Chuffed: Havelock to St Arnaud

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Day 71: Havelock to Pelorus River Camp, 22km

Man I must have been tired because I slept until 9:30 today! Which would have been totally great had it not been for the grumpy woman running the holiday park who was less than kind about us being late out of the room. To her dismay, Matt managed to quickly cook bacon and eggs, which we devoured quickly before she could find another chance to be a rude, crusty beyotch. Honestly, some holiday parks aren’t super keen on hikers so the vibe can be a little weird. Anyway, we got out of there as quickly as possible and lugged our obscene amount of food up the post office. We shipped our massive resupply boxes off to St Arnaud and Arthur’s Pass, putzed around town for a bit, grabbed a Gatorade and ice cream cone from the store, and hit the road. We only had to walk three kilometers along the highway before turning onto a much quieter, remote paved road. If you keep your eyes open on the side of the road, you can snatch all the delicious, ripe, wild blackberries straight off the vine. There always seems to be some kind of tasty fruit lurking around in the bushes here.

Bits of green never hurt

Eventually the road hits a stile leading you through pastures and whatnot for a few kilometers before hitting a forested track to Pelorus Bridge. The crickets in that forest were absolutely out of control loud, which we thought might hinder our ability to sleep! So we continued to the campsite, begrudgingly paid to set up our tent, said hi to the growing family of TA hikers, cooked dinner, and passed out.


Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Day 72: Pelorus River Camp to Captains Creek Hut, 21km

Walking into the misty valley on the gravel road
This picture does no justice to the beauty of the Pelorus

The first half of today was spent cruising along a gravel road by the river until reaching a chill, leisurely track that led straight to Captains Creek Hut. We tried stopping for a snack break, but within 3 minutes the Sandflies were swarming. I have heard about the Sandflies being bad on the south island, but I really had no idea exactly what to expect. By the time I reached the hut I was dripping from the humidity, and very ready for a swim in the river. The Pelorus River is an amazingly clear river with light blue water, and very enticing for swimming. We walked down to the river, and as soon as I took my clothes off, there were hundreds of Sandflies everywhere! I was so shocked that I quickly dunked in the water, grabbed my pack and ran butt naked into the hut. If the little fuckers didn’t bite, I might not have cared as much, but history has proven the devilish black insects to leave behind a painful, super itchy, nasty wound. I definitely think I’m somewhat allergic, so I was not fucking around when I decided to take yet another Deet bath and layer up. I know Deet is a nasty poison that will burn through your clothes, and most certainly can’t be healthy to put on your skin, but I also know that the chemical keeps the bugs from biting me so I’ll do whatever I gotta do! I’m definitely going to have to find ways to adjust to the insanity or I might not make it down this island! Every time I went outside, there would be Sandflies swarming me within seconds, so I chose to spend the afternoon reading Animal Farm, which somebody had left behind. We had been the first ones to arrive, but over the course of the evening at least 12 other TA hikers showed up and started building tent city outside. I was glad to have space in the tiny hut for no reason other than the bugs, but did have to pop outside every now and then for fresh air. Eventually bedtime rolled around, I took one last breath of fresh air, then crawled into the stuffy hut and passed out.


Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

Day 73: Captains Creek Hut to Rocks Hut, 11km

Apparently the forecast includes multiple days of rain, and the particular sections of trail coming up can become impassable during heavy rain due to flooding. So everyone has the same idea to kick it at a hut and wait out the rain. That said, the huts have limited space and everyone clearly wants a cozy spot inside, so I was not surprised to see tent city had been completely deconstructed by the time I awoke. Unless I know there’s a long distance to cover, I’m really never in a hurry to get moving in the morning so I’m pretty used to being the last one out of camp. The short walk to Middy’s Hut was along a basic trail next to the river. Rock’s Hut was another five kilometers of actual uphill during which I got stung by a wasp and the rain started up. By the time I reached Rock’s Hut, I was very wet and very excited to get into the hut where I could smell a warm fire burning. Since our plan was to hitch into Nelson for a resupply, we decided to just stay at Rock’s Hut upon realizing there’s a mountain bike trail leading straight into town. Over the course of the afternoon, at least 15 more people showed up, all TA walkers. The hut sleeps 16 so we had more than a full house. Right after we arrived, the rain started falling and has only gotten worse so I understand why everyone is here! Nobody wants to walk around in torrential downpour if they don’t have to. I was honestly a little overwhelmed with such a large number of mostly unfamiliar faces, and my stomach was acting up so I retreated to my bunk and spent the afternoon journaling. This one amazing woman, Anthie, let me use her crazy zapper thing that she uses to help with pains and aches so I played with it for awhile. She was hoping it would help my stomach, but I experimented with various leg muscles too. It has little sticky pads that you place anywhere that hurts, and the device sends out some kind of electrical current that supposedly helps your body to heal. I put the pads on my left quad and the whole muscle was pulsing around, the whole thing was pretty cool. Eventually dinner time arrived and I quietly ate some ramen in the fresh air of the porch under the roof, still protected from rain of course. There were too many people for me to really process what was going on. Matt and I have been mostly on our own up until now, so I need to start getting used to dozens of other hikers. It definitely is pretty rad though to actually see how many of us are in the TA game together. I chatted with Anthie for while which was awesome. She is a really amazing Australian woman who exudes confidence, warmth, and compassion, and does so with extremely genuinely. She works as a counselor which probably explains how well she encourages and engages in meaningful conversation. I’m a big fan.


Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Day 74: Resupply in Nelson, 40km

With the upcoming Richmond Range being a nine to ten day stretch between convenient resupplies, we made the executive decision to hike down to Nelson for more food midway through, rather than carry super heavy packs. To some this may seem like excessive walking, but I wanted to check out Nelson anyway. We could easily leave all of our gear at the hut and just carry empty packs. Any day without your pack is going to be a good day. Turns out there are a multitude of mountain biking trails leading from Rocks Hut straight into Nelson, so our plan was perfect. I was woken up around 5:30 to the rustling sound of hikers getting ready for the day, but managed to sleep a little longer. And when I woke up there were blue skies! In line with our usual fashion, Matt and I leisurely enjoyed our morning hut life, got hacked on coffee, hung out with the other twenty people, and set out for Nelson around 10:30. The first part of trail followed what was basically a flowing stream after the monsoon, and eventually led above treeline. There was quite a bit of fog still, but I was enjoying the exposure nonetheless. The track descended from the Coppermine saddle, contouring around the mountain side along a wide, groomed mountain bike track before reaching the Third House shelter. From Third House, we chose to walk up and over Jenkins Hill, which turned out to be a steeply undulating gravel road following a giant electric fence bordering a sanctuary of some kind. The last thousand feet were a ridiculously steep descent into the back of a holiday park. We crossed the river and began looking for a hitch into town. Some super nice guy in a truck picked us up and delivered us right at the Countdown. I ran into Hannah while grocery shopping, which might not seem that weird but the timing of running into one of the thirty people I know in this country is insane. Anyway, once I stocked up, I began my hunt to all the outdoor stores to see if anyone could help with my SeatoSummit pot that decided to crack and start leaking on me. SeatoSummit gear is enticing but really sucks. Don’t buy it. They are, however, very helpful in replacing broken gear so I left Hunting and Fishing with a new, bigger, nicer version of my Xpot free of charge. It’s honestly unnecessarily large, but I’m into it and it was free. Meanwhile I contacted my friend Tim who had picked up my Steripen that I left at the Havelock Holiday Park, and turns out he was in Nelson so he personally delivered my water purifier back to me. Again, unbelievably perfect timing of events. Finally around six we realized we should probably begin the long trek back to the hut, especially not knowing whether or not there would be a million people again. I wasn’t super keen on climbing back up the super steep slope, so we looked at the map and realized the Dun Mountain Trail would be a slightly longer, but much more gradual ascent route with awesome views of Nelson below.

Nelson from the Fun Mountain Track

We reached the Coppermine saddle just as darkness started to set in. A light mist began to fall amongst heavy fog, which turned our night hike into a mysterious, eerie, awesome adventure. Walking in darkness was so surreal I felt like I was in a video game. The marker poles were very difficult to follow, merely appearing as faded silhouettes on a dark gray backdrop, but with two sets of eyes we managed to find our way back to the hut around 10:30pm. Fortunately our things were perfectly undisturbed so we quietly found our sleeping supplies, and enjoyed a much needed dinner in darkness on the porch. Nothing like a bread roll and a can of teriyaki chicken to satisfy you before bed after a long, twelve hour day.


Friday, January 19th, 2018

Day 75: Rocks Hut to Starveall Hut, 20km

There was blue sky out this morning! And whaddya know, Rocks Hut actually has an awesome view when you can see! I was woken up super early again, but I think I’ll just have to get used to that if we’re living hut life. We started the forested track towards Starveall Hut, which stayed in the trees for awhile before popping out onto an exposed ridge.

Perfect place for a snack break

Wanting to take full advantage of the open air, we stopped for a snack break and gulped in the breeze before dipping back into the trees. The whole route to Browning Hut was a gradual descent with a few river crossings that started to irritate my feet, nothing that a quick Lowdie Wrap couldn’t fix. From Browning, another short walk by the river led us to Hackett Hut where we found Bill, Jasper, and Adrian. At this point we had descended about 400 meters to the grassy, riverside field,  prepared ourselves for the upcoming 800 meter climb. The afternoon sun was blazing hot, and I was sweating bullets feeling pretty disgusting. Fortunately, the six kilometer trek ahead crossed the river numerous times. I couldn’t exist the urge to strip down and go for a swim before beginning the very steep, relentless climb through the forest. 2500 feet of gain in less than two miles is pretty steep. By the time we arrived at the hut, my calves were on fire and I was drenched in humid sweat, but I had zero complaints. We had completed the climb up into the Richmond mountains where we’d get to stay high for the next week. I also love a chance to go uphill for more than thirty minutes! I felt like I was actually working hard for a reward, like I had a purpose and a destination. And I did! The view from Starveall Hut was amazing. The only bad thing that happened was my tent pole totally snapping and becoming useless despite our best efforts. Matt has the tarp at least, which is less than ideal because no bug protection exists, but hey, it’s a shelter.

Perfect hot chocolate sunset
Beef ravioli is life

But I couldn’t be too upset because I remembered about the beef ravioli and sauce I bought in Nelson yesterday for dinner tonight. Fresh pasta in the backcountry is a fucking treat and it was next level delicious. We ate a second couscous dinner because we’re fatties and earned it. The last bit of evening was spent drinking hot chocolate and watching an epic sunset over the hills. I am chuffed.


Saturday, January 20th, 2018

Day 76: Starveall Hut to Rintoull Hut, 18km

Morning scene
Uh oh I lost my pants!
Finally above treeline for real!!!!

No amount of words will be able to describe how amazing today was. I am FINALLY ACTUALLY FOR REAL in the mountains. The South Island is already like another world. I woke up in a clearing with the first rays of sun shining









on a mountain top. The air was chilly and crisp, the grass was covered in dew, and my stoke level was higher than it’s been in weeks. Coffee was made straight from the sleeping bag as I waited for my wet clothes to warm up in the sun. We hit the trail earlier than usual because I was just too excited to spend a day above treeline. Almost immediately we ascended above the trees and got our first taste of the Richmond Range expanding in every direction. We dipped down into a forest for a little while until emerging back out of the trees, eventually arriving at Slaty’s Hut.

I spy Slatys Hut
Ridge track
Approaching Little Rintoul
Descent down Little Rintoul leading to Rintoul

From there, the trail follows an alpine ridgeline with more unbelievable views everywhere before dipping back into the forest. From the forest saddle, we began climbing steeply up roughly 1500 feet to the summit of Little Rintoull, which was significantly above treeline. From the summit, we descended almost the same amount on a steep, scree covered slope before beginning the second 1500 foot ascent to the summit of Mt Rintoull, where we sat for nearly two hours just absorbing the whole thing.

View from the top of Rintoul
Someone took all my clothes what?!

First of all, a whole day of ups and downs ABOVE TREELINE with significant gain on rocky, steep, difficult terrain. Secondly, the weather was ABSOLUTELY PERFECT and we had views with layers of mountains, but also the ocean which is something I’ve never seen before. I don’t think I realized how much I needed the mountains until today, considering the last two months on the North Island really didn’t involve many ranges at all. I feel so incredibly energized, happy in every fiber of my being, stoked beyond belief, inspired, grateful, exhausted, centered, and full. The feeling was mutual amongst everyone at camp. If the rest of the TA is like this then BRING IT ON!!!


Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Day 77: Mt Rintoul Hut to Top Wairoa Hut, 22km

One of the perks to living tarp life since my tent broke is definitely making coffee in our sleeping bags, as long as the bug situation is minimal. Per usual, we were the last to wake up and casually made our way out of camp, enjoying the fast moving clouds and awakening mountains. I have been feeling super excited to walk every day, knowing there are actual mountains ahead, not just a road or a pasture. I feel my energy coming back with a deep level of contentment and purpose.

Enjoying views on PurpleTop
Open forest track

Today’s walk began with a short climb up mixed grass and rock to the summit of Purple Top. I soaked up the exposed views before starting the long descent to Mid Wairoa. The trail maintained a mellow grade through a beautiful green forest that was thin enough to still allow sunshine and a light breeze with occasional open vistas. Eventually the track turned into brutally steep switchbacks leading to a swinging bridge right before the hut. Everyone who had been at Rintoul Hut was at Mid Wairoa resting, snacking, and swimming in the river to get a break from the hot sun. At this point the trail family includes: Katie from Germany, Allie from Canada, Hannah and Joe from California, Jasper from Belgium, Chris and Kay from the UK, Bill from Australia, Adrian from France, and another French dude whose name I forget. We’re quite the bunch. Anyway, the next hut only has 6 bunks so we decided to continue hiking rather than break halfway through. The trail follows the banks of the Wairoa river on a narrow track with pretty significant cliffs at points, and crosses over the incredibly blue, heavily flowing, picturesque river about eight times. I learned the hard way that stinging nettle is a painful grip coming down a slippery slope. Also, living in the moist, dense roots of massive trees are thousands of wasps. I mean these suckers were everywhere, hovering just above the ground everywhere you look, despite the DOC’s attempts to manage the situation with wasp poison boxes. They’re just too persistent; it’s like walking through a minefield. Fortunately the trail wasn’t very steep so the walking was easy, and the beauty and coolness of the river refreshed my body and soul. Unfortunately, two little fuckers stung me, once in the leg, and once right on my toe. And damn wasp stings hurt like a bitch! I’ve now been stung four times in the last two months which is more than my entire life, but I’m learning. Thank god I’m not allergic, that would be more like a death trap than a mine field, seriously. If I’m being honest, between the wasp stings, the stinging nettle, slipping in my Chacos a hundred times, sore ankles, and probably a bit of dehydration, I was feeling a bit frustrated and defeated. But before I could have a complete meltdown, we crushed one final steep, rocky ascent to arrive at the little orange Top Wairoa Hut.

Wairoa River

After a quick snack and some water, I headed straight for the river for not just a swim, but a complete bath and a bit of laundry. Today was day seven of the Richmond Range, so some cleansing was much needed. This is how I imagined showering on a thru-hike anyway, so I’m fucking stoked. Soaping up in a pristine river on a hot, sunny day in a backcountry location? Yes please! My spirits were soaring and I felt like a new woman upon returning to the hut to hang my wet clothes on the line. At this point, most everyone had arrived and the hut was getting crammed so we meandered up the hill to find a perfect, almost flat spot to set up the tarp. Not only was the view better, but the spot was more exposed and offered a little space from the crowded hut. Kay came up to hang out for a bit while we tried and failed to eat the accidentally gigantic portion of couscous cooked for dinner. I was so ready for bed, and just when I laid down another seam popped in my pad, creating too big of a lump and forcing me to sleep with my feet hanging off the ends. So this last week alone, my tent, my pot, and my pad have all pooped out on me! Not the end of the world, but definitely frustrating when you buy nice gear and it breaks and you’re in the bush and can’t do anything to fix it. But oh well! I’m hopeful the next town in two days will be able to help me out. Until then? Sleeeeeeeeppppp!!!


Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Day 78: Top Wairoa Hut to Porters Creek Hut, 17km

How could you not want to take your time waking up to this?

Talk about a leisurely morning…we woke up at 9, made coffee, stretched, enjoyed the misty peaks, and slowly packed up our gear, knowing only seventeen comparatively easy kilometers separated us from the next hut. My watch read 11:30 by the time we hit the trail, probably the most casual start time of the trip yet. The weather blessed us with gray skies, cool temperatures, yet good visibility as we began the rocky ascent towards Mt Ellis. I wasn’t sure what to expect for the 800 meter climb after the long, steep ascents over the last few days, and was pleased to find myself gradually gaining elevation as I traversed the open mountainside.

More ridge walks
Looking back towards the valley
Traversing towards Ellis
Wiped from trees

I could see down into the lush valley to my left, and saw red, green, and brown ridges and peaks everywhere else. The trail contours just around the summit of Mt Ellis where we stopped for a snack break and views before starting a beautiful, forested descent with a few river crossings and a short uphill climb to reach Hunters Hut. A handful of our friends were posted up inside the cozy little cabin, so we stopped to socialize for a bit. Eventually we continued towards our destination as the trail undulated over ridges and through valleys at a mellow grade. We were mostly in open forests or on steep dirt tracks climbing what looked like a giant rock slide zone. A few hours after leaving our friends, I spotted the orange roof of Porters Creek Hut in the distance. A short thirty minutes later we had crossed the green valley, marveled at the sun beginning to set, and were greeted at the hut by more friends and lots of curious bumblebees. There are only four of us here which is a peaceful change of pace from the last few days, even though our little family through this section was pretty epic. I’m a little sad to be ending the Richmond Range adventure because this place is beautiful, but I am sooooooo unbelievably stoked for two more months of mountains. Life is too good.


Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Day 79: Porters Creek Hut to St Arnaud, 31km

Let’s see what happened today…Bill, Adrian, and Elie departed early, leaving Matt and I by ourselves to welcome the sun and drink coffee. Our other friends who had stayed at the last hut arrived at Porters before we were even packed up, because I guess most people like to get an early start on the day. There’s for sure a time and a place for an early start, but today was not that time. Not for me anyway. The last few days I have been taking the lead, which forces Matt to slow down and enjoy the scenery more, and also helps me not feel like I’m constantly running to catch up. But I also know sometimes the crazy man needs to let loose. So I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised when he wanted to take off and just meet me at the Red Hills Hut. As Matt bounded away across the rocks, I too was feeling pretty fucking awesome on this beautiful sunny day, and definitely pushed my pace into the sweet cardio zone as I cruised up and down through the river valley.

I spy Red Hills Hut

The Red Hills Hut is located in a gorgeous valley with a pristine mountain backdrop, where I found Matt laying in the grass surrounded by at least four different bags of assorted snacks and candy. A pretty standard scene in my life these days. Multiple other TA walkers showed up while I was stopped for a snack, so I hung out for awhile to socialize. Most people took the shorter 4WD track straight down to the road, but I opted for the longer forest track with a slight uphill before the final descent into town. The weather was so perfect and I was feeling way too good to just be done hiking so I set off by myself. The track climbed up a few hundred meters through a beech forest, offering awesome views of the St Arnaud range, Rotoiti Lake, and the whole valley below.

4WE route
Views into the valley

I eventually hit another 4WD road that led steeply down to the highway. No part of me wanted to walk eight kilometers down a state highway during the hottest part of the day, so I stuck my thumb out and had a ride within minutes. Our room at the Travers-Sabine Lodge was cute, clean, and perfect for a rest day. After a quick shower, I headed straight to the lodge for wedges with Matt and some other friends. The town of St Arnaud is super small and cute. They have a tiny general store with a café attached, the Travers-Sabine Lodge, a hotel lodge with a restaurant and bar, another small breakfast café, and that’s about it, so I wasn’t surprised everyone we knew wound up at the same place. Eventually bedtime rolled around, but first I had to marvel at the incredible sky of stars, complete with an epic view of the Milky Way, and wonder how I got to be so lucky.


Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Day 80: Zero Day in St Arnaud

How I take a zero…hard work

Wow I really can’t believe a whole month has already passed since Christmas. Time is flying and there’s nothing I can do to slow down the minutes. The only solution is to truly make every second count! Which is why I slept in this morning, checked into the cyber world for awhile, and strolled down the street to our favorite lodge to roast in the sun while devouring a mega brekky of bacon, sausage, potato, egg, mushroom, tomato, toast, and coffee. I picked up some much needed but overpriced sour squirms from the general store before returning to the lodge for an awesome Facetime sesh with my mom and grandma, Dandy. After throwing some laundry in, I was pretty much stuck in the room because I don’t have any extra clothes to wear whilst my stinky layers get washed, so I utilized the time to blog, send emails about my broken gear, and catch up with the outside world. The laundry finished just in time to meet our friends Hannah and Rob at the Alpine Lodge for a second round of wedges because you can never have too many fried potatoes. Chris and Kay were also at the lodge, and the next thing I knew I was sitting at an outdoor table with at least a dozen TA hikers! The trail passes straight through St Arnaud so it would make sense that anyone hiking the TA would have walked right by us. I was really digging the sense of community growing around the trail, but also really wanted to go swimming in the lake before the blazing sun disappeared. So we bid adieu to all of our friends and headed down to Lake Rotoiti for an early evening dip. The sun was still blazing which made the perfectly cool water feel unbelievably refreshing, and the mountains jutting out from the perimeter of the lake made for picture perfect scenery.

Mt Robert behind Lake Rotoiti…kind of reminds me off Buffalo in Summit, anyone?

Eventually we decided to munch on some honey soy chicken chips, which quickly drew the attention of the nearest duck family that clearly had already been habituated to human activity considering the few inches of separation between us and their beaks. Sure, the ducks were perhaps a little too close for comfort, but they were also pretty cute so I let it slide. That is until the giant, black, long-necked geese also decided to join the party. Something about two massive birds standing less than a foot away from me, stretching out their elongated necks, was hilariously unsettling. Fortunately they disappeared with just a smidge of encouragement, but the whole scene was pretty entertaining. I was just trying to eat my chips dude. Anyway, 6:30 rolled around so we headed back to Travers-Sabine. I called Clea and whatnot while Matt cooked up some tasty veggie stir fry, per usual. Nothing crazy happened after dinner because I went to sleep. The end.

Volume Two: Wellington to Havelock

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Day 66: Wellington to Picton

Ferrying to the South Island!

Whew I actually was able to sleep like a rock considering the temperature was normal. I spent the morning chatting with Owain and his flatmates before they all left for work, leaving me with an empty house to organize my shit and figure out some details for the upcoming tracks. I went to the grocery store, mailed a food supply box and a postcard, and met Clea at the hostel. We took an Uber to the ferry terminal to embark on the 2:45 ferry to Picton on the South Island! It’s still crazy that I have officially completed the whole North Island and the second chapter is actually beginning. The weather was still rainy and cloudy unfortunately so I couldn’t really see much, and I was trying not to get sea sick the whole time, but Clea and I were both very excited to be finally heading south. We stayed at the  amazing, colorful Atlantis Hostel ran by an eccentric woman from New York. I picked up a few more things from the store before Clea and I went out for pizza with this Coloradan named Max we had just met at the hostel. I talked them into playing a little bit of Balderdash when we returned, but that only lasted so long. Eventually these three awesome Kiwis named Billy, Lily, and Dan walked in and needed a fourth person for pool. I offered myself up and wound up laughing and sucking at pool until like 2am. I seriously cannot stress enough how awesome the people are here. It’s unreal!


Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Day 67: Picton to Camp Bay, 23km

I was definitely a bit tired waking up this morning after playing pool and hanging out until 2am, but it was worth it. I took a shower, packed up my shit, and ate free toast with Clea and our new friend Max before leaving to catch the 9am water taxi to Ship Cove. I really didn’t want to say goodbye to Clea yet again, but I’m very grateful that I got to spend some time with her over the last few days. She is also seriously considering buying a van which would be awesome because with that level of freedom and independence she can travel around so much more easily! Which would be perfect for her, and hopefully allow me to see more of her too. The water taxi from Picton to Ship Cove was a quick hour and a half ride up Queen Charlotte Sound. Unfortunately the weather was rainy and cloudy with low visibility, plus the windows were fogged up so I struggled to actually see any of the sound. I did manage to sneak in a power nap though which helped with sea sickness anyway. By the time we arrived in Ship Cove I was about to pee in my pants so I dropped my pack and rushed to the bathroom. Just as I was collecting my things, I felt hands on my shoulders and alas it was Matt! He had taken the water taxi yesterday and camped by the dock to await my arrival. I’m glad we were able to get some space from each other in Wellington, and I was also glad to reunite with the ginger troll himself. I put on my fresh pair of hiking boots and we set off on the trail. The track was steep and very slippery due to the rain, and I quickly became aware of how much extra food was in my pack given its ridiculous weight. Eventually the track leveled out and we were walking on a flat, groomed, double wide trail skirting the edge of Queen Charlotte Sound. Based on the map, I had assumed the Queen Charlotte Track would be a remote bush walk, but when we passed a house two hours in, I started to realize the track was nothing like what I’d expected. I don’t know what I’d expected exactly, but certainly not a groomed trail with fancy houses, lodges, cafés, and restaurants accessible mainly by boat. Some really nice lady let me dress a blister on her private porch before we stopped at the overly nice Ferneaux Lodge for a snack. I don’t know what I do wrong when I walk, but my calves were completely covered in mud and I felt beyond out of place. But whatever. We finished our weird snack break and kept walking until we ran into another old TA friend Bill and his wife, Anthie. The TA family is back in full force by now and it’s awesome. Before arriving at the Camp Bay campsite, I ran into my Kiwi friends Billy, Lily, and Dan from the hostel, and joined them for a few card games. Once at camp, I couldn’t resist the temptation to order onion rings and calamari at the nearby lodge. Did I think that would have even been an option on this trail? No. Could I turn down fried food? Also no. Back at camp, everyone was hanging out chatting and whatnot. I wound up staying up late playing cards and having deep conversations with Billy, Lily and Dan. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to have some legitimate, genuine, insightful conversation about relationships, mindsets, perspectives, and life with a group of relative strangers.

Wickers are so weird

I am always stoked to meet my kind of people and fully intend on being in contact with those three when I’m off the trail. I finally crawled into my tent, made sure my food was safe from the wickers (these giant, weird, chicken-like birds that will peck through tents for food), and fell asleep to the sound of rain.


Friday, January 12th, 2018

Day 68: Camp Bay to Cowshed Bay, 24km

Mt Stokes!
Queen Charlotte Sound

Today turned out to kind of be a lazy day. Something about the dreary weather, lack of views, and easy trail had me feeling like walking slow, stopping a lot, and taking my sweet ass time. Originally we had thought maybe we’d crush the 50 kilometers all the way to Havelock, but wound up only making it 25 kilometers to Cowshed Bay. First we stopped for a snack break and to enjoy what appeared to be a decent view of Queen Charlotte’s Sound. Our snack consisted of gummy bears, sour squirms, chocolate pretzels, and chocolate ginger. Super healthy I know. So when we started walking again I was all jacked up on sugar. We created alternative egos for ourselves a whole background story. I’ll introduce you to Mossy de LaFleur and Tom Whittaker later. An hour later we stopped at the Black Rock Campground, laid down on the picnic table, and proceeded to take an hour long nap. Talk about a sugar crash. We were crushing the trail basically. Soon after we arrived at the Cowshed Bay camp, setup our tents, and cruised over to the nearby lodge for wedges with some fellow TA hikers. You know, just because I imagined this track being remote wilderness doesn’t mean I shouldn’t enjoy the hot, fried potatoes available to me. If I’ve learned anything about the TA it’s that nothing is predictable, always expect the unexpected, and enjoy whatever comes your way. With a full belly I was so ready to crawl into my cozy tent and fall asleep.


Saturday, January 13th, 2018

Day 69: Cowshed Bay to Havelock, 24km

1818 kilometers traveled!!!

Queen Charlotte Sound transformed by sunshine
Still beautiful without sun too!!!

Woke up casually, ate breakfast, and started walking. The sun actually came out enough to transform the gray water of Queen Charlotte’s Bay into an unbelievable shade of turquoise blue. It truly is incredible what a different experience nature can be when you can actually see where you are. The hike was pretty easy and we were moving quickly despite the hot sun and humidity. I stopped multiple times just to appreciate the beauty, and arrived in Anakiwa just in time for the rain.

Typical leg after a day of hiking

We walked maybe 7 kilometers down the paved road in the rain before deciding to just hitch into Havelock because honestly, at this point we are both so over the whole road walking thing. After settling in and cleaning up, we went out for wedges and ran into our fellow TA friend Hannah who I hadn’t seen in weeks so that was fun. The rest of the evening was spent catching up on the interwebs and listening to a really weird, chronologically reversed history of  Mickey Hart’s solo albums.



Sunday, January 14th, 2018

Day 70: Admin Day in Havelock

Slept in. Got bacon for breakfast. Planned for the upcoming mountain tracks. Hitched to Blenheim for food resupply. Bought basically three weeks worth of food. Hitched back to Havelock. Marveled at the obscene amount of food in front of us. Got super chuffed about the upcoming section in the Richmond Range. Pretty wild day. Buuuuuuuuttttttt the best part was actually seeing mountains!!! They are real. They exist! I can feel their greatness already.

So much food!!!
Hi my name is Matt Stuhler and I have a bar problem

We are sending boxes full of food to multiple points along the trail where there is no resupply, hence the bed full of goodies. I also went on another battered mussel hunt with Hannah. Apparently Havelock is a mussel center, they are everywhere. First I got two battered mussels from The Hairy Mussel. I’d give them an 8 out of 10, with 10 being the Mangamuka Dairy battered mussel. Then we went to Slip Inn, which didn’t have battered mussels but had some delicious steamed Green Curry mussels. So I got down on basically an entire kilogram of those before coming back to the holiday park to hang out with the massive party of TA hikers gathered in the tenting area. Then I blogged, did laundry, and got down on steak, broccoli and potatoes. All I really have to say is how fucking ready I am for some actual backpacking, in actual mountains, with actually challenging terrain, and actual use for backcountry navigation skills. Let’s go South Island!!!

A Fiesty, Northern Finale: Palmerston North to Wellington

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Day 58: Palmerston North to Toko Corner Road, 30km

Fresh kicks!

Wahooooooo back to trail life baby!!! New kicks ready to rumble! I was finally able to quickly resupply food this morning before starting the last tracks to Wellington. Nothing beats a fully stocked food bag, it’s like a little fat, chunky baby just waiting for you to dig in so it doesn’t weigh 500 pounds anymore. Today’s hike was pretty mellow and there was some road walking involved, but it was majority calm back roads with little to no traffic, and mostly gravel versus paved. One section was on a mountain biking trail in the green tunnel, Nothing crazy but a million times better than a state highway! We cruised about 30 kilometers before setting up camp by a random lake amongst rolling fields of pine trees, and managed to set up the tarp just in time for the rain which accompanied us through the evening. Honestly just being outside again, walking all day, moving the body, sorting through thoughts, listening to music and sleeping in my tent has me feeling like a new woman already. I’m very excited for what’s to come.

Tarp life
Back on the trail

Oh, also for an update on Clea since I keep mentioning the situation but haven’t explained it yet because it makes me sad. After Tongariro, she went back to the doctor and turns out her Achilles was torn even worse so she’s been rocking a boot for two weeks. After another follow-up this afternoon, a scan confirmed her Achilles is starting to heal itself! Fortunately that means she doesn’t have to have surgery, which is a huge relief because surgery is never a super fun event. The downside is she has to keep living boot life for a little while. She goes back in two weeks and, based on scan results, will know what the next step is. She obviously can’t hike, so we are temporarily separated until we can get after a few girls days together in Wellington so I’m stoked about that. But really however you look at the situation, it’s a big, fat bummer on both ends. And a huge reminder of the importance of being malleable, open-minded, and forwardly positive when life comes along and fucks up your original plans.

Trail magic


Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

Day 59: Toko Corner Road to Outdoor Pursuits, 33km

La dee daa! A fast, solo cruiser day in the green tunnel today got me feeling back to normal. I decided to have Matt meet me at the Outdoor Pursuits place which happened to be over 30 kilometers away so that we could have cruiser days through the forest all to ourselves. We’re just about the same pace, but he’s a little faster, especially when my foot is hurting, so naturally he winds up waiting for me here and there. We have also been together like 24 hours a day basically for weeks now, so I’m sure you can understand the necessity for some space. Any good team needs to be strong as individuals to continue being healthy partners so today was the perfect opportunity.

Just in case you couldn’t see the individual beads of sweat










Ever since Palmy North, the air has been unbelievably humid. I was sweating buckets hiking into the Tararua Range, sinking into the perfect forest groove. Nothing was too steep or relentless today, just a lot of small ups and downs and stream crossings. Even though views were very limited because of the green tunnel, I hardly cared because I was so happy and feeling so spectacular. Thunder was crackling almost all day too, and just about every hour rain would pour down for awhile, just long enough to wash off the sweat and cool me down. I really couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. I found Matt at the Outdoor Pursuits lodge, which is basically the camping and hang out area for the Outdoor Pursuits students. The owners run the whole organization and allow TA hikers to use their facilities including shower, washer, full kitchen,  lounge, beds, etc. for free! They even gave us dinner including chicken sandwiches, banana, tomato and sausage. True trail angels. I was able to wash off the dirt and sweat too. But now I am very tired and going to sleep.


Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Day 60: Outdoor Pursuits to Dracophyllum Hut, 22km


Where do I even begin the story of today’s radical adventure?! I guess morning makes the most logical sense, just so much dopeness happened today I’m just excited. After rubbing my eyes open on the couch in the Outdoor Pursuits lodge, I enjoyed a steaming cup of French pressed coffee as I wondered what I did to deserve such an incredible, free gift of hospitality. I pulled on my freshly clean and dry hiking outfit that has become somewhat of a second skin, and put forth my best efforts to leave the kitchen cleaner than when I arrived…literally a valuable lesson I can throwback to the Girl Scout Code from the sixth grade. John, one of our hosts, had informed us that the local weather was forecasting a small, tropical storm to hit today and tomorrow with super high winds and heavy rain. We were heading deeper into the Tararua Forest which is notoriously susceptible to rapidly changing, relatively severe, weather. With exposed ridges and steep, rooted, muddy terrain, severe weather could quickly double, if not triple, your normal pace. I’ve been through enough Northland Forests now to understand the slow moving nature of certain tracks! Our food supply was perfect to comfortably get us to the next town on the assumption we crushed 25 to 30 kilometers a day, but the last thing I wanted was to be tired, hungry, wet, and cold because the forest took twice as many days as expected. So we accepted John’s offer for a ride to the local supermarket, followed by a quick lift five kilometers down the road to the trailhead. John wished us luck and drove off while Matt and I devoured some muffins, much to the excitement of the greedy, nearby chickens who very closely and vocally begged for all the crumbs. Around 10:30 we began the steep, forested ascent of the ridge track to the Waiopehu Hut. The 2,500 foot gain to the hut was a mixture of high, rooted steps, steep declines, and flatter, leafy sections that combined with thick, muggy air and a fast, cardio pace to spit me out at Waiopehu looking like a soggy beach towel you accidentally left outside in a thunderstorm. I was so god damn drippy and sweaty I thought I might be overheating or something, so I was pleased to discover Matt also drenched, rinsing his sweaty ass shirt out in the sink.

This is what hiking shirtless in 500% humidity will do to your back

The expansive views from Waiopehu provided a perfect backdrop to snarf some snacks, chug heaps of water, and let our bodies return to a somewhat normal temperature after dumping cold water over our scalps. We had covered the first ten kilometers with significant gain in less than three hours, so it didn’t seem outrageous to assume we’d crush the five kilometers with relatively mellow vert to the Te Matawai Hut in about an hour and a half. Well, turns out the track following Dora Ridge is very muddy, very overgrown, and very sharply steep with ups and downs, which makes walking much more of a foot and body dance than a cruiser hike.

Misty Tararua mountains on the ridge to Dracophyllum

The track is also partly out of the green tunnel, instead on exposed, tall grassy terrain with incredible, open views of the Tararuas begging for you to stop and absorb their beauty. All that said, I arrived at Te Matawai two and a half hours later, yet again looking like your neighbor’s dog who eagerly, and without invitation, jumped into the pool at your 4th of July BBQ. Despite the forecasted storm, and aside from the ridiculously wet air, the weather had been pretty calm all day. No thunder, no rain, just clouds and sun. So around 5pm we were faced with a decision: do we stay at Te Matawai to stay dry and enjoy the nice, large accommodation, or do we send the next seven kilometers up another 1,500 feet and along a ridge to the small, 2-bunk bivvy Dracophyllum hut? Seven kilometers isn’t really that far, but at the rate we’ve been moving through this terrain that could be another four hours, which was just about how much daylight remained. I was feeling groovy as hell, Matt was feeling stellar as fack, and 5pm just seemed too early to stop. So after a quick conversation and some snacks we were putting one foot in front of the other towards Pukematawei Peak. The track was a relatively steep, consistent uphill climb so I sunk into a solid rhythm as clouds and a light misty sprinkle rolled in. Fortunately I was able to get a mental image of the full route ahead before the clouds completely enveloped everything except the ridgeline under my feet. We efficiently conquered the vert and turned right to follow the south ridge towards Dracophyllum. The rain picked up just as we began the descent, making for a perfectly slippery, sliding, splashy mess of mud, wet grass, and rocks. I only ate shit in the mud like four times. I loved it. The majority of the track since we left Te Matawai was out of the bush and into the scrubs too! I don’t know if that’s officially “above treeline” or not, maybe you call it “bushline” or something, but we were out of the green tunnel. We were walking on an exposed ridgeline that, for really the first true time since being in New Zealand, gave me a genuine alpine feeling. I felt a similar sensation in the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest, but this one hit much closer to home. When the thick rain clouds started to break into distant, misty puffs rising up through the valley, I could see layers of mountains in all directions. I could see where the heavy, green vegetation turns into fluffy, tall grasses yellowed from the recent lack of rain, a clear visual of where the green tunnel sets you free. I could see the fingers and spines of the mountains running from their summits down to the river in the valley below. And it wasn’t just one isolated vista like I’ve been experiencing in most Northland forests, but rather I was walking amongst the mountains, seeing nothing but their beauty wherever I looked, feeling their presence encompassing me like a giant hug. Sure, I bet the distant views are unreal on a clear day, but something about the sky being clear enough to expose the Tararua Range, yet hide everything else beyond, added an extra sense of intimacy and remoteness that I have been craving. Besides Matt, trail marker poles, and the occasional view of the small, red roof of Te Matawai, there were no visual reminders of other humans, no roads, no buildings, no electrical wires. I was in my element, and so was Matt. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, we dipped back into the forest. Only this wasn’t any ordinary forest.

No pictures can do this forest justice
But I can try!

This was the craziest, most mysterious, trippiest forest I’ve ever seen. In fact, it has to be the absolute most trippiest natural place I have ever been in my life, especially when it’s kind of foggy and drizzling. Absolutely everything was covered in a thick layer of some type of moss. The gnarly, curled trees had thick, yellow-green moss swallowing their limbs with mint-green, lichen-ish stuff growing up their trunks. Dead trees had been swallowed by the moss epidemic too, some yellow-green, some a darker, more olive green. The green growth was squishy to the touch, and depressed like six or more inches with pressure. It turned an otherwise common forest into what looked a trippy zoo of green, mossy animals. If you’re looking for a fun place to indulge in some psychedelics, I found it for you. This is the place. I swear I couldn’t get over it, I had to keep stopping to touch and stare and literally say out loud “oh my god that’s sooo cooooool” because it was. And then the little orange Dracophyllum Hut simply appeared. Described as more of a bivy than a hut, the very small, simple structure housed a top and bottom bunk, and a built-in counter.

Inside the Dracophyllum Hut
Blister #1
Blister #2

There was still a water tank and toilet so it was basically perfect. I immediately stripped off all of my uncomfortable, soaking wet clothes and discovered some pretty nasty blisters happening on my feet as a result of new shoes. Just happy to be dry and also generally super stoked on the whole day, I made some tasty peanut-butter ramen before addressing anything. I had already eaten all my chocolate, so I indulged in some proper blister care for dessert instead. Squeezing rubbing alcohol into a blister has proven to be an awesome technique for sterilizing and drying out a wound, but OMG HOLY SHIT THAT SHIT STINGS!!! But you gotta do what you gotta do out here and I obviously survived so it’s all worth it in the end. Whew. What a day. Stoke level is rising and more epic adventures are on the way. And hopefully Clea will continue to heal and be able to join me again soon because I miss my babe!!!


Friday, January 5th, 2018

Day 61: Dracophyllum Hut to Nichols Hut, 5km

Blue sky is always exciting

Well I don’t know if I’d exactly call it a tropical storm, but the wind last night was out of control! I kept waking up in a dreamlike state thinking the gusts were going to rip the windows off the walls, but fortunately that never happened. The storm was so loud though that I didn’t sleep particularly well, but I was very pleased to see blue skies and sun when I woke up. I was pretty stoked on the change in weather, so I took my time packing up and drying my clothes out in the sun. I was just in a good mood and living in the moment, what can I say?! By the time we started walking, the skies were still blue, the humidity from the last few days had gone, and the air was crisp. Right after we left Dracophyllum (which I think has to be named after all the moss… there has to be an explanation) and turned the corner, we saw a huge, magical rainbow down in the valley below.

Couldn’t find the pot of gold
Here I come!

The trail combined more trippy, mossy forest track with exposed, grassy shrub track as it followed the ridge south with more epic views and positive vibes. We had just started the trek over to Mt Crawford when the rain started. I knew there was a hut right before the summit track, and had already been thinking about stopping there for a dry, snack break. Given the nature of the slow-going track and deteriorating conditions, it took us two and a half hours to travel the five kilometers to Nichols Hut. We stopped in around 1pm for a break, hoping the rain might let up so we could enjoy some views as we crossed over Crawford. Well, an hour went by and the rain didn’t stop. Then I fell asleep. I woke up thirty minutes later and rain was still falling. I drank some coffee and blogged for another thirty minutes. Rain was still falling. I ate some pretzels and wrote for another hour. Rain was still coming down. By this time it was about 4pm, also known as decision time. Again, we were faced with two decisions: do we head out into the cold, pouring rain and trek the eight kilometers over Mt Crawford to the Waitawaewae Hut and certainly miss all of the views? Or do we stay warm and dry at the Nichols Hut, wait out the storm, and get an early start tomorrow with hopes of clearer weather? At this point the choice seemed pretty obvious, especially considering the rain had picked up and visibility had decreased even more, so we settled in for the evening. I switched into my comfy clothes, Matt got a fire going, and alas I’m still writing, thinking about the delicious dinner I’m about to make.

Happily waiting out the storm

After reading the guest book, apparently we are not the first people to wait out a storm at the Nichols Hut. What’s the point in being cold and wet and not seeing anything when you can be relaxed, enjoy yourself and have a chance to enjoy the hike the next day? It’s not like I have anywhere else to be, and that’s a pretty beautiful thing. A long, existential Pink Floyd jam sesh over the patter of rain falling on the roof couldn’t have been a more perfect way to end this day of trippy forest and dreary weather.


Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Day 62: Nichols Hut to Parawai Hut, 18km

I had imagined waking up to sunshine and rainbows again this morning, but instead woke up early to more rain and more wind. Since we had already spent almost 24 hours waiting out the storm, we figured we might as well just send it over Mt Crawford because who knows what the weather will do. By around 7:30am the rain had let up at least so we left the Nichols Hut and set forth up the mountain in the heavy fog. The ascent was like being in a gray tunnel as I couldn’t see anything besides the track right in front of me and grayness on either side. A light rain was falling but the wind was powerful and cold, blowing the rain forcefully onto me. Sure, sun and views would have been rad, but I kind of enjoyed the intensity of the high ridgeline storm. I was reminded of winter and really just thought about splitboarding the whole time and fucking crushed it. The trail was pretty slow moving too, steep and rocky with lots of muddy ruts, slippery footholds, and unstable brush. But eventually we began the descent towards the Waitawaewae Hut and whaddya know, the sun came out and the skies turned blue! But hey, how can you be upset about sunshine, even if it means you missed the views? The descent was a pretty brutal, relentlessly steep 3000 decline over slippery roots and moss. My knees were about ready to punch me in the face for such a beating, but I got to the hut just in time for a warm, sunny lunch break. For the next four hours we walked through a much mellower forest with smaller ups and downs, and flatter ground so I was actually able to stretch the legs out. We enjoyed some solid trail conversation before arriving at the Parawai Lodge, just before the rain began. We had the hut to ourselves for awhile until a very interesting Kiwi couple showed up. The pair shared their fruit and biscuits with us which was awesome. But even more awesome was the astronomy magazine that the dude had. Flipping through the pages, and with space being as fucking crazy and mind blowing as it is, Matt and I wound up in an intense, trippy conversation about the universe. I absolutely love diving into the space realm with people. The ideas thrown around are so far out my brain eats it up. This particular hut was uncomfortably full of cobwebs and spiders everywhere you look, so naturally I wanted Matt to eat one of the nasty, crusty webs. The odds were one out of a hundred and we said 72 and 73. I was so close but alas he got away without a cobweb down his throat. The couple probably thought we were total freaks but whatever. Sleep was calling my name and soon after I was asleep on the porch, free of spiders and any other creepy crawly thing in there!


Sunday, January 7th, 2018

Day 63: Parawai Lodge to Waikanae, 30km 

The one downside to hut life is when you get a really loud, aggressive snorer. I slept outside with ear plugs and was still woken up by the obnoxious, persistent drone of a man snoring. So I definitely didn’t sleep very well, but the couple gave us fruit and biscuits so I guess it all evens out. The first few hours of today’s walk were a mellow, cruiser tramp through the forest to the summit of Pukeatua, then down to the road through pine trees. It was a tunes kind of morning and I found myself lost in the groove, reflecting on everything that happened in 2017, feeling optimistic about what the future holds, and generally feeling strong and empowered. The weather was absolutely perfect too, so by the time I hit the road section I was feeling like a million bucks! We only had to follow the road for about 10 kilometers before arriving in Waikanae. We did a small resupply and poached the wifi at New World to find a place to stay for the night.

Update on blister #1

The El Rancho Holiday Park was close by and offered the most affordable prices so we cruised over there. Unfortunately the first room they gave us had the same uncomfortable bunks and mattresses that the huts have. I don’t mind them, but when you’re paying as much as we were, you want a real bed. So Matt went back to the office, worked some magic, and got us upgraded to a much better suite with a kitchen, living room, and actually comfortable sleeping arrangements. Matt cooked up a mean seafood stir fry which we happily devoured before hitting the hay.

Seafood stir fry is the best


Monday, January 8th, 2018

Day 64: Waikanae to Wellington, 35km

Beach walk

Nothing beats a big bowl of scrambled eggs, a big bowl of fresh fruit and yogurt, and heaps of hot coffee to get your day rolling. Once I was nice and fueled up, I started the lovely morning walk through a neighborhood full of weird, old people, and onto the beach. There was hardly a cloud in the sky, the air was light, the sun was warm, and the water was an exceptional shade of blue as I walked on the perfectly soft sand. A few hours later we took a quick pit stop in Paraparaumu for some scones, bacon, and free WiFi. The remainder of the beach to Paekakariki was a cruiser walk, perfect for headphones. At one point I walked past a mother and her daughter who must have been about 5 years old playing on the beach. As I kept walking I became keenly aware of the little girl running after me. She followed me for about 15 minutes before I laughingly had to turn around and make sure she got back to her mom!

Escarpment track views

The 10 kilometer escarpment track after Paekakariki was absolutely phenomenal. The track climbs stairs and steep ground about 200 meters above the highway to give you expansive views of the turquoise ocean and distant mountains. I thought Matt was going to wait at the end of the section, but he decided to keep cruising towards Wellington so I was left to my own devices. The trail followed a concrete pathway along the highway before arriving in Porirua Bay. By this point, my blisters were aching, but I was still 40 kilometers from Wellington and Clea. Matt was long gone, so I decided to take the train into the city. By 7:30 I was at the hostel with Clea, eating chicken and catching each other up on our lives. We spent the rest of the my until 2am drinking fancy cocktails, running around the city, and indulging in late night McDonald’s. It was a perfect reunion and a fantastic way to celebrate the completion of the North Island walking!


Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Day 65: Rest Day in Wellington

Well I hardly slept last night because the 10-bunk hostel dorm room was so unbelievably hot I almost sweat to death. Especially for someone who is used to sleeping outside every night, I was fucking roasting. So I woke up at 7 and went down to the lobby to check the interwebs until Clea got up. Once she awoke, we threw in some laundry and set out for some brekky, coffee, and exploration of Cuba Street. Wellington is a way cooler city than Auckland too. It has a way more authentic, local feel with more delicious food, unique shops, and a more genuine aesthetic. After brekky, Clea went to get her hair done and I cruised over to my friend Owain’s house. Remember the story about the super charming, sexy Kiwi with the curly hair and heart-throbbing smile who gave me and Matt a ride to Taupo and ate enormous kebabs with us? Well I hit him up and he was kind enough to let me crash at his place which was conveniently located right downtown. He was at work for the day so he told me where the spare key was and let me make myself at home. I swear the Kiwi hospitality and generosity is unlike anywhere in the states. So I dropped my things off at Owain’s and headed out to run some errands. I’m walking down the sidewalk towards the pharmacy when lo and behold I run right into Tim and Renee, two other TA hikers. They invited me to join them at Husk for a beer and some appetizers. How could I refuse that? Clea joined us not too long after and we enjoyed the afternoon chit-chatting. We all parted ways and I went back to Owain’s to change for a run. My favorite way to explore a city is through a long run, and I actually happened to have my running shoes and proper sports bra, so I couldn’t resist.

Best view of Wellington on my run!

I decided to run through town and up Mt Victoria to hopefully get a better view of Wellington, but unfortunately the weather was too cloudy to really see. Regardless, it felt so unbelievably good to run again. I got back to the house, took a quick shower, met Owain’s awesome flatmates, and helped cook a tasty vegetable and bacon roast. After dinner, Owain and I met up with a few of his mates for a beer before heading back for an early night of much needed sleep.

Bloatin’ and Floatin’ through the Holidays: Taumarunui to Palmerston North

Sunday, December 24th, 2017

Day 49: Whakahoro to John Coull


Holiday boot spirit
Thanks for the tow Santa

The Christmas paddle is in full swing!!! We slugged around this morning, gathering all of our crap, putting on our Christmas hats, and wishing maybe we hadn’t consumed so much sugary but delicious cider. Taumarunui Canoe Hire arrived around 7:15 to transport us and our gear to their property for an early safety meeting. Honestly I was a bit peeved at first that we had to wake up early for a safety meeting, but it turned out to be an entertaining, super low-key talk on the basics of not fucking up a canoe, complete with quick white-board drawings of river situations. Considering I have very minimal experience with a canoe to begin with, the lecture was actually quite helpful. We also got coffee and bread so I really can’t complain! We departed soon after, and a 90 minute, bumpy, windy, nauseating car ride later we arrived at Whakahoro to put into the river. We secured our bins into the boat, stuffed our pockets with beer and candy, donned our Christmas hats, and pushed away from the chaotic, muddy boat ramp full of high stoke and holiday cheer. Clea and I spent the first hour figuring out how to successfully steer the tandem, and got into a rhythm just in time for lunch. Lunch was just the beginning of our excessive Christmas eating and drinking extravaganza. Our daily lunch spread included cheddar cheese, hot Spanish sausage, crackers, chips, hummus, cucumber, carrots, and olives. Also I have to comment about how gigantic the cucumbers are here. This thing must have been about 18 inches long and was so girthy I couldn’t even fit my hand around it. Anyway, we nommed hard and killed over half of our giant bottle of Green Ginger Wine, which is this absolutely delicious liquid that tastes like alcoholic ginger beer. The next stretch of the paddle to the campsite was a combination of laughing in the hot sun, beer drinking, paddling in the pouring rain, being towed by Matt, towing Matt, and eating lots of chocolate. We were for sure more focused on drinking, eating, and floating than actually paddling. And it was perfect.


We arrived at the John Coull campsite around 6pm, and managed to find a private picnic table with tentsites that somehow none of the other 50 people had claimed yet. Some of our trail friends were there too, so everyone came down to hang out and help us do work on our bottle of Wild Turkey. Christmas Eve dinner consisted of steak, sweet potato, asparagus, onion, and mussels, followed up with chocolate cake and a peach crumble. This Australian Josh was paddling by himself so he joined the crew as we stayed up until the stars came out, just laughing, having ridiculous conversations, and feeling totally full in every sense of the word.


Monday, December 25th, 2017

Day 50: John Coull to Tieke Kainga


How did Santa find us???
Christmas Breakfast

I could never have imagined a more relaxing Christmas. Santa came too!!! He filled each of our gross hiking socks with candy and balloons and bubbles! In true gluttonous form, Christmas breakfast was complete with beers, bacon, eggs, muffins, apples, and banana/chocolate chip/blueberry pangoop. We named the pancakes pangoop because the batter didn’t really form a pancake, but rather a blob of delicious pancakey goop. Interesting but tasty. After breakfast we waddled our way down to the boats and set off. We managed to drink our whole alcohol supply yesterday, and were so full of food that we quite literally bloated and floated the entire morning. The Whanganui River is super flat water with maybe the occasional baby rapid, but basically flat. We had discovered that if you actually paddle, you’ll arrive at your destination in about half the listed time. Since we didn’t really have far to go and were so fucking stuffed and lazy, we wanted to maximize the river time and minimize our effort.

Lunching with my babe

So we flotilla-d our boats and floated with Christmas music to a perfect lunch spot on some rocks along an inlet. I still don’t quite understand how we managed to eat lunch, but we found room in ourselves for more lunch spread. We even killed the rest of the two cakes and the entire blueberry pie during our 3 hour lunch break. We went swimming and took a nap in the sun and felt like giant blobs and it was awesome. Around 4:30 we set off towards the campsite which we thought was only an hour and a half away. We did not paddle at all. Clea and I literally took naps on the canoes while Matt gently steered us through the water. There were times I’d notice that we were basically moving backwards because we were going so slowly, and I couldn’t have cared less. My Discover Weekly was crushing the smooth funk jams as we just existed together on the river, not paddling, not even talking, not doing anything besides sharing the peace with one another. There was no noise, no fuss, no mess, no bickering, no rush, no responsibilities, no stress whatsoever. I’ve never experienced a Christmas day like that. 3 hours later we arrived at what we thought was our final campsite, but turns out was only the second stop. We had floated so slowly that we’d actually managed to double the listed paddle time.


We probably set the record for longest time between sites! Tieke Kainga was listed as a 2 hour paddle, and given it was 7:30 already we decided to get the paddles out and enjoy a dusk cruise. We were there an hour later, just in time to set up camp and start cooking Christmas dinner. If you thought maybe we’d be too full for another meal, you thought wrong. We cooked up a whole ham, more sweet potatoes, broccoli and peppers and mushrooms, corn, mac&cheese, and more mussels. We almost lost all of it when one of the table legs collapsed, but only the corn went flying, landing on the floor like a sorority girl’s vomit. We killed another obscene feast before passing out into food comas for the night. A truly merry Christmas. We also wrote our own version of the 12 Days of Christmas so I will share.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

12 blobs of pangoop

11 kiwi calls

10 nasty toenails

9 Whittaker bars

8 TA hikers

7 creepy possums

6 random goats

5 days of no walking

4 slabs of meat

3 silly hats

2 canoes

And a bottle of Wild Turkey!


Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

Day 51: Tieke Kainga to Pipriki

Free the nips

Can you guess what we did this morning? That’s right, we ate more food! Polished off the kilogram of bacon, devoured more pangoop, smashed a dozen eggs with red capsicum, and guzzled coffee. I got into the tandem with Clea feeling a bit like a beached whale from all the food, alcohol, and minimal physical activity. Fortunately we actually were forced to paddle for awhile to ensure we arrived in Pipiriki on time to meet Taumarunui Canoe Hire with our boats. The weather was perfect so Clea and I let the nipples breathe for the morning as we paddled. I couldn’t quite pick up the vibe from passerbys. Were they shocked, disgusted, stoked, or concerned that we didn’t have shirts much less life vests on? I really didn’t care. The three of us eventually found Josh cruising down the current, and all four of us flotilla-d as much as we could to still make the 1:30pm pickup time. This section of the river actually had something besides flat water, maybe a very low class 2, but more exciting than nothing. Our canoe filled with water almost immediately and while we managed to make it through afloat, I basically tipped us over just as reached the closest beach. Woo excitement!!! Clea bailed all the water out of our boat, we cracked up at the situation, and continued on our way. I have to say, while flat water is relaxing and certainly allows for a proper float and bloat perfect for the holidays, if I ever do another paddle trip it will definitely be in a small kayak with actual rapids to navigate. We joined the other 367,378 boats at the Pipiriki takeout, organized our crap from the barrels, and waited for our van. The boat ramp was a bit of a cluster fuck considering there were at least a dozen other groups of paddlers waiting to meet their canoe company, so I kind of just packed up my shit and waited for people to clear out. My plan was to bike the next section anyway, so while 95% of people were getting on a van back to Taumarunui, I was figuring out what the fuck to do with my pack given I had a totally slick bike. The hardest part of the day was saying goodbye to Clea (still more on that later). We had such an amazing time together on Christmas and I didn’t want to see her go. She is my best friend for a reason. We planned this trip together for a reason. We laugh harder, think deeper, and enjoy life on a deeper level when we’re together. But she can’t ride bikes or hike, and thus was heading back to Auckland to housesit for a week while I kept on with the trail. At least the canoe company gave us cupcakes so I could eat my sadness. After all the vans pulled away, Matt and I cruised up to the holiday park where we found Chris and Kay, and Lucas and Chris. We made delicious ham sandwiches for dinner, after which I passed out so hard on the bean bag chairs in the lobby. I woke up 3 hours later, zombied to my tent, and continued into a deep, happy end of Christmas slumber.


Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

Day 52: Pipiriki to Wanganui, 80km

You’re not cool unless you wear high vis when you bike

Back on the trail, kind of? People opt for one of three methods of transportation for this part of the trail. You can continue paddling down the Whanganui, walk, or rent bikes to cover the 80 kilometer road section. Paddling another 3 days on flat water seemed less than ideal, and a long boring road walk sounded even less appealing, so we opted for biking. Given my fat, whale-like condition, I was very grateful that the road was mostly downhill. I rocked the orange reflector vest the whole way too lest I should be run over! Aside from one pit stop for coffee and a smoothie, and one relatively long uphill, I was able to cruise with the wind in my hair all the way to Wanganui. We dropped our bikes off at this super weird little store full of random trinkets ran by an adorable Swiss man. Our packs were an hour or so behind us, so we set off on a mission to find a beer. If I had to pick one thing I miss the most about the United States besides the obvious family/friends/etc. it would most definitely be all the craft breweries with outdoor seating. All I wanted was to sit in the sun and sip on a strong, super hoppy IPA, but I can’t seem to find that anywhere in New Zealand! Eventually we found this funny, tucked away hotel bar full of drunk, older locals. The bartender let us enjoy our coldies in sunny solitude on the back porch. An hour or so later we had our packs back and checked into the Tamara Backpackers Lodge. This hostel was my favorite so far. Super clean, everything you need, comfortable. We made a mean grilled chicken salad for dinner and hit the hay.


Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Day 53: Christmas Extravaganza Recovery Day

You know those days when you don’t really feel like doing anything? Especially following the holidays? Well, that was absolutely me today. I cooked up a healthy egg and veggie breakfast with the leftover spinach, and washed it down with a massive French press of coffee. Initially I had intended to spend the morning catching up on my blog, talking to family and relaxing before walking a few kilometers in the afternoon. But as the morning went on, and I sunk further into the couch, the less I felt like walking at all. Fortunately Matt was on the same page as me, so we decided to book another room and just have a rest day. Honestly I was feeling pretty bummed out about the whole Clea situation too, and just wasn’t in the mood to start the next trail section. Instead I layed in bed and blogged, then went into town to finally get a New Zealand phone, ordered a battered muscle and fried scallop, and tried on dresses at a store. I met Matt at Countdown for dinner supplies including steak, broccoli, and a root vegetable combo of kumara, potato, beet, carrot, acorn squash and garlic. I’m really digging the healthy hostel meals we’ve been cooking up. I was out like a light.


Friday, December 29th, 2017

Day 54: Wanganui to Koitaita, 30km

Since check-out was at 10am, I made sure to stay in bed as long as possible drinking coffee and eating eggs. My motivation level and mood had improved since yesterday, yet honestly I wasn’t super amped to walk on a road for 30 kilometers. But it wasn’t all bad. Sure, I was walking down a busy highway with cars and trucks loudly whizzing by, and giant trucks full of sheep spewing piss smell into the air, but you know it could always be worse. I just did my best to ignore everything and also not get run over. When I caught up to Matt on the much quieter, much more peaceful Turanuki Road, he informed me that this old guy Bob had invited us over. Next thing I knew I was sitting in a kitchen drinking orange juice and eating cookies with Bob, his wife Evelyn, their friend Julie, and Matt. I couldn’t help but smile as this incredibly kind group of old people enquired about our adventures. I love this country. We thanked them for their generosity and continued the last 8 kilometers of road to the Koitaita campground where I ate, stretched, enjoyed the beach sunset, and went to bed.


Saturday, December 30th, 2017

Day 55: Koitaita to Bulls, 25km

Beach walks

This morning was pleasant and peaceful as I walked in the black sand along the beach, looking out at the Tasman Sea and pondering questions about the upcoming new year. I found myself in a bit of a situation though. I noticed yesterday after we left Wanganui that somehow the inside sole of my left boot had somehow melted into a weird golf ball sized lump that left zero padding for the ball of my foot. I thought maybe I’d be able to fix it, but by the time I realized I really couldn’t wear it anymore, I was miles or days away from a shoe store. My options were to wear the shitty broken boot or rock the Chacos. I opted for the Chacos and managed to make it the 30 kilometers yesterday with only minorly sore feet, but walking on sand is a little different. Once the sand gets under the straps and under your feet, it’s pretty much game over. I tried wearing the boots for another little bit, but wound up just walking barefoot until my toes started to ache so I put the Chacos back on. Talk about a pain in the ass! We accidentally walked past our turnoff, so we cruised down the beach a little further and found an exit road that required some stealthy, high alert, adventure walking through a firing range. At this point I decided to try socks with Chacos, but after about 8 kilometers on another flat, paved road the tendons on the tops of my feet were screaming. As much as I love my Chacs, they are not meant for walking long distances. I tried switching back to my boots one last time, which helped with the random pain but that damn golf ball was unbearable. Matt was way ahead of me and by this time I was so over the road. Seriously, why should I keep walking along a hot, stinky road when my shoes are fucked and my foot hurts? I debated with myself whether or not I was going to hitch because I was being lazy, or because it wasn’t worth causing tendon damage until I could get a new pair of shoes. 10 minutes later I was cruising to Bulls with a very lovely couple who even stopped to pick Matt up. They delivered us in town where we spent some time figuring out a place to stay for New Years. Meanwhile this super nice Kiwi pulled up, started chatting and invited us to share some sushi with him. So that was awesome.

Bye bye boots
Sometimes a chair tries to come with you

The local camping ground was unnecessarily overpriced so we walked along the river until we found a place to freedom camp. It’s probably the least luxurious place I’ve camped yet considering we’re by a highway, a dirt bike track, and lots of litter. To be totally honest this section of the TA is pretty lame. I feel dirty, and not in the “I’ve been in the woods for a a week” dirty, but more of the “I’ve been walking on a sticky highway with semis and goat piss and rubbish in a city” kind of dirty. There are a few more forest sections coming up before Wellington, but I’m pretty ready to be in the mountains on the south island. In the meantime, I’m staying positive, listening to my body and making the best of the weirdness!


Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Day 56: Bulls to Palmerston North


So my foot was feeling less than stellar this morning. There was about zero percent of me that wanted to try walking any distance on the highway to Palmerston North, especially when my Chacos were the only option. I think it’s probably a minor tendonitis situation, and that requires rest anyway. So I decided to hitch the 25 kilometers into town to use my day more wisely. We stayed at the New Railway Hotel which is a perfect, cozy place right next to the main square. After checking in, we hit up the grocery store for dinner and New Years supplies. I also decided that I wanted to buy a dress for NYE because why not? I’ve literally been wearing the same shirt and skort every day for the last two months, and I wanted to feel like a woman! I also decided that I wanted to dye my hair red again. I had red hair for like 10 years, but decided almost two years ago to let it go back to natural. I thought I’d be able to pull off the natural hair forever, but I underestimated my love for cherry hair. After finding a new pair of trail runners, I headed back to the hotel to blog and do my hurr. I was happy to get the blog mostly updated, and even happier to have my hair a sick shade of red! My foot appreciated the rest too. I donned my New Years outfit just in time to cook a delicious steak dinner. Then we hit the town square in Palmerston North for fireworks, live music, and an official countdown. After midnight we meandered down to the local clubs and danced into 2018 with all the locals. Hell yeah PALMYYYYY!!! I lost Matt and wound up getting a ride home from two very kind cops who didn’t want a female walking home by herself. It was an interesting night for sure, but memorable nonetheless.


Monday, January 1st, 2018

Day 57: New Years Recovery in Palmy North

Jesus I was a blob today. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again because it’s too true…I am too old to party. Last night was fun for sure but I literally laid in bed all day watching movies and sleeping. I left the room to get something to eat and resupply food, but the grocery store was closed for New Years so I just ate some Tikka Masala and came back to my room instead. I watched Close Encounters and went to sleep. Literally accomplished nothing. Pretty much a waste of a day but I needed the recovery. All I can say is that I am SO DAMN READY to get back into the trail groove. We’ve got about a week to Wellington and then we hit the South Island mountains. The holiday indulgence has been fun, but that’s not what I’m here for, nor does it create the best version of myself. If I’m being totally honest, I think the combination of not having Clea around, being on a kind of boring, repetitive section of the trail, perhaps missing friends and family, and too much food and booze with not enough physical activity over the holidays has me feeling a bit down and out of sync with myself. My stoke level has been unusually low so I am beyond ready to walk into the rest of 2018 with health and happiness and all of the goodness waiting for me on the Te Araroa!