamb barbecue and of course, I was on dessert and dessert was peach cobbler and ice cream!  Afterwards, Anna helped us out with some errands  and took us to the post shop first to collect a few packages waiting for us- two that we had sent from further up the island and one surprise Christmas package from Yvonne and Paul up North in Whangarei.  Being a fellow Canadian,  Yvonne knew how to make us miss home with a couple of root beers, coffee crisps and some more lollies.  They also sent us a card that could not be better suited for this ice cream eating couple.

Next we took care of my shoes which fell apart after not even a month of the trail.  By the time those errands were done, it was time to start dinner so we headed home and to the kitchen.  Lima I, Anna’s son, son joined us as well as Ella, Anna’s niece, and her mate Henry.   Matt then cooked up the lamb on the barbecue.  Of course Anna supervised him because who better to cook lamb than a kiwi!  Matt also made a delicious Harissa (pepper) sauce and roasted the best potatoes he’s ever roasted.  Complete with a fresh salad from the garden and you had one of the most spectacular meals we’ve eaten in a long time.

The next day we visited Pizza Pommodoro (the best pizza joint in Wellington) and we made homemade pizzas on the barbecue for dinner.  Ooh, w also had root beer floats (courtesy of Yvonne and Paul) to go with our homemade pizza.  Afterwards, we rushed off downtown to catch Star Wars: Rogue One at a sofa seat theatre with Brad, Jess and Francis.

Day at three was all about the South island bounce boxes and man oh man was it a bigger pain than either of us expected it to be.  It’s easy enough eating couscous for fifty days when you go grocery shopping every week but grocery shop for fifty days of ramen and couscous is just plain depressing.  It wasn’t horrible… just a new experience, exciting!  Basically, for a stretch of 21ish days, we don’t hit any towns big enough to resupply in so we have to pre-shop and send boxes ahead to a few different backpackers/lodges to collect when we arrive at that mark in the trail.

Don’t let me forget that we had two short but sweet visits with our little 3 and 5 year old neighbours, Alice and Lily.  We didn’t go for ice cream with them though…we’ll have to put that on the priority list for our return to Welly in another two months.

On to the South Island we go!

 

 

Palmerston North to Waikanae

With the Whanganui river trip and a whole lot of road walking, we had had such a nice long break from hills. Not that we can’t handle a few hills of course. 😉 My feet were definitely a bit more sore than usual though. From Palmerston North, we walked along roads, through farms, and a bit of bush to reach the start of the Tararuas which we then crossed ending up in Waikanae 5 days later.

Day 1 of the Tararuas was a misty and rainy one, but as soon as we got to the alpine and tussock, it couldn’t matter less. It was beautiful. We made it to our first hut, Te Matawai, by 4pm and feasted on chocolate.

The second day, we woke up to clear blue skies and set off at 8am to climb our first 1400m peak. It was all in the alpines and the views were unreal. We arrived at an adorable bright orange two-man hut, Dracophylleum Hut, just in time for lunch.

After lunch, we had a surprise 700m dip downhill from 1100m before climbing way back up to Mt Crawford at 1462m. It was…a workout. Then again, for a huge view of the Tararuas, Kapiti Island and the South Island, it was worth the leg work.

After a steep descent to our next hut at 300m (dropping from 1462m in just 4km), we took a quick dip in the river before cooking dinner and falling asleep in one of my favorite huts yet, Waitewaiwae. 7 Canadians + René, our Swiss German honorary Canadian.

We finished off the Tararuas the next morning and ventured on to the next track in the Pukeatua Forest. It was 5 1/2 hours of pouring rain (my Goretex Arcteryx jacket did not stand a chance) in the forest before we knocked on a door and ended up at Missy’s for the night.

Highlights of this stretch

The wonderfully mossy forests of the Tararuas.

All 7 trampers in Te Matawai Hut were Canadian. Jess, Brad, Francis, Topher, Otiena & us!

Before entering the Tararuas, we walked through a few reforestation forests. Brad (along with Jess), being a tree planter, naturally pulled out a young pine only to replant it as a tree planting demonstration for us (and as an attempt to convert us to join them as tree planters I’m sure).

Goats on a table.

Listening to Matt speak French phrases, as the other three taught. All very….useful….maybe….definitely not. My favourite phrase of his “Bon nuit mes petites vaches obèses”.

Seeing a kereruru pretty close up. (We usually only notice them when they loudly take off!)

Pink tree?

I carried chocolate Kiwi dollars up to the top of the first 1400m peak to congratualte everyone on our highest peak yet.

Uh-oh, I see another mountain to climb but I, I got stamina

With 90km/hr winds predicted for our planned third day in the Tararua ranges, when we arrived at what should’ve been our second hut (Nichols Hut) at 2pm, we decided to push on (reluctantly) up to Mt.Crawford, our highest peak of the ranges at 1462m. We didn’t regret it as we had stunningly clear views all around including those of Kapiti Island and a whole lot of the South Island. We ended the day with a river swim after a 1100m descent to YTYY hut at 300m.

Nights spent: 5

Freedom camp on tall grass that felt like a pillow under our tent.

Makahika Outdoor Centre- Just outside of the second day of bush walking, we ended up at Makahika Outdoor Centre, which is noted in our trail notes as a welcomed accommodation for tired TA hikers. It even mentioned an ice cold beer and dinner. We tried not to expect too much but sure enough, Sally waved us in from her driveway and placed an ice cold citrus beer in our hands. Cholé and Robyn, two French hikers were already there, and we knew Topher and Otiena (the other Canadians) were also right behind us. Despite being a total of 9 tired hungry hikers, Sally drove us into town to resupply and then cooked up a storm of spaghetti, prawn gnocchi, bread, salad, berries and wine of course! We provided the ice cream for dessert. She also briefed us on the ranges and the forecasted weather. Did I mention laundry and showers for everyone? Hurrrrrrrah!

Te Matawai Hut

Waitawaewae Hut 

Missy’s! Outside of the Pukeatua forest after a miserable 5 1/2 hours of pouring rain and an 800m climb, we knocked on the first door and were greeted by Missy. “I’m a kiwi I’m suppose to be hospitable. Cmon in”. After showers and changing into dry clothes, we ate dinner to the tune of amazingly hip music surrounded by the best artwork, had a beer each, heard about Missy’s travels and life. Oh, don’t forget the shot of coconut tequila to cheers our stay with Missy, which was spent inside her warm house tucked into cozy proper beds.

Whanganui to Palmerston North

From Whanganui to Palmerston North, our walk included 30 km on the highway, 10km on a beach, a bit of bush, some more road walking and a little more roadwalking through Koitiata, Bulls, and Fielding before reaching Palmerston North.  There was a LOT of road, but it had been a while since we strolled past farmland and giant marshmallows so it wasn’t all that bad.

Highlights of this stretch

Visiting the Whanganui Saturday market where we ran into Michael, a Maori guide that we met while canoeing down the river.  He showed us around and then we were off to indulge in some goodies.  Pitas with pesto dip, chorizo and chimchurri on ciabatta and a pastry cream filled doughnut later we were off for some highway walking.

Strolling into the very very small beach town of Koitiata and noticing cars outside the town community centre.  Then we noticed a sign saying “Xmas Potluck”.  THEN, a man strolled out and asked “how would you like to come in for some dessert?”. We spent the next two hours chatting up the (mostly) senior village of Koitiata amidst a spread of four different pavlovas, cheesecake, fruit, and dinner.

Walking on Koitiata beach and figuring out ways to confuse Otiena and Topher (or at least give them a good laugh at how pathetic we are).  We spent some time figuring out how to turn our five sets of footprints into one, writing math equations, and walking backwards for a while.

The driftwood and black sand of Koitiata beach.

Indulging in a triple scoop cone in Bulls.

 

A+ for Effort

The town of BULLS, where everything is laughaBULL, throwing garbage in the bin is responsiBULL, you can go to town hall to be sociaBULL.  There’s simply no UDDER place you’d rather be.  The town of Bulls, I kid you not, has signs like these absolutely everywhere.  A lifelike bull statue even marks the entrance into town.

Matt the shoe cobbler patching my shoes up with merino wool sleeves that Jess cut off her shirt and dental floss for thread.

Helppppppp me

Mosquitos and sandflies continue to ruin my life.

Whakahoro to Whanganui

This week, the T.A. swept us off our feet and into canoes on the Whanganui river.  Time to live out of barrels instead of our backpacks for a few days.

img_0692img_0682

Considered one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” (even though it ain’t a walk!), we were excited to give our feet a break and soak in some sun (fingers crossed) on the river.

img_2403

It was an easy route, just follow the river.  We did duck down one stream to the right after seeing some kayakers exploring it.

img_0676img_0684

It turned out to be 5 days of on and off sunshine and rain.

img_2494

No problem for us. It was easy enough to throw on our low cost garbage bag rain skirts.

img_0670 img_0660

Highlights on the river:

Meeting Alex and Michaela, a couple from Seattle, at the Whakahoro campsite. They are the coolest. We spent the first two nights camping with them and two days canoeing on the river. They do a solid Too Much Tuna sketch in their Brooklyn accents. Michaela also makes a mean scrownie, that’s brownie in a skillet in case ya didn’t know. They also instigated the greatest game of canoe tag of all time.  Check ’em out and read all about their NZ adventures here!

img_0649

Singing songs all the way down the river.

Being able to bring boxes of wine with us since we wouldn’t have to carry them on our backs.

Making sangria with boxed wine at the Flying Fox.

img_0685

Bettina suddenly wearing a handmade fern crown out of nowhere while drinking sangria.

img_0678

Making the spiciest dinner of all time and dying.

Grilled cheese made with fresh bread from Jane at the Flying Fox.

We did it!

Caught up to Topher & Otiena, the Canadians who’ve been consistently a few days ahead of us from the beginning of the T.A. (According to log books). They’re very cool (as Canadians are).

Worst part of the river

Sandflies. I didn’t think I could hate anything more than Mosquitos. Well, I can and that hatred is for sandflies!

I wish I didn’t….

Step in the freshest of cow poop at Hipango park.

Nights spent: 5

Whakahoro DOC bunkroom

John Coull DOC campsite

img_0663

Private campground across from Tieke Kainga

The Flying Fox, an incredible campsite/cottage retreat on the true right of the river. If you’re not coming by canoe, you have to take the flying fox (a cable car) to get across. The owners, Kelly and Jane, are living the dream life in my opinion. They’ve owned the property for a little under a year and are constantly finding new hidden gems around the property like the old post shop back in the bush that you can trek to. The land used to be a Maori village long ago. Their property also consists of lemonade trees (sweet enough to bite into lemons), bitter orange trees, pomelo trees, chestnut trees, avocado trees and a couple 150 year old walnut trees that were gifted by the nuns of Jerusalem up the river. Jane and Kelly also had a small shop equipped with homemade chocolate and rhubarb ice cream, fresh eggs and canned pears! Did I mention Jane baked us two large loaves of fresh bread in the morning? Incredible.

img_0669

Hipango park free campsite

img_0643

Mad photo props to Bettina for taking most of these photos!

img_2080

Whakapapa to Whakahoro

Do you remember that cool as beekeeper from Hamilton?  Lummy’s the name and he pretty much made this short stretch.  Of two cars that had passed us on the super slow and not busy rural road to Whakahoro, sitting at the wheel of the second one was Lummy.  He yelled, we yelled, we couldn’t believe it, we hugged, we chatted, we couldn’t believe it.  On a cold, boring, rainy road walk of a day, Lummy was able to throw some sunshine in.  In case you’re wondering what he was doing hours away from Hamilton in the middle of nowhere, a beekeeper’s gotta keep his eyes of his hives and the hives are where the manuka grows.