Bluff

Had the sun been shining all day, it would have been too easy. The sideways rain, gusts of wind, trucks roaring by and the extra weight of a bottle of champagne in each of our bags made for a memorable (as always) day of walking. Except for this was the last day. Not that any of us intended to outright stop walking after we reached Bluff but for the past week it’s felt as if it’s all been slowly coming to a close. Up until about a week before the end, we were always planning for the next day and not much further than that. This close to Bluff and our planning shifted from day by day to… today, tomorrow, BOOM- Bluff.

We’ve all been a bit antsy, anxious in a good and a bad way. After 125 days, we’re all ready to reach the end of our trail. At the same time, we’re all no where near ready to reach the end of our trail.

“125 days?! You guys are nuts” We’d hear this all too often. The truth is, walking when you’ve got all day to do it is surprisingly easy.

Think about it.

We wake up.
We eat.
We walk.
We eat.
We walk.
We eat.
We set up our tent.
We sleep.

There you have it. A day in the life of a T.A tramper. Doesn’t sound horrible does it?

Anyways, like it or not, we were about to reach Bluff and that’s where the maps stop. So, with a bottle of champagne in our backpacks, we set off for 34 kilometres of track and road shoulder from Invercargill to Bluff.

The day started off gloriously sunny but as we walked, we watched the point up ahead slowly get swallowed up by rain clouds and soon enough we were in those rain clouds. Lucky for us, they came with a whole lot of wind! (I think you got that, but in case you didn’t- the “lucky” part was very sarcastic!). Nonetheless, we trucked on along down the highway road shoulder to the entrance of Bluff where we hopped off the road and onto a lovely trail on the seaward side of Bluff for the last 7km.

We could see Stirling Point (the Bluff signpost) from about 2km to the end of our track. We all skipped forward for a minute before quickly settling back down and taking in the last 2km slow and steady.

When we reached that lovely yellow sign, we linked arms and walked…
3…2…1…TOUCH!

Jess latched on to the post for a few minutes. Brad struck a pose. Matt climbed up as far as he could. Matt lifted me up so I could hang like a monkey.  It was quite the photo shoot.

Then, we popped our champagne bottles and celebrated.

 

 

Te Anau to Invercargill

The seven days between these two towns were full of reminiscing and a handful of different landscapes that summed up our entire trip in just a few days. There was farmland, logging roads, paved roads, barren mountain tops, beech forest, tussock and jungle. Yup, all in seven days.

Day One Hundred and Eighteen: 9 km

We woke up in Te Anau to downpour rain.  As has been the case with every other South Island town, staying an extra night wasn’t an option. Absolutely everywhere was booked out. With that, we hit the road, stuck our thumbs out, and waited a horribly wet forty minutes before an angel called Alini picked us up. I don’t think she fully understood what we were doing until we arrived back where we hopped off the trail the day before. She looked at us and asked “somebody is picking you up right?” We retold our story and after a twenty minute side of the road conversation, Alini bid us good luck and farewell and we headed off for an easy (but wet) 2.5 km on the highway and a further 6.5 km on a farm road to reach our hut for the night: Lower Princhester Hut.  It was a full house of 8 on mattresses and 1 (Jess) sleeping on the floor.

Day One Hundred and Nineteen: 16 km

Heading into the hills, we were surprised with a track with so many elements all in one. There was tussock, forest, jungle, beech forest, and so much muck!

The tussocks were marshy more so than we had experienced before. The sloshing noise was not pleasant.

Day One Hundred and Twenty: 21 km

We all woke up to frozen socks and shoelaces. From Aparima Hut, we climbed up to the Telford Tops where we got our first (far away) views of Bluff!

From there we made our way down towards a makeshift campground just before a long private farm section. It was a tent city with 5 tents of SOBO hikers and 2 tents of NOBOs (North bounders).

Day One Hundred and Twenty One: 48 km

Jess and Brad decided to start hiking at 6:30am. Did we join them? Yeah right. Our rule is if the sun is still sleeping then so are we! We left about an hour behind at 7:30am. Our tent fly was crunchy with frost on this cool “summer” morning. When we shook out our tent fly, it looked like it was snowing.

Our walk took us through mostly farmland. Paddocks and paddocks of sheep and cattle.

We saw one herd of cattle being herded down the farm road that we were suppose to be walking on. We clung to the fence while we waited for them to pass.

 

From one farm, it was into another farm but first we passed through this gorgeous grove of eucalyptus trees.

Sheep Adventures of the Day!

Later on in the day, Matt noticed a lamb that wasn’t running away when we passed (unusual for a sheep!). A closer look revealed he was completely tangled in a vine that had spun its way around and around his wool.  Matt’s superhero instincts led him to immediately jump the barbed wire fence, pin the lamb down and enlist my assistance.  Over the barbed wire I went with Matt’s multi tool and we swapped jobs.  I held the lamb down gently while Matt began to untangle the mess of vines and cut the lamb’s wool out of the tangle.  The vines were around its neck and body and I really believe the lamb wouldn’t have gotten out on its own.  It let us work on its tangle for several minutes but the minute it was totally free, it bolted away from us and went on to munch on some grass.  He’s the guy on the right.  His friend on the left seemed much more curious in who us lamb rescuers were.

Despite us yelling “You’re welcome!”, we didn’t get much attention from our friend.  Another lamb rescue, another day, we continued our walk.

Not five minutes later, another bizarre sheep experience.  A sheep that did not run away, was not hurt or stuck and rubbed up onto the wire fence next to us.  We dared to sneak in a few pets figuring this was a sheep that had witnessed our good deed and wanted to reward us by finally letting us snuggle one of them!  He even stomped his foot at us when we stopped petting him.  Of course we started petting him again.

Our day was complete and we continued on our way until sunset before setting up camp in a deer paddock for the night.

Day One Hundred and Twenty Two: 25 km

It rained through the night but by morning it had stopped and the wind picked up enough for us to pack up a dry tent.

Our goal of the day was to try and get a mattress in Martins Hut that night.  It would be our last Hut on the trail and there were only 4 mattresses up for grabs.

The views of Bluff were even better from this section and the track was beautiful.

Actually, it was crazy muddy.  I’m talking knee deep constantly kind of muddy.  However, reflecting on it now, I only really remember enjoying it.  It was a good ending to the Te Araroa considering it’s exactly how it began.

Sure enough, the hut was full but with good company to share a special last hut night with.  It was a rustic historic hut too which made it the perfect Kiwi backcountry experience.

Bonus: (Surprisingly) No mice.

Day One Hundred and Twenty Three: 30km

Nice flat walk out of the forest following alongside an old mining water race for about 23km before exiting out onto the road to Colac Bay.

Three hours to the road, we were talking about DOC signs warning about wasps in the backcountry but we hadn’t had anyone stung the whole tramp.  Blair then told us he had the bad luck of being stung three times at the same moment in the Richmond Ranges.  I was so thankful that wasn’t me!

An hour later:  Stung.  I definitely cried.  I’ve been stung before when I was younger but oh my god.  It was the most pain I’ve been in this whole tramp I think.  My ankle starting swelling up almost immediately (I don’t have much of a tolerance for any bug bite).  Luckily Colac Bay had a bar and a campground.  The burger and beer helped me forget about the pain for at least a little while.

One Hundred and Twenty Four: 44 km

14km of road and paddock walking took us to Riverton which then led us into Oreti Beach.  Fitting that we should also have a beach section in the last couple of days.  Haven’t seen beach since the Queen Charlotte!

Beach walking is pretty straightforward but this day we left in crazy winds and an incoming high tide.  Nevertheless, we battled our way through, hopping up on the dunes and over barbed wire fences when the tide got too high.  Then back to the beach before 8 km of road to Invercargill.

What we lost on this stretch:

Quinn: map case & compass

Jess: hiking poles

Favourite moments

Tent City at Telford Camp- reminiscing with Brad, Jess, Chloé, Robin and Matt about the trip and watching the NOBOs go about. Five days in, they have no idea how crazy their adventure is going to be. Meanwhile, Robin whittled himself a hiking stick to replace his proper one that broke earlier on in the day.

Seeing our first DoC sign with time to Bluff!

How the sand on Oreti Beach made me feel like Godzilla.

Playing Spot It!, a favourite card game of ours that we picked up in Glenorchy. German and French shouting and a crew of very competitive trampers.

Seeing Bluff for the first time atop Telford Tops.

Queenstown to Te Anau

Day One Hundred and Fourteen: 0 km

One final hazard zone, a spot where the Te Araroa trail officially breaks is at Lake Wakatipu, the lake that Queenstown surrounds. This official break meant we would have one last hitchhike off the trail and around the lake to Greenstone. As per usual with hitchhiking, Matt and I broke up with Brad and Jess temporarily to get to the trailhead and meet at one of the huts later that night. Unfortunately for us, I woke up that morning feeling rather sick and after a first hitchhike with two cool Kiwis filming a commercial on the lake, we hopped off in Glenorchy where we called it quits at 11am and spent another zero km day at Mrs Woolys Campground. Around dinner time I started to feel more myself and the camp store had some smoked salmon to indulge in so we added it in to a meal of udon and veg for the night.

Day One Hundred and Fifteen: 22 km

After 3 hitches, we made it to the trailhead of the Greenstone/Mavora Lakes walkway and walked along a gorgeous groomed path to Greenstone Hut.

It was pretty special to find Jess and Brad hanging out when we arrived (2 in the afternoon). Without communication, they knew we would/wanted us to catch up with them and their trust pulled through. We all had lunch and then headed to Taipo hut for the night which we shared with 2 French men and an American.

Day One Hundred and Sixteen: 28 km

Chill as with two lunches in two separate huts and a lot of 4 Wheel Drives ripping past us through the washed out road.

Day One Hundred and Seventeen: 42 km

Why not walk a marathon? From Mavora Lakes camp, we set off for a lovely first 10km along groomed forest track around the lake.

However, after crossing the river, the track soon turned to everything we detested on the T.A. Thorns, spear grass, bristles, marsh.  See the trail?  Hint, you go straight through!

Fortunately it didn’t last too long and we were back on the road for a final 11km to the highway.

Upon reaching the highway at 6pm, Brad jokingly stuck his thumb out to the first truck that passed and he surprisingly pulled over. Imagine our vegetarian’s (Brad and Jess) delight when they saw the dead deer in the back of the pick up. Nonetheless, into Te Anau we went to resupply food for the next stretch!

Queenstown

After arriving in Queenstown on a rainy eerie afternoon (above photo is the first evening around 9pm, the first photo is the night after, nice and not so eerie!), we decided to spend the next day as a zero day in Queenstown.

Guess what we did! You got it, we ate.

FERGBURGER:  Best falafel burger I’ve ever had and Matt can confirm for the more meat inclined that the classic Fernburger is the best burger.

COOKIE BAR:  A Cookie Time bar with $1 coffees in the AM and 2 for 1 cookies in the PM.  Yum.  

PATAGONIA:  Ice cream, obviously.

FAT BADGER:  20inch pizza.  Huuuuuuuuge!

BALLS and BANGLES:  Doughnuts!

Also accomplished in Queenstown:  MOANA, the movie.  We had the theatre to ourselves (& one other lady).  After she left at the credits, Jess Brad and I danced at the front of the theatre to the main song as the credits rolled.

Other interesting occurrences in Queenstown:

Our Netherlands roommate jumping into my top bunk bed in his boxers at 2am.  Drunken sleepwalking?  Yup, this is why I tramp.  Huts beat hostels everyday anyday.