What a difference the south island is compared to the north. Two polar opposites in terms of scenery and trail logistics. The south island is a tramper’s dream, with an abundance of trails that wind there way ever deeper into the wilderness. Pristine back country has wrapped its arms around me, unlike the north island which I clashed with more often than not. So, in the mere thirty minutes the library has allotted me, I will try to recap a few highlights. There were so many it’s hard to begin.
First of all, I have ditched the idea of being a purist. The reason was spurred first from my ferry being down-right cancelled, which required me forking over a chunk of change for night’s stay in Wellington (and a shitty backpacker at that), and when it came time the following morning to hop on another ferry, that was delayed by two hours and therefore resulted in me missing the next ferry to the trail’s official start on the Queen Charlotte Track. After much consideration, and simply just wanting to hike, I decided to start the trail at a different point of access(one I could hitch-hike to) and along with the non-purist start point, I decided right then and there, that I would not hike another tar-sealed road. No more pavement for this girl.
That lead me straight into the Richmond Range which was a pure gem. For 130k’s, the track takes hikers thick into the backcountry. Mountains, river valleys, alpine lakes, stellar views. And its a real mountain track. Some of the most steep climbing I’ve done, and the amount of elevation gain/loss is quite drastic, enough to exhaust many hours of the day just trying to get 20k’s in. Which was going to be a problem because I hadn’t carried nearly enough food (I just wanted to get in the mountains so bad I didn’t use the best judgement when purchasing food). But before I became a very hungry hiker, I met Dylan. There I was cruising along the scenic alpine country, having just met him and a few other thru’s that morning, and thinking: “It’s just my luck. I’ve entered into this beautiful landscape with too little food and now I need to hike faster than I’d like across it and not be able to slow down and hang out with other thru’s”. But as it was, Dylan caught up to me before the summit of a very big mountain (and one you do not want to summit in bad weather, which that particular night would warrant) and he offered to give me some of his food (he’d carried way too much) and we all ended up bunking up at a hut a few kilometers shy (and way down in a valley) below the summit of Mt Rintoul. By morning, he and I left the others and headed up to the summit. It was before sunrise when we were hiking up and over jagged rocks and a view that blew our minds. We drifted high above a valley fog that cloaked most of that below. Only the highest mountain ranges poked out and we were tracing the spine of the Richmond Range that jutted out of the cloudy abyss below. We were giddy with delight and high on mountains. Jack Kerouac-style. That’s really the only way to describe it.
Ever since that day (some nine days ago), Dylan and I have been hiking together. It just clicked, a friendship that is full of laughter and enthusiasm and just genuine, good fun. A warm and energetic man from Texas, and towering 14 inches above me, Dylan has been great company. Sometimes we walk together, sometimes we spend the hours to ourselves. We meet up for lunches and breaks and then camp, which we’ve been spoiled by because often it’s in huts, but sometimes out under the stars (or under our shelters as there are loads of sandflies which are not half as bad as the north island!)
So our united route together has led us to numerous mountain passes and along the way we’ve stayed at huts (some small, some really big) where were met other hikers out doing sections. Overall tho, there’s not many people out there. Even in the Nelson Lakes we didn’t come across the so-called crowds, but that probably has alot to do with the fact that it is getting late in the season (autumn). That’s fine by me tho as it helps me immerse myself further into the wilderness experience. In Nelson Lakes, the trail took us past some beautiful places that reminded me of the Wind River Range, the Sierra Nevada, the White Mountains and Glacier National Park. A sort of infusion of all those gems bundled up and put here in New Zealand. So beautiful. Middle Earth indeed.
Anyway, time is ticking. Just enough time to send this off. I know my email is overflowing, and when I find the time, I will try to sort through that. Until then, I will enjoy my zero day here in Hanmer Springs. Last night there was an unexpected and super fun St Patty’s Day band at Monteith’s pub in addition to 4 other thru-hikers who I’ve been excited to catch up to (they also did the north island and like me, as purists!). We all drank and danced and closed the pub down. And now, Dylan, me and Gary (another thru-hiker we bumped into a day ago) are headed over to the hot springs and water park to soak our bodies and ride down slides.
If I find some more time, I’ll write again, otherwise it could be another two weeks before I can write again. Just warning ya so ya don’t worry.