“Ah! I’ve been waiting for you two!” the energetic bus driver exclaimed as we handed over our packs. He showed us the special spot that was reserved for our bags, then told us to hop aboard. This intercity bus was travelling from Picton to Nelson with one special spot to let trampers off at Pelorus Bridge, we were the special ones. The driver then yammered on for a good portion of the ride about the shear number of sand flies we would encounter (and possibly be carried away by?). We received some stares and annoyed looks as the bus stopped to let us off, but true to the drivers word our packs were easy to grab and there were plenty of sand flies.
The Pelorus Track is gnarly, we met avid kiwi trampers who didn’t know what it was. The track takes you through alpine forest at the northern end of the Richmond Range. We weren’t doing the full track we would go slightly off course on the second day so that we could walk in the city of Nelson for Christmas.
The first day went well, it was challenging and exhausting. This was the first time we encountered the one person ‘swing’ bridges that the DOC (Department of Conservation) build. Many of the backcountry tracks are littered with them, and they really help, since it gets trampers safely across raging rivers, but at the same time they feel a little unsafe. They are not stable at all so it can take a lot longer than it should to get across, add any wind into the mix and you’ll want to crawl.
We spent that night in a tiny hut (only 6 beds) with a lovely kiwi family. Again the DOC provides amazing backcountry huts for trampers, they range in amenities from basic to fully serviced. But all provide beds with a mattress, a clean water source and wood burning stove.
As we all got ready for bed we couldn’t help but comment on how great the weather was and couldn’t believe the next day’s forecast for rain. The forecast was in fact correct, we set off hopeful that maybe the rain would hold off until we made it to the next hut but no such luck, it started to pour an hour after we got going. The wind also picked up for good measure. I watched as Dan tried to rock hop across a small stream, lose his footing and come down hard, and then I had to duck as the tip of his pole went flying by my head. At first I’d thought he’d thrown his pole away, which makes no sense usually you engage your poles to break a fall. He had, but the force he fell with snapped the pole in half and sent the one end right at me. Dan was thankfully ok, I worry more about him getting hurt in remote areas because there would be nothing I could do for him, he’s too big for me to move. At first he was annoyed he’d fallen in the stream but when he saw his pole all we could do was laugh. This was Dan’s fourth pair of poles for the year and they were cobbled together from two broken sets. Dan is hard on poles (note from Dan, that seems like a waste of five words).
The rest of the days hike sucked. We crossed an open section where we should have had fabulous views but instead were buffeted around by 90km/hr winds and 5 meters of visibility. We had to ford fast moving streams that would have been nothing more than a trickle the day before. When we finally found the next hut it was out of fire wood, so no drying wet clothes but the company was good. It was the second time we had inadvertently ended up on the Te Ararao, New Zealand’s long distance hiking trail. So we got to catch up with people we’d met on the Queen Charlotte Track, a group made up of 5 Canadians, despite the damp chill on the air we had a fun night.
The next day brought sunshine and blue skies, the view from the hut was awesome, it’s really too bad we missed so much of the scenery the day before. We walked to Nelson and managed to arrive at our hotel just before a torrential rain downpour started, an early Christmas gift!
We spent the next couple of days lounging in the smart hotel we’d splurged on for Christmas, we wandered the cute city of Nelson and sampled some more craft beers. Come Boxing Day we were ready to go again.