Sunday, January 13, 2008

RIP second pair of shoes

They were doomed from the start. Out of the box just five days before in Wellington I ripped a hole in the side in the Richmond Range. I was almost reduced to tears, $150, 5 days old. Al propped me back up, slapped some sense into me, and I was off hiking again. I wasn't about to give up on them that early, I can sew. I must've been a cobbler in a past life because I managed to keep the shoes alive until yesterday, when I put them into retirement.

Half a spool of thread, seven sewing needles, five thread patches, two duct tape patches, two cloth patches, a tube of glue and probably over 20 hours of my time into keeping them going.

It was said in one of the backcountry hut books in the 'main activity of this trip' column: "Wearing the tread off the soles of my shoes". We have been doing just that. Have I learned anything? Mesh shoes have no place in the rocky New Zealand terrain.

Thanks to Santa, who is apparently great friends with my parents, I was sent some brand new Montrail Hurricane XCRs, the same shoes I used for the entire North Island. I am very thankful for that and can assure you all I will be walking out of Wanaka with some shiny new shoes on and a big smile. I'll probably be tripping a lot, its been a while since I've had tread. I hate that.


Running from the sandflies

It finally happened. We went to the DOC information centre in Twizel and we were able to talk to a knowledgeable staff member. Time after time, the people we are able to talk to at DOC are not the ones who are out on the trails, and we are generally not wanting to do the one hour tourist loop so we inevitable leave frustrated. But Richard McNamara at Twizel was great. We had reservations about the route we had come up with ourselves, we thought it went through a lot of private land. It did, so seemed too complicated to attempt it. We ended up with a much better route though that took us up river valleys and over ridges.

We walked past Lake Ruataniwha and Ohau to Freehold Creek. We ended up walking up the ridgeline in between Freehold and Parsons Creeks. It was another stunning day where we woke to clouds, but after about an hour of walking they broke apart and we were given amazing views over the lakes and glacier covered mountains. It was a steep climb, but well worth it.

The walk down the other side into Snowy Gorge River wasn't quite so fun. The barren ridgeline was replaced with waist high tussock, uneven ground and spiky tipped plants. We have actually just learned the name for our most hated plant. The Spaniard, or appropriately nicknamed Bayonet Plant, is the real name for what we had dubbed 'The Spiky Plant of Death', or SPOD for short. This one draws blood when you walk past it and Dennis had a particularly painful experience with it in the Nelson Lakes National Park when he slipped down a bank and ended up with 22 holes in his right hand and wrist when he landed in the plant. But we're pretty good at avoiding them now and the hut at the end made it all worth it.

From the Snowy Gorge River Valley we headed up the Ahuriri Valley and over into Dingle Burn Valley. This was another beautiful valley with jagged peaks, glaciers and cool gorges as we went down. Pity about the sandflies though. We haven't had to deal with the dreaded sandflies in quite a while, our two days in the Dingle Burn Valley sure made up for it though. Our first night at the Top Dingle Hut was bearable, we were dressed in socks, full length pants and long sleeved tops which kept them away, we just couldn't have our headlamps on after dark. Our second night at Bush Hut was another story. It was insanely hot in the hut but opening the door or window would've been suicide. We ate dinner sweltering in our long clothes, our wrists and hands getting attacked from every angle. Eventually we couldn't take it anymore and, for the first time, abandoned the hut for our tent. We were speed machines. That tent has never been put up so fast, we threw our gear and ourselves into it then went on a five minute killing spree to get all the flies that managed to get in. I didn't want to get out of the tent in the morning. I woke to the mesh screen completely covered in bugs, it sounded like rain because so many of them were flying into the side. Again, the tent was down in record time, I could hardly see Dennis when he was rolling it due to the swarm of bugs surrounding him. Sandflies are definitely the downfall of some of the most scenic spots down here.

We headed out of the valley to the shores of Lake Hawea, my favourite lake so far. We were following a really cool gravel road cut into the cliff which gave us amazing views of the surrounding mountains and deep water.

On this section we also finally did a 40km day. We've got close before with 39 and 38km days but we figured we had to cross the 40 threshold before the end of our trip. We'd started the morning walking down a river with endless crossing in freezing water so we needed a fast paced afternoon to make it. But hey, if we're going 40, we may as well make it a marathon. We ended the day with 42.4km behind us, and our bodies were holding up fine.

We're currently in Wanaka having a couple of rest days. We're thinking of moving here for the winter once the hike is done so we want some time to check it out. It seems strange to think about snow in this crazy heat but we like it here so far.


Alice walking up the Freehold Creek ridge with Lake Ohau in the background
The view up Dingle Burn River to the start of the valley
Dennis doing the steep scramble down to Dingle Burn
Alice and Dingle Burn river gorges
Lake Hawea

Canals, canals, canals

There's something to be said for mountains, the feeling of achievement, amazing views and interesting trails. As for canals, well, maybe not. We had two days of walking along the flat Tekapo Canal between Lake Tekapo and Twizel. Al and I rochamboed to see who should write this one, I lost. I always throw scissors, why did I throw rock?

It wasn't all terrible, we had amazing views of Mt Cook for two straight days, and perfect weather. Absolutely no clouds, just sun. No trees either and no shade for that matter. Al and I did manage to get a bit of shade next to Lake Pukaki Information Center. We were cowered against the side of the building in the bushes. Not the prettiest sight but it was shade.


Tekapo Canal with Toitoi
Mt Cook from the canal
Mt Cook from Lake Pukaki