February 17th 2017
Havelock – Tinline river
Total distance: 1144.2 miles
Last night Julia and I came up with a plan for the Richmond Ranges. They are known to be a brutal mountain range similar to the Tararuas on the North Island. It is only 98 miles, which you would look at for the PCT and say that’s 4 days. Not here. Apart from the first day where there is some road walking, we planned to be moving at an average of 1 mile per hour, accounting for lunch and breaks too. So we planned for 8 days with a 12 mile day today. This meant there was absolutely no need to get up early, and as it was raining for half the night and was still raining when we woke up, no one felt inclined to get out of their tents.
Plus I was absolutely dreading how heavy my pack was going to be and how I was going to fit everything inside it and keep it all dry. The rain always sounds worse in the tent and although still wet outside it wasn’t raining too hard. The holiday park was a nice one and there was a great communal outside space with big bench tables to organise all our stuff on. Amaury has the larger version of my pack (70ish litres compared to my 50ish litres) and it weighs a tonne. I could barely lift it off the floor, and Amaury is not at all a big bloke. He tried on my pack and didn’t have to adjust the hip belt at all. I think it’s safe to say that a 70 litre pack is too big for a thru-hike. He is also carrying 48 cereal bars (6 per day!) which seems like a lot. However I think the cereal bars may only be a small part of the problem. Lars has gone the other way, he started off with really heavy gear and now, after some time off the trail and a trip back to Denmark, he has replaced 80% of his gear with new stuff and is now carrying a tiny pack without a hip belt which barely fits all his stuff in. There really is no right or wrong way to do this, but getting a pack that you’re comfortable with is important. In my opinion, if you can’t lift your pack with one hand, it’s too heavy, but hey hike your own hike and all that, yada yada…
Talking gear or weight isn’t something Julia or I like to talk about extensively, my pack could be lighter but I like to zip my tent up and get in my sleep clothes at night. It makes me happy. Do what makes you happy.
Just as we were about to leave at around 10:30am disaster struck and the buckle on Julia’s hip belt broke. She isn’t having much luck recently, one of her poles is totally broken (we managed to temporarily fix the other one), her shoulder strap of her bag is being held together by fishing wire, last night she stubbed her big toe and it was bleeding all over the place and she thinks her toe nail will fall off, now this. We managed a temporary fix that will hopefully get her through the next few days, mainly involving those two time tested solutions of ‘forgetting about it’ and ‘hoping for the best’.
We set off as a group of six into the rain along the highway for a bit. It was pretty unpleasant and the large trucks sprayed us as they thundered past. The rain wasn’t too bad, more like a light mist and soon enough we turned off the main road and onto a smaller road. We started to spread out, Julia and I were up ahead surprisingly and we passed the time by chatting and listening to podcasts until we left the road and joined a farm track. Using the word track loosely, we followed the edge of the fields alongside the river for a few miles. We had highway 6 to our left and a great gravel road to our right, but it was laid out very clearly in the trail notes that even though the gravel road paralleled the trail we were under no circumstances to walk along the road. So we walked through the tall grasses, our feet were soaking within the first two steps, and we spent most of the time avoiding all the liquidy cow shit. I was being especially careful because I wanted to give my shoes a chance at least to make it to the end of the South Island. Julia went off ahead and eventually Lars caught me up and passed me, I was hindered by the many many stiles along the way.
When we finally got out of the fields we walked through a lovely bit of forest, over a swing bridge which went over the Pelorus river which was so clear and a inviting – had it been a nice day we would have jumped in, and straight to the campground which was advertised as having a cafe. We arrived around 2:45pm and this was where we were going to camp tonight, but it was still early and it was NZ$18 as it was a DOC campsite, so we decided to carry on a bit further to save some money. Not before we had stopped at the cafe though! Lars, Julia and I went straight in and got hot drinks, and even though I had a ridiculous amount of food in my pack I lost all willpower and bought a mince and cheese pie, because the pastry looked so good and pastry has to be one of the greatest food stuffs in the world. Amaury, Colin and Sandy came in about an hour after us, they had stopped for lunch somewhere.
We were all sat round having a nice time when the lady on the table next to us started making some odd noises, her husband leapt up and started trying to do a very ineffective heimlich manoeuvre on her. She was choking. We all got up and Amaury slapped her on the back a few times and she was ok. It was a really tense few moments and then everyone just sat back down and continued on as if nothing had happened. I found it very strange that neither the woman or the husband said thank you, especially to Amaury, for basically saving her life. In fact they said nothing all all. So strange. About 5 minutes later they got up and left.
We stayed in the cafe until they closed at 4:30 and we got nicely booted out. Lars and Amaury decided to stay and camp, but the rest of us decided to get another 5 miles in and camp in the forest. It was still raining but we were walking on a paved road, which turned into a gravel road and it was really quiet.
We made it to our camp site, which was a 4wd track in the forest. We pitched right in the middle of the track, as it was 6:30pm we hoped no one would have cause to come down the track and hoped for the best. It was only a very light drizzle and it was nice to be able to get our tents pitched while it wasn’t too wet. They were still super wet from the night before. I had successfully carried my packet of Doritos strapped to the outside of my pack all day and when I put my pack down the pack burst and I lost a few to the forest but it could have been worse. I guess I’ll be eating those ones first!
There was a bazillion sand flies about and we were bitten several times before managing to get into our tents, where we spent a while killing all the ones that made it inside. I got myself settled and ate my cheese and salami wrap and various snacks. I needed to snip something with my little scissors on my leatherman and annoyingly they have broken by just existing in my pack. The little spring that makes them work as scissors has just sheared off. Most odd. And my shirt already has a small hole in it. Not a good day for broken stuff!
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.