Sunday, 19 November 2017

Mind: Blown

Somes Island overnight camp
Party: Just me!
04-05 November 2017

After trying (not very hard) and failing (with no great disappointment) to get a couple of families together for an overnight camp on Somes Island, I instead wound up booking just for myself for the night of the city Fireworks display.

Mark and Spike dropped me off at the ferry wharf with a few minutes to spare, and a family of 4 who were staying at one of the houses and I were soon disgorged on the wharf at Somes with our bags full of food, gear, and potential pests for inspection in the Rat House.

The walk up the hill soon had me plenty warm, despite the overcast and somewhat cool weather, and arriving at the camping area I discovered 5 other tents already set up – obviously those I was sharing the site with had already arrived. Picking a spot a little away from the others that was reasonably flat, I soon had my tent up, despite the seam sealing tape disintegrating, and the inner making at least one attempt at flying away.

It turned out that everyone else staying on the island for the night was part of a large group – the other 11 spots in the campground were taken up with a family++ group, and a social group had the 18 spaces in the two houses. I was the only person who had gone to the island alone. But I was far from lonely – in fact, both groups adopted me at different times, welcoming me into their groups in different ways!

By this time it was pretty much dinner time. I went for a short walk down to the lookout I was planning to shoot from to ensure it would work, then past the lighthouse, the mini DoC Hut, and back up over the gun emplacements first, then joined the family and friends group in the kitchen for dinner. Turns out I could have gotten away with not taking any food except snacks with the amount they had spare. 

After hanging out there for a while, reading and chatting, it was time to get changed into warm clothes and head to the various lookouts we were all watching the fireworks from. The family group split, with some going to the smaller south-end lookout, and others watching from the top of the hill at the gun emplacements. I was joined at the larger lookout by the group from the houses, who were amazed that I was camping on the island on my own.

After the fireworks display had ended, a couple of the adults invited me to join them in a meander around the track on the west side of the island to see if we could spot any tuatara. With nothing else happening, and my hoped-for long exposure photography written off by the increasingly ferocious wind, I opted to join them, and am so intensely glad I did! While on our wander around the edge of the island, we found a single tuatara, and 5 Little Blue penguins – the first time I have seen them on the island (despite 3 previous overnight visits), and even better, they actively walked straight past us on the track – because they happened to be going somewhere behind us.

What an amazing experience. I have a handful of grainy photos, and one where I accidentally used the flash on my cellphone (new work phone, didn’t realise it had flash, the other doesn’t!). We were all buzzing.
After a quick cup of tea back in the campground kitchen, it was time to get changed for bed. I was very glad to have bought my thermal sleeping bag liner with me, as it was not very warm in the tent. In fact, it was the first time I have slept in a thermal in my sleeping bag for a very long time! 

That said, “sleep” would not be a good description of the following 7 hours. Sometime around midnight there was a short burst of rain, not that you could tell in the morning, and not enough to test the now non-existent seam-sealing of my little tent. All night there was wind. And masses of it. You could hear it coming, as it set off the trees further north on the island before hitting the tent, rattling everything and on occasion, fluttering the floor to boot.

A restful night was not had, I think I finally had a sleep of more than 30 minutes at a time from about 4am! Then suddenly the sun was up and shining in my tent. I had wanted to be up for sunrise, but obviously that didn’t happen.

A wander around the island to plan some future photography trips, a cruisy breakfast where I could have had cold steaks with bacon if I had wanted, packed up my tent and it was time to head down to the wharf to wait for the first boat home.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Castle Rock solo (first time in 15-odd years)

25 April 2015
Just Me
5.97km, 2hr05min, Guthrie Cres to Guthrie Cres

Things at uni were proving to be hard work and stressful, and a long weekend at the beach with Mark, Spike and my parents where most of my spare time was spent doing homework was not helping. So mid afternoon after the local ANZAC service at Tinui, I headed off for a walk. I wasn’t sure exactly where I was planning to go, or how far when I left, and I was incredibly annoyed that the GPS on my phone wouldn’t connect.

As I was rounding the lagoon on the upper track, I made the decision that (since I had a time and weather window) if my fitbit hadn’t told me I had completed 10,000 steps by the turnoff back down to the water, I would continue up the rock to the summit.

I’m still not sure how far off I was, but it didn’t. So off I trundled up the hill, still waiting on my phone to connect to GPS (it appears it finally did around the top of the hill).

The climb wasn’t as bad as I remembered. The wind at the top was breezy rather than blustery, which was nice, and there were only a couple of other people up there with me. I called Mark while I was up there and watched the little ant-sized people come out onto the back deck of the beach house to wave at me.

Coming down slowly, I turned left at the junction and wandered down to the lagoon itself, where I hit an incredible time of day that made me wish I had my tripod with me – the light and shadow on the wet sand of the outgoing tide in the lagoon was stunning.

About half the walk. Once my tracker finally picked me up. Thankfully I could edit out the 35 mintues I walked before it started tracking me.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Queen Charlotte Track - Stats and Maps

Again, like many other walks in the last 2 years, I tracked all our distances on Map My Walk. The tracker was only stopped for "packs off" breaks. Any short breathers or similar are counted in the tracking.
Interestingly, the distance results of this tracking are different to those suggested on the various websites and brochures.

Day ONE - An unsurprising graph, really. Every km had some elevation gain, with the biggest gain being in the first km at 217m. Our 10th kilometer of the day, which was also a mostly-downhill one almost at the Pines, was our fastest of any day on the track, at 13:18.The sign post at Ship Cove suggested 15.5km to Endeavour Inlet, we didn't make it quite that far in our 13.12km to Furneaux.
Fitbit: 29,741 steps
MapMyWalk: 13.12km, 461m gain, 17,848 steps while walking, 16,092kJ

Day TWO - Stopping at Furneaux accidentally added the better part of 5km to this day. Shame about the rain the day before - spending the night at Madsens would have been fantastic in that regard. According to the sign at the head of Endeavour Inlet, it was 15km back to Ship Cove - 0.5km shorter than Ship Cove's sign suggested to get there. This was our first introduction to "Maybe the signs lie" - a theme that became quite common over the course of the walk.
This again was another day where every km had some form of elevation gain. Our fastest km took 13:43, but we also had a series of km's that took over 20 minutes. Our biggest single km climb was 173m at the 17km mark - almost bang on halfway.
Fitbit: 58,700 steps 
MapMyWalk: 35.53km, 1,234m gain, 48,331 steps while walking, 39,037kJ

Day THREE - a long, slow day. Fast was the last 40m, technically. At which point we were already crossing the grass at the campground. Our average pace was 30mins / km. Add in all the stops we took and it was much longer. Another day where the signs lied - at Torea Saddle it suggested this would be a 12.5km day. We opted to take the side track for "Advanced" walkers down to the campground. I think it cost us some time, as it wasn't clearly cut in places. Again, every km had some climb, with the biggest (226m) being in the first km - not a pleasant start to the day!
Fitbit: 17,787 steps
MapMyWalk: 8.04km, 479m gain, 10,934 steps, 14,012kJ

Day FOUR - Yay! On the way home! Another day where EVERY km had some uphill - a number in the 100m range, with the biggest (again) being the first at 115m. Our fastest pace was the 11th km, at 16:11. Our overall pace was good at least!
Fitbit: 31,005 steps
MapMyWalk: 13.34km, 374m gain, 18,142 steps, 13,795kJ

Overall, we did 70.04km over 4 days, which included about 3km off the track to get to and from accommodation at Portage and Mistletoe Bay.
The total gain over the course of the track was 2,548m.

 According to this map (which is the most widely published one around, used by tour operators and on the walls at several accommodation providers), it is 71km from end to end on the track, plus any detours to accommodation off the track (say, in Portage or Mistletoe Bay), including taking the route along to Camp Bay and then up.
According to signs along the way, the track varies in length from 67.6km to 76.6km. The most egregious differences are at Torea Saddle. A short distance (about 1km) before the saddle, coming from the north, is a 21km to go track marker. At the start of the south bound track is a 24km to go marker. The sign here also indicates that the section to Te Mahia Saddle is 12.5km, while every other record shows it as 7.5 or 8.5km.

Also annoying is that the track junction below Kenepuru Saddle says it is 8km to Bay of Many Coves Campsite. Once you reach Kenepuru Saddle (1.5km later), THAT sign suggests 10km to Bay of Many Coves Campsite. Every piece of information southbound says the distance between Bay of Many Coves and Black Rock Campsites is 8km. Its 10km, and the signs heading northbound accurately reflect this.

Mostly, we found the variations hilarious. The only really annoying one was reaching a saddle where we expected Black Rock Campsite to be at about 7pm, and finding a sign indicating it was still 30 minutes away. The sign at Torea suggesting it was going to be a 12km day on excruciating feet and in serious heat was also not so easily laughed off. Thankfully that sign was well and truly wrong.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

These boots were made for walking, but they’ll no longer do…

Queen Charlotte Track, Ship Cove to Anakiwa
Party: Angela, Marion, Myself
16-20 February 2017

As a special treat, this trip comes with a playlist... Click the day titles for youtube clips of the music!

Day One: ‘Ain’t no sunshine

After spending the night with the parents of a friend (yay for being fed dinner and breakfast!), we woke to the sound of rain on the roof. This was not entirely unexpected, although finding a forecast that actually indicated the amount of rain we should expect where we were going had been difficult.

The rain spat at us while we collected our track passes and checked in for our water taxi. By the time we got off the water taxi at Ship Cove it was definitely raining. We quickly headed to the shelter for an early lunch and weka spotting. Yet again, it was too wet for me to want to wander up to the waterfall near the memorial – what is it with me and rain at Ship Cove?

Unlike last time I did this day of the track, however, it didn’t stop raining on us on the way up to the lookout. If anything, it kept getting heavier. And heavier. This weather was not conducive to stopping with any sort of regularity, so no afternoon tea was had. Thankfully the rain eased slightly when we reached Tawa Saddle for a toilet and food break.

By the time we reached Furneaux, we were soaked to the skin. It was 5pm, and we still had an hours walk planned to get around to Madsens Camp, where our bags had been dropped. Joy of Joys – Furneaux had a spare bunk room available, and for an extra $20 would go and collect our bags from Madsens. While we were aware that this would mean an extra 2-3km / hour-ish of walking to do on Saturday, it also meant we had real shelter rather than a tent.

We were glad for real beds, and the chance to warm up in front of the fire, but Furneaux is a surprisingly run-down place. $56 per person for a backpacker bed gets you no cooking facilities, a concrete-block toilet akin to a back-blocks DoC campground and no real sheltered spot for getting stuff actually dry (unless you can nab a spot by the fire, which were scarce the evening we were there!).

Day Two: ‘Long Day’ (aka ‘The day that doesn’t end’)

Putting sopping wet socks and boots back on in the morning is no-ones idea of a good time. Doing it in the knowledge that we were looking down the barrel of probably 35km walk with some big hills was dreadful.

The walk around the edge of Endeavour Inlet was dull, muddy and generally not fantastically pleasant. I begrudge nobody who takes up the offer of getting a ride across the inlet in conjunction with transporting their bags. Views are minimal, and the only excitement we had the whole 3-odd hours it took us to Kenepuru Saddle was a fleeting glimpse of a stoat and seeing a pair of Pukeko.

Thankfully, the weather was great for tramping – cool and overcast. If the rain of the day before (or the heat of the day after) had still been with us at Kenepuru Saddle, we would have abandoned the trip across the top and instead opted for either a water taxi or a hitch to Portage / Torea Bay. Instead, lunch was had at Kenepuru Saddle, and at 1pm we hitched our packs again in contemplation of either 23 or 24.5km ahead of us to the next road junction at Torea Saddle (depending which signage / information sheet you were reading), including crossing the highest point on the track, at 481m.

Onwards and upwards and upwards and upwards. We opted not to visit Eatwells Lookout when we discovered it was a 30-minute return walk. This was a stupid long day as it was and we already knew we would be pushed for daylight.

Pausing at Bay of Many Coves Campground at 5:30 for painkillers, refilling water bottles (thank goodness the tanks had filled a bit, having been empty in early January) and food, we ran into a German couple, through-walking Te Araroa Southbound, who were continuing on to Black Rock Campsite. Leaving a campsite at 5:45pm with 15km still to go seemed entirely wrong.

We found the German couple again at a saddle 8km later – right where Black Rock campsite should have been according to the distances suggested on all the signage. It was still another 2km / 30 minutes away. Boo. Another break here for the toilet and on we pushed, only to be stopped about 1km later, first by my blisters, then by a sudden torrential downpour.

Our final 4km for the day was in in increasing darkness and rain, thankfully it was mostly nicely graded downhill that my sore knee could cope with ok as the track was also in good condition. Eventually, we popped out on the road at Torea Saddle, desperately wishing we had the phone number for our accommodation at Treetops to call and ask for a pickup. 9pm and we finally knocked on the door of the backpackers, tired, sore, damp, and beyond the point of being able to deal with a walk down the dark path to the main backpacker building to use the kitchen. Thankfully the owner gave us a jug of hot water for tea, and we all had sandwiches for dinner around having showers before heading straight to bed.

Day Three: ‘I dare you to move

Saturday night I went to bed in tears. My boots were falling apart and causing the most incredible foot pain (the wet boots for 35km issue hadn’t helped either, obviously). I didn’t want to carry on. In retrospect, I possibly shouldn’t have.

Our lovely host gave us a ride to Torea Saddle to start the track, and we started inching our way up the hill. Unlike the previous two days, we actually saw a moderately significant number of people on the track over the course of the day, going both ways. Oddly, given we had taken a photo with a 21km marker before exiting the track the day before, at the bottom of the southbound track here was a 24km to go marker. Yet more proof that the track lies.

By this stage, lookouts often had views to Picton itself, which was tantalisingly close, yet also so far away, since we were heading further south and west yet. At one of these stops, we again saw our German friends, powering on through the heat. Guess being 3 months into Te Araroa will do that for you!

Progress was agonisingly slow. The heat compounded the pain I was already experiencing. We struggled to maintain a pace any faster than 2km/hr and I admit to collapsing in tears on our way down one of the hills when looking at the next climb back up. We took a number of long breaks to deal with the heat, and finally stumbled into Mistletoe Bay at 4pm – 6 hours after we started our 8km day.

Mistletoe Bay was incredible. While it was a bit frustrating having to collect our bags from the wharf and walk them nearly 1km through the camp to the house we were staying at, this was offset by the fact that the water at the wharf was incredible for swimming in, there was a shop selling ice cream, powerade and fresh eggs, and the house had not only a full kitchen, but air conditioning (even if the unit leaked, it at least got the house cool quickly!).

After dinner (chorizo fried rice), we showered, had wine and read our books for a while before taking a short wander to exclaim at the sheer volume of visible stars and the glow worms in the immediate area by our house. The darkness here was incredible. Plans were made for a 5am alarm to see the milky way and watch the sunrise and we all headed to bed.

For some unknown reason, I decided to have my first coke in 2 weeks at 7pm. I was wired still at bedtime. Whoops.

Day Four: ‘Eyes on the prize

2am, the smoke alarm in our house goes off. Thankfully its not connected to a main system, so we could just turn it off by taking out the battery, but after investigating to ensure there actually wasn’t a fire anywhere, it still took 2 more hours to get back to sleep, through many imaginings of headlines “alarm on bench with battery taken out, 3 dead”…

5am, the phone alarm goes off. If the weather had been clear, even having been awake in the middle of the night would not have kept me in bed. We would have been in the perfect location for an awesome milky way shoot and sunrise. It was not to be. Overnight it had completely clouded in. So back to sleep we went.

Finally up properly about 7:30am, we cooked breakfast (bacon, eggs and fried rice. Divine.), packed up, delivered our bags back down to the wharf and I finally strapped on my disintegrating boots at 10am. We had about 12km ahead of us, and 6 hours to do it in. If we could get back to the pace we had managed on days 1 and 2 (about 3km/hr), we would be fine and have time to spare.

The climb back up to the saddle wasn’t too bad, and we made really good time all the way along, managing a few good breaks and allowing several shorter ones. We made some track friends through this section, bunny hopping each other frequently when we each stopped.

Nursing my dead boots and painful feet into Anakiwa was almost anti-climactic. I had built it up into this massive achievement potential, but it just… happened. And was done. And I was too sore to just keep walking to the end of the pier and walk straight off. I suspect that had my feet not been in agony, I might have been more excited rather than simply relieved of what had become a mental burden, this NEED to finish the track. The tide being in a long way also put a dampener on my plans to throw my boots off the wharf (because I wasn’t going to leave them in the water, so needed someone there to grab them before they sank).

An ice-cream, a break in the shade, and a very quick swim – shortened by the realisation that the Cougar Lines boat waiting at the wharf WAS for us, rather than a half-hour earlier trip and would leave as soon as everyone was on board – and it was time to head back to Picton, boots still in hand.

Probably the highlight of the whole trip was the dolphin pod we encountered on our trip back to Picton. Throwing away my boots was bittersweet, and I’m so glad we nabbed a cabin for our trip back to Wellington – hot showers and a dim, quiet room to round out the trip.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Khandallah Bridle Path and Odell Reserve

17 April 2016
Just me
6.4km, 1hr28min, total gain 201m, Trelissick Crescent to Perth Street

Heading directly out from home for a second long walk in as many days (yay for Spike being away with my parents for the weekend), I was a little nervous about this one. I knew there was a solid climb, and a bit where I wasn’t sure of the route.

I opted to be off-road as much as possible for this one, so went into Trelissick Park from Trelissick Cres, and down into the lower valley to walk down to the bottom of Kaiwharawhara Road. Sure enough, I got lost in Kaiwharawhara trying to find the start of the Bridle Path (my maps suggested it would be up one dead end, up it was access just around the corner from the entrance to that dead end instead).

Thus began a long, fairly continuous climb. Hills are still not my friend, plus I was still recovering from my ankle injury, so I took a few breaks. The view from parts of the Bridle Trail is pretty neat. I would almost be tempted to go back for some evening photography at some stage, if that didn’t mean hauling 5+kg of camera gear up the hill with me!

Given the sunny, warm weather, I was really glad that the Bridle Trail was in shade – I was reminded how glad I was of that when I got off the trail and up into Khandallah, where I was back in the sunshine and got very hot very quickly, slowing right down.

I debated with myself the whole way to the entrance for Odell Reserve as to whether I was going up and over, or continuing down Punjab Street and on to Cockayne Road for the rest of the walk home. I opted to continue up and over the hill, at least in part to get to enjoy the trail through the bush above Old Porirua Road, which was in fine condition and I think has had some work done on it since we last used it – although that was probably in times pre-Spike.

From here, it was all down hill till the bottom of my driveway. An enjoyable and challenging loop, suitable for starting anywhere. I think the easier way to do it would be in reverse to the way I did it – a moderate climb to start and end with lots of downhill in the middle, rather than short downhills and a relentless climb in the middle.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

12 go for a long walk

Turere Lodge, Orongorongo Valley, Rimutaka Forest Park
Me, Mark, Spike, Emily, Ivan, T, M, Amelia S, A, C, Marion, E.
3-4 December 2016

Go that way!

Planning for this started months ago. Not long after the really challenging overnighter we took Spike on to Waihohonu Hut in February. Because you have to book a stupid amount of time in advance if you want to reserve the entirety of Turere Lodge for a weekend night! Originally we had thought about doing this around my birthday, but by the time we booked in about late April, the first weekend of December was the first weekend exclusive occupancy was available.

We sent out the invite to about 8 friends who had kids (and a couple who didn’t), hoping to get 4-6 families total into the 32-bed, 4-room lodge. Eventually, after a couple of late pull-outs, and the addition of a family grabbed from the Tramping Club Families group, we had 4 families – 6 adults, 3 3-year-olds and 3 5-year-olds. What a group. What an appetite for chaos we all had!

And we're off

Turns out, this was a fantastic sized group. We could all amble along at different paces, taking turns to keep an eye on each others kids. The kids kept each other motivated and moving, and even though it turns out there is a LOT of up hill going in to Turere Lodge, the kids all walked most, if not all, the way in.

Afternoon tea

After a late start at the carpark of nearly 2pm, it was after 5:30 by the time we got to the hut and got the rooms unlocked. Dinner was started immediately, to the sound of kids running around screaming. They all ate something at least, although some were too tired to eat much. After a shared pudding of chocolate cake, strawberries and custard, we started working on persuading them all to go to bed. Unsurprisingly, Spike was last to go to sleep, finally drifting off not long before we all headed to bed.

While Turere is a wonderful hut, and its awesome to not have to bring cooking or eating gear, the mattresses are in desperate need of replacement. I wound up getting up at about 2am and pulling down a second mattress. Mine was more air than filler inside its cover! But honestly, that’s my only complaint – the hut was warm without heating, there was loo roll in the toilets and hand sanitiser at the basin. It was clean and tidy.

Sunday morning rolled around FAR too early for anyones liking.  We stumbled through breakfast on the deck (having forgotten the brown sugar for our porridge), threw our gear in our packs, grabbed a team photo on the deck and headed off about 8:30am. Despite the bulk of the walk being downhill on the way home, it still took as long to get back – poor tired legs and all.

The kids all excitedly climbed up Jacobs Ladder instead of the newer benched track until the two crossed again, so that we could promise them a break at the seat 7/8ths of the way up the hill. From there, we stopped again at Macs Hut briefly, then continued on. Around Midway Bridge, the younger kids started to significantly flag, so elephant rides became a routine sight and bribery became an essential component in keeping moving.

Jacobs Ladder (up)

We also regularly leap frogged a family group who had stayed on a hut across the river, including a mum wearing an old Mountain Mule that looked painful, even with a jersey wrapped over her shoulders as extra padding under the straps.

Elephant Bumps

Arriving at the road end with very tired kids just as it started drizzling at about 12:15 was a relief. A quick toilet break, change of clothes / shoes and we were all off. McDonalds for lunch was a failure as Spike was so tired we should have let him sleep instead, as he didn’t eat.

A great time was had, and the parents are all discussing doing it again to somewhere else (maybe Atiwhakatu) when the kids are another year or so older. Spike loved carrying his little bag (this one was better sized for him than the one we tried in February), and we are looking forward to him using it again, perhaps with more than a bottle of sunscreen and a whistle next time!

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