Monday, January 28, 2008

Leaving the mountains

Rain, rain go away. It finally did, but it took a while. It wasn't until after 2pm. We started off in Queenstown where we had to hitchhike back out to where we left off. We hitchhike to get into towns to resupply with food, never in a positive direction. After we get food and a break, its back out to where we left off, so we don't miss a single step between Cape Reinga and Bluff. Thank you to all the kind people who have given us rides, and to those people who offer them. We always get offered rides when we can't take them, but when we do need them we're often left stranded on the side of the road, watching cars wizz by at 100+km an hour. When its raining, it can be hard to turn down rides. Especially when a large, dry, warm bus pulls over and offers you one. The driver's comment was: "I thought you were one of the crazy ones who didn't get the shuttle to the start of the trail. But you're not. You're even crazier."

We eventually got to the trailhead of the Greenstone Track where we slept in the shelter. We only did a small portion of the Greenstone, a very well maintained track that had small footbridges over every tiny dip in the trail. From there we made our way to the Mavora Walkway, quite the opposite from the Greenstone. I wouldn't have turned down a few of those small footbridges as we picked our way through the boggy marsh.

We found ourselves back in farm country, I even saw my first real life cowboy. He was out mustering cattle in the Mararoa River Valley, moving them into the Greenstone River Valley over 5 days. Cattle must walk pretty slow because it was only 30km away.

One highlight was a waterfall stream crossing. The easiest place to cross was at the top of a 5m high waterfall. The water cascaded past the rocks we jumped between and dropped into an emerald green pool.

We've had plenty of time on this trip to observe crazy stock antics. It seems sheep tend to run away when they see us, while cows run towards us. We have had times walking along the road when there are over 100 cows trailing us in an adjacent paddock. Sheep on the other hand can be painful to watch. We can be 100m away and half the time they see us then proceed to barrel right into a fence. Two things can happen, it hits the fence and rebounds off, or it manages to get half its body through. With each ensuing step we take the sheep squirms and bucks until either it gets through or gets stuck. I walk over to the stuck ones, my presence is usually enough to get them to try harder to get through. We saw a mother and a lamb in a field, they were 50ft away and looked totally calm. Then all of a sudden they bolted towards the fence, I'm usually shouting "No! No!" at this point. They smash into it, Mom gets halfway through, the lamb rebounds, the mother squirms through and keeps running. Doesn't even look back. No more lamb.

We finished off this section with some on the fly route changing. We saw some DOC workers along the way and enquired about another small section that would keep us off the roads. We headed down the Oreti River Valley and spent the night at the Lincoln/Patterson Bivouac, a pint size, orange box in the trees with 2 bunks. On popular tracks some of the huts have flush toilets but they do not have as much character as these small, rarely used ones.

Next update will be from the south coast of the South Island. It will have been over 2 months since we've seen the sea, almost to Bluff.


Dennis at the waterfall crossing
Alice walking through tall tussock
Carey's hut on the shores of North Mavora Lake
Lincoln/Patterson Bivouac