April 11th 2017
Invercargill – Bluff
Total distance: 1876.6 miles.
I had trouble sleeping last night. I had that feeling you get, of nervous excitement, like a kid before Christmas. I think I went through all the emotions, including briefly getting sucked into the post adventure blues before the adventure was even over! I probably got about 4 hours sleep, but it was easy to get up when the time came.
We all left together around 8am and walked the first few miles on an estuary cycle / walkway. That was a bit of an odd experience, walking through a natural environment but surrounded by large industrial plants and some very funky smells. The was a constant rainbow to our right, but it wasn’t raining so I think it was from the pollution. It was completely flat and easy to follow so I spent some time on my phone, getting some last minute support and donations to Just A Drop and I was able to break the £3k barrier which was a nice boost to the start of the day.
I strode out ahead a bit and put some music on. I came across a guy on a quad bike and he stopped to speak to me, apologising for the walkway not being complete and informing us we would have to walk the road to Bluff, which we did already know. He said all the funds are being sent to Christchurch which is still getting back on its feet after the earthquake. Later in the day someone else said that was ‘bullshit’. Everyone will tell you something different.
Once we came to the end of the walkway we joined the highway. Everyone complains about the highway walks in the north, but this one is by far the worst one of the whole trail. The shoulder is narrow and the road is busy with huge transport lorries and logging trucks. Sometimes they have the room to move over to pass you but a lot of them pass very close and very very fast. You get battered by the backdraft and covered in grit and debris from the road. Maybe it was because the end was so close, but it was a real challenge to stay positive along this road.
There is nowhere to stop along the road, and unfortunately I needed a wee along the way. So I just went in the tall grass which was fine, apart from all the grass that got trapped in my knickers after I pulled my pants up. As I continued to walk I could feel all the bits and walked along with my hands down my pants trying to dig them out but not wanting to stop.
Lots of people waved, which was really nice of them, but after 3 hours it gets quite tiring and I mostly tried to keep my head down and avoid eye contact! Strangely I did look up as one car passed to see a girl waving at me and it was someone I knew! Sarah (Nuthatch) has been about 10 days ahead of me since the start of the PCT sobo. We connected on Facebook but this is the closest we have come to meeting each other in real life!
I was pleased when the Bluff sign came into view and we could finally stop and rest and eat something. The Bluff signed wasn’t quite what I was expecting, surrounded my old oyster shells (Bluff is world famous for its oysters) if really stank of old fish, and the sand flies were out of control. It was the least relaxing break, so after shovelling in some food and taking a couple of photos we moved on. The next part of the track was closed because there were Bulls in the fields, so we had to continue on through town instead. At least we could now walk on a pavement.
We passed a little shop and decided to treat ourselves to an ice cream, I asked for a double scoop, knowing that so far the serving size in the South Island is rather small compared to the north island. Not in this shop! I got served 3 scoops! We ate our ice creams as we walked the final couple of miles down to Stirling Point.
The sign post came into view and then we were next to it and then it was the end. It’s weird finishing a long hike. You think about this moment a lot and yet when you get there you’re just there, and that’s it. You touch the sign, you take some photos, you get a little cheer from some tourists when they ask what you’ve done, you sit and have a little reflect and then you realise the sand flies are about to send you over the edge of madness, so you get up and walk away.
We stayed there for about half an hour, got hugged by some Kiwi people completely off their tits on whatever the drug of choice was, and watched as groups of tourists came to take pictures of the signpost. We guessed that we would need to walk back to town to try to hitch a ride out. We probably would have stayed in Bluff the night had we not been invited back to Riverton to stay with my friends, but really there is no reason to stay in Bluff, there’s nothing there, unless you like Oysters
We tried to hitch along the way, but no one picked us up so we ended up walking another couple of miles back to town. A man came out his shop and told us we wouldn’t get a ride from where we were standing and we needed to go further up, past the wharf, where we would probably get a ride from a worker on their way home. So we walked another mile up the road and after about 15 minutes we got a ride from a man who was going to Invercargill to pick up his daughter from basketball practice. He was really nice and took us out of his way to the other side of town where it would be easiest for us to get a ride to Riverton.
It was getting cold now and standing on the side of the road wasn’t fun! We were there for about 20 minutes and no one was stopping, so I went inside the liquor store to ask the lady if she had any cardboard we could use to make a sign and, of course, while I was in there we got a ride! Andy lives in Riverton and when we described where we wanted to go we established that he went to school with the owners of the house we are staying with. He took us to the supermarket, where we bumped into James, another hiker. There are a whole bunch of people in town, including Sian and Colin and boy Erin who are all leaving tomorrow for their last two days to the finish, he then took us all the way to the door of the house! Some people are so kind.
Reunited with Crusher, Scott, Rebecca, Holly, and I finally got to meet Nuthatch, we were cooked a celebratory meal. Tomorrow rain is forecast and I won’t be going anywhere.
As of 15/4 my fundraising total for Just A Drop is £3430.60! I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who donated. And there is still time to donate to help me reach my target!
I am going to take a little break from writing, because keeping the blog has been as hard as the trail! But I will be back with some summaries / thoughts / advice for future thru hikers. I’m not really sure how I feel right now. I was feeling ready to be finished with the trail, and I am definitely ready for a rest, but I’m already thinking about what’s next…