The Rakiura Track

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
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Trip End Feb 27, 2006


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Tuesday, October 4, 2005

DAY 1

I treated myself to a fry up on Saturday morning, hoping that it would give me an energy boost ahead of my walk. I have done a fair bit of walking in New Zealand, but this was to be the first serious tramp where I had to carry my main backpack. It did feel quite heavy, and experienced trampers may well have chosen lighter foodstuff than tins of beans, but it was only for 3 days...

The first 5km followed a gravel road along Horseshoe Bay, and I felt fine when I reached the official start of the track at Lee Bay. I ate the first of my 10 Mars bars, then went for a short walk along the beach without my backpack. I returned a few minutes later and caught my first glimpse of the wildlife on the Rakiura Track...a giant rat! It quickly scurried off into the bush, but it acted as a reminder to make sure the hut's doors were closed before going to sleep.

The next couple of hour's walking reminded me of the Abel Tasman, as the track followed the coastline and you'd get great views of the beaches. I stopped at Little River for a short break, before continuing on through the bush until I reached the golden sands of Maori Beach. Here I sat down and enjoyed the sunshine for about half an hour, making sure I was covered in insect repellant to keep the pesky sandflies at bay.

I crossed a swingbridge and made my way up a steady incline, which was the first demanding part of the track. It was slightly muddy in places, but most of the track was boardwalked so it wasn't too bad. Once again, it was very peaceful and I'd not seen another soul since Lee bay, so it was surprising to reach the first hut at port William and find it was quite busy. The reason for this is because it is at a crossroads of various tracks, so a lot of people pass through every day.

It was only 3pm so I asked one of the DOC workers about a signposted 1 hour return Nature Walk, and he said it was nice although "quite muddy." This turned out to be a major understatement, and I soon regretted venturing further afield. After a couple of near misses, the inevitable happened...I slipped and in an instant, I was laying ON MY BACK in a swamp of mud! My beloved black hoodie was filthy, as were my combats. I saw the funny side of it at least, but I turned back immediately and thankfully made a half decent job of cleaning myself up with clumps of grass!

I spent the remaining daylight hours relaxing in the sun outside the hut. As the sun began to set, I walked to the end of the nearby wharf, then listened to some music whilst sitting on a huge rock at the end of a deserted beach. A real highlight came when a rainbow emerged from the water in front of me, providing a beautiful scene with the sun setting behind me.

The hut was in darkness by 8pm, and I must admit I'd not realised that this would be the case. So the 6 others in my dorm and myself all had an early night, ready for the most difficult part of the track the next day...

DAY 2

I had a good 12 hours sleep in preparation for the next section of the track, although one of the German girls next to me was a serial snorer! In contrast to the previous day's fry up, I had to make do with peanut butter sandwiches and another Mars bar this time. "No worries" though, and at 9am I set off on my merry way again.

The weather didn't look too promising, and within minutes some light drizzle was in the air. As the day went on, this light drizzle turned into persistent rain, resulting in one of those days that in hindsight can be called "an experience." I may well have used a few harsher words to describe it at the time, as I trudged through the thick mud in the heart of the bush.

I took solace from the fact that it was raining on a day when there wasn't a great deal to see. There was just one look out halfway along the track, but all I could see were clouds! I'm not a great fan of solid bush walking as you could be anywhere in the world, so I put my head down and reached the North Arm Hut in 5 hours, relieved to be out of the rain.

The hut was freezing and I was all alone, so I climbed into my sleeping bag, listened to my music and got up to date with my journal. I was delighted when 3 Kiwis arrived a couple of hours later, and their appearance coincided with some brighter weather. Therefore I went down to the beach and did a bit of climbing over the rocks, until I came to a lovely bay. The water was so still, and the only noise came from a couple of birds who would occasionally dive under to try and catch a fish. Again, I stayed there for a couple of hours as it turned out to be quite warm, and I wanted to experience the tranquility of the place.

On return at the hut, I found the Kiwis trying to light a fire which provided some warmth. I was relieved by their presence, but when it started to get dark I got into my sleeping bag again and fell asleep in no time at all - it had been a long day.

DAY 3

I woke at 8.30am and immediately looked out of the window...blue skies and white fluffy clouds! Perfect. So I packed everything into my backpack, had a bite to eat, and left before the Kiwis had even woken up. I was in good spirits as the map indicated that I'd pass by several bays, meaning there'd be some nice views that would make up for the previous day's solid bush.

I took my first break at Sawdust Bay, but soon continued, passing the picturesque Price's Inlet en route. It was shortly after this that I experienced the highlight of my tramp...

I was walking along as usual, minding my own business, when I looked up and saw a HUGE bird in the trees. I don't think I've ever seen such a bird in the wild before. It resembled a parrot, with a huge beak, white head and red tinted feathers. In truth, it scared the living daylights out of me, particularly as it swooped down towards me. I ducked and let out an expletive, before gathering my composure. It had landed on a nearby branch and was pecking away at a tree trunk, and I spent the next 10-15 minutes watching it, and trying to get a better view. I got to within a couple of metres of it, before it flew high into the trees and out of sight. I'd not been lucky enough to see a kiwi on Stewart Island, but this definitely made up for it.

Further along at Kaipipi Beach, I saw a woman who was out walking her dog (who was looking very pleased with himself having just caught a possum!). I asked her about the bird I'd just seen, and she said it sounded like a Kaka, so I was pleased to get a name to fit the description.

As I approached Oban, I heard more and more birds singing, and saw a few other walkers who were taking advantage of the weather. The final 2km were on a gravel road, and a woman actually pulled up and asked if I wanted a lift to town. I politely declined, as this would feel like cheating and thus detract from my sense of achievement.

My calf muscles were aching by the time I reached the backpackers, but I'd completed the track without too many problems, and for the most part I'd enjoyed my first real tramping experience.
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