It has been a while since anything really exciting has happened. I have been at the orchard for over a month and the day to day of picking apples, eating and sleeping hasn't been too worthy of story telling. Well, the pickers got some slack time between the 12th and 20th to let the Braeburn apples ripen and also let the pack shed staff catch up to the picking that was going on while pears were being packed.I got told to go on a hike or do something, and with no car and no travel companion that meant finding some people who were going somewhere - enter Pavel and Veronica. These two pickers are from the Czech Republic and have done a load of treking since they came to New Zealand. They were planning on going to Nelson Lakes National Park and hiking the Travers Saddle Circuit which is a 5 day, 4 night trek from St. Arnaud around Lake Rotoiti (Roto-iti), over the Travers Saddle (at about 1750m elevation), and then around Lake Rotoroa (Roto-roa, don't confuse with Rotorua) back to St. Arnaud. In total it is around 80km, and it was tough.
We left at 8:00 am on Mar 13th and stopped in Motueka so I could get some food, and then drove for about 2 hours to St. Arnaud. We stopped at the St. Arnaud Department of Conservation (DOC) Office to get hut tickets for the trip and get the weather report. The NZ DOC has set up around 1000(?) huts across the NZ parks that can be used by anyone with a parks pass or hut tickets. Most of the serviced huts, with wood stove and clean running water, cost 2 tickets per night which is $10. We started our first day hike to the Lakehead hut which was about 4 hours away from the DOC office. The terrain was level on this leg and we followed Lake Rotoiti for most of the way through an old growth beech forest. There are lots of ferns and mosses and a few low shrubs but it isn't quite as fun as the boreal forests. We arrived at about 2:00 pm (3 hours) and had lunch (pepperoni and crackers, for the entire trip) and spent part of the evening with a couple of old fishermen from Oregon. At this point, having never done a multi-day trek or an alpine trek I was a bit concerned for my safety, but I wasn't going to turn around. Dinner for this entire trip is 2-minute noodles and I was sick of them after day 1.
Day 2- We had breakfast, instant oats which is the breakfast for the entire trip, and left at about 8:00 am. We hiked through more of the same forest as well as some scree passes and along the Travers River. We crossed several swing-bridges and got to the John Tait Hut at noon. After a 1 hour break for lunch we continued our hike up to the Upper Travers Hut. This hike was mostly a climb and we ended the hike above the treeline, at about 1450m. In total we hiked for 7.5 hours and I was really tired and ended up with wet feet from a stream crossing. It is not summer here in NZ anymore so the weather gets cold at night, probably most nights the mercury sinks to 5 degrees or lower.
Day 3- We have a 1.5 hour climb to the Travers Saddle which is about 300m above us. I took it slow and made it but things were a bit sketchy for part of that climb. I am not sure how to describe it, its not that it was amazing but it was difficult. After a rest at the saddle we began the 3.5 hour descent to the West Sabine Hut. I think I was the only person who enjoyed the descent. I found it much easier than the climb and if you slip you are acutally closer to the end, not dead. We finished the hike and I was bagged. This hut is a 5 hour walk from a water taxi on Lake Rotoroa so we had to spend it with a bunch of people who didn't cross the saddle and weren't tired and wouldn't shut up. On a plus, I picked up a copy of Tai-pan (James Clavell), that was left at the hut. Now I don't need to buy it here and can trade it later for a different book.
Day 4 - We have another 5 hour hike to the Sabine hut which is overlooking Lake Rotoroa. My legs are starting to seize so I am really slow today especially during the climbs. We got to the hut just after lunch and I was really tired after that trip. This hut, as well as Upper Travers were brand new, so the matresses were new and the buildings were a bit warmer than the other two. I have one day left of hiking.
Day 5 - The last day, we left at 7:30 am because we had a 9 hour hike (accoring to the signs) ahead of us. We had a couple of climbs that I was almost crawling up and by the time we reached the Speargrass hut I was almost spent. I think I would have liked to stay there, but it was being rebuilt and was closed, so at 11:45 we got up and hiked to the Lake Rotoroa car park. A couple of climbs and descents and we are there, we arrived at 2:00. We now have to hike from the Rotoroa car park to the Rotoiti car park which is about an hour along a road. We left at about 3:00 and headed back to Motueka. We stopped at Subway for a real meal and were back at the orchard in time for the 6:00 news. A volcano errupted on an island north of NZ, and the Commonwealth Games are huge to NZ so that is what is captivating the country.
Overall, I am fatigued, dehydrated and hungry. I can't say that I prefer the multi-day treks to single day treks with a set camp, but I will probably try another when I get home. This isn't the whole story but I can't type properly against a running clock that charges me by the minute, so I will add photos and talk about it again later.