Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Beaches, Kiwis and lots of mud: Tramping the North West Circuit

Back when I was working at the hostel in the Caitlins last summer I thought about heading to Stewart Island. I met quite a few travellers who had been there, many who had walked the Rakiura Track, and they all said it was beautiful. I researched it and quickly decided that the walk I wanted to do was the 8-10 day North West Circuit Track. But at that stage I was yet to do a single multi-day hike in New Zealand. Something to do with a few delays due to eye problems....

From January I began doing some pretty serious tramping, and after my 10 day walk through the Australian Alps in March I knew I was capable of carrying enough food. Once I purchased my Aarn pack, I found it much more comfortable to carry a heavier load. So in slow increments, I was gaining both the experience and the tools to take on such an ambitious trip. Which for me would be 13 days.

The North West Circuit begins and ends in Oban, the only town on Stewart Island. The first section is shared with the Rakiura Track to Port William, and then continues to follow the coastline all the way around the northern section of the island to Mason Bay. From there it crosses "the chocolate swamp" to Freshwater Creek, and then, if doing the entire circuit, requires a climb over to Patersons Inlet where you meet up again with the Rakiura Track at North Arm, for the final section back to town. Many choose to take a water taxi out from Freshwater Hut, or fly in to Mason Bay and do the circuit in a clockwise direction, so the frequently bandied time of 10 days works. To do the whole thing takes longer, especially if you want to factor in a rest day or climbing a mountain for some views.

I learnt back on the Bibbulmun that I am a journeyman. I want to take my time and see it all. I want to do the side trips and soak in the experience. I have absolutely no interest in knocking off a walk in as little time as possible. So I plan accordingly.

Following my Kepler Track walk I spent a couple of days preparing enough food for all those tramping days. I'm now pretty experienced at this. Before I left Wanaka I had used my flatmate's dehydrator to dry some pre-prepared meals, as well as canned tuna and salmon and cooked rice, which I then vacuum packed into individual meal portions. My usual approach is to make up 4-5 different evening meal options, and these days I have quite a few favourites. In fact, many trampers I met on the NW Circuit were fascinated with my food packages and quite envious of the gourmet meals that eventuated from something so small and lightweight.

Outside it was cold wet and miserable. Typical weather for this part of New Zealand! The alpine areas were getting yet another dump of snow and I was extremely glad I was warm and dry at Dean's house in Te Anau, and not out there tramping. I braved the bad weather to go and book a ferry ticket at the Real Journey's Office (my hostel card gave me a 10% discount which I couldn't apply when booking online), and to visit the pharmacy for some heavy duty seasickness tablets. I had never thought to bring any of my usual pills from Australia, which work brilliantly, but aren't sold in NZ. I get appallingly seasick on boats, and never willingly set foot on a seagoing vessel without fortification. The pharmacist offered me the strongest medication he had, and I had to sign a register for it!! Let's hope it does the job!

Sunday I drove down to Bluff in weather that was still cold wet and windy. I had booked the last ferry of the day in the hope that the weather would have improved by late afternoon. Unfortunately, it didn't, but at least the ferry was still running. It was a rather rough 40 minutes across the Foveaux Strait but thankfully the final 20 minutes of the journey were in the lee of the island, so quite calm. The tablets were pretty ineffectual and it was only through sheer willpower that I managed to survive till we were in calmer water and I could relax. But at least I didn't throw up so I guess they had some effect.

I arrived in Oban and walked around to Stewart Island Backpackers and checked in for a night. Then I hit the pub for a meal. I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to enjoy some local fish and chips and a cold beer, as it would only be dehydrated meals for the next two weeks....

Day 1 Half-Moon Bay to Port William Hut  12km, 4hrs
Mud Rating Low: a couple of patches on the detour to see the sawmill relics at Maori Beach. Main track was gravel all the way baby!!

The following morning I packed my bag, deposited my spare clothes and toiletries in the storage room at the backpackers and headed out. First stop the local DOC office to pick up my hut tickets. My first and last nights I would be staying at the two Great Walk huts, so I needed to book and pay for them separately. The rest of the huts on the North West Circuit cost $5 a night. I have a backcountry hut pass which can be used in most backcountry huts (there are exceptions) for a 12 month period but you have to do a fair amount of tramping to make it worthwhile when most huts cost anything from free to $15 a night.

I want to make mention of the excellent service at the Stewart Island DOC office. The officer prefaced the conversation by warning that she didn't mean to scare me but that there were numerous hazards on the track, and, along with some excellent pictures, she went through a detailed rundown of the entire circuit. When I told her I would be walking over Thomson's Ridge back to North Arm she warned me that this section was by far the toughest on the track. When I mentioned I had climbed Gillespie Pass her tone changed and she assured me it was nowhere near as difficult as that, and I'd be fine!!

As I left the DOC office, two local ladies wished me luck and warned me about the mud. "If there's no mud I shall be awfully disappointed" I quipped! Then I set off in the rain.....

You can get transport to the trailhead at Lee Bay, but that's half of the day's walk and the road has no traffic and passes some lovely bays en route. The trees are full of tuis and there's even a phone tree!!

I stopped for lunch at Lee Bay then continued. The trailhead is marked by a Maori sculpture of a stylised anchorstone. I am surprised when the first people I meet on the track are a Swiss family I had walked the Milford Track with 10 days ago! They are walking the Rakiura Track. Small world....

The trail meanders above the coastline on a well graded and gravelled track. The vegetation is lush mixed podocarp forest, no beech forests here, and the beaches are sublime. There's a little detour to see some saw milling relics at Maori Beach before walking along the sand to cross a river on a swing bridge, then it's back into the forest before finally arriving at Port William.

Port William Hut is perched above a glorious beach and is shaded by some mighty eucalypts. Because it was a historic settlement, the Aussie invaders are heritage protected! So says the friendly volunteer hut warden. The Hut is full, with the rest of the occupants either walking the Rakiura Track or workers doing maintenance on the camping site. I am the only one walking the NW Circuit, and unbelievably, have one of the smallest packs of them all!!

Kiwi sightings: 0

Day 2 Port William Hut to Bungaree Hut  6km, 3.5hrs
Mud Rating High: Long sections of mud that can't be avoided. Mud level above top of boots.

I had a leisurely start, due to judicious use of earplugs which prevented me being disturbed by the early risers. I left at 9:30am, backtracked a few hundred metres and then turned right to continue following the north east coastline. No joke but maybe 20 metres in from the junction with the Rakiura Track the mud started! In truckloads!! But with new boots and knee high gaiters, it's by far the better option just to wade on through. Avoiding the mud is exhausting, and frankly, quite futile!

Aside from the long stretches of mud, the track rises and falls as you cross numerous creeks. There are a few stretches of boardwalks and some tree fall to negotiate before emerging at the southern end of Bungaree Beach. The final walk along the beach to the hut perched above is a joy, as are exploring the nearby rocks and sea cave at low tide.

There was already a couple staying at the hut, who planned to take a water taxi out the next morning. After me, Sarah arrived, and much later a trio of Americans struggled in one by one. Sarah and the Americans are also walking the NW Circuit but the Americans appeared to be suffering and Sarah and I wondered if they would make the distance.

It's pleasant company in the hut that evening but we are all in bed soon after sunset.

Kiwi sightings: 0

Day 3 Bungaree Hut to Christmas Village Hut  11.5km, 5.5hrs
Mud Rating Moderate: Less and shorter sections of mud than yesterday. One bad foot placement saw me sinking to mid shin, but mostly the mud level was only ankle deep.

The sunrise is spectacular.

I left the hut at 8:30am, a little after Sarah, but caught up with her at Murray Beach and we walked the rest of the day together. It was an easier day, albeit longer, and pretty typical of most days on the circuit. The trail follows the coast a few hundred metres inland and is mostly in dense forest. There are numerous ups and downs as you cross the umpteen creeks that flow into the ocean and some of these crossings are quite eroded and require climbing over tree roots and rocks. At some stage you will come out on a beach and get to walk along it before re-entering the forest.

Close to Christmas Creek we crossed a swing bridge, then turned right along a boardwalk to emerge onto a pebbled beach. Half way along this beach was the hut. Another drop dead gorgeous location.

We enjoyed a late lunch and a pleasant afternoon looking across the Strait to the snow covered peaks of Fiordland. We collected driftwood from the beach and stoked up the fire.

Kiwi sightings: 0

Day 4 Christmas Village Hut, Day trip to Mt Anglem/Hananui  6hrs
Mud Rating Irrelevant: I walked in a waterfall all day and was totally soaked through!

We woke to rain. I'd planned to spend two nights at Xmas Village in order to climb Hananui, but the woman in the DOC office had said there would be no view if it rained. The last couple of days we'd had rain in the morning but then the weather had cleared, so I decided to stick it out and hope for the best. Sarah was on a tighter schedule so she left at 10 for the next hut and I was all alone. I had no idea if I'd ever see the American trio again, as they certainly hadn't kept going from Bungaree yesterday.

I waited. I packed my lunch and kept looking out the window to see if the clouds were lifting. I collected a bit more driftwood and stoked up the fire again....

In the end I had an early lunch and headed out just before 12. The track signs suggested I was in for a tough hike, but I've learnt that it's so subjective and context is everything.

The start is a steep climb up from the river crossing, then from the junction it follows a gentle ridge for some time before the real ascent begins. I don't know which came first: the stream or the track, but suffice to say the track was now a stream full of water after 12 hours of rain and any hope of staying dry was abandoned. At least I wasn't cold, wrapped up in my rain jacket and pants, and my camera stayed relatively dry.

The weather appeared to be clearing, which was why I continued, despite the conditions. As I ascended the views got better, but soon after I got above the tree line the clouds began to descend again, so at 3:20 I turned around and retreated.

The rain then turned to sleet and it was a long and even wetter walk back down to the hut. I stoked up the fire to dry my clothes and boots. The American trio failed to show up so I spent the night alone.

Kiwi sightings: 0

Day 5 Christmas Village Hut to Yankee River Hut  12km 8hrs
Mud Rating High: Lots of it, but only ankle deep

I was rudely awoken from my slumber by the ear piercing shriek of a kiwi calling out to it's mate, but unfortunately no actual sighting. 5 days, and still no Kiwis seen. Supposedly 30,000 of the flightless creatures on this island, and not one has crossed my path yet. I'm sure my luck will change soon....

I left the hut just after 9am and made my way up that steep hill to the Mt Anglem turnoff. It's a tougher climb with a heavy backpack on! But the weather was awesome with blue sky and only a few clouds. The track continues to undulate, with numerous creek crossings, one a bit more swollen with yesterday's rain. I managed to get quite wet crossing it because I slipped on a mossy rock and pitched headfirst into the water. Luckily my electronics were all packed away inside a dry bag, a precaution I always take before crossing any water that looks like it might be a challenge.

It rained a bit more, but only lightly, and I passed a father and daughter walking in the opposite direction. They had taken 4 hours to walk what subsequently took me 6 hours to do. I had a pleasant lunch stop on Lucky Beach, with its wind sheared shrubbery and ferocious sandflies, and arrived at the hut a little before 5pm.

The hut is beside the river 100m or so back from the beach, which has another good collection of driftwood so I again stacked up the woodpile and enjoyed a pleasant evening with a nice warm fire to dry my gear. A very large fat possum came and sat on the verandah after dark so I shooed it away.

Kiwi sightings: 0

Day 6 Yankee River Hut to Long Harry Hut  8.5km, 4.5hrs
Mud Rating Moderate: Not much mud today, ankle deep, but one unfortunate foot placement went almost to knees!

It rained overnight and first thing in the morning, but it soon cleared to a spectacular sunny day. I left the hut just after 9am, following the river upstream until crossing it on my very first 3 wire bridge. I'd had friends talk about how scary they were to use and so I was filled with a little trepidation, but it was a piece of piss! Not even worth writing a paragraph in a blog about!!

From the river crossing it was a long climb uphill, and then a steep descent to Smoky Beach, where I had to make my way through some unstable dunes to the beach.

Then it was a glorious walk along the sand to the further end. The tide was at its lowest so crossing the stream at the end of the beach was a doddle. I met a couple of American lads walking in the opposite direction, and then stopped for lunch before tackling the final climb of the day.

From Smoky Beach the trail climbed back in to the forest, and then maintained the same elevation as it skirted the rocky coastline and cute sand fringed bays below. Even in the forest there were towering rocks with trees growing off and out of them, and then suddenly, across a steep gully I spied the hut.

I had to descend to a small boulder strewn beach, cross the creek and then climb back up on the other side of the gully to reach the hut. I arrived just before 2pm so made myself comfortable, as I planned to stay 2 nights to give myself a rest day. Everyone said Long Harry was a great hut for a rest day, and at halfway through the trip it was sorely needed. I didn't feel particularly fatigued, especially as the day was glorious with sun and a light wind, and the views were sensational. But I knew the going got tough from here on, so best to rest.

I also had read there were lots of Kiwi sightings at Long Harry Hut, and also yellow eyed penguins, Hoiho, could be seen. No luck on either count, just two very tired human Kiwis who turned up at 6pm looking absolutely spent after a 9 hour walk from East Ruggedy Hut.

Kiwi sightings: 0

Day 7 Long Harry Hut  Rest day
No mud rating today.

I'd cleared up the outer vestibule the day before, where people had left a mess of brush and firewood to keep it dry, but there wasn't a lot of larger pieces of firewood, so back down to the beach to pick it clean of driftwood. That took a short amount of my time and I noticed my legs were sore when climbing, so I was thankful for planning the day off.

The rest of the day I read books, made cups of tea, did lots of stretches and dozed. Oh, and did a little bit of laundry. I only carry one set of clothes for walking in (t-shirt, long sleeved shirt and shorts), and one dry set for the evenings (thermal top and leggings and down pants and jacket) plus some spare knickers and socks, so it's nice to be able to wash the walking clothes. Usually I'll wash them every 2-3 days, depending on the time I turn up in a hut, the weather, and whether there's a good option to get stuff dry. All my clothing is either merino or technical fabric which dries quickly.

Each day when I get to a hut I take my boots and gaiters off, wash the mud off the gaiters (there's always an outside tap and sink for this, or a nearby river) and give myself a little birdbath before changing into my hut clothes. My underwear is also merino, so that dries easily overnight as well.
It's not difficult to maintain your personal hygiene on a long tramp.

Late afternoon two trampers arrived at the hut. They were Alison and AJ, two of the American trio I had met at Bungaree Hut. The third in the party had bailed at Yankee River, sharing a water taxi back to Oban with one of the chaps I'd passed on Smoky Beach. I was thrilled to see them, as I would now have some people to compare notes with at the end of each day. As enjoyable as I find tramping solo, I also enjoy the camaraderie of a hut full of like minded people. Just a small hut full mind you.....

Even later two older women, friends of the couple who stayed last night, struggled in after taking 9 hours to walk from East Ruggedy Hut. We assured them that the walk to Yankee River was much easier. The ladies gave us a blow by blow account of the numerous ups and downs to cross the creeks between here and the view point where Long Harry Hut looks deceptively close but it still took them an hour and a half from there. The couple who came through yesterday had also moaned about this, and had little complimentary to say about the long walk across the boulders at "Boulder Beach". Both couples told me that crossing Boulder Beach took them an hour. I am all prepared for tomorrow to be a tough day.

Kiwi sightings: 0

Day 8 Long Harry Hut to East Ruggedy Hut  9.5km, 5.5hrs
Mud Rating Moderate: I must be getting used to it! Not too much mud today, muddiest section was on walk to lookout, and that was totally worth it!

As you may have noticed it didn't take me 8-9 hours to walk this section, and it honestly wasn't that bad at all. In anticipation of a long day I had left just before 8am. It was yet another sunny day and I got to start with a climb up the ridge and then the four ups and downs to cross the creeks as described by the ladies last night. Being first thing in the morning and refreshed after a rest day, plus knowing what to expect, it took me about an hour. But best of all, I saw Kiwis!!

I was trudging up a muddy incline when a Kiwi came zooming out from the undergrowth next to me and all but mowed me down. It literally almost ran over my boots, scooted up the trail in front of me and headed back into the undergrowth. Wow! No photo but....

Then maybe 20 minutes later I saw another Kiwi cross the track in front of me. I quietly crept closer and watched it for some time as it dug for worms with its beak. Kiwi are almost blind flightless birds, they use vibration and smell to find food so you can get quite close to them as long as you keep quiet. I pulled out my camera to take a photo, but the battery was flat. By the time I had replaced the battery, he'd wandered off into the undergrowth. Still, Kiwi sighting woohoo!!

From the viewpoint looking back to Long Harry Hut, which I later discovered was actually above Long Harry Beach and where the original hut had been sited, the trail traversed a long ridge before it descended to the infamous Boulder Beach.

It took me 30 minutes to boulder hop from one end to the other. AJ and Alison said they saw a sea lion on the rocks when they crossed, I think I was concentrating too much on my footing to have noticed any wildlife.

From Boulder Beach the track climbed steeply and followed a ridge again, with tempting views towards the Ruggedys. Just as my stomach started grumbling I arrived at the turnoff to the lookout, with magnificent views down to East Ruggedy Beach and the mountain range and islands beyond. This is the view you see on the postcards, and on a glorious day like today, it is exceptional. It's why we tramp, to see places like this.

I had lunch at the lookout before negotiating the long slippery descent to the dunes behind the beach. The river crossing can have quicksand, but I didn't encounter any, and then it was a simple 20 minute walk up through the dunes to East Ruggedy Hut hidden amongst the trees.

There are huge ancient Rimu here, and beautiful tree orchids. This is far too remote to have ever been logged. AJ and Alison arrived a couple of hours later and we had a quiet evening. The weather had been balmy all day, so we had no need for a fire.

Kiwi sightings: 2!!

Day 9 East Ruggedy Hut to Hellfire Hut  14km, 7.25hrs
Mud Rating Extreme: Let's just call it the mud highway and be done with it. Lots of it, above both knees at times, some very slippery descents, pretty well guaranteed to fall over into it.

A tough day's walk. I left around 8:15am, beginning with the easy descent to West Ruggedy Beach, which was yet another beautiful beach on another spectacular day. The tide was low so it was easy walking on firm sand.

From West Ruggedy beach the track climbed to a saddle between the Ruggedy Ranges. This section of track was interminably muddy and just seemed to go on and on and on. Then the trail stayed high to make its way around to Waituna Bay.

Waituna Bay was another lovely sandy beach with lots of driftwood washed in. I had lunch near the creek at the far end, and enjoyed views of the Ruggedys from the western side.

Then began the long climb up to Hellfire Hut. More mud, and the deepest yet. You start to get good at determining where the shallower part of a big mud hole will be, and step accordingly, but you don't always get it right. When AJ and Alison arrived later they told me they looked to see where I had stepped to gauge how deep it was. There had been no one through ahead of me for days, so I didn't have that luxury!

Just before Hellfire Hut is a huge sand dune. You can walk down this sand dune to a beach, but I was too tired for that. I continued to the hut, washed off the mud and did some much needed stretches. The hut has awesome views looking down the swamplands to Freshwater Creek. Apparently there is an old track through from here to Freshwater Hut, but it's very swampy, and takes longer than the official route.

Kiwi sightings: 0

Day 10 Hellfire Hut to Mason Bay Hut  15km, 7hrs
Mud Rating Very High: Mainly the descents, which were mudslides, keeping upright optional!

First thing in the morning we saw a Kiwi on the track to the toilet. We had all got up early as we had to beat the tide in order to avoid an arduous high tide detour at the northern end of Mason Bay. A small rocky outcrop blocks beach access at high tide, and the only alternative is a 1.5 hour long high tide route. We had been given the tide times back at the DOC office, and advised that the very latest we could attempt the beach traverse was 4pm. It would take 5-5.5 hours to get there from Hellfire Hut. We all planned to be there by 1-2pm, at which time we should be able to cross without getting our feet wet.

As usual, I left first, at 7:15am. Around 8am I saw another Kiwi. It's not unusual to see Kiwi during the day on Stewart Island, whereas it's very rare on the two main islands.

The track followed a narrow ridge, with fantastic views, both down into the Freshwater swamplands, and later on looking down to Little Hellfire Beach.

The descent to Little Hellfire was a nightmare. If there hadn't been so many rocks and tree roots, the easiest way to descend would have been on a plastic garbage bag on your bum! It was steep, slippery and very difficult to maintain an upright position. Somehow, with judicious use of my poles and tree holds, I managed not to lose my footing, but it took all my concentration.

Another beautiful beach. The weather has been superb for days, with moody skies but no rain, and the views have been spectacular. At the far end of Little Hellfire Beach there's a stream with a lovely waterfall and swimming hole. I would have loved to spend more time there, but it was not a day for dallying. There's a tide time to beat...

Another steep climb and an even muddier mudslide descent to Mason Bay. Make no mistake, this tramp is a tough one...

The north end of Mason Bay has lots of pebbles and boulders to hop over, before passing the rocky outcrop and then it is firm sand with wind sculpted dunes behind. Once past the northern section I found a nice piece of driftwood to sit on and have a leisurely lunch.

Then I strolled down the rest of the beach before turning up the river and following the 4WD track to Mason Bay Hut.

Mason Bay Hut gets the most visitors as many people take a water taxi to Freshwater Hut and then walk the two hours over to it. There is also the option to fly in, the beach being the airstrip at low tide. But today the hut isn't full, with only one other couple besides us three, who are walking the Southern Circuit, having flown in to Doughboy Bay and walked from there. Apparently the Southern Circuit makes the mud on the NW Circuit seem insignificant....

I went looking for Kiwi that evening, Mason Bay apparently being a good spot for them. No luck at increasing my tally from the morning.

Kiwi sightings: 2

Day 11 Mason Bay Hut to Freshwater Hut  15.5km, 3hrs
Rocky Mountain return trip  5km, 3hrs
Mud Rating Low: it hasn't rained for days and the water is well below the boardwalk. A bit of mud on the track to Rocky Mountain, but mostly dry.

The weather was forecast to turn in the next day, so AJ and Alison left early to tackle the climb over Thomson's Ridge to North Arm before the rain hit. I was keen to climb Rocky Mountain for some views so only planned to go as far as Freshwater Hut. Jill and John, who were walking the Southern Circuit, also planned to stay there.

The crossing of "the chocolate swamp" was a breeze. It is mostly boardwalk, and since there had been no rain for days, it's hard to get mud on the boots at all. Sure there's a little bit, but after the quagmires of the last few days this was very easy going. There's some vestiges of previous farming ventures at Mason Bay before hitting the swamp, which really does have the consistency of chocolate mousse. Thankfully I didn't have to experience it....Instead, I enjoyed the myriad birdlife.

After a leisurely lunch at Freshwater Hut, I took the daypack and headed up the track to Rocky Mountain. It's a steep climb, but not as long as Mt Anglem and the views were worth the effort. I'm annoyed I didn't take more photos..

From the tops it didn't look too bad weather wise, but overnight it began to rain.....

Kiwi sightings: 0

Day 12 Freshwater Hut to North Arm Hut  11km, 6.5hrs
Mud Rating High: it was raining all day. Wet, slippery and slow going.

I had hopes that the rain would clear, but it showed no sign of doing so. At 9:30am I headed off on what was now a rain sodden track, so all the muddy sections that had been dry or quite firm yesterday, no longer were. It was full rain gear from the get go, not that that prevented me from being soaked through by the time I got to North Arm that evening..

The track sidled under Rocky Mountain for a while before the climb up Thomson's Ridge. This is very obviously the least used part of the circuit as it was sometimes a little difficult to find your way. At one point the trail involves walking up a stream bed, which of course was pretty wet given it had been raining for hours.

Up the top there are some board walks in small sections, and then a very steep, technical descent. Even more technical in the wet slippery conditions. I met a young American lad walking in the opposite direction, who told me the river crossings were fine, but by the time I reached the main one, which is no longer bridged, it was not an easy boulder hop, but a wade through to mid shin. Which was totally fine, and I didn't slip over this time!

Down at Patersons Inlet I still had quite a way to walk right around North Arm Inlet to the Hut. There were two more creek crossings, one with a beautiful waterfall, and some lovely sheltered bays.

I didn't stop for lunch, it being too wet, so I snacked regularly instead and was very glad to arrive at the fire warmed hut, full of walkers off The Rakiura Track. I managed to find a spot to dry my clothes, ate my final dehydrated dinner and headed to bed.

Kiwi sightings: 0

Day 13 North Arm Hut to Oban  12km, 5.5hrs
Mud Rating Low: surprisingly more mud than I expected given this is part of the Rakiura Track, but nothing deep or extensive.

I was in no hurry to leave the next morning and was grateful that all my wet clothes had dried overnight. I was last to vacate the hut at 9:30am and made my way slowly towards Oban. For some reason I had hit the wall and was utterly exhausted.

About an hour after I left the hut I had the most intense Kiwi encounter of the trip. A very inquisitive Kiwi comes and sniffs me! Here's the video!

Kiwi1 from Naomi Brooks on Vimeo.

It was overcast but nothing more than light rain fell. I took the coastal route back, via Ryan's Creek and Golden Bay. It is quite scenic, dropping down into small bays and inlets, but it doesn't have the grandeur of the sandy beaches I'd been traversing for the last 12 days.

I arrived at the backpackers, had a gloriously long hot shower, put all my trekking gear through the laundry, and then hit the pub for a well earned pint and a meal. If there's one thing guaranteed about going tramping, post tramp indulgences are completely guilt free!!

Kiwi sightings: 1

What an amazing tramp this was. Probably my favourite one so far. Perhaps for the sheer length of it, or maybe for the glorious beaches, scenery and wildlife. It was tough though, especially mentally with all the mud and the interminable ups and downs of the creek crossings.

I stayed on Stewart Island a few more days, having to extend my stay after the weather got so bad the ferries stopped running. We had been extremely lucky to get so many good weather days on a 2 week tramp and I was now glad to be warm and dry with a local pub just around the corner. I caught up with quite a few of the trampers I'd met along the way, after all, there's only one pub!!

I waited until the seas settled before rebooking my crossing, and this time had no issues with feeling sick. I still took the tablets, and tried putting an earplug in my non dominant ear, a suggestion Alison and AJ gave me. Whatever, it worked!!

Just before leaving I managed to pop over to Ulva Island, a predator free island where you can see lots of birds, as well as see what the vegetation would be like without deer eating the broadleaf plants. It's definitely worth the trip.

So that's all of my NZ tramps for 2018. I'm off back to Oz for a summer of windsurfing!! And a non PC suntan! Can't wait....