Chopping Wood

In the middle of the section, we found ourselves ensconced in a hut (see Rainy Day Hut Activities post for more details). There was a lovely wood stove to keep us warm, but we needed some wood. There was a shed full of unchopped wood with an ax and I decided to keep myself warm by chopping a bit. An hour later, I had most of that wood ready for the stove. Of course we didn’t use all of it, but I did my civic duty to the tramping community.

Mido would have been proud.

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Z, February 28th, 2014

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Taking It Easy on Harper’s Pass

After a nice rest day of hot springs in Hammer Springs, we got back on the trail to complete Harper’s Pass.  This is a trail that follows the Hope River up to the pass then continues down the Taramakau River.  We took this section slowly to kill a bit of time to make our rendezvous with Boothe. It was pleasant walking, but not much of it each day. There were no major peaks and the best part was that we got to spend so much time hanging out with friends.

We did pass a lovely natural hot pool, but didn’t get in on account of the hundreds of sandflies (“Bastards!”).

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And we did enjoy crossing the 3 wire bridge:

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Z, February 28th, 2014

Meeting Our Trail Parents

We’ve been talking about Jon from Christchurch in some of our posts. He’s our trail dad. That means that he’s been reading our blog and telling us which plants are poisonous, reading the weather reports and telling us which parts of the trail are impassable during a rain storm and giving us advice on how to properly cross rivers.  He is the old friend of a family friend of mine (thank you for the introduction Craig) and immediately started giving us some great advice by email before we even came. His wife, Carol, is his partner in crime and it seems that there is very little of the South Island that they haven’t tramped.  On our last night of this section, Jon and Carol met us in the Boyle Flat hut, in the rain. They brought us raspberries, blueberries, apricots, apples and greens for a salad (things we haven’t had for weeks). They also brought us so much great information and some incredible stories. It was nice to finally meet them and share a night in a hut (the last time they tramped this area was 41 years ago).

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In case the photo doesn’t show it, Jon is taller than Mike. Carol and I had fun talking about how annoying it is to be hiking with a tall partner sometimes.

They then drove us to Hanmer Springs where we got some lovely Indian food. Unfortunately they had to get back to work, but Mike and I took a zero day and enjoyed the natural hot springs here, full of sulfuric goodness for the aches and pains.

Up next, Harper’s Pass and the Mingha-Deception Track.

Z, February 24th 2014

Freezing on the St. James Walkway

We woke to rain and wind blowing outside the hut, happy that we weren’t outside. But we had 16km to do that day. Not a long day kilometer wise, but it looked cooooold outside.  We hung out in the hut as long as we could without getting sucked in, donned our waterproofs and headed out. The wind immediately blasted us and my toes lost all feeling within 2 minutes. We saw snow on the mountains, not 150m above us.

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Check out the snow!

The grass was soaking wet (it was raining) and our poor running shoes were not really cutting it. The numbness inched its way up to my ankles and I felt like I was walking on blocks, my feet hardly bending at all. All of a sudden, the rain turned to hail and to keep warm we picked up the speed. We were practically running the trail at this point. Mike asked for a lunch break and I reasoned with him that it was either eat food or get frostbite (OK, that may be a bit dramatic, but it felt true at the time). We finished the 16km in 3.5 hours and reached the next hut wet, cold and excited to get the fire going.

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Lunch was next as the hut warmed us up. Don’t know what we would have done without these awesome shelters.

The next morning the storm had cleared, but in its path it left a dusting of snow on all the peaks and frost on all the plants. These nor’westers are cold!

Z, February 24th 2014

Blue Lake and the Treacherous Waiau Pass

The pain and the reward of the trail is a funny thing. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if there’s a view at the top, the climb is worth it. It’s even better if you can actually see the top while you climb, just so you get an idea of how far you still have to go.

We climbed two big, steep climbs, Travers Saddle and Waiau Pass, on consecutive days. In between, we were rewarded by passing by Blue Lake and Lake Constance.

We arrived at the bowl below Travers Saddle surrounded by scree covered ascents.  We looked up, wondering which one we would have to climb.

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"Hm, this doesn't look easy..."

We followed a series of poles up and up, bypassing many ‘fake’ saddles, each time thinking we had reached the top. Finally, we peaked where we had lunch with an amazing view.

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We then descended down to Blue Lake, the clearest lake in the world, as stated on the sign post (and verified on Google). It was blue green and incredibly clear. We jumped in, then jumped out because the lake was between 3 and 8 degrees C.

We have about a million photos of this lake, but here are two:

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The next morning, we started up to Lake Constance. It was a bit strange and put us in a pensive mood since a Te Araroa hiker died here 2 months ago, during a white out.  We had no issue navigating the boulders since we had a beautiful, sunny day. The lake was still as a mirror and the mountains were reflected in the water.

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Then, the climb. Waiau Pass is a 500m climb over 1km up to 1870m, making it the steepest and hardest climb we’ve done so far. Straight up the tussock and rock face, we gingerly made our way up.  Mike blasted his way up there in no time, his strong and long legs propelling him. I met him at the top and we enjoyed the views. Luckily, a fellow TA hiker, Peter, was with us to grab a picture.

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And the story isn’t done yet. There was still the descent.

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Notice the orange marker (it’s small). Yes, this is our trail.

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But it’s absolutely amazing.

Z, February 21st, 2014

A Complete Food Inventory

We’re often asked what we eat while we’re out here, and it’s really hard to remember all the little snacks that we’ve found. This post serves to memorialize six days of food for the two of us in as much detail as possible.

In the photo the food Z’s carrying is on the left, and mine is on the right, but we share everything but the bars and some of the snacks.

Let’s start with snacks:

  • 8 One Square Meal bars, cranberry and apricot (OSM’s) at 82.5g each.
  • 14 smaller bars, each weighing about 40g. In this case we have a mix of Pam’s Fruit Nutbars, her Apricot Muesli bars, and Nature Valley bars.

On Z’s side we also have:

  • Rice crackers
  • Chocolate raisins
  • A small bag of bulk bhuja mix
  • Chili-lime “swizel sticks”
  • Beef jerky (or sometimes biltong)
  • Sour cream and chive chips

On my side we have:

  • Salty-sweet peanuts
  • Maruku sticks (an Indian chickpea snack)
  • Trail mix (aka “scroggin’)
  • Bhuja mix
  • Sea salt kettle chips

For shared lunches and breakfasts we have:

  • 2 sleeves of crackers at 250g each
  • 1 container of Nutella at 400g
  • 1 container of smooth peanut butter at 375g
  • 1 bag of dehydrated hummus at 150g
  • 1 loaf of bread, usually Soya Linseed by Vogel, at around 700g (16 slices)

For shared dinners we have:

  • 250g of pasta per night, so in this case, 1250g of pasta.
  • 4 small soup flavor packets, a mix of tomato soup and “Asian Tom Yum”
  • 1 Indian meal in a pouch, which we pour on pasta or pre-cooked rice.

For shared desserts we have:

  • 250g of Whittaker’s chocolate
  • Some dried apricots
  • A 350g bag of Farmbake cookies
  • A roll of ginger nuts

Someday we’ll tally the calories, but for now, that’s everything.

M, 24 February 2014