A quick recap of the last two weeks, in verse, and then a shoutout to the heroes and villains of the trip.
We paddled down the Waiau, from Te Anau to the coast;
And then we scooted on the West, most (ly).
That’s about it! Of course, a lot has happened since the last blog post, but when I wrote the first version of this update I ended up writing 2500 words without stopping, including the words ‘grateful’ ‘thank you’ and ‘scooted’ far more than is interesting so I have returned to this format instead. A brief summary of the last few weeks is: after leaving Te Anau, we paddled down the southern Waiau, bolstered by incredible hospitality from Scott and Chantal (more on that later) and then had some R&R with them, and Kate and Colin in Christchurch. Setting out into the cold one more time, we made our way to the Taramakau valley, in the center of the South Island, which is a place we left off approximately two months ago. From there, we scooted to the coast and headed south, along the way staying a night in Hari Hari school gym, hiding out the rain under a bridge, going stircrazy in a tent, being fed by friendly English people on the side of the road, and scooting an impressive 96 km in 28 hours which is a personal best. We finished our traverse 350 km away in Haast, to happiness, pride, excitement, and tuckered out legs, making our final route look something like this:
So, some of the highlights of the last few weeks were the following:
Scott and Chantal’s incredible hospitality! Scott and Chantal are the parents of three very rad kids and all five of them packraft. We were lucky enough to meet at the packrafting meetup in April. At the time we made tentative plans to potentially raft the southern Waiau together, as they have paddled parts of it before and live pretty close. When we sent them an email to see if they were still interested, we received a phone call a few days later that went something like this (background, it’s FREEZING, I am terrified we’re going to be cold the whole time, and the idea of tent camping every night with wet feet and putting on frozen socks and shoes in the morning has been something worrying me since our tenting paddle on the Haast river):
Scott: “So I got your email about paddling the Waiau. Chantal and I have decided that it’s a bit cold for us to come paddle with the kids, but I’ve rung up a friend whose bach you can stay in the first night, and the second night you can pull out and stay in my mate’s shed. Then the third night we could come meet you and take you home, or if you’d rather we could pick up when you’re done and you could come rest there for a few days.”
Jeremy: gets off phone and turns to me, gobsmacked.
So basically, Scott organized for us this incredible tour of south-west Kiwi hospitality. The first day on the river, we paddled 30 km and then pulled in to his friend’s bach (a NZ holiday home), where Scott was waiting, with a hot homemade lamb casserole. And bread and cheeriness and lots of exciting plans. It was unbelievable. So that was a fantastic start to the paddle, and then it only got better.
The next day we paddled through a nice canyon and some fun rapids, and pulled out at his friend’s farm. Expecting to stay in a shed, we instead got picked up from the river by the very funny Graeme, who along with Judy took us in, fed us more delicious food (Graeme: ‘would you prefer your chicken crumbed or as a stirfry?’ me: can’t believe my ears), gave us a warm and comfy bed in a sweet cabin, and were just total legends. Judy sent us off with egg and bacon sandwiches for (first) lunch, and Graeme sent me off with a pocket full of potatoes, as we had showed him a photo the night before of my happiness with the potatoes given to us by Catherine Long at Gorge River. What a happy day. We paddled that day among flocks of birds all swooping at eye level, darting starlings, jokester paradise ducks (who come in pairs, one waddling behind the other alternately screeching and hooting), and had a picnic for (second) lunch with Scott, Chantal and family! It was so much fun. Again, delicious food, hot tea, lots of jokes from the kids, and then we paddled on. Tent camped a night, got to the southern ocean, and then Scott picked us up and drove us home to their farm, where we spent an incredibly relaxing couple of days thawing out, chilling out, hanging out, and laughing at the many antics of the pets: the naughty puppy trying to headbutt the goat, the escapee goat called Harry (Houdini) getting tangled in the fence, the old snoozy dog jumping to his feet at the prospect of farmwork, the indifferent cat ignoring all of them. Scott, Chantal: thank you so much, your hospitality, generosity and fun loving natures were fantastic to experience and we only hope that we can paddle together again one day!
Hari Hari hospitality: hospitality was a theme of the last few weeks. Another fantastic experience came just as we were leaving the town of Hari Hari, trying to find a place to camp for the night. As we were leaving, a small bus pulled up and the driver began to chat, very interested in the scooters and our trip. When we asked about local camping, the driver and his friend helpfully directed us to a good road outside of town, and then said, ‘Actually, you could camp at the school.’
Dubiously, not wanting to rock any boats, I asked, ‘Do you think anyone would mind, if we were at the school?’
Laughing, the friend jerked his thumb at the guy who offered and said, ‘Well, he’s the deputy principal, so probably not!’
Turns out the bus was the local school bus, being driven by the outdoor ed teacher and deputy principal, Mike and Nick! Two awesome people who not just let us camp at the school, but put us up in the school gym, which with a roof, lights, and tables and chairs, was a welcome change from camping. AND there were piping hot showers. Then the next morning we had the fun of speaking to the Yr 7s and Yr10s about our trip! The teachers seemed to worry that we were being roped into speaking in exchange for sleeping, but we were actually really excited to speak to people about the trip – it is cool to get a different perspective and reflect on what we’ve done. We spent the night making a short video to show them, and in the morning we talked about packrafting, how we planned a trip like this, making the scooters and the helpfulness of 3D printing, and then they gave us a rad gift made by the Yr8 class which we will be taking back to Sydney. It was such a blast to talk to them about the trip and we really enjoyed it. So, thank you so much to South Westland School! And particularly Mike and Nick. Our unexpected school soujourn was one of the highlights of the whole trip.
Meeting Jake and Louise! These were two very fun English people, travelling around NZ in their bright yellow van Pineapple, who along with meeting up with us at the end of the trip and being 500 partners, providing us with blankets and pillows to transform our tent into a snug palace, and being great people to chat with, provided us with an incredible meal on our last day. Jeremy and I were hustling to try and complete a personal best, 66 km in one day with a mountain pass (after doing 30 km the night before), and when they met up with us on the side of the road Jake very casually brought out a feast of rice and lentils, vegie curry, potatoes with preserved lemon, pickles, bread homemade by Louise, and chocolate (!!!), and fed us, so that we then scooted on our way well fed and buoyed by the wonderful experience. Guys, you’re legends, thank you!!!
As for some of the challenges of the last few weeks: black ice on the roads is not a friend of the scootourer. Also chilblains lol. Prior to the trip I didn’t actually realise chilblains were still a thing, I had only read about them in Dickensian novels. Well, turns out when feet are submerged in icy water for four days straight chilblains are still very much still a thing! (Credit to Milly for her great pun, ‘Sounds like it’s been Hard Times recently’ hehe.)
Also, the rain, grrrr. As scooting in the rain is both dangerous and lame, the first time it rained this past section we spent three nights hiding out in a hut reading Shania Twain’s autobiography. The second time it rained we spent two nights hiding out under a bridge using the one bar of mobile reception I had on my phone to watch videos of people pulling wonky carts through the desert as a consolation for our own situation.
The third time it rained we spent one night in a tent, and one very antsy morning before finally exploding like a popped cork at the faintest glimmer of blue sky.
I was done with being cooped up in ever more confined spaces, trying to wait out the rain. In the end, the rain was a great propelling force, as it compelled us to try scooting 96 km in 28 hours which was a satisfying personal best. It is still nothing on the world record, which is an astonishing 512 km in 24 hours! On a Tour de France stage!
A final highlight of the past few weeks was finding out that we got this awesome article published in Gear Junkie!
And, because this is the final blog post, I’d like to shoutout to some of the heroes of the whole trip:
Small piece of plywood cut up at Roddy’s house in Nelson before the trip began: This unassuming piece of plywood, 2x1x10 cm, began its life as a temporary fix to hold my deck in place. Successfully weathering 1730 km without complaint, grumble, or desire to advance in life, content in its humble role as Supporter of the Deck, it has now retired into what it thinks is humble obscurity. Well, plywood deck support, in the words of Miley Cyrus, ‘I wanna thank you with all of my heart’.
Dirty Mochas: This cracking concoction of two tbsp. instant coffee to three tbsp. of hot chocolate powder, with as much powdered milk and brown sugar as possible, in a small mug is a total winner and I recommend everyone to try it. Best accompanied by the Poor Scootourer’s Cocopops: tropical muesli, combined with hot chocolate powder and milk. It’s delicious. And half as cheap as actual Cocopops.
Coatey: Ah, blessed coatey. Picked up for $1 in Christchurch, you’ve all heard of its glory. Jeremy and I are pleased as punch to officially announce that as heard in rumours, it is true that Coatey is 80% wool and 10% cashmere, and will be returning home to Sydney to live on in style.
Potato water of the 85th morning: When we awoke to chilblains and a heavy frost, with not much else to warm our frozen feet, we boiled Graeme’s potatoes, ate them for breakfast, and poured the hot, sludgey, potato water on our toes. While some might see this a low point, we were thrilled with our invention and most excited at how well this quick fix worked.
So, that’s it for now, thanks all for reading! Hope you enjoyed the blogs. We will be coming back to Sydney very soon, and if any of you are around, we’re giving a talk about the trip at Adventure Time on Thursday the 27th of July. Adventure Time starts at around 7pm and is at 197 Wilson St Newtown, get in touch if you would like more details!
P.S Data by Jeremy
I have finally managed to wrestle the blog away from Constance and her flowery descriptions… to talk DATA!
So it is time to let the graphs speak:
Proportion of time and distance spent doing each human powered activity:
Basics: The data above is based on 91 days of activity and 1667km of travel. You will note that both of these numbers are smaller than the figures in the main text and this is because they come from different sources – the higher numbers come from day to day map reading and estimation and include some rest days while the lower ones come from Google Earth estimations. Both are prone to error as they are manual estimations. As an example a braided river can have entirely different distances from its top to bottom depending on which path (the braids) you take. The position of the braids differ markedly between Google Maps and the Linz Topo series – who to believe? DoC routes are also constantly changing due to rockfalls/ flooding etc. The odd 1-2km of error a day adds up when you count for 90+ days. As a rough indication however it should be pretty close.
Observations: We spent most of the time hiking on DoC trails and most of our distance came from scooting on paved surfaces. Rafting turned out to be faster than scooting on dirt surfaces on this trip but slower than scooting on paved roads. Speed whilst moving off track was particularly low as we only did a couple of sections and one of these was a very rough day (Matiri Ridge – 3 km in 8 hours, including a stunning 600 m in three hours).
How we covered our ground compared to the original plan:
Run Down: We originally planned to traverse the South Island linking together routes totalling 1400-1500km. We ended up doing around 1700km but using a very different composition of activities. Now let’s look at why…
Ambition vs reality: We wanted to do roughly thirds of rafting, tramping and scooting by distance, but distance and time are VERY VERY different. We hadn’t fully appreciated how much longer it would take us to tramp with 25+kg packs and that many of the routes we were taking were indeed that – minimally maintained paths complete with cyclone damage, knee deep mud and rockfalls. Our expectations of 20km days quickly fell by the wayside as we often racked up dismal 8km slogs… Well I am being dramatic here – it was hard but we did also spend a lot of time enjoying ourselves, with more than a couple of sleep ins, second brekkies and extravagant lunches. Anyway, when the section through Kahurangi amounted to almost a month, it became obvious that much of the unnecessary but scenic routes in the south (Routeburn, Dusky, Milford), were not going to make it into our trip before the snows came in.
The snows came in: The snow did indeed come in sequentially starting in April. After getting over Clent Hills Saddle (1480m) and finding it pretty dodgy, we quickly ascertained that without any alpine gear or experience the next three high passes (Stag Saddle 1970m, Kaimakamaka Pass 2392m and Broderick Pass 1650m) were out. This led to an extended scoot around Stag Saddle before a change of plan to abandon the east and link the Taramakau to Haast via the West Coast.
Rafting for the sake of rafting? Another big difference is the reduction in rafting kilometers. We tallied up 216km on the water and missed out on the Taramakau River (31km) and the Wilberforce River (37km) in order to get to the Southern Hemisphere Packraft Meetup. We also missed a further 18km of the Landsborough River due to a snowy pass blocking our entrance. Those rivers (86km in total) looked awesome – grade II-III and fast flowing and I would love to go back to raft them. Another 130km of floating however was not sorely missed as it was made up of paddling Lake Te Anau and Manapouri – both of which sported substantial wind blown waves as well as a very bony Eglinton River. We would have been lucky to have averaged 3km/h in our boats but instead whizzed along on the scooter at 10-15km/h.
The scooter was fun and survived! When planning the trip we didn’t know how long the scooter would last and more importantly whether we would even enjoy scootouring. Upon planning the food drop for the Haast – Cascade River scoot, Constance gave me the look of ‘I think we will be carrying the food by then’ as it was hard to believe that the scooter would still be merrily chugging along by this stage. A sentiment not helped by a major breakage the night before we set out. Somehow however, it survived and even thrived with the heavy loads and shot through to the Cascade without problem. We also learnt to love that kick kick kicking, and being exhibitionists naturally enjoyed the attention that came with travelling in a style that most see as a novelty.
Spot the difference
Hitching – the extent of our treachery: We ended up hitching 59km which would account for 3% of the traverse if we included it in our totals. It all started with a 3km lift near the tiny town of Tui when my scooter wheel had burned through 3 patches in an hour and our fix of grass didn’t work. The next was an 18km hitch from Rotoroa to Murchison when we had been out of food for two days, covered in sandflies and the local shop didn’t accept credit card – we ate all of the wedges in Murchison that night. 10km of hitching was had between the northern Waiau and the start of the Hope track and 18km of hitching took us over a particularly gnarly mountain highway between Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. I don’t regret a single one, they were all glorious! I also feel that we did enough pointless detouring to afford just a touch of Rudolph Diesel’s luxuries.
Pack weights Too heavy, as always. This time however they were actually pretty heavy. To demonstrate here is a graph. I also feel as though I am getting too flowery so time for more data.
Our fully loaded baseweights consisted of around 8kg of camping gear (pack, sleeping bag, medi kit, clothes, cameras, solar panel etc), 8kg of rafting gear (boat, dry suit, wetsuit parts, helmet, pfd, throw bag etc) and 4kg of scooting equipment (scooter, pump, spares) – 20kg yuk. Our longest trips had about 9 days of food – so the upper 20’s or low 30’s at the worst of times. We did however learn to utilise the fabulous NZ postal system which often allowed us to cut 5 – 12kg out of our bags.
It certainly had us thinking about the merits of each item and comparing our kits to people that had traversed before us sporting lighter rafting setups (e.g http://bit.ly/2uALJkh). The grade III northern Waiau was one the clear highlights of this trip and wouldn’t have been accessible with a minimal kit, but we certainly paid heavily for all of our safety gear over each pass. All thoughts to consider for the next big one!
Anyway, enough graphs from me now. Over and out.
One last reminder: Thursday 27th, 7pm 197 Wilson St Newtown Sydney. Be there to hear about this trip in person!