BootsnAll Travel Network

The Heaphy Track

I arrived in Picton after completing a cloudy and windy crossing from the North to the South Island by ferry. The ferry left Wellington at 8:30 am and cruised out of the Wellington harbor into the Cook Strait. The area between the two islands was very windy and rainy. The wind kicked up the waves causing me to get a little seasick. After crossing the Strait, we entered the shelter of the islands on the outskirts of the main South Island. The waves died down and despite the clouds the view was still very pretty. It consisted of many forested islands with steep slopes plunging into a green ocean. Upon arrival in Picton I found the bus to take me to Nelson.

In Nelson, I visited the information center and DOC office to arrange transport to and gather information about the Heaphy Track. The Heaphy Track is an 82 km track that extends from the northern tip of the South Island down the coast to Karamea (a small town on the West Coast). According to the weather forecast, I was supposed to have four very sunny days to do the trek which was quite rare for that part of the island. It gets the second highest rainfall in the country. I went to the grocery store with a calculator in hand and bought food for the trek. I figured I would need about 14000 calories for the trip. Looking at different foods, I tried to figure out which foods would give me the most calories per gram. Also, I didn’t have pots, pans, or a stove so I needed food I didn’t have to cook. I ended up with about 8 lbs of food consisting of salami, cheeses, power bars, chocolate, and nuts. In the afternoon, I walked to the center of New Zealand which is on a hill overlooking Nelson.

Saturday morning, I loaded up my bag with all of my belongings and food. It was considerably heavier now with all of the food in it. The problem with this trek was that it was one way so I had to carry all my belongings with me as I wasn’t coming back through Nelson. My pack at this point topped 40 lbs. I caught the bus from the visitor’s center and arrived at the start of the track at about 12:30. My first day consisted of a 17 km walk to the Perry Saddle Hut which was 2500 ft above my starting point. I was the only one at the start of the walk. According to the booking system, I would be sharing the hut with four other people that night. I began the walk which wound its way uphill through thick beech forest. The only wildlife I saw on that day consisted of a bird that looked like a pigeon that had been stretched and increased to twice the normal size. Halfway through the hike my back and neck began to hurt. My pack is a hybrid bag not truly designed for backpacking. It’s more of a duffle bag with a waist belt. It was also probably overweighted. Four and a half hours later I arrived at the hut with an aching back and neck. I was surprised to find the hut empty as it was getting dark. Upon inspection of the hut, I found that there were gas stoves and the plenty of pots and pans. Too late for me though. I lit a fire in the wood stove and lit some candles that someone had left. I then proceeded to eat a supper of salami and pepper cheese. Just as I finished eating, the people I was expecting arrived. They consisted of three men and a boy of about 11 or so. They were from an area near Christchurch and were farmers (one was actually an irrigation engineer from Zimbabwe that came to New Zealand after the white farmers were driven from their land). They were doing the trek one way and another group of them was doing the trek from the other end so that they would have transportation at both ends. They were staying at the same huts that I was on the trek so I would be seeing a lot of them over the next four days. Before going to bed, I spent a while staring at the night sky which had to be one of the most brilliant that I had ever seen.

The next day, I ate a breakfast of dried nuts, fruits, and power bars. I then began the 27 km hike to my next stop of the night called the McKay Hut. I left at about 8:00 am. The hike today went through an area called Gouland Downs. In keeping with Lord of the Rings references, the landscape most resembled the kingdom of Rohan. It was a subalpine plateau of grasses and shrubs. There were also steep drop offs through which a river was flowing. I stopped at the Saxon Hut to have lunch which consisted of a chocalate bar and some more power bars. My bag was still giving me trouble, but as it was getting lighter I managed. At the hut that night, there were eight people staying as the two groups going in opposite directions met up here.I again ate a supper of salami and cheese. The other group set about cooking up noodles, vegetables, and tea. They kept offering me food as I think they felt sorry for me. I assured them I was fine, but did accept a bag of instant potatoes from a lady in the group going in the opposite direction.

The hike on the third day was 21.5 km to the Heaphy Hut which sat at the mouth of the Heaphy River where it enters the ocean. The hike was mostly down hill to the beach going through various types of forest including beech and many other trees that were unique to me. I met up with the other group at lunch time at the Lewis Hut. Lunch consisted of a bar of dark chocolate and dried fruit. I walked the rest of the way to the Heaphy Hut with them. The hut sat in a very pretty area of cliffs and a long beach covered in drift wood. Where the river entered the ocean, the water was very frothy. That night I only had a block of feta cheese left for supper. I had eaten all of my salami. I struck up bargain with the other group to share food with them. We melted the cheese over the noodles. Before I could eat though, I started getting sick. I felt very tired and somewhat dizzy. I don’t know if it was the effect of my high fat diet that I had been eating for the last few days or not. I went to bed early and woke up the next morning feeling better. I ate some porridge that one of the men in the group offered me and drank some tea. This helped as it was the first hot meal that I had in days.

The last day was a 17 km hike out to the car park. The hike today was along the beach. We had to time the walk so that we would walk at low tide as the sea is very dangerous in this area. The walk alternated between palm forest and beach walking. The other guys offered to give me a lift to Westport which is the nearest town from which I could catch the bus. This saved me about $60 as I was going to have to take a special shuttle.

I spent the night in Westport and then caught the bus to Fox Glacier where I am now. I am going to take a helicopter up onto the glacier.

Lessons and observations learned from my first solo hike in a foreign country:

1. I consumed way more calories than I expected. I thought I had enough food for five days, but ate nearly all of it in 3.5. Some of this was due to me trying to lighten my pack though.

2. I need to focus on not only calorie count but also meal planning for my trips as I would have only had cheese for supper my last night if I was alone.

3. New Zealand huts are very nice and well stocked. It was great to have a decent mattress to sleep on. The wood/coal stoves make a very nice addition to the huts but can make the huts very hot if not careful.

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2 Responses to “The Heaphy Track”

  1. Tony Garren Says:

    What? no Dodges Fried Chicken? Enjoying reading your block, check it often for updates. Take care of yourself!

  2. Posted from United States United States
  3. Mom and Dad Says:

    Hi Barry!
    Glad to hear that you are feeling better.
    You’re taking a helicopter where 😮 to do what????? We’re suppose to hear about these things after the fact!!!
    Take Care and Be Safe!
    *Sent With Lots Of Love*

  4. Preeti Says:

    Not the last time I’ll say I’m jealous even though I don’t regret the glamor of calorie-counting for survival. Did you forget to take notes from the 30-Min Meals from 4 Ingredients cookbook? Be safe, be healthy, and take lots of pictures!

  5. Posted from United States United States

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