Anticipation isn’t high on my agenda so it was somewhat of a surprise when I loaded my pack on my shoulders. There has been some nutty decisions taken to this point, their aggregation, ie, weight, adds up to plenty to lug.
I’m keen to see everything this spin of the NW Circuit and my slow bicycle touring philosophy has permeated potential travels on foot: no one walks slower than me. There’s also the Moderate Effort requirement to see as much as possible, perhaps this will be my last trip around here: Mt Anglem/Hananui and Rakeahua are potentially on the itinerary, weather dependent; I’m keen on the Southern Circuit, memories of that view of the Tin Range from Doughboy Hill on a trip where my digital camera proved less than robust and expired in the first week, then the next time around I was prepared but the weather was seriously against me, the Rakeahua Valley sodden even in a drought, ie, hasn’t rained for three days.
Unbelievably my trip duration has all turned on cutting up my lunchtime cheese and fruitcake into equal segments, seemed 12 + 6 was the way to go, mathematically, with 1.5kg so there’s a resultant 18 days of lunches aboard. 18 bags of porridge, 18 dinners, mostly spaghetti although there’s some rice and an extra cous cous or two. Plus 2 litres of Shellite fuel for the stove, Fuelite they refer to it now.
For once it was all stashed compactly from the outset, usually takes a couple of days to shake it down but the reality is I need 98% of that 90 litres of pack capacity to stow it all, no room for air.
The moment of truth arrived when I actually had to carry my pack downstairs, and yes, it’s clearly the most thumping load since my NZFS days of having to carry two weeks supply of chainsaw fuel on top of all the rest of the stuff.
No cheap accommodation in mid-winter on the island, a single room is more than double my standard backpacker style expenditure at $60 a night at the South Seas Hotel—it’s no surprise I’m the only one on the bus heading to Bluff. Prices have risen steeply since my last visit five years ago, 50%, it’s just too expensive for your standard younger traveller these days.
There’s a group of five electricians on the ferry, work related, maybe something on a new mussel farm, one sparkie has to carry a bundle of conduit aboard himself, an older islander returning home after a few days off the leash, or seeking medical treatment more feasibly, and me, at least as passengers, seven in total, and it takes three on-board staff to look after us including the epauletted captain of the speeding vessel, it doesn’t muck around.
A smooth cruise across one of the world’s most choppy straits, exposed to the roaring 40s and around 30m deep—shallow for a sea—for the major part, looking at the depth sounder, for once I can spot Mt Anglem/Hananui, many NZ place names sport the original Maori tacked on behind the forward slash, and the forested coast I will wander for the next few days.
The sensible approach to the NW Circuit is anti-clockwise, to Port William, you can start on the manicured road, the Rakiura Track. If, when you get to that first hut, about four hours relatively easy walk away, the load lessens slightly, another four hours the next day, each day dropping about 600 to 700g.
So far so good. 7:17pm, dark, 10ºC.
Snuggled in my toasty sleeping bag.