Tuesday, January 8, 2008


We met sandflies. These little guys are bloodsuckers, and apparently their life goal is only one bite on your soft skin. After that, they have enough fuel to go make 100 eggs, or so the warden told us. At the Heaphy Hut - a great spot with 20 bunks, cozy unless packed with 20 sandfly-fearing trampers - we had a great sunset view on the beach and watched the river and tide make ripples against each other. We were monching on our staple - teriyaki packet, carrot, broccoli, garlic, white rice, ginger, onion - when we look at each other and see a swarm of 30 sandflies in the space between us. By then, my ankles were already bitten to all hell. Emma got off easy (I'm pretty sure it's because her blood is deficient in whatever those guys are searching for) but didn't mind telling me I shouldn't be scratching them, which was a lot easier said than done. In the hut, I overheard a few kids counting the number of dead flies on the windowsill; last I heard it was over 100. We slept with our silk sacks over our heads to keep 'em out. I finally found out they were attracted to dark clothing, so that helped the situation in the morning as we got out of there.

I've been growing out my beard. I thought it would be fun to not cut it for the whole trip. Sam and I discussed having a contest regarding this at one point, but I laughed it off. He won't find out the contest is on until he reads this, at which point I will have the sorely-needed head start. Anyway, the point is I haven't been trimming the stuff that grows straight down over the top lip. I've noticed several complications that arise from this: 1) it looks ridiculous 2) I can't drink anything without it getting wet, and 3) as Sean pointed out, when I eat from a spoon it looks like how you imagine a Balene whale (is that right?) might eat. I might break down and trim that part soon. Any votes either way from the readers?

The pooping has been going well. I've been very impressed with the quality of the portapotties on the trail. Some of them have sweet views. Some of them have flies, which can be annoying. One even had a hybrid flushing system. However, I have not been impressed with the hostel bathrooms: inside of the toilet paper rolls they place a small piece of wood that makes it impossible to spin the roll easily. To get more than 3 squares, you have to carefully pull the toilet paper through the open space between the roll and the wall several times. Pure frustration. I was so frustrated that at one point, I started plotting how to steal the whole roll just to get back at them.

The last few days have been really wet. Emma said it eloquently:"It's so wet I wouldn't know if I had peed my pants." Once we had set up the tent, the warden came over and informed us it would rain 150mm in the next day and a half, and that we should get past a creek 30 min down the trail by 9am. Kind of a bummer. I’m not sure if Emma was more bummed by the rain or the early “check out time.” But they weren’t lying. The next day it dumped, and we trudged along 19 km with our rain jackets. I had a garbage bag over my pack. We weren’t able to take many pictures (if any!) because of the constant downpour, and if it ever let up and we saw something cool, the lens was too foggy. Shucks. Lots of green though. And at the viewpoints, we usually saw a dense fog through the trees, which made it eerily like Lord of the Rings (maybe Lothlorien?).

I got blisters. I wore socks that were too thin the first day. Things compounded the second day. Tried popping them that night. Next day, they refilled and I had double layer blisters. Last day I was crippled in pain, as my taping/moleskin job must have made the blister go inwards or something, and we finally decided it was better to go the last 20km with my sandal. The move paid off and we arrived without delay.

Among my favorite images from the Heaphy:
• The trail going alongside awesome, long beaches with scattered sharp rocks. We saw a seal enjoying the sun at one point.
• Emma in the middle of the trail, bent over at the waist with her pack on, pulling down her black tights and going pee. I thought it was hilarious she didn't even care to take her pack off. Yay efficiency.
• The transition between lots of different types of ecology. I wish I knew all the plant names so I could describe it accurately. I liked the palm tree forests along the beach with fallen, dried palm leaves covering the ground. I liked the dense, foggy forests with fern trees and beech trees. I liked the big meadows with beachgrass-like shrubs and big trees that have a really dense canopy that covers the hillsides. There’s an occasional white boulder in the middle of fields (you can’t really tell where they came from) and there are creeks winding their way out of the valley. We noticed all this, but the muddy trail under our feet was more of a priority.
• The streams with signs like "Little Creek" that were thundering almost to the height of the bridges after all the rainfall.
• Getting to the Gouland Downs hut (1 room, 8 bunks, no stoves, stone fireplace). Nobody was there and we got to build a fire in the fireplace, dry out our stuff, make some tea, and take a nap. It was a really cool setup with a rainwater collection system and stuff.
• The long swinging bridges that we used to cross the bigger rivers. The metal pieces tying the cables at 1 meter intervals were slippery in the rain. Only 1 hiker allowed at a time. Support cables attached at the center of the bridge kept it from swinging too wildly.
• The wardens are weird. They all are a bit kookoo. Some of them look up at the ceiling for a few seconds before answering a question, some stare at you for a few seconds before answering a question. Some stutter, some have a blank look to them. I think all of them spend far too much time alone. After all, they live alone in one room shelters in the middle of the bush. Any emergency would require a helicopter, and food/fuel drops occur only twice a year.


Crosby said...

To quote your mantra: "Don't be a pussy." Grow that upper-lip hair like you mean it!

Peter Spiro said...

Sounds like a great hike!

Nothing better than hitting a dry hut and making a fire.

The Abel Tasman should be easy.

And Chris, you gotta get used to sucking on the 'stache' to get the final liquid and food out of it.

or you could just use ear wax to curl it away from your mouth.