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Taking the scenic recovery route from Bluff to Queenstown

Kia ora! It's been a while since I've been able to stop for a good few hours with access to a computer. It's pretty rainy today, and it was a good excuse to listen to the Triple J Hottest 100.

I think the only way to do this is to just start from the beginning, so here we go...

I arrived in Bluff on the 18th of December to be welcomed by lots of wind pushing me back towards Dunedin. Standing on the top of Motupohue (Bluff Hill) required a bit of effort, but the view looking north back on the South Island was worth it.

Day 1 had me follow a track for 7km through a reserve from Stirling Point until I reached Bluff Highway to avoid many trucks for another 33km. It was beautifully sunny and a great way to start the walk, almost no clouds. By the time I reached the 35km mark I noticed a few spots on my feet start to get pretty sore...then the sole of my right foot felt like it split open, which was infact a blister popping. I made it to the Southern Comfort BBH in Invercargill after 8 hours with a bit of a limp. I hoped a day off in Invers would sort my feet out.

On my day off I went on a horse trek with a lady named Suzie from Rakiura Rides. Went through a few kinds of forest, then along Oreti River and Oreti Beach. Very scenic and a great experience.

On day 2 of walking my feet were feeling better. I had another 40km to walk, but hoped for the best. It was a rainy and windy day following Oreti Beach (featured in The World's Fastest Indian) but I was able to keep the pace up. At around 3pm, a storm rolled in from the southwest, which brought head on wind and rain making for a slower last few kilometres. Unfortunately, by the time I got into Riverton, my feet felt much worse than they did 2 days earlier. Once again, I hoped a night's rest would let them recover enough.

Morning came and my feet didn't feel much better, but I was going to try continue on...I made it about 300m down the road to the tourist centre before I felt like my feet were going explode from the pressure of walking with a pack. I decided I needed to stop and let them recover before I did even more damage. Gaye from the tourist information centre very kindly made some calls to see if anyone was heading back to Invercargill on a Sunday. No one was, but a lady named Leah offered a place to stay until I could catch a bus the next morning.

I made my way back to Dunedin to rest my feet, reconsider my boots and spend Christmas with people I knew at the hostel I had previously stayed. I saw the podiatrist, who commented on the fantastic job I had done with my feet...they lost a lot of skin that afternoon.

The next week was spent mostly hanging around the hostel, trying not to walk, and experiencing my first German Christmas, in New Zealand as there were around 3 people in the hostel that weren't German. By the 29th of December, everyone I knew was leaving Dunedin, and my feet were not ready to walk on. I caught a ride with some people heading to the New Years festival in Wanaka, and went to stay with Anaru whom I met during Outward Bound in 2010, in Queenstown. Huge thank you to Anaru and his flatmate Tori for giving me a place to stay.

Celebrating the New Year was plenty of fun, with most endevours focused around alcohol...I'm going to blame Philipp one of the Germans for that! I did get to do some mountain bike riding on a very rainy day, which made everything incredibly slippery. I was pretty keen on not dislocating anything and took it easy.

On the 6th of January, Anaru drove me out to Frankton where I was able to hitch back down towards Invercargill and then Riverton to continue on the trail. That day was more adventurous than I anticipated. The first person to stop for me was Alex, a Milford Sound guide, she wanted to take a walk up a track called Devil's Staircase on the way, which I'm farily sure is part of the Remarkables Range. A 1.5 hour walk up and we were about half way up on a rock ledge with an awesome view of Lake Wakatipu, with Cecil Peak and Mount Nicholas across from us.

Four rides got me back to Riverton in about 7 hours (including the walk). It felt great to be continuing on with what I was meant to be doing...walking! The next morning was a little gloomy as I started walking towards Colac Bay. First off I went through Mores Reserve which seemed very similar to a rainforest, not sure if it actually was. Randomly, the trail led me off the main walking track into the dense bush and saw me weaving, ducking and climbing for about 2km until I got to a fence. Out of all the places, this is where I met Hugo, a French guy walking sections of the trail. We walked the rest of the day along pebbly beach in the rain and arrived at the Colac Bay holiday park at about 2pm. I was deciding whether or not I wanted to get to the trail head for Longwood Forest in the same day to knock off some kilometres from a fairly long next day while my clothes were drying off in the pub, when we discovered there was a place that offered accomodation right near the trail head for less than the holiday park and included dinner and breakfast...decision made! The sun had come out and I left by myself for another 6km. Hugo had already paid for accomodation. The accomodation at Round Hill Station was great. It's just the name of a cabin next to the main house on a family's property. Most of what they eat they grow themselves and I had probably the best sausage casserole for dinner. Thanks to the Wilson's!

The next 4 days through Longwood Forest was mostly about mud and moss, although very cool forest. I met up with Hugo at the beginning of the trail by coincidence and we followed an old Chinese gold mining water race for almost 25km to Martin's Hut. We arrived very wet and sore at about 3pm. Continuing on the next day for 24km took us over some beautiful and boggy hill tops, aswell as some incredible moss dominated beech forest. We found a decent place to camp along the 4WD track leading out of the forest right next to where someone had dumped their dishwasher, washing machine and dryer...if only we had running water and electricity.

On the 10th of January we walked out to the main road and hitched to Otautau for a resupply. My feet were getting a few more blisters and I was starting to question my boots...again. Hugo's shoes were falling apart so we thought it was best to go to Invercargill and shop around. There was nothing there for me, so I hitched back to Queenstown for a bigger selection. In the end I wanted to try a more rigid pair of boots, but had no luck finding a suitable pair. I had Outside Sports order some boots for me to try in my size when I got back to Queenstown.

The next section of the trail went through multiple private properties. I happened to meet the farmer who owned the southern piece of land when hitching to the trail head. He was happy for me to camp on his front lawn. I walked the 5km Island Bush Track and 4km of road to get to the farmer's house. Once again, people's generosity astounded me when the family were happy to feed me and let me take a shower.

19km through Woodlaw Forest was very rainy, although not as muddy and I camped on a property with the owner's permission. I then made my way for 20km through Mt. Linton Station to the Telford Campsite at the start of the Takitimu Forest. I found the flattest piece of ground to pitch my tent and spent the evening killing sandflies that got into the tent anytime I opened the entrance.

A nice steep climb the next morning up to my first peak above 1000m and then back down to Lower Wairaki Hut. I was there by 12:30pm, so decided it was appropriate to do another 13km and make to it Aparima Hut. The walk was a bit slow that afternoon because of the steep and slippery ascents and descents through many gullies. I arrived at Aparima Hut by 7pm and shared the hut with two groups of hunters.

The next day to Lower Princhester Hut was a tough walk. The trail started off really nice, then quickly disappeared as I got into large valleys covered in waist height tussock grass, which meant I spent a good few hours tripping over what I couldn't see, or falling in deep holes of water. I arrived at the hut around 4pm, it was a really nice hut with plenty of firewood and a cool little stream so I embraced the opportunity to stay away from civilization for another night. At 7pm, Steve and Marie, a couple of possum trappers from the North Island showed up. It was a great night, with good conversation and some card games.

I only had 6km to the SH94 from the hut, so it was a very slow morning. I went along to check some traps with Steve and Marie to get a better insight to what they do...even got to pluck a possum's fur! An hour's walk to SH94 and hitched into Te Anau a day earlier than anticipated for a food resupply.

Feeling fresh, I left Te Anau the next morning at 9am, and was back on the trail by 10:30am. The weather was looking good, and it felt great to walk in the sunshine. The trail followed the Mararoa River, but I quickly learnt that required staring at my feet through long tussock while trying not to lose the markers. 6km of that was enough and I made the appropriate decision to walk on the road running parallel to the river and enjoyed the views for the next 24km. Met my first other SOBO (South Bound) Te Araroa hiker along this road. A Kiwi from Christchurch named Guy, who also had the idea that walking on the road was the sensible option. I successfully forded the first actual river for this walk and continued along a beautiful walking track through some beech forest, and out into an awesomely wide valley up to Kiwi Burn Hut.

Another 30km walk up to Careys Hut following the edge of the South and North Mavora Lakes. Mostly on a very eroded 4WD track covered on large puddles. The lake walk was awesome, even with some rain. My feet were feeling a bit abused after the two 30km days, but it was going to get easier from that point. I had fallen asleep still in daylight when I was awoken by Geoff and Shrimpy, a couple of Chamois hunters, they thought it was pretty stupid to walk the length of the country when I could just drive, but took a real interest in the cause and have even made a donation. Thanks guys!

Overnight a very windy storm rolled in, and by morning it was still pouring with rain. I had no real interest in leaving the hut, and with the information that the rain would lift from Geoff, I waited most of it out until 11:30am and only had to walk in rain for about half an hour. The terrain was generally quite good to walk on, the only thing to really slow me down was all the water running off the mountains and avoiding deep bogs. A group of girls came into Careys Hut that morning and told me they counted 228 bogs between there and my next destination. Taipo Hut was cosy and featured double bed size bunks. That evening I met Bastian, a young Swiss guy carrying about 5kg of camera equipment on top of all the normal gear, but taking some incredible photo's.

The weather came good for the walk to Greenstone Hut as the trail followed a river valley almost all the way. I chose to walk on the opposite side of the valley to the trail as there were two trails running parallel until they intersected. The side I chose was all open so I could enjoy the surrounding mountains. The downside to this was losing my orientation in a steep valley where the trails intersected, and ending up going the wrong direction for a kilometre before realising that I was meant to be heading downhill, duhh! I pretty much ran that kilometre back to where I was meant to be and continued down to Greenstone Hut...definitely the nicest hut I've been in so far, and also 'the best hut in New Zealand' according to another TA walker...I guess it's downhill from there. The trail from Lake Wakatipu was frequented a lot to get to the Milford Sounds so there was around 14 people at the hut that evening.

On the final day to the Queenstown stopover the weather was once again stunning. The trail was well maintained and beautiful. It took me 2 hours to reach the carpark for the Greenstone track, where I met the second SOBO TA hiker for the trip. I didn't need to be anywhere until the evening, so I had a good chat with Laurent from Alaska about the trail and our experiences. The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out in the sun and swimming in Lake Wakatipu while I waited for Sam from Rippled Earth Kayaking to paddle across the lake and pick me up. By the time he arrived the sun was getting lower, and it was a sweet paddle across to the northern side as the sun set over the mountain. I definitely noticed how much strength I've lost in my right shoulder from the dislocation while doing the repetitive motion of paddling.

Sam gave me a ride into Glenorchy where I spent the night. Had a great feed at the lodge, strangely enough I was really craving a salad, so I ordered a big side dish. Hitched into Queenstown the next morning and checked in with Nomads Queenstown. It's a different vibe to a lot of other hostels with many groups of travellers staying here, but everyone has been really friendly, espescially hostel staff. Many thanks to Dre and the Nomads team for supporting my cause.

There's been plenty of stuff to keep me busy and spending cash over the last few days. I've sorted out gear, sent parcels out and done some adventure activities including paragliding, the Skippers Canyon Jet Boat ride which included a drive down a very old, narrow and eroded road with a few hundred or so metre drops. My favourites were the zip line tour with ZipTrek Ecotours, the guides Arjun and Steven were great to talk to and made the whole experience great fun, and the Shotover Canyon Swing, just because it's awesome to jump of a cliff backwards, upside down and on a tricycle, and finally the Serious Fun River Surfing, hanging on to a bodyboard while going through rapids couldn't have been more fun. I would like to give mention to Martin from Outside Sports for helping me out with a good discount on a new pair of boots.

I'm really looking forward to the next section up to Wanaka and beyond. The landscapes I have walked through so far have been beautiful, but I'm looking forward to less mud and bogs. :)

As always, a huge thank you to all people who have been donating and encouraging, it's incredible to have such great support for a cause that I believe is very worthwhile.

The image for this post is of the view I woke up to everyday while staying with Anaru and Tori...rad spot!

If you've read this far, I'm giving you a virtual high-five! If you like, I came across this awesome video featuring different areas of the South Island, I think it's a great representation of the climate over here at the moment, and even features some of the tracks I've walked on so far, check it out here!

Hopefully from now on I'll be able to keep the blogs more frequent and shorter. Keep it real. Poroporoaki!

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