Sunday, March 29, 2015

The South Island Stats

Before we leave for Stewart Island, I wanted to give you a few statistics. I will do a grand summary of the entire trail shortly, but here's the South Island summary!

1308 kilometers / 812 miles
***this is what the map says, but our GPS shows that we did 1407 kilometers!!
56 days
3 zero days (days off)
Rough Breakdown of Ks/Ms
Trail (this includes a variety of types: forest, ridgeline, 4WD tracks, forestry roads, cycleway paths, etc) - 959 Ks / 596 Ms
Road walking - 324 Ks / 201 Ms
River walking (in/through the river) - 54 Ks / 33 Ms
Beach walking - 22 Ks / 13 Ms
Farmlands - 48 Ks / 29 Ms
32 Swingbridges 
200 plus River Crossings
28 nights in a tent
18 nights in a hut
9 nights in a bed
13 showers
12 falls for P (this means I was on my butt)
5 falls for J
18 holes dug for "business" for J
11 holes dug for "business" for P
150 or so questions from "The Book of Questions" answered
22 other TA thru hikers met
Favorite Section: Nelson Lakes National Park
Least Favorite Section: 30 kilometers from Kiwi Hut to Arthur's Pass (before Deception River)
Best Meal: Fergburger (Justin) and Pasta Special from MacKenzie's in Lake Tekapo

Day 123: 35 Kilometers From Invercargill To Stirling Point In Bluff (THE END)

It is done. We have walked the entire length of New Zealand from Cape Reigna to Bluff.
Thank you to EVERYONE who supported us, whether in the form of encouraging words or housing/feeding us ... and of course our awesome gear sponsors! We could not have accomplished this feat without any of you.

Most normal people would rest, but we only have 3 weeks left in New Zealand and still so much to see and do. First up, some tramping on Stewart Island, which has a reputation for muddy trails. Yes, we are a glutton for punishment!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Days 116-122: 200 Kilometers From Te Anau to Invercargill

Hello from Invercargill! We are at kilometer 2962, which means we are one single day and about 30 kilometers from Bluff, the southern terminus of the Te Araroa. Holy cannoli. I can't even begin to process that we are just about done with walking the entire length of New Zealand. We will reach Bluff on Sunday, March 29 (Saturday, March 28 in the states). Yahoo!!!

The trail has really come full circle in the last 200-kilometer section. What I mean is that we saw some themes that we haven't seen since the North Island! It was like the Te Araroa was saying, "oh, you thought it would be an easy end. Hahahaha. No way. We need you to remember New Zealand and all the trail's hardships."

1) Memories of the North Island 

In he last 200K, we walked mostly through the forest, across some farmland, on a bit of beach, with some roads thrown in.

The forest was beautiful to be back in, as New Zealand forests are very "rainforest-like," so full of vibrant greens. It makes you feel like you are in some sort of fairytale land with the moss-covered trees. The downside of this setting is the mud and bogs. We walked on surfaces like these pictured below for a few days straight. I also set new records for how many times in a day I can fall.

If there is one thing I crave about post-trail and normal life, it is dry feet! I cannot overstate how wet our feet have been on the entire South Island. If we aren't walking through or across rivers, we are wet from mud and bogs. Add to that the fact that we've actually had rain the last week. People told me I'd have wet feet the whole time, but I didn't believe them. Or I didn't want to believe them. Either way, our feet have been wet for the last 40 days or so. You could say that as good Catholics, we gave up dry feet for Lent.

Nonetheless, the forest has been beautiful!

We haven't gotten a lot of views because of the rain, but when we did, they were excellent as usual.

The bird song wasn't as prominent as it was up north, but we did spot an owl. Actually, more like the owl spotted us, as it landed right where we were eating lunch!

The farmland was uneventful except for the fact that crossing so much private land meant difficulty finding campsites, which is very awkward and the complete opposite of fun. We actually hitched into a town one time for the pure fact it had a campground (and pub!). There were just a handful of huts in this section, and we only stayed in 2 of them, but they were welcomed when we came upon them. In fact, we ended up doing a short day out of Te Anau to one hut because of the rain and got cozy watching a movie on the iPad Mini and got a fire roaring. I also signed into the hut book as a Te Araroa hiker one last time, which was a bit sad.

As for the beach, we actually timed the tide schedule perfectly (for once) and our beach walking went smoothly, even with one big river crossing. The most interesting find on this beach ... Buried cars! 

What I can now claim about the South Island is that the trail is marked 10 times better than it was in the North Island. They should move some of these orange triangles up to the north ...

2) History 

We walked along a water race built in the 1880s by Chinese settlers who mined the area for gold. The race was for sluicing purposes, meaning they broke down the rock, then sifted it through the water to pull out the gold. It was a pretty amazing setup and apparently at one time, there were up to 500 Chinese settlers living in the area for 10 years so so.

Well, that is my update for the last 200K of trail. Like I said, we will be in Bluff shortly (probably by the time anyone reads this)!!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Days 112-115: 100 Kilometers From Queenstown to Te Anau

Hello from Te Anau, where we hitched 30K and are just resupplying quickly, then heading back to the trail the same day (although it is threatening rain out and very tempting to stay!). No shower, no bed, just a town meal and groceries. You can tell the end is near. We are at kilometer 2765, getting unbelievably close to that finish line at 3000K! 

We have only come 100 kilometers (60 miles) since Queenstown, so this is only a short update with no major themes and just a general overview (call me lazy).

The trail ended in Queenstown and picked back up on the other side of Lake Wakatipu at the Greenstone Track. In our trail notes, Lake Wakatipu is referred to as another "hazard zone" because it breaks the continuum of the trail. To get to the other side of the lake, you have to get a ride all around or take a water taxi. We called the water taxi company and they quoted us $600 for the ride to the trailhead. So we went with plan B. Luckily, the Greenstone Track is fairly popular and there are regular shuttle services for hire to get you to the trailhead. We could have tried our luck at hitching, but we wanted a sure thing and went with the shuttle service, which was not too pricy at $52/person.

So on Wednesday morning, we boarded a bus bound for our trailhead, hours away on gravel backcountry roads. The drive around the lake was spectacular. Apparently the lake head at Glenorchy serves as the backdrop for the Misty Mountains in Lord of the Rings and also were part of the movie advertisement posters.
Once on the trail, we spent most of our time in the forest. It was great to be back in the trees.

The rest of our time, we were on gravel roads. This was by choice. There was a 35-kilometer section of trail that others warned us about, calling it the worst part of the Te Araroa. Something about 6 species of prickly plants, no real trail, no markers, mud, bogs, tussock, blowdowns ... Need I say more? The trail traveled parallel to the road, so it was a no-brainer to take the alternate route. We haven't done a ton of road walking on the South Island, so that made a difference in our decision as well.
We get enough tussock on the rest of the trail, thank you very much.

It has been getting colder and colder as we move further and further away from the equator. Coupled with the fact that we are entering NZ's fall season, this makes for some really chilly and frosty mornings. Brrrr.
That's all I have for you now. There should be another update in 100K or so.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day 111: Zero Day in Queenstown

We thoroughly enjoyed our zero day in Queenstown and will be hitting the trail Wednesday for the last 325 kilometers (roughly 200 miles) left of the trail! Holy cow!! The home stretch is real!

We mostly took care of town tasks and relaxed around the awesome hostel (Adventure Queenstown). It was pretty chilly out and it was nice to be indoors for a change! 

But never too chilly for ice cream.

We made several FaceTime calls, resupplied and watched a few movies with other hostel guests, including "What We Do In The Shadows," which is a New Zealand movie about vampires and was freaking hilarious.

The other important task, as usual, is eating. But we took it to the next level this time. We ate burgers from what CNN recently labeled as "the best burger in the world." Enter Fergburger.

We heard about Fergburger and how we had to eat there the day we landed in Auckland back in November. So it has been on our minds for 4 months!!!

It certainly lived up to its rep, and that's not just hiker hunger talking! We are there twice just to make sure.
Last, but not least, we celebrated St. Patrick's Day with about 25 other Te Araroa hikers. There was an informal gathering organized at Pog Mahones Irish Bar and hikers came in from all points of the trail--some were done, some were still further up north and some (like us) got to Queenstown right on time! It was great to meet so many others and celebrate our accomplishments together.

And now, we hike on...almost there!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Days 107-110: 100 Kilometers From Wanaka to Queenstown

Hello from Adventure Queenstown Hostel

Queenstown is a BIG town, and we are actually taking our second South Island zero day here because there is a Te Araroa party taking place here on St. Patrick's Day. our timing to get here worked out perfectly! I will update about our Queenstown time before we hike on, so stay tuned, but for now, a hike report. 

We just finished the Motatapu Alpine Track, a short 100-kilometer (60-mile) section from Wanaka, and we are now at kilometer 2670. This past section may have been short, but it packed in a lot of punch. It was one of those sections that had a reputation. The word on the trail was that the huts were awesome, but the hiking was hard. We started off along Lake Wanaka, which was flat and beautiful.

Then, the climbing and other themes began.

1) Thank You, Shania Twain.
Shania Twain purchased land here, and at the same time, the Te Araroa Trust/Department of Conservation was trying to negotiate trail access (Motatapu Alpine Track) through the private land. Being she was a foreigner trying to buy land, the special deal was struck where she would allow hikers to walk across her property (but only in the hills, not near her home), pay for the construction/marking of the track AND pay for huts to be built on her property for the trampers! Her huts were among the newest we've seen, mouse-free, and spacious. We have seen a wide gamut in the quality of huts along the Te Araroa, so it was nice to know these were going to be top notch.

Despite this fact, J remains skeptical of all huts. He immediately inspects for mouse poop. And no matter how new and clean a hut looks, J likes to still give it a sweep. If you want to see more of the huts, I posted a video on our YouTube channel of one of them.
I don't believe Shania still comes to NZ or even owns the land, but it was a cool tidbit nonetheless!

2) Undulating and Sidling, My Least Favorite Words
As Per its rep, this section certainly delivered a serving of undulating and sidling trail. In fact, one day we climbed up and down so much, it added up to a gain of 1900 meters (6100 feet) and loss of 1900 meters (6100 feet). My calves were definitely burning that day. Below is a picture of Kevin above me and Justin below me to give a little perspective of one single climb.

But, I kind of loved it this time around. The views were just awesome and the track was well marked (thanks again Shania!) and I guess I am just used to the undulating and sidling by now. It is the norm on the TA. 

My mantra: "I love sidling, I love sidling, I love sidling." 

3) Record River Crossings
In this section, we had a choice. Take the high water route undulating in the bush or follow the Arrow River. This is how I know we've been in New Zealand too long. When given that choice, we tramped the "kiwi way," which means just go in the river. We followed the Arrow River, but this mostly meant we were in the river or crossing it numerous times. 69 times to be exact.
But I am not complaining this time. The Arrow River was quite a pretty and easy river to travel through. 
Plus, gold was discovered in the river back in the 1800s. We walked through Macetown, which is now a ghost town abandoned after the gold mining era. Some might say there is still gold to be found in the river (and there is a whole tourist industry built on that), but we can attest that there is not. If anyone is going to find gold in the river, it would be eagle eye J. He had his head down looking almost the whole time and found not a single speck! 

4) Queenstown's Dirty Laundry Basket
As usual when we are road walking through and into bigger towns, we encounter every bit of civilization from suburban neighborhoods to golf courses. 

For Queenstown, our trail notes said this:
"Beyond this point, this track becomes a veritable trip through Queenstown's dirty laundry basket." It wasn't as scary as it sounds, but it did make for some interesting trail! 
This sign is apparently for tourists from Asia who don't flush toilet paper in their respective countries. NZ does.

That's it for now as we go and enjoy our zero day!