Getting to New Zealand was an adventure in and of itself. We decided to fly Air China via Beijing, with a long layover, which resulted in about 40 hours of travel. All was going well until we got to Beijing. We had to go through security in order to catch our connecting flight, and they wanted to take our trekking poles away from us. We decided we would try to check them instead. To do that, we needed to get a 24 hour visa to leave the transit area to get to the check in counter. During this process, we got lost in a “staff only” area and failed miserably to communicate with a security guard along with about 5 other people and we got stuck in a broken train for almost an hour. In the end we needed our entire 6 hour layover in order to keep our trekking poles!
We arrived in New Zealand delirious, jet lagged, and exhausted. We made our way to our hotel and slept. Unfortunately, before we left the USA, I was sick with a cold that I thought would have gotten better. I considered going to a doctor in the US before leaving, but the cost was a big deterrent. Once I woke up in our hotel in Auckland, I knew the cold had only gotten worst, and so we decided to take the time to see a doctor in New Zealand. We had to wait about 2 hours without an appointment to see the doctor, but I cannot complain because it cost only 45 NZD ($32.5) and it turned out I needed an antibiotic because I had a nasty sinus infection. If I had been a NZ resident, it would have cost me only 10 NZD. What a wonderful country!
With the rest of the day, we managed to make it to the Department of Conservation office to buy a Huts Pass, and we were able to spend an hour or two in the Botanical Garden attempting to learn a few plants.
The next day we flew to Invercargill (via Christchurch). It’s a one day walk from Bluff (the southern terminus of the Te Araroa Trail) to Invercargill, but there isn’t much in Bluff.
We spent the night after attempting to buy a bunch of resupply food to send to ourselves. When we got back to our room with all our groceries, we were very tired, and decided to sleep. The next day is Sunday, so it makes sense to do the 19 mile road walk from Bluff back to Invercargill instead of spending the day sorting out our resupply boxes. We’ll do that on Monday.
Day 1 Bluff to Invercargill 19ish miles.
We woke up bright and early (thank you, jet-lag), and put our packs on. We walked down the block to Route 1 to try to hitch a ride down to Bluff, and the very first car to pass by us picked us up! They were a lovely New Zealand couple going out fishing on their nephew’s boat for the day. They were gracious enough to drop us off right at the end of Route 1 at the southern terminus of the trail.
We got some pictures and then decided we wanted to take the trail up to the top of the Bluff instead of taking the shorter way, and just following the road the whole way. It was nice to walk on a trail for a little bit, even though it went straight up.
We quickly started sweating. We’re having a heat wave here at the moment, in fact Invercargill is even warmer than Auckland, which is unusual.
There were fantastic views from the top, and once we got off the Bluff, the road walk began. It wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. There was plenty of shoulder to jump out of the way of vehicles. Plus, since we were walking on a Sunday, there weren’t that many trucks.
As the day wore on, the temperature crept up. We quickly realized that we had forgotten our sunscreen back at Invercargill. Unfortunately, that meant we needed to start covering up because we could tell that we were getting sunburnt. There was absolutely no shade anywhere to be seen and we were starting to suffer.
At some point we heard a buzzing sound which turned out to be a branch hitting power line. Each time it hit, there was a spark and the branch caught on fire slightly. We decided that we should report this, and with our newly acquired knowledge of New Zealand emergency (dial 111), we called it in. Three minutes later a fire truck full of firefighters rushed past blasting its sirens and flashing its lights.
Wow, I thought to myself… I guess they must be bored…? I hope they realize it’s not anything big. The engine stopped down the road for a minute and then pulled back around to catch up with us. A firefighter jumped out to ask us where it was. Given the heat and the wind, he said that they were very glad we reported it. That made me feel better about reporting it. They headed back to where the sparking branch was. We kept walking. Just a couple minutes later another truck pasted us with lights flashing. How many firefighters does it take to cut one small branch down?
We finally found a tiny shack to shelter in for lunch. It was the only shade for miles and miles. The sun was oppressive. I couldn’t believe our rookie mistake of forgetting sunscreen. We’re going to look like lobsters tomorrow.
We passed some sheep, cows and deer, and what looked to be caribou, all farmed.
Our feet ached and with temperatures above 90 degrees F and long pants and long shirts on, we were feeling dizzy and overheated. We walked as quickly as possible through the last few miles to get back to the backpacker hostel to take cold showers and drink tons of water.
Unfortunately it looks like we did get quite a bit of sun, but at least we have tomorrow off to sort out our resupply boxes and recover from the hottest day in Invercargill in 90 years!