I've got a Kiwi mate who lives in Queenstown. He's a mad keen cross country skier, paddler and deer farmer. Well actually keener deer farmer. At the camp where we worked together every one else would be reading Playboy except for Flip who would be checking out the centrefold in deer farmer monthly. I was in-between swings and looking for something to do, so a quick jump across the Tasman for a bit of fun seemed in order. The great thing about NZ is you really don't really need to adapt too much on holidays. The drive on the same side of the road, almost speak the same language, and have a health disrespect for all Aussies.
Flip lives in one of the most scenic spots on the globe, snow covered mountains rise behind the beautiful lake Wakatipu. The golf course is next door, and his deer farm is on top of the hill. One hundred and eighty acres of prime velvet raising country. Fortunately I'm not here to go farming. Closest I get is a night out with the pump action fixing the local feral problem. The next day we hop into Flips 4 wheel drive van, and head to the top of the south Island, past miles of hydro schemes and endless ranges.
We are planning to walk the Heaphy track which is an old cattle track that goes 80 KM from the east coast to the west coast across the southern Alps of NZ. Being a cattle track it doesn't really have a lot of scenic highlights as it sticks to the valleys and low passes. As a matter of fact it's actually a better mountain bike ride, unfortunately at the time they had just turned it into a National Park so such fun was now verboten. We had to walk. I say it hugs the Valleys but the first day is a 1000m climb to Perry saddle hut. Bad news. Good news, as they say in the classics it's all down hill from here. The walk takes about 6 days, we are staying in the mountain huts which have the usual selection of mostly foreign backpackers.The first night we meet Bob who is a 80 year old organic farmer taking a couple of 20 year old female Scandinavian woofers on a walking adventure. The hill nearly killed me, my feet are really sore and blistered, and my pack seems to weigh a ton. Bob is as fresh as a daisy, must be the organic food. We spend a pleasant night chewing the fat and talking deer farming with the visitors.
We take off early next morning but by lunch time my feet are killing me. I can't go any further. It seems like my feet have grown a size since I last wore my really comfortable Rossies, and now in the middle of the walk I have come to realize they do not fit any more. Fortunately Flip has a pair of sandals, looks like I'm going to do one of NZ's major walks in thongs. As it was a cattle/bike track the surface is pretty good and my feet get better out of my boots. Over the next couple of days we wind our way down towards the coast. When we get to half way we find a tree full of worn out boots. Seems like I'm not the first. I add to the pile. Finally we get to the coast and a place where we can catch the bus which we have booked back to the nearest town. There are a bunch of Japanese tourists and a few other hikers there. After a wait the bus turns up and the Japanese jump on. They haven't booked so the bloke has only bought out the small bus. We wait an hour till he returns.
A night at the local pub, with a real bed, parma, and a hot shower does us wonders. All we have to do is get back over the hill to the car. There are two choices, a $40 bus ride that takes four hours or a shuttle flight that takes 45 minutes. After six days it would be kind of nice to see all we had walked over in 15 minutes. We get to the airport and the Japanese are already there filling up the plane. There where a couple more than he thought there would be so he apologises and tells us he will be back in a couple of hours. So much for the short trip. The field is half an hour from town so we sit down to wait in the luxurious tin shed terminal. The plane returns, we get in and head up the track, but the cloud has closed the pass. "We don't fly through clouds as they tend to have hard centres" our pilot tells us. No worries we will just go around. Our 45 minuet flight turns in to a hour and a half tour around the top of the South Island. Priceless, we see seals, whales and a whole lot of beautiful coast line.
That night we are back in Motuaka having dinner with one of Flips mates who builds boats. John builds custom made wooden canoes for hunting lodges and sea kayaks for adventures He has a model he sells to rental mobs, and his first prototype is sitting in the shed. Why don't we take it while where here and paddle round the Able Tasman national park. Why not.
I walked the Able Tasman a couple of years before, it's spectacular. All great coastline with beautiful bays. You can go diving off the beach for scallops. Sea kayaking is much more civilized than Tramping. You get to take chairs, and fresh food, in an Esky, and beer. The weather is great. We spend about five hours a day paddling between camps, with Flip taking the odd fishing break. I don't remember him catching any thing. In the after noon we pull up on a deserted beach, light a fire, pull out a deck chair and watch the sun set. The only thing missing is a beer. Hold on we have a slab of cold VB, Carlton is dumping the stuff here and its cheaper than the local beer. We paddle about 100 k's over 5 days then hitch back to get the car. Highly recommended.
PS you can now mountain bike the Heaphy track again, as they have changed the rules. You can hire sea kayaks at Motuaka.
Click the pic for more photos