Tide and Time Waits for No Man

Trip Start May 30, 2005
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Trip End Sep 30, 2006


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Monday, November 14, 2005

Another of New Zealand's 'Great Walks', this one winds its way along 51 Km of coastline, great scenery and a great walk was promised. It's possible to catch water taxis up and down the coast allowing you be be picked up or dropped off at almost any point en-route, making it one of the most accessible walks around.

There are two major points on the routes where you need to cross rivers during the low tide, to coincide with these times I'd start at the north end and get a head of steam up in order to get to the crossings in time. I had options to only walk part of the track but I decided that taking the bull in two hands and spoiling the broth was the best course of action and I'd try and walk the entire 51Km in two days. I knew I may be biting off more that I could chew but I had the option of water taxis to get me out of there if necessary! To put this into perspective, I would be walking the equivalent of three quarters of a marathon one day, then a half marathon the next, with a couple of hills thrown in for good measure.

I couldn't have hoped for a nicer day to start the trek, blue skies, cool weather, beautiful coast as promised. I really can't describe just how amazing it looked. The walk was going well and I decided to make a small detour to Separation Point where it's possible to view seals and sea birds hanging about on the rocks, not really taking too much notice of me, it was worthwhile.

After a few hours of walking I looked out the the sea and saw a bit of a storm brewing, I had no idea which way it'd head so the only option open to me was to continue on the trek. I was making good time and wasn't worried about the tidal crossings that I'd need to make.....

It started as a light rain, nothing to worry about. I didn't even bother to put my rain jacket on. I'd perhaps walked about 10Km by this point, 20 Km to go by the end of the day. Just as I reached the top of a ridge between a couple of bays the heavens just opened up. Hail. I fished for my rain jacket in my bag, catching it after a few seconds. It was too late my T-shirt was already sodden. I tried to hide under a tree here but there just wasn't enough shelter. I started walking down the track to find some bigger trees, this soon changed into a sprint in an attempt to get out of the ice-cream-headache-inducing hail stones that were embedding themselves into my skull. I had to fish in my bag again for my hat which made a huge difference to my well-being.

The hail wasn't letting up and I had a schedule to keep. I also knew that I wasn't too far from shelter at Totaranui, I just had to brave it. I was drenched, wet to the skin. I turned up there after a further half hour like a fish out of water. Not surprisingly I found the shelter there to be rather busy with several people looking worse off than me (especially the ones that had decided to wear jeans and not bring any waterproofs or warm clothes!)

I sheltered here for a while until the storm passed and the weather tuned down to just persistant rain. I had to get going. I changed T-shirt, felt better and headed off again. despite the weather I was still in good spirits and managed to get to the first crossing at Awaroa just as the tide was at its lowest. I'd now been walking for 5 hours and was feeling a little tired, but I had to go on and get across the next tidal crossing. I was day dreaming about getting across this as it meant I could stop and take a proper rest, my schedule would have been fine on a nice day, but the weather had made the going much more difficult.

I could have jumped with joy if I'd had the energy when I finally got to Onetahuti and across the river before the tide had its nasty way with it. I sat on the far side of the bank and had a good rest while I sat there feasting on peanuts and talking to an American girl that thought I was nuts.

I still had one and a half hours to go and when I started again I felt really stiff, taking a while to get warmed up again. The thought of getting to the hut is what drove me on next, dreaming of nice warm and dry pad. I was almost there when I got my next bit of bad news. I found a sign that pointed one way saying "Bark Bay Huts" and another pointing another direction saying "Bark Bay Huts (High Tide Crossing)", What! why hadn't anyone told me about this. I was so tired that I didn't want any extra milage so headed in the direction of the first sign.

The rain had died down enough and I'd started to dry out a little, ha ha. When I reached the river it was waist high, and since I'd walked down a hill for five minutes from the sign there was no way I was heading back. Off came the socks and shoes and I just waded it, I was past caring at this point.

9 Hours and 30 Kilometers after the start I reached the hut, bliss, I could have kissed the hut. I found a not very small group huddled around the gas fire drying off their clothes. Everyone had been struck by the awful weather. It was nice just sitting around in the evening swapping stories of how bad the day had been. One couple couldn't get over what I'd done, they'd spent the last three days walking the same part of track that I'd just walked, except they hadn't even done the little detour to see the seals as they thought it was too far!

After a few hours and with drier clothes I literally hobbled to bed and had a fantastic night's sleep. I had to get up early the next day and get to the end of the track before 3pm for my bus so there were still deadlines to meet. I'd expected my legs to be aching and have to pull out due to them, but they were fine. What I did have was a little pain in my foot, possibily my metatarsal! Quite often it's possible to walk off these little niggles once you get warmed up. I tried, but it didn't work. An hour and a half after leaving Bark Bay I arrived in Torrent Bay. I'd have had an awful day if I'd tried to continue so I just sat there and waited for a water taxi to take me to the end of the trail.

It eventually took my three hours to catch one as I'd arrived there before 9am, however it was probably one of the most fantastic places that you could wait. The taxi was great, when we arrived at Marahau we all stayed on the boat while it was driven onto a trailer. A tractor then pulled the boat a couple of kilometers down the road before getting off it, it was weird.

I was a bit disappointed that didn't finish the walk but I'd walked a fair portion of it and it'd not disappointed me, it'd been amazing. I plan to do more walking before I leave New Zealand as well so it's pointless aggrivating it. If it doesn't heal in a couple of days then I'll get it checked out when I arrive in Wellington.

I got back to Nelson in the afternoon and ended up just sleeping for a couple of hours, I was knackered!
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