Day 88 – Captains Creek Hut to Rocks Hut

Date: 9 January
Trail covered: 9.6km, plus 1.5km to go and see a lookout (kms 1825.7 to 1835.3)
Weather: Beautiful

When I woke up this morning, I noticed what I called a “sandfly nightmare” at the top of the tent.

Just a few sandflies…

Ive never seen so many sandflies in one spot. To help with the commotion there was also a bumblebee stuck under the tent fly and it was making all the sandflies jump all over the place. The noise from all the sandflies sounded like rain.

I woke up to find every single other person had already left – this included all seven people in the hut and the occupants of the four tents. Yay – I have the morning to myself. I can dry and organise my stuff and there is absolutely no hurry.

The thing that struck me this morning is that the bumblebees here are more annoying than the sandflies. There are heaps of them and they follow you around and don’t leave you alone. And also there were little wasps in the toilet. They get into the toilet through the little holes in the loo that water is supposed to drain out of. Bugs and insects in the toilet while you’re using it are very annoying.

I discovered that my phone has a “wide angle” setting – very cool. I used it to take a picture inside the hut.

Photo of inside Captains Creek Hut taken with the wide angle setting

I took my time having breakfast and packing up. It wasn’t until nearly two hours later that I was ready to leave, at 10:35am. I noticed from the intentions book that Tina and Matthew from yesterday had come through this morning while I was asleep. I guess I would probably meet them again today if they went at their same slow speed.

Just past the hut is another swing bridge. This was another scary swingbridge where you can see the river when you look down, and it wobbled a lot. Maximum 1 person as well!

Scary swingbridge #2

I remembered the 11am picture today. It was this particularly troublesome bit where trees were blocking the path and I genuinely couldn’t work out where to go.

11am picture – fallen trees

It took a fair bit of trying different paths before I found one that took me around the trees, as they were too big to climb over.

This was also the point where the little strap at the top of my pack broke off. This doesn’t affect the pack while it’s on my back but it is the strap I used to carry it around when it wasn’t on my pack. It’s annoying that it has broken. Now I have to carry it by the big straps which makes it fall to one side when I lift it.

Aargh

At least the pack can still be carried on my back just fine. What if one of the main two straps breaks? I’ll be screwed then!

The first hut today is Middy Hut.

Middy Hut outside

Inside it is an exact replica of Captains Creek Hut from last night – with one important difference.

A 1987 copy of Readers Digest as well as the intentions book

This hut has a copy of the magazine “Reader’s Digest” from 1987. Talk about nostalgia. And inside was this ad, which made me really smile.

An ad for the new Mazda RX7. I am known for having ridiculous cars, and when I was 20 I had two of the very first RX7s – the “series 1”, which explains why my username on geocaching.com and other Internet sites is nzseries1. Here’s the first one I had…

Photo taken in 2000

It was a particularly troublesome car and when it blew up soon after I got it, I replaced it with this one, which was much more reliable and I had it for three years:

Photo from 2003 – my second RX7, being loaded onto the car transportation to be taken to the people who bought it off me who lived in the South Island.

There was nobody else at Middy Hut, although someone had been there because they left this sleeping bag and mat there, along with a note.

“Plz don’t take this! I’ll be back on the 8th of January 2020. Thx, Wako” – given that it is now the 9th of January, Wako is late!

I took the time to fill up my two brand new water bottles that I got during the Christmas break. It’s nice to have new water bottles that don’t have all the crud that builds up in plastic bottles over time.

From this point the next hut is Rocks Hut and it’s all uphill…

After another swingbridge of course.

Make sure you keep going up at this point (in the next picture) and don’t start heading left! I think the trail used to go left to Roebuck Hut but now goes via Rocks Hut.

It was uphill the entire way but the path was mostly well formed again.

This bit was a bit rocky
And this bit a bit “rooty”

I reached Rocks Hut just after 3pm. About half the people from last night were around. There was also a Dad and his two teenage boys who had walked up from Nelson and another father and son duo who had done the same thing. Since Browning Hut (the next hut on the trail) is signposted as 11km/4hr30 away I decided to stay here for the night. I can have a relatively early night and have an early start.

Since there 16 beds in this hut we will all get to sleep inside tonight.

Inside Rocks Hut

If I want to reach Boyle Village on time I need to be doing more kilometres per day than this – I did less than 10km today! However I got my sleep-in this morning and I’m feeling really good and the early start will help tomorrow. Although Alex and Ethan would never have let me get away with a 10km day!

Last year I planned to get to this point and then get to Nelson and fly back to Auckland for Christmas, but if you remember the bad weather at Havelock made me change my plans. This is the route I would have taken:

According to that sign there is also a lookout, so I thought I might as well go and have a look. It’s quite a nice view I have to say! And there was a geocache here!

View from the lookout

Back at the hut, almost everybody was joining in a card game called kaboo.

Kaboo

It’s quite a fun game but it’s stressful because it’s one of those games that requires quick reactions. I played a couple of rounds but then excused myself to go and make dinner, partly because I was hungry but partly because the game was stressing me out.

Most people were in their sleeping bags and in sleep mode by 9pm. Although not before most of us admired the not-too-shabby sunset.

Click here to see today's walk on the map.

First night in the tent

Since my inflatable mat finally arrived in the mail from amazon.com, I finally was able to spend a night in the tent with the gear I’ll be using on the trail!  Last night I took it out to my Mum’s place, because there’s nowhere to set it up at my house. I thought I’d report on how it went.  Now keep in mind I’m definitely no expert here.  I have spent very little time camping before, so I don’t know what things are supposed to do and what they aren’t supposed to do.  But here’s my opinion after one night!

I’ll be honest, I didn’t get a good sleep… but that was primarily because earlier on that morning I had slept in quite late, and I wasn’t tired at all by the time it actually came to sleeping.  It was mostly that, but also because it was a new experience sleeping on this new stuff.

The tent in place without the rain fly

Between two of us we managed to get the tent (Naturehike Cloud Up 2 Upgrade model) put up, although the instructions provided were not particularly clear.  We had to watch a Youtube video about the tent to work out where the last few ropes and pegs went.  I’m still not completely sure we got it right.  But despite there being an average amount of wind and a small amount of rain during the night, the tent held up fine, although the rain on the roof of the tent was quite loud and that didn’t help me sleep.  The stakes looked small and lightweight but didn’t come out of the ground at all during the night.  I am interested to see how this tent will handle really high winds. And the most important thing – the inside of the tent got no water at all inside (except a little bit I trekked in myself) and there was no condensation at all on the walls of the tent.

You have to sleep with your head by the door because the tent tapers down too much at the other end and if you’re 6ft1 like me then your head will be hitting the roof if you sleep with your head at the back.  I think that’s bad Feng Shui, but I’ll live with it.  I was glad to see I could lie down stretched right out and I didn’t touch either end of the tent… but only just.  There was enough place to lie down and also have my pack and clothes next to me.  It felt like heaps of space, and I could sit upright in the tent, but when it came to try and undress in the tent to get into my sleeping bag, I struggled a bit with the low roof (but not too much).  I have no idea how two people would sleep in this “2-man tent” if they have any stuff at all.

After lying in the dark for just 15 minutes, a little slug started crawling up the mesh door right by my head, so I flicked it off. Then, another 15 minutes later, I spied a snail on the roof of the tent, between the tent and the fly.  I made a mental note in my head to check for snails and slugs before I pack the tent away in the morning.

The tent has a handy little vestibule to store things outside the tent but inside the rain fly.  I kept my Crocs out there, and they stayed dry despite the fact it rained.

Ready for sleeping

The inflatable mat was the Nemo Tensor 20L – 20 being the width and L meaning “long”.  It fit well in the tent and it seemed sturdy.  It was quite “slippery”, every time I tried to turn over during the night, I felt like I was sliding around.  It felt quite hard, I think maybe I inflated it too much.  Next time I might deflate it ever so slightly.  The good thing was is that it didn’t deflate at all by itself during the night.  It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be (and as people on the Internet had mentioned) to blow all the required air into the mat, and the valve seemed to hold well and was easy to close.  I didn’t get the “insulated” version which is a bit warmer because I’m already worried that my sleeping bag and liner are going to be too hot.

On reflection the mat did its job quite well, I think I’m just going to have to not expect too much when I’m used to sleeping in a big king size bed every night.

I felt the same about the inflatable pillow, the Nemo Fillo Elite, quite hard, but I think that might be the nature of an inflatable pillow.  Might try deflating that slightly next time too.  The pillow has the same valve on it as the mat which meant it didn’t deflate during the night but this one seemed quite difficult to close.  I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.  I think if I could bring just one luxury item it would be my big feather pillow.  It would have felt so nice last night.

The tent fully set up

The temperature got as low as 10 degrees Celsius last night if you believe the forecast (and I do).  However with five layers between me and the ground (sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, mat, tent floor and tent groundsheet), I was never cold.  Some people say that a sleeping bag can be quite constricting, but I didn’t find this – I think mainly because I am used to sleeping in the fetal position curled up on my side, rather than spreading out.

I think the biggest thing to get used to will be packing everything away when it’s wet, or even when it was raining throughout the night.  Hopefully it will be fine and it will just take practice.  This morning the tent fly was wet and the tent itself was dry, as it’s supposed to be…. however as I took the fly off the tent, I realised it was still connected to the tent with two clips, so I had to put the fly down to undo the two clips.  This of course got the tent wet, oops.  Also the groundsheet was very wet and dirty (and covered with slugs).  I am going to have to watch Youtube videos before I go on how to pack away a wet tent.

During the night

Also I have to get used to getting in and out of the tent properly.  When I put my hands on the muddy ground while getting out of the tent they get dirty, and then that dirt gets inside the tent when I get back in.  But I guess after several months things are going to get dirty.  Or maybe it just won’t rain at all the whole time.  Let’s call that Plan B.

So overall it was an interesting night.  I am looking forward to doing it again though.  However I will make sure I don’t sleep in the morning before, so when it comes time to actually sleep, I will actually be tired.

And I am looking forward to the varied views I will have from my tent door while on the trail.  Here’s the view this morning, down my Mum’s driveway.  At least it was sunny in the morning.

View this morning

 

My Goals

I want to be realistic when I am preparing for all this because while I know I can walk a long way and have done a lot of running, I haven’t done a lot of camping and I really don’t like getting wet. I’ve also never walked with a heavy backpack, well not for any great length of time anyway.

So while I’d love to say that my goal is to walk from Cape Reinga to Bluff, my first goal is actually to get myself up to Cape Reinga on 26 September and just walk back to my place in Auckland. And then, hopefully I will feel wonderful and want to continue. But Cape Reinga to Auckland (Mount Eden) is only about 20% of the whole trail and is a much more realistic and achievable goal for someone like me who is a long-distance-hiking newbie.

I’m lucky to be free to go as fast as I want or as slow as I want, and also to walk as far as I want or to abandon the walk at any time. So my second goal is just to walk however I want and not stress about anything.

But in saying that, my third goal is not to deviate from the trail unless absolutely necessary and not to skip any of it, not even one step. I understand lots of people skip the road-walking sections by hitchhiking them – I’m not going to do that. Short trips away from the trail are okay as long as I return to the exact same point to continue. River crossings are excepted. River crossings are apparently one of the biggest causes of death for long distance hikers and so I will not feel like I cheated if I use any alternative means to get across any river, or any body of water for that matter.

I’ve got most of my gear now – most importantly backpack, tent, sleeping bag, cooker and clothing. My NatureHike tent turned up from AliExpress a few days ago and so I set it up for the first time to make sure there weren’t any holes in it and that I could actually do it. There weren’t any holes, and it’s quite a nice looking tent and wasn’t hard to set up after I overcame the fear of snapping the poles while bending them. It’s supposed to be a 2-person tent but if two people were sleeping in there then there would be absolutely no space for any gear!

Here it is (with my Dad in the picture who helped me set it up)…

Unfortunately we couldn’t set it up fully because just as we got it to the point in the photo you could tell it was about to start pouring with rain (like it has every day for the last 6 weeks). We didn’t get a chance to put the stakes in so it looks a bit floppy in the picture above. But I got to lie in it and I fit in it okay which I was a bit worried about because I’m 6ft1.

I spent time deciding whether to take the groundsheet that goes under the tent on the trail because it’s an extra 300g or so and some YouTube videos say that it’s not necessary. But at this stage I think I will take it because I’m really worried about gear breaking on the trail and so anything to keep the tent in great shape has to be good.

Sadly I can’t spend a night in the tent yet because I don’t have my sleeping mat. AliExpress said that the tent came with a “mat” but what it actually meant was it came with a “groundsheet”. So I had to order an actual sleeping mat online (because I wasn’t happy with the ones I saw in any of the outdoor shops in Auckland). I’m looking forward to spending an actual night in the tent.

I also have my Osprey Levity 60L lightweight backpack so now I have to start doing some walks with it fully loaded. I live very close to Mount Eden, so my plan is to walk up and down there with ever-increasing amount of weight in the pack.

Anyway that’s enough writing for now. 39 days to go before I start!