Wednesday, January 10th, 2018
Day 66: Wellington to Picton
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.
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
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!!!
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.
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.
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!!!