Date: 8 March 2021
Trail covered: 17.1km (km 2902.4 to 2919. 5)
Weather: overcast and a nice cool temperature
I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night. It wasn’t to do with rats or potential rats, even though twice I heard them. I shone my light around both times but never saw a rat. I think I managed to sleep between 12am and 6:30am.
We had our breakfast by headlamp and left at 8:20am which seems to be our standard leaving time. But this time I packed out some of other people’s rubbish that had been left in the hut. Three empty gas canisters and an empty 2L Coke bottle. I hoped that would give me good karma in the form of good weather.
But first I had to find the geocache hidden in this hut. I was looking in all corners of the hut and was worried about finding all the spiders. But I found the geocache after 2 minutes. It’s the first one I’ve found since restarting the trail.
It was really cold last night so I went to bed wearing all my thermals and jacket, which meant I was wearing them all when we set out. I did have to put on absolutely saturated boots and socks which wasn’t pleasant, but like always, the unpleasant sensation only lasts a few minutes and then your feet warm up and get used to it.
The forest was nice starting out.
It was a little muddy, but this was only 25% of what it was like yesterday.
The thing with today was that there were a lot more obstacles and challenges than yesterday.
There were a lot more loose sticks to trip on and trees at face level than there were yesterday. But one huge thing about today is that the weather was good. A slight breeze and a cool temperature. It was perfect, and such a change from the nightmare that was yesterday. Maybe the good karma thing is working.
Yesterday the trees were creaking and groaning under the pressure of the wind, but today there was only birdsong.
At one point I thought I heard the sounds of a hunter, as March and April are hunting season in this forest. We are advised to wear bright colours so hunters don’t think we’re tasty animals. I thought I heard a hunter making “fake deer” sounds so I made very sure my orange pack cover could be seen and I started talking to Nicola very loudly. But it turns out it was a real deer. It saw us and ran off.
I was a bit nervous walking through the forest during hunting season. There was a sign yesterday that said “Hunters – Identify your target”. There was a hunter in Martins Hut yesterday according to the hut book, and his comment was “saw nothing”. I guess we saw one more deer than him!
This year the trail has been rerouted. It now goes past Turnbulls Hut, whereas last year it went via Cascades Road and Ports Water Race Track. That was good for us as it took a few hours off the trip as far as we were aware. You can see on the map at the end of the post last year’s route (my maps always use the route from last year) and the route from this year that we took.
But one thing that made me nervous is that on the Guthook app, which I use for navigation, the red line was crudely drawn and didn’t match the topographic map. This happens often and usually the topo map is the one to trust. But the path from Turnbulls Hut south doesn’t even exist on the topo map, and the red line seems to go all over the place.
But on this occasion I was pleasantly surprised to find that the red line was the correct one, and it was accurate, and even if it wasn’t, the track is very well marked with orange triangles.
So that meant it wasn’t too long before we came across these:
I wonder if somebody really didn’t like Martins Hut, and if they took the time to destroy the sign in an act of revenge.
Just before getting to Turnbulls Hut, there’s this bridge made from a tree that you have to cross. I hope you’re not afraid of heights.
And we passed this interesting landscape.
We made it to Turnbulls Hut! What a sight for… oh wait…
Maybe not. Its very dilapidated. The fireplace doesn’t even have a back wall, which would make for a draughty night if you spent the night here.
We stopped for a snack here, and now the only food in my pack is Berocca, one wrap, and a small amount of marmite. My pack is so light, well relative to when it was in Queenstown. Seems I bought the right amount of food, as well as the right amount of toilet paper and gas. My memory of last year on the TA must not be too bad.
The next stop is Colac Bay, and civilisation in the form of the Colac Bay Tavern for a beer and a meal, and hopefully a fireplace. Nicola and I were discussing while we were walking if we’d stop at the Tavern for the night or continue to Riverton. We couldn’t seem to make up our mind. I said it’d depend on Internet access, the price of the room, and the weather.
Here’s my 11am picture… A muddy puddle with sticks to cross. This was definitely one of the easier mud crossings.
There was more mud than this but it was “more solid mud” and you could walk through it and largely not get wet boots.
I took a photo of a moderately challenging bit of trees to cross, and I then slipped on it as I crossed it – oops.
That made me realise that when Nicola and I are walking together, that I say things like “oh fudge” and “let’s try that again” when I slip or hurt myself. When I’m on my own and sore and tired, the things I say when I slip or hurt myself are a lot less repeatable.
I slipped a few times on the way down. I’m still wearing the same boots I bought in Otaki and their grip has nearly completely worn out.
We saw a lady about 1km from the end of the forest who was calling out for “Chloe”. As we got closer she asked us if we’d seen a dog and I said no – that’s obviously who Chloe was. I hope she managed to find her dog!
She also asked how far Turnbulls Hut was from where we were and I said about an hour and a half. Her response was “lucky we didn’t try that then”. She had a little pomeranian dog with her and I had no idea how that dog managed to navigate the mud and stay as relatively clean as it was.
Near the end we started to see evidence of old mining activity. Apparently this forest was a big forest for mining back in the day.
This made me realise that the big chasms from earlier today were water races. Im still not entirely sure what those are but I know they’re related to the mining activity.
When you see this sign:
You’ve joined up with the shorter and much easier Long Hilly Track.
I commented to Nicola that it was neither long nor hilly, and maybe Short Flat Track wasn’t a very catchy names. Her response was that maybe it’s named after someone called Long Hilly. I like that, it’s the same sort of dad joke I would say. I hope for her sake she hasn’t been hanging around me too long and has picked up my sense of humour.
In saying that, these signs were at the end of the walk, and on the first one in the bottom right it says “Long Hee-Lee, as it was known to most Chinese” – so maybe Nicola’s theory was right!
We saw the first sign giving a distance to Bluff. Wow, this thing will really be coming to an end soon.
As I exited the forest, I realised the song that had been stuck in my head for the last two hours or so was “Thanks Fr Th Mmrs” by Fall Out Boy which includes the line “thanks for the memories, even though they weren’t so great”. That seemed to sum up very well how I felt about Longwood Forest. That just happened to be the last song I played on my iPod I think, it was just coincidence it has that relevant line in it.
From here we had a 6km walk to Colac Bay. The first 1km was down a quiet gravel road.
The lady we saw earlier looking for Chole the dog drove past and offered us a ride, which we declined. She had two dogs in the back, so obviously she found her dog. Thank goodness for that.
Then we turned here…
Onto State Highway 99.
I know we’re at the very south end of the country now. There’s no highway numbered higher than Highway 99.
This highway was quite busy, there were not a lot of cars but the ones that were there were going quite fast and there were a fair few trucks too. They mostly moved over and gave us as much space as they could though.
There was one of those bridges which narrowed to the point where you can’t get across if a car is coming because there isn’t enough room. Always fun.
We arrived at Colac Bay after 5km of walking on Highway 99.
Honestly the whole place looks a bit rundown.
There’s the tavern! And it appears to be open! And they’re playing Crowded House – that’s a great sign.
First we had to take off our boots which were muddy as hell and make ourselves look slightly presentable, despite the fact there were no other customers. Nicola and I got our hot meal and drink!
The meal was big, and good. And when I discovered they do rooms for $25 for TA walkers, I couldn’t pass it up. So, ultimately it was a relatively short day, but it was nice to chill out by the fire and just relax for a while. Plus the weather is supposed to be better tomorrow, and I’m in no rush – it’s still a week before I’m due back at work.
I had another beer and paid my $25 for my room. I had a dorm room so I figured they’d put Nicola on the same room, but she got a different room. So that means I paid $25 and have a room to myself for the night, with a real bed and a real mattress unlike the plastic DOC hut mattresses I’ve become accustomed to.
The tavern got busier as the day went on and I observed the people coming and going, and I have to say that they were as I expected – lots of swanndris and lots of gumboots. One guy who wanted to talk to us about the trail was wearing a huge red and black swanndri but tiny shorts. He had two pet hates it seemed – Asian drivers and Aucklanders because they used to clog up the roads on weekends when he lived in Wellsford.
It’s a “tired” campground, but it’s totally fine for my purposes.
One last thing – the south coast is so close. I had to walk just that little bit further and see the ocean.
There it is!
This is as close as I got to it today. I might have to walk in the water tomorrow as I walk along the beach and see if that does anything to remove the multitudes of Longwood Forest mud on my boots.
Heres where ill be walking along tomorrow. I hope it’s warmer tomorrow, but since I’m planning on leaving early to see the sunrise, I doubt it.
I got back to the tavern and had another meal from there but couldn’t eat it all. I saw they were about to set up live music and I thought that would be cool but it was a guy playing country music which is not really my thing. With the basketball playing on the TV and the country music singer, I felt like I was in an American diner. And the owner’s three young girls ran round and round the tavern shrieking for most of the evening.
Sure is nice to be in a proper bed though.
Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):