We made it out of the bush yesterday. We had a charmed trip through the Kiwi Bush. We got lucky from the very beginning. We took the bus from Christchurch to Westport and arrived with enough time to shop for food. In the morning we met an Italian banker at our hostel. It turns out he was headed up to Karamea near where we pick up the trail and he agreed to give us a lift. Really lucky because otherwise we would have been walking for a long time on a dirt road before ever getting to the trailhead. We unloaded our overloaded packs, put on our shorts for walking and said our goodbyes.
No sooner had he left when I realized that I had left my windbreaker in the closet of the hotel. I wasn’t about to go on without it becasue 1: it is nice and 2: I might need it. Luckily, there was a telephone (just a normal household telephone in a box) at the trailhead. So, I called the hotel to see if they had found it (they had) then called the bus service between Karamea and Westport to see if they could bring it up. The closest place they stopped was about 12 KM away back down the dirt road. I told them someone from the hotel would bring the jacket over to meet the bus that left in a half-hour and to leave it at the hotel where they stopped so I could pick it up there if I couldn’t get out to the main road to meet the bus.
There were two little farmsteads nearby that looked like they might have a car. I had to put on my poor-lost-tourist face to try and elicit some pity and get a lift to the main road and back. The idea was to just walk up to one of the houses and ask. Kiwis are straightforward people and usually very helpful in these sorts of situations so I figured this would be the best approach. As we walked up the driveway it was obvious that no one was home but as we neared the gate a woman and a kid drove up in a little Honda Civic. To make a long story short…the woman agreeed to just let me take the car out to the road to meet the bus. In the meantime we hung around eating backberries and shooting arrows with Dillon her son.
When the time came I drove out and back, got my jacket and we were on our way…finally…or at least we though so. Not ten minutes down the trail we came upon the last house before entering the Kahurangi NP. Dillon told us there was a grumpy man who didn’t like people who lived there. He was out front working on a Toyota LandCruiser. We figured it would be best if we kept hushed as we walked by since the trail goes through his land. We didn’t make it twenty feet past his yard when he called out, “Hey! You!”. “Oh crap”, I thought, “Here we go”. After an already long morning I was eager to get walking but since it was his land we were on we were obliged to stop.
As it turns out, his name is Paddy; an Irishman who moved to NZ 27 years ago. He is an artist who plays violin and works stained glass. His shack was full-to-bursting with his astounding work; mostly in wood, wrought iron and glass. He called us over to help him bleed the hydro-clutch on his LandCruiser in exchange for a cup of tea. Over tea we discussed the state of the world and got a very interesting perspective from an Irish expat who has lived in the NZ bush for 27 years.
After tea we were finally on our way. We started our trek on the western end of the Wangapeka track which meets up with the Leslie-Karamea Track at about its half-way point and turns north along the Karamea river. We had food for seven days and planned to be out at least five nights. We spent our first night about three hours in at Belltown hut. We thought we would be alone but a very tired woman arrived from the other side of the Little Wanganui pass just before dark. Once over the pass the next day we would be deep in native forest of the Kahurangi.
Luci was a bit concerned about climbing the pass but it turned out out be pretty mild. From the top we had great views of the ocean off the West Coast on one side and the wide expanse of the mountainous kahurangi forest on the other. That night we stayed at the very nice Taipo Hut and had a bath in the river.
For the next two days we walked along the remotest part of the track north of the junction between the Wangapeka and Leslie-Karamea tracks along the upper reaches of the Karamea river. Nice, level walking along the river. We were alone for the most part on this section of the track.
After the confluence of the Leslie and Karmea rivers at Karamea Bend we began our ascent up to the Tablelands Plateau. This is an area where Jesse and I hiked last year at about this time. There are a lot of nice huts in this area to choose from so we stayed at Salisbury Lodge; a place where Jesse and I passed but didn’t stay at last year. It started raining about an hour after we arrived; the only precipitation we saw on the whole six days were out.
In the morning we had a choice of routes out. Along the Flora river valley (the way Jesse and I went) or over Gordon Pyramid and Mt. Aurthur. The weather looked changeable but the forecast was good so we decided to give the summits a try. It turned out to be much longer than we expected because the trail actually took a different path than was marked on the maps we had. But, at a certain point we were able to drop packs at a junction and continue up Mt. Aurthur lightweight. Luci had had enough and went down to Aurthur hut to secure us beds because it is close to the road and it was saturday night. I jogged up and down the mountain that Jesse and I failed to summit last year. It was errily foggy but it was broken so I got some good views from the top.
When I met up with Luci at the hut she had managed to get us a couple of beds. But, after some though, we decided we might be better off getting a ride from the trailhead into the town of Motueka (where we were supposed to meet my brothers Jesse and Joel) in the afternoon AFTER people’s day-hikes than the next moring when people were setting out on their hikes. We stumbled down the final forty minutes of our six-day trek, tired and sore. We were taking a chance that we would find anyone and our option was sleeping on the floor of a kiosk if we didn’t. But, as luck would have it, a family of four who I had met on the mountain were packing up to go and offered to give us a ride all the way to our hotel in Mot.
Within an hour of being in town we met up with both Jesse and Joel. Today we have been running errands to get ready for our five-day kayaking trip that starts tomorrow. To complicate things, Joel has lost his passport. Being sunday, there is not much we can do at the moment. Other than Joel’s misfortune we have most loose ends tied up for the kayaking and the couple of days we have left in NZ before heading over to Sydney for a few days.