February 13th 2017
Wellington – Picton
Total distance: 1073.5 miles
This morning we had to sort out our resupply. Unlike the north island we won’t have the luxury of walking through a town every other day so we had to spend some time thinking about trail food, which is an unpleasant experience. We decided to send the minimum number of boxes – one to St Arnaud and one to Arthur’s Pass. Most other places we will need to hitch off trail to a town to resupply. So we bought 3 days of food for now, and a 3 day and a 6 day package. Back at the hostel we sorted it all out then carted it to the post office.
We were in there for a while, we found the cheapest way to send stuff is by red bag which are a fixed rated for 3kg and under. My 3 day resupply was about 2.5kg and the 6 day one I divided into 2 bags. The bags were NZ$6.50 each. Trevor and Erin came in so we chatted to them for a while. They had a Tararuas story too, Marjory got food poisoning so they had to turn back and get out of the range. There has also been a severe weather warning issued for the range for the next few days so I’m glad we got out of there.
With that out of the way we were free for a few hours before the ferry. So we met with Erin and went back to Te Papa Museum to look at the WW1 exhibit which had a massive queue yesterday. It was a good exhibition, and the huge sculptures were amazing, but I couldn’t read everything, it was too much to process in a short amount of time. I was also hungry and thirsty so went to get some food. I was on the lookout for some dumplings but couldn’t find any so settled for noodles instead, which after two mouthfuls I had had enough of.
We got the bus to the ferry terminal and checked in at 4:15pm. We thought 4:15 was the check in time as our ferry left at 5pm. It turns out that was the final time, so we were ushered through quickly and told that we were the last passengers to board! We found Sandy and Colin and caught up with them. The ferry rocked from side to side for most of the way as it was so windy. The sea was quite rough but we were lucky that the weather had cleared up from this morning when it was terrible.
On the 3.5 hour journey to Picton I had the chance to reflect on my North Island experience. I get quite tired of how much people complain about the North Island. They moan mostly about the road walks and the quality of trail. I think people forget that there is one permanent employee of the Te Araroa trust and the trail has been in planning and negotiations since the 70s. The fact there is a continuous footpath that traverses both islands is a huge achievement. People complain about the trail not being as well established as the PCT, but the PCT has more money, more people and it’s had more time to become an established trail. I think people forget, or maybe don’t realise that trails like the PCT started with lots of road walking and have taken years to become what they are today. There is so much hard work and negotiations involved with redirecting the trail off roads and through private land. Understandably some people don’t want hundreds of people traipsing through their land, so that results in a relatively short road walk. And some people are approaching the TA trust and offering for their land to be used for the trail. How awesome is that!
I have had such a great experience in the North Island, I’ve been able to walk along beaches on both coasts, I’ve survived the tramping tracks and forests, I’ve completed the road walks mostly without complaint, I’ve walked through working farms, through streams and rivers, I’ve walked through little towns and communities. And sometimes all of this happened in one day.
Most of all I’ve enjoyed meeting all the incredible people along the way, the other hikers, the people who have opened up their homes to me, the owners of holiday parks, restaurants, bars and cafes who have been so welcoming. The north island is beautiful and rugged in places and a lot of people live there, it’s been wonderful to really get to the heart of the country and see how it beats, and not just spend time in the ‘good bits’.
There seems to be an expectation that a long distance hiking trail has to pass through only wilderness to qualify it as a trail. In my opinion a trail is a continuous path that goes from one point to another, what it passes through can and does vary depending on the country you are in. Wouldn’t it be a bit dull if all trails were the same? New Zealand is a pretty diverse country and it has a pretty diverse trail to match.
There seems to be a small and elitist selection of people who are only doing this trail to tick it off a list of trails. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that as a reason to go anywhere, I am here because the country has always intrigued me.
People keep asking me to compare the PCT and the TA and it’s almost impossible. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. I will go into this more after I’ve completed the TA, but anyone coming to NZ expecting the same experience as the PCT will be disappointed. Anyone coming here with and open mind and heart will get an experience as unique as the islands themselves.
So they are my thoughts on the north island. The ferry journey went by fairly quickly, I braved the elements to go and take a look outside at we approached the sounds. It was super super windy. We pulled into Picton and as we were waiting in the queue to get off the ferry we could see over into the car area where there were a few animal transport trucks. The sheep and cows looked like they were packed in so tightly, it wasn’t particularly nice to see. Once off the ferry we saw that the 4 Square closed at 9pm and it was already 8:40pm so Sandy and I went there to grab some bits before it closed, which involved us running (not my choice!) through town.
We checked into our hostel (another independently run YHA) and Sandy and Colin went to the holiday park. The hostel experience was a bit odd, we were in a 10 bed dorm room but all the lights were off and everyone was in bed already. No one spoke to us so we used our phone torches to see where the free beds were, of course we were lumbered with top bunks. I couldn’t see anything so I just left my pack outside the room. About an hour after we got there we went to bed while people continued to have very loud conversations outside our room. Hostels are a risky choice.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Please donate here, every little bit helps.