Total steps!

Z and I carried Fitbit pedometers as we walked so that we could keep track of how many steps we took.

In addition to being really useful for estimating distances, we figured it would be fun to know just how many steps there are in a thru hike between Cape Reinga and Bluff.

Ok, so if you want to cross New Zealand, we can definitively tell you this:

  • Z took 4.7 million steps.
  • I took 4 million steps.

The difference between us is height. I’m several inches taller than her and have a much longer stride.

The other fun fact this tells you is that since we each destroyed 4 pairs of shoes, you can consider one million steps to be the limit per pair.

Our ‘Camper Van’

We finished the trail a bit early and have a week to spare so we decided to rent a car to explore a couple of bits that we hadn’t visited.

From Fred and Dave: ‘We guess you have hired a Britz Campervan now? You sell outs’. Britz is one of the thousands of companies that rent camper vans, a super popular way to travel around New Zealand (faster than walking, that’s for sure).

This was the scene at Lake Gunn campsite near Milford Sound. So many camper vans.

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We made a video special for them to show them our ‘camper van’, complete with all the amenities.

Z, April 13th 2014

New Measurements!

Back when we started, we decided to do a little experiment. Before we left, we took measurements of our bodies to see if walking 3000km would change them.

The results are in:

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Basic conclusions:

  1. Z’s butt shrank while mine has grown.

  2. Both of our bellies shrank, Z shrinking by 7cm.

  3. My upper body shrank. Z’s chest shrank(insert easy joke here), but arms grew.

M, 12 April 2014

P.O.P.

We know it’s late in coming, but we had the idea for this video in the North Island but never got around to making it. And when it got down to the last meals, it was either raining or too windy or we just weren’t eating P.O.P.  P.O.P stands for Plain Old Pasta. We’ve eaten it for at least 80% of our trail dinners. It’s some shape of pasta (elbows, penne, spirals, macaroni) cooked with nothing on it. No sauce. No butter. Only a dash of salt if we have it. I have to say that I am not sick of it. We made a video on Oreti Beach on how to make P.O.P on the trail. Enjoy!

Z, April 9th 2014

The Final Days

The last couple days have been a trip. We wrapped up the section from Otautau, passing through Colac Bay, Riverton and Invercargill.

We had our last night in a hut, unexpectedly but since it was pouring rain, we were happy for it. A quick video tour of Martin’s Hut:

Have to appreciate Colac Beach for having a great surfer monument:

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Riverton was a cute town and then we hit Invercargill, which we passed right through.

It’s felt a lot like the North Island around here: lots of muddy jungle, small hills instead of proper mountains, in and out of towns all day, farmland and roads instead of trails….but it’s been pretty nevertheless. We were back near the ocean and the beach, which was exciting since we hadn’t been on beach since the North Island (but this time, it was freezing).

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After passing through Invercargill we spent our last night in the tent in a farm halfway to Bluff and then wrapped things up the next morning.

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Not a bad slogan.

Getting to the end of such a long journey always creates a mix of emotions. We’ve been planning and working on this trip for well over a year, walking it for about a third of one, and now, finally, we don’t have to walk anymore.

We celebrated with a bottle of champagne and some lovely Bluff oysters (no, Mike didn’t try any).

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It’s surprisingly liberating to have the thing done and the task complete, but we’ll miss it.

M and Z, April 9th 2014

Open Q & A

We made it and now we’re traveling by bus back the way we came. We’re on this bus for a long time, then it’s road trip time.

What better way to pass the time than an open Q&A, like we did at Wellington?

If you have any questions you’ve been thinking about, any quandaries you’ve been pondering, ask away in the comments and we’ll try to respond quick as lightning.

M, 9 April 2014

South Island Mailboxes

The North Island really delivered when it came to snazzy mailboxes. The South Island is something of a disappointment by comparison, but this is because we walked so few road miles on the South Island.

Regardless, I’ve kept my mailbox-dar activated, and found the following good ones:

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Excellent due to location alone.

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Ha. You have to lift the udder to deliver mail.

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Excellent detail work.

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Simple, but well done.

Update: found another good one:

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Don't ask me to explain it.

Trail Isn’t Giving Up Easy

I had a good fall as we were descending to a campground a few days back.

Didn’t see a rollie rock under a bed of grass on the “trail”. Stepped on it, took a spill.

It’s coming along nicely:

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Getting some lovely hues...

Today and yesterday it has been raining. This is our last forest section and the last time we have any elevation at all. Yesterday we climbed over the top of a wide open hill, with barely any ground trail and only sparse poles to guide us through a whiteout with strong wind and rain.

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This is the only photo...can you see the trail in the upper left? This was just before it disappeared completely.

Trail ain’t giving up easy.

M, 5 April 2014

Getting the Water

Water is a huge part of the planning of our trip. Do we have enough to keep us hydrated? Do we have enough for pasta cooking? Are we carrying way too much and adding unnecessary weight?

All of this to say that we’ve gotten water in lots of ways along the trail. We even did a bit of rain collection one rainy night off the tent spine. Here are a couple:

Filling from the rain tank outside Lower Wairaki Hut in the Takitimu Forest

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Filling directly from a hole in the mountain near Stag Saddle. Can’t get any purer than that.

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Filling from a lovely stream after Lake Selfe, just before reaching Lake Coleridge, on a foggy morning.

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Filling from the Hope River (I think).

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Filling from a pool right after the Waiau Pass. It’s so clear you can hardly tell it’s there.

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Filling in a hostel in St. Arnaud’s:

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Filling in a sheering shed after some friendly farmers gave us permission:

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Filling from some disgusting steam on Ninety Mile Beach.

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Filling directly from a tiny waterfall:

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Collecting water from a river 10m below the bridge using ingenuity and rope:

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Water. Very important. Glad that there is so much of it in New Zealand.

Z, April 3rd, 2014

So Close We Can See the End

We just finished the second to last section of the trip (very reminiscent of the North Island actually: farmland, some road walking, treating water from a farm stream), and have bought groceries for the last remaining days.

We can literally see the end:

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Pretty sure this is it...

We came out of the beech tree section of the Takitimu Forest to an open view of the ocean in the distance.  The first time we’ve seen the ocean in months!!

We’re in the town of Otautau and from here it’s two days to Riverton, one more day to Invercargill, then another to Bluff!

So excited to be so close to done! 5 more days and we’ll be enjoying Bluff oysters and a glass of wine, remembering when we hitched a ride to Cape Reinga in the rain 4 months ago.

M and Z, April 3rd, 2014

The Kiwis and Helicopters

Kiwis love helicopters. They use them for pretty much everything. In the States if you see a helicopter, that’s kind of a big deal. Here, they’re everywhere.

For example:

  1. Hunting deer. The process is thus: acquire semiautomatic rifle and helicopter; fly into a valley; go nuts, shooting any deer you see! Generally I’d deplore this, but New Zealand has a real problem with deer populations (they lack any predators), and together with hunting huts, this has brought sanity to the problem. I guess. This process is apparently also applied to farmed deer inside a fence…seems a bit much, but hunting isn’t really something I understand.

  2. Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs). In New Zealand, there’s a very strong culture of carrying PLBs. I think there are three reasons for this. First, PLBs are highly encouraged by local TV shows. There’s a Search and Rescue reality show, and apparently they push PLBs on practically every episode. Second, the weather here can change rapidly, leading to bad situations. Third, helicopters are cheap (emergency ones are even state-sponsored for kiwis, from what we hear), so triggering the PLB is not such a big deal as it would be in the States.

  3. Standard trail work. Need to do some work in a trail? Get airlifted in! Weather turns sour? Get out quick! In some of the more rugged areas, we’ve seen this to be standard operating procedure for Dept. of Conservation workers. We’ve also observed that on great walks, helicopters are everywhere.

Great Walks are beautiful, but they often sound like this (from the Routeburn, airlifting dozens of bags of gravel to a fancy trail):

And look like this (from Tongagriro):

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This one was hauling poop from a hut tank by tank for a few hours.

On some great walks, there are also so-called “lodges”. These allow entire groups of people to walk casually in, have their meals prepared for them, etc. Quite something, and involves a lot of helicopters.

  1. Finally: Herding cows. This must have been pilot training or something, but observe for yourself:
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Yes, this copter is herding cows.

All this to say: Helicopters are everywhere here.

M, 30 March 2014

The Routeburn: A Great Detour

We continued our detour that took us to the Routeburn track. This is considered a ‘Great Walk’, which means a couple of things.

1.  It’s ridiculously popular, full of people.
2. The trails are mostly ‘fancy trail’.

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  1. The huts are most definitely fancy huts, housing up to 40 people. This is the bunk house (yes, a separate building for the beds). Looks like a train car to me.

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  1. And last but not least, the views, the rivers, the waterfalls are mind blowing.

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We also met a young French traveler, Quentin, that we had met on the Hurunui Trail about a month ago. What a small world. We had a very pleasant lunch with him and his friends by the waterfall.

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The next day, we were back on the Te Araroa, happy to be back, but very happy with the amazing things we had seen. Thanks Jon and Carol for the suggestion and the maps, and weather reports. We wouldn’t have seen it without you.

Z, March 26th, 2014

The Sandfly Solution

A huge part of our life here is spent avoiding sandflies. They’re just terrible, and if you’re not in a hut, you have to get to camp, set up your tent, and dive in immediately to avoid blood loss.

Well, today we created a partial solution, forming a symbiotic relationship with this bird:

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We call him, "The Fixer"

With precision and skill, he eats our sandflies right out of the air. He is the bird on our back, the vengeance we seek, and the savior we needed.

Watch him as he works:

M, 28 March 2014

Dart River and New Zealand’s Newest Lake?

OK, maybe my facts are off (Jon will let me know), but we may have passed New Zealand’s newest lake.  Not sure if it has a name yet, but will probably be called the Dart Lake.

At some point recently, there was a massive landslide that pushed a bunch of rock and debris into the Dart River, pushing it off course into the tree line and creating a lake that swallowed up the trail.

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Because it’s all silty, glacial water, the color is a weird milky blue.

There was a temporary trail that we followed and every glance at the new lake reminded us of the power of mother nature.

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We made a quick video showing how hectic it was where the slide occurred.

Z, March 25th, 2014