Thursday, February 7, 2008

Done! Time for a vacation hike in Stewart Island

Well, we've done it. At 12:45 today we reached the signpost at Bluff, the southern most town in the South Island. It was a pretty surreal feeling, bittersweet in fact. We're happy and proud of ourselves that we've achieved our goal but we're not ready to stop hiking. It's our life now, we get up, walk all day and do it again the next day. We love it and can't imagine not doing that every day.

We've walked 119 out of the last 139 days, and we've decided to follow it all up with two weeks tramping around Stewart Island. Ironically, our 'vacation' will be our longest section yet which means we'll be heading off on the ferry with our heaviest packs so far. We don't have to be back in Auckland until the end of February - Alice's sister Emma is getting married on March 1st, and we always wanted to get to Stewart Island if we had time. Everyone we've spoken to have raved about the place although the sentence "It's the most amazing you'll go to", is always followed up with "but the mud will be up to your thighs". It’s been an unusually dry and hot summer here so we're hoping the mud won't be too out of control.

The trail to the end didn't end up being as easy as we thought. We only had about 10km to finish up today, and we headed around the base of the Bluff hill. We (wrongly) assumed that this would be a nice tourist track that we could knock off in a couple of hours. It was like that at the end, but the first two thirds of it was pretty much an unmaintained track - poles showed us the way but the ground was all rutted from cow tracks, there was mud, then we had to fight through gorse to reach the easy trail. It was nothing worse than what we've experienced so far, just different from our expectations. We really had to push the pace to make sure we didn't leave everyone waiting at the end.

We haven't been alone in our celebration down here. Desley from Project K, and her partner Tony, along with Alice's parents, Andrew and Jenny, have come down from Auckland to welcome us in. Thank you for your support, it made the end much more special for us. Definitely better than standing next to the sign and having to have a random tourist take our photo.

We are traveling to the Catlins for a couple of days with Alice's parents, then heading to Stewart Island on the 10th. Our next update will be from back in Auckland when we return at the end of the month.

Alice and Dennis

Oreti Beach
Dennis on the trail round the base of Bluff hill
Dennis fighting his way through the overgrown flax bushes
Alice at the southern most point
Us at the Bluff sign, showing our support for Project K