Posted by: Talie Morrison | December 18, 2014

Back on the South Island

It’s SO GOOD to be back!

My Kiwi Van is running perfect (which is pretty amazing for a 21 year old vehicle)!    Myles and Margaret took it to the mechanic before I got here because I knew it would need a new timing belt.   That was a bit costly (at about NZ$1000 – especially since I only paid $1900 for it in the first place) – but if you look at the big picture: having a vehicle, the number of nights I sleep in it, etc., it is really a wonderful deal!

 

Ocean front property for only $6 a night!

Ocean front property for only $6 a night!

Before I left Christchurch, I did a big grocery shopping and got all my backpacking supplies for over a month!   Then I headed up the East Coast of the South Island and stopped above Kaikoura.   I was getting all my gear together and my pack packed, when I realized that I had forgotten to buy Mentholated Spirits (alcohol for my alcohol stove).   Bummer! – so it was a 45-minute drive back down to Kaikoura – and by the time I got back, it was raining….  Thus,  I decided to wait one more day to head up the Sawcut Gorge track – mainly because there are 58-stream crossing to get to Isolation Hut!   I was a little nervous about the water being high after the rains, but it was not an issue.

It says 2.5 hours to the gorge (I managed to stretch it to about 4 hours!) - but I had all day!

It says 2.5 hours to the hut (I managed to stretch it to about 4 hours!) – but I had all day!

58 stream crossing - luckily none were more than knee deep.

58 stream crossing – luckily none were more than knee deep.

 

I was sharing the track and the river crossing with about 20 teenagers – a youth group from Blenheim.   It was fun having their energy all around me!   They stopped and turned around after going through the gorge – and when I congratulated them for being out there and hiking up to the gorge, they congratulated me for doing it with my full pack!

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The river goes right through that cut in the rocks!

 

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It feels like you are in the canyons of Utah!

 

 

It was only about another hour from the gorge to the Isolation Hut (when I heard the name of that hut last year, I knew I “had” to go to that one!)  I had discovered from the intention board (at the start of the track) that I would be sharing the hut with 4 hunters.   That always makes it interesting.   So later when I had just about reached the hut, 2 of the hunters were hiking out.   They said they had gotten their deer and didn’t have room for their other food so they left it.   Then the next 2 hunters showed up with their deer – they decided to hike out also leaving excess food.   I was sitting pretty.  There was a very nice young bow hunter who showed up for the night at the hut – so we shared the extra food (I had lamb for the first dinner, ham bacon the second night, and sausages the third night! Sweet!)

 

At Isolation Hut

At Isolation Hut


Also just after I had arrived at the hut, over the hill comes about 9 “Gray Hares”!   Very fun.   They had hiked all the way from Ward and come over the mountains on a long day trip.   Very impressive, and it was so fun to have more like-minded hikers “of a certain age”! 🙂  I spent 3 nights at the Isolation Hut – doing day hikes in the area, and one day spent watching it rain.   And then it was 58 more river crossings to get back to my van.

 

From there I headed to Westport.   I had heard about a new track they are still building near Westport through the old mining areas.   It is to be a hiking and mountain biking track.   Since it isn’t quite finished, the middle sections have quite a bit of “bush bashing” (for hikers only!).  It was some epic bush bashing!   And, of course, I loved it!   They have built 3 new huts on the track, which are well situated and have lovely views!  I took 4 nights to complete the track (even though I had 6 nights of food – just in case…).  The rains moved in just as I was coming out!

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The biking parts are well groomed!

The biking parts are well groomed!

Gotta love it!

Gotta love it!

 

Ghost Lake Hut

Ghost Lake Hut

One day was rather wet

One day was rather wet

When it cleared off, I could see the fantastic views!

When it cleared off, I could see the fantastic views!

That's going to be some exciting mountain biking!

That’s going to be some exciting mountain biking!

Yikes!

Yikes!

 

There is potential here....

There is potential here….

 

End of trail!

End of trail!

Knowing that vehicles left at the trailheads are “easy targets” — I drove my van to Seddonville (end of the track), I camped one night at the holiday park, and then the next morning had asked the lady if I could park my van there while I did the track.   She told me that would be fine, just park it where it didn’t block anything.   Not a problem, I tucked Kiwi Van in and closed her up and left to hitch, bus and hitch to the start of the track.   All was well in my life and I was a happy camper on the trail for 5 days.   When I got back to the campground after completing the track, I went to the “office” (which is actually the bar in the hotel down the road), and asked to pay for another night’s camping.   The bartender told me that they had notified the Search and Rescue about me.  “OH, NO – surely you are pulling my leg!”  “No.”  So what happened is that the lady I asked about leaving the van forgot to tell anyone else.   Then the girls cleaning the camp facilities noticed that the van had sat there for several days without being used and none of the facilities were used.    Not a very busy campground!  They reported that to the hotel, and the bartender, called the Westport Police – who came up and interviewed people there.  The police said, “She has gone missing before.”   So looks like I am getting well known on the “police blotter” (not a good thing in my eyes).   But in the end, it was all figured out – and once again I am embarrassed that my name has resurfaced in the Police journals. (I was even more unhappy to hear that the police came to Myles and Margaret’s house looking for me!)  The folks in Seddonville have learned through this episode that they need to have an intension sheet or some type of system to keep track of things.   And I actually did all the right things…. oh, well.

Morning on the Queen Charlotte track

Morning on the Queen Charlotte Drive

So now I am doing a little visiting and touring – stopping in Nelson, Blenheim, Christchurch and Dunedin.   Last night I camped South of Blenheim at Cape Campbell (that’s the photo of  “ocean front property for only $6 a night).   I met some other campers who have “cray pots” out in the ocean.   The local lobsters down here are called Crayfish and are similar to our Lobsters; they just don’t have the big front claws.   I went out with them this morning for a 20 minute 4 wheeler ride along the beach (have to go at low tide!) to check the pots.    The fishermen are allowed 3 pots each, and can only gather 6 crayfish per day (and they definitely have to be measured so that the smaller ones go back into the ocean).   There was only one big enough to keep on my first morning, but Bill cooked it up for me for breakfast!   Whew – fresh lobster/crayfish for breakfast – yum!!  Life is good!  The second morning, we did get a few more and Bill sent me off to Christchurch with 2 beautiful crays for me and Myles to share!

 

Thats a 4 wheeler - not a boat!

Thats a 4 wheeler – not a boat!

Crayfish fresh out of the pots

Crayfish fresh out of the pots

Campbell Point lighthouse - you can only get to it from the beach - so it was an extra

Cape Campbell lighthouse – you can only get to it from the beach

Christmas Day I’ll be on Stewart Island starting the Northwest and Southern Circuits.   Another 10 days of food in my pack – oofta.   So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

 

 

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