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He only went out for some milk A blurb of monstrous proportions - it was only supposed to be a couple of lines and the odd photo.

The North West Track

NEW ZEALAND | Tuesday, 8 January 2008 | Views [3263] | Comments [1]

Day 5...oh shit, my shoe is talking to me.

Day 5...oh shit, my shoe is talking to me.

Quote: This track is suitable for fit, well equipped and experienced trampers.  Mud is widespread and often deep and thick on the track, regardless of the season.  Track times are an indication only and extra time should be allowed in adverse conditions.  Approximately 9-11 days should be allowed to tramp the full circuit, which is 125km in total.

No hot water, no electricity, fires you supply the wood for, long drops for toilets (oh how I've missed the smell of ammonia and the sheer hell of trying to go as flies are biting you), basic huts and fresh rain water as your supply.  I have to give a plan of intent to the DOC office and a date by which I'll be back or they'll send a rescue squad out.  This is no easy tramp and it's one that's tough if you get into trouble...

I've been advised to wear boots and gaiters as the mud is bad - but i don't have any, so i wear old trainers with holes in and arrogantly think I'll be fine.  Bob the backpack weighs an incredible 22kg - but it's mostly food. I plan on 10 days with 2 side trips, by doing a couple of 2 day walks in one...

Day 1 Oban to Port William Hut to Bungaree Hut, 18km, 7-8hr.

The 'track' to Port William is easy as it's mainly on the road and only takes me 3 hours.  Ouch, Bob is heavy, and becomes even more so as i come across my first real taste of mud on the way to Bungaree.  The 3 hours guide time takes me 3 hours - I'm knackered, I've got a headache from the tension in my shoulders and my feet are hurting from stepping on tree roots - i can feel everything i step on.  These aren't suitable, and this isn't a good start.

The hut's great but swarming with sand flies.  I passed a guy called Ian on the way, a kiwi with a sabbatical.  I think I'll be seeing more of him.  I meet a couple who are staying in the hut to monitor the yellow eyed penguin chicks nearby - last year none survived :(  I also meet a girl who's only brought chocolate bars and has done half the walk with no shoes...

Day 2 Bungaree Hut to Christmas Village Hut, 11.5km, 6hr.

I have a glorious amount of sleep while others set-off early - I'm in no hurry.  Eventually i set-off and discover mud, glorious mud, lots of fallen trees, streams that need crossing, a million tree roots and lots more mud.  This is tough going - continually trying to dodge mud or branches, hefting Bob, slipping, climbing and wading.

It takes me just over 5 hours to reach the hut.  The last stretch is gruelling, I'm beginning to think I've bitten off more than i can chew; I've got no energy, my feet hurt along with every muscle in my body and I've eaten today's and tomorrows snacks.  Later I'm joined by Ian, it's taken him over 9 hours and he's got a bad stomach so he can't eat - i guess i should be pleased.

Day 3 Side Trip to Mt Anglem, 11km, 6hr.

Mount Anglem is Stewart Islands highest peak at 980m, I'd planned to climb it, but i hadn't planned on not being able to put any weight on my right foot when i wake-up.  Ian starts a fire, the forecast is rain and so i decide to have a rest day already.  I dry my shoes off by putting them on the casing of the fire - stupid!, stupid!  I only meant to put them on while it was warming up.  I forget about them until there's a strange smell...my shoes melting.  Now i have a foot that really hurts and shoes that are falling apart.

I keep the fire going to welcome the few trampers who brave the rain and storm, while eating, reading and popping anti-inflammatory's.  So much for Mt Anglem.

Day 4 Christmas Village Hut to Yankee River Hut, 12km, 6hr.

The track is described as generally dry underfoot.  In reality it turns out to be worse than the other day - i slip, splodge and scrape my way to Yankee.  There's surprisingly few birds, few insects and often just mud as far as the eye can see.  My foot kills until the tablets kick in and my shoes let in the thick, black mud with ease.  I have over 5 hours of constantly wet, muddy feet, only to take a break with the odd fuel and pill stop.  This is no way to do this trail.  What the hell am i doing here? - i should have turned back when the shoes started flapping to me.

I pass Ian on the way - he's layed out full stretch by the side of the track, knackered and empty of food, but strangely not hungry.  He's definitely ill.  The others who came this way went up the mountain - they're in for a long day.  I arrive at the hut first, wash in the river with perfumed soap and try and cheer myself up - it's New Years Eve after all.  The downside to washing is that you can suddenly smell everyone else, i subtly tell Ian he stinks and so he washes himself with his homemade anti-sand fly remedy; Dettol and baby oil.  Not only does he still reek but our room now stinks like a dirty bathroom.  My shoes are really bad - i use a spare shoelace i have and 2 from Sarah, a fellow walker to try and hold them together.

Quite a few others arrive through the evening, it's a good job it doesn't get dark until after 10pm.  New Years Eve turns out to be not so bad.

Another tramper has injured her knees and a boat is coming to pick her up tomorrow...perhaps i should be on it.

Day 5 Yankee hut to Long Harry Hut to East Ruggedy Hut, 18km, 10-11hr.

Stuff the boat - I'm not giving in yet.  Breakfast, pills, shoelaces.  I've deemed this an ideal day to walk two in one, it's going to be a long day but apart from the damaged feet, the aching shoulders, the numerous scratches and bites, i feel good!  I make good time only taking 8.5 hours.  It's really hard going at times - crawling on all fours up sand dunes, wading through rivers, and slogging through mud up to my knees.  I nearly knocked myself out on a cut-off tree branch, walked into another sea lion (luckily i smelt him first) and managed a somersault down a ditch.  I was busy daydreaming about going back to work, the flap on the front of my shoe caught on a rock and i started falling onto my face.  Luckily (i guess) i was facing a ditch so i started falling down that, Bob suddenly tries to get over my head and somehow i end up in a bush 6 feet away on my back on top of Bob - impressive really.  It's the last time I'll think about work.

There's just Sarah and I at the hut tonight - well us and a swarm of mosquitoes that keep me awake at night, along with a storm, female kiwi calls, a falling tree and some falling apples - i can't explain the last one, there are no apples to fall.

Day 6 East Ruggedy Hut to Big Hellfire Hut, 14km, 7hr.

I'm in pain - a lot of it.  The tablets are taking longer to kick in and first thing in the morning my right foot is agony.  Maybe i should have got that boat, i can't get one from here and i now need to keep walking until mason Bay before i can get one.  I'm not sure my shoes will even hold out that long.  I spend the solitary hours daydreaming, looking for wildlife and cursing the mud - same as usual.  I love these times and the supposed isolation, but i worry about my sanity...i talk to myself a lot.

I catch up with Sarah after a few hours, she's busy swearing at the mud and doesn't even here me approach (it's raining and I'm bizarrely walking with an umbrella through the bush - very practical).  We walk to the hut together - I need the moral support and to try and curb my madness, i feel tired, the mud is never bloody ending and I'm annoyed at having to get a boat back.  We have a nice chat, it's always good to meet someone with a lot of similar interests.

We're welcomed by a wood burning fire, an American, a Canadian and South African.  This could be the start of a bad joke but instead it's a nice evening and....

A KIWI !!!

At last.  Elisabeth spotted one on her way to the toilet - the long drops are often a long way off.  Talk about fantastic, the bird didn't mind us at all, and i could have watched it for hours.  It moves so strangely, it has huge claws and a really long beak - it's just plain weird.

GREAT  !!!

Fortunately for me Travis the American had some tape by which i could attempt to repair my shoe.  I think he's just saved me a whole lot of pain.

Day 7

But not enough pain.  My foot is unbelievably worse, i decide to have another rest day, i can't even walk to the toilet, I'll have to catch that boat.  At least there aren't many sand flies here.

First Leif a Swedish guy arrives, then Alison and Jeremy an English couple who I've met several times before and then Thomas a Taiwanese.  You get used to these mixes with travelling, it makes playing cards in the evening interesting too.

When i can walk again i keep the fire going, collect wood, chop the wood, look for more kiwi's and read.  This is bliss, most people would be bored i guess, but I'm quite happy.

Day 8 Big Hellfire Hut to Mason Bay, 15km, 7hr.

I'm going to catch a boat, my new taped up shoe has now given me several blisters and these are a welcome distraction to the rest of my pain.  The tablets don't seem to work anymore, just time - as the day passes the foot strangely gets better.

The trail down to Mason Bay is awful.  There are ropes to help you get up and down it.  I just slip my way down, it's muddy, painful and dangerous, but I'm determined I'm not going to get a boat out.  Stuff it, I'll live with the pain, hopefully my feet will recover fairly quickly, my shoes should now last and I'm not coming all this way and not completing it.  My only compensation is that i see another kiwi - I'm too tired to stay watching it though. 

I make good time to Mason Bay with less than 6 hours and I take a break before heading onto Freshwater Landing Hut. I'm told the track is flooded, that it's up to my chest and that i wont get through.


I know I'll be in a lot of pain in the morning, but i feel i have no choice.  I spend the evening kiwi spotting with some of the others - we spot another one, and are treated to the sounds of its feeding.  Huge slurping noises that would outdo an Asian :-)

Day 9 Mason Bay to Freshwater Landing Hut, 15.5km, 3-4hr.

After a terrible night I'm up fairly early for me, i need to do two days in one again to catch up time .  My feet are blistered, bruised and swollen.  The tablets seem not to work, and I'm worried about continually taking them anyway (i hate taking tablets).  It takes me an age to walk to Freshwater, every step is agony.  As i arrive a boat pulls in and the driver shouts who else wants a ride...

I believe in fate, i got on that boat.  I hate the fact that i didn't quite complete the trail.  I spent 3 days convincing myself it was wise to take the boat and then my stubborn pride wouldn't let me and i was determined to go on.  If i hadn't caught the boat i wouldn't have had a bed at North Arm Hut - it was more than full that night.

Bugger, bugger, bugger...

Bob feels incredibly light now; I've done a lot of reading, met a lot of people, ate a lot of food, done a lot of walking, seen 3 kiwi's, a sea lion and many birds.  I'm as disappointed as hell...

Tags: island, trekking




You saw a kiwi! Amazing. I heard this tramp was bad, now I do believe it... and it's summertime. Enjoyed reading about your adventures on Stewart Island, it is a very magical place...and very hard to leave. I spent my New Year at below freezing up a mountain - my knees are still recovering, so empathise with the pain. Still, unforgettable eh? Where next ? ...shane: no i saw 3 kiwis :-) just to rub it in. i'm not telling you where next...

  Tam Jan 14, 2008 1:13 PM

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one ruined t-shirt and one ruined pair of trousers.  cool.

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