Hump Ridge Track

Trip Start Oct 18, 2005
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Trip End Dec 15, 2005


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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Day 32: We got up in the morning and did a little sea kayaking in the Sound after breakfast. Didn't see anything different except for a few ducks, but it was still cool.

Along the way to our next stop, the Humpridge Track at the very southern end of the island, we stopped by the Clifdon Caves to kill a little time before our pre-tramp briefing. We climbed over a fence into a sheep pasture before coming to the cave entrance. The caves were very cool! They were covered with limestone deposits, and if you turned off all your lights you could see glowworms on the cave roof. They sort of looked like stars in a night sky.

After we had been in the cave for about 40 minutes, we were nearing the end and were pretty excited to see some natural light again. That's when we found the very deep pool of water. Chris threw in several rocks and even a few coins to verify that it was indeed a very deep pool. We looked and looked, but couldn't find a way around it. Hmmm... Now what? Do we swim it or turn around? Saner heads and dry feet previaled and we turned around...only to found out a few hours later that there was a ledge on the left side only a few inches under the water. It was sort of like the secret trick in a Nintendo game.

We arrived at the briefing for the Humpridge Track on time and ready to hear what we had in store for us. Now, this was no regular hiking trip. The Humpridge Track is actually a privately maintained trail, and this was Celebrity Week. Not only were we going to meet some South Island celebrities, but we would have gourmet meals cooked for us each night, and...no kidding...a helicopter would carry our bags from hut to hut. We looked around the room prior to the briefing, and we were definitely in the age minority. There were only four others out of 33 people total who were even close to our age. It got even better when the accommodations were described...one shower for everybody. That's when the auction started for various fundraising amenities; real coffee, a room with a double bed and real sheets (vs. a bunkroom), and finally, the Hump Suite. Once the lucky people had purchased their luxuries, the final surprise was revealed. On the second night we were to prepare and perform some sort of group skit for each other. You should have seen Adam's face as all this was going on. Priceless.

As we looked around the room, we determined that the two very tall younger women in the corner were probably our celebrities, and it turned out that they were netball players for the Southern Sting in Invercargill. For those of you that are uneducated in the New Zealand sporting events, netball is best described as a cross between basketball and ultimate frisbee using a hoop with no backboard. Megan and Jenny joined our group for dinner, and they turned out to be pretty cool. Megan had seriously hyperextended her knee playing netball less than a year ago, so we were quite impressed that she was going to attempt this hike just prior to netball season starting again.

Day 33: We got up bright and early for the bus to pick us up for the first day of the Humpridge Track. Since it was only going to be a 3000 ft elevation gain over 7 miles, we decided to do the additional 3.5 miles of beach walk prior to the real start. Unfortunately for us, we didn't look at the elevation chart prior to making that decision.

The trail started off fairly flat, and they had put in several kilometers of boardwalk (10 km total on the track). We were thinking this would be a breeze! But when do we start the uphill? After walking around 14 of the 18 km we would walk that day, the uphill finally started...and so did the rain. The trackbuilders neglected the switchback tactic and pushed the trail straight up the hill. Whew! After passing most of the people who had started before we did (remember we're racing for first dibs on the only shower) Adam and Jason ran into Megan on the uphill. She was none too happy with Adam when she was stopping for a breath and he blew right past her, poles in hand, and sprinted on up the hill.

Once we straggled into the lodge, got our packs from the heli pad, and got our showers, we settled in for what was unarguably the best hiking food any of us had ever had (after taking advantage of some unexpected sunshine for a few outstanding pictures). Beef, lamb, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and lots of wine (hey, why not if a helicopter is carrying it). Compliments to the chefs (Fran from Ireland and Craig from Britian)! The chefs also happened to be very cool, and we all ended up playing cards and YAHTZEE with them until fairly late, considering we had another 18km hike ahead of us the next day.

Day 34: We met a lady named Linda at breakfast. She had the unfortunate luck to share a bunkroom with Chris, who snores like a bullfrog. We suppressed our chuckles as she described the horrible noise coming from some guy across the room. She even threatened to give his bunk a good shake if he was still asleep when she was ready to go. This day's walk started just as the last one ended, cloudy and rainy. We got a quick and unintelligible lecture from Kathy, the lodge manager, before taking off. She sounded remarkably like the cat lady on the Simpsons, and we really didn't understand a single word she said. Smiling and nodding seemed to make her happy, though.

This day was a little easier since it was mostly downhill...and a lot muddier. Janell spent most of the hike with Linda and soon realized that she just may have escaped from one of the local insane asylums just prior to the trek. At least Janell didn't have to talk much during that hike. There were some outstanding views along the ridge...mostly obscured by clouds. After tramping through the mud for several hours, the trail dumped onto an old railroad track. Smooth sailing, we thought. Unfortunately, the railroad ties were spaced at about 1 1/2 to 1 for a normal stride. This went on for two hours. Did I mention it was muddy?

Once we got there, we were told that there were dolphins that hang out at the beach a mere five minute walk away. So, sand flies be damned, we wandered down to check them out. We saw two dolphins swimming around! Awesome! Unfortunately, it's very diffucult to get a picture of one, but we have our memories.

That night, after another gormet dinner that included venison steaks, we did our skit, and it went something like this. Sing along if you know the bus driver song...

Hail to the Humpridge, the Humpridge, the Humpridge
Hail to the Humpridge that we hiked today.
1) We're hiking in style. There's boardwalk for miles.
Hail to the Humpridge that we hiked today.
2) The put lots of woodchips to make sure we don't slip.
Hail to the Humpridge that we hiked today.
3) For netball they're training. Too bad it keeps raining.
Hail to the Humpridge that we hiked today.
4) We've been hiking for hours. We sure need a shower.
Hail to the Humpridge that we hiked today.
5) We tramped through the mud and lots of other crud.
Hail to the Humpridge that we hiked today.
6) Please be discrete when you go to the Hump Suite.
Hail to the Humpridge that we hiked today.
7)We came from the States and found THE KIWIS ARE GREAT!

Hail to the humpridge that we hiked today.

Afterwards all the groups started to mingle a little bit, and it was pretty fun to meet everybody else. Someone told us that that there was a pretty rowdy group the first night, but we told them we were the last ones up and didn't notice any rowdy people.

It ended up being a very clear night, and since we were out in the middle of nowhere on the very southern tip of New Zealand, we could see a ton of stars. The southern constellations are very different and we saw the Southern Cross for the first time.

Day 35: This was the third and last day on the Humpridge. The lodge manager had told us that we could swim with the dolphins in the morning, so Jen M. and Jason went down to have a go at it. We did see three or four off shore, but after wading in to our knees (remember, there is nothing between New Zealand and Antarctica), we determined it was much too cold to go in much further. We tried to swim with dolphins and all we had to show for it was sandfly bites.

This day was mostly on the beach. The weather was gorgeous and the beach was very variable, so it was a great way to end the tramp. At one point we saw a guy we met named John passing us very quickly with crazy Linda in tow. He had done the WHOLE thing on the beach, even the parts that were all over rocks and weren't part of the trail. We had never seen anybody hike that fast, and we were convinced he was trying to get rid of Linda. Too bad for him she's persistent...and a good hiker.

We ended the Humpridge with lots of new Kiwi friends and several offers to stay with oeople. We'll probably take some of them up on it! With the big hike finally over, we headed for Wanaka to get a good night's sleep.
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