Day 6 – Long Harry Hut to East Ruggedy Hut
The trail went straight up today and then plateaued above the shoreline. We found an old hunter’s lean too with some old bones and antlers. This lead to a little bit of fun…
From the shoreline, it was such a clear day, that we could see across the ocean to the Fiordland mountains on the South Island, with their snow capped peaks looking like clouds.
The trail then went down to a stony beach, well more like a boulder beach. It was a 30 min walk among some pretty massive boulders, fun but again exhausting. The trail went up to a beauty lookout (a long hike up) looking over East Ruggedy Beach and then a shortish walk inland to the hut.
The mountains above are the Ruggedies and the island is the Rugged island. The Hut was warm from the sun, the first day we could walk around comfortably in our underwear…until the sandflies came. I won at crib again.
Day 7 – East Ruggedy Hut to Big Hellfire Hut – 14.5 km ~6.5 hrs
Today was a long long day. Definitely the hardest day we’ve had so far, at least for me. The day started with a quick forest walk, an then down a sand chute to West Ruggedy Beach. This was the first time we saw people! There were DOC workers spraying beach grass, yet another kiwi effort to reduce the spread of invasive species. We then saw a heli pilot on the beach and he told us about the prices for some flights. $250/person from Halfmoon Bay to Bluff, so that’s out of the cards, and $8000 to be rescued if you push the button on your beacon because it goes through a Heli company in Te Anau, also very much out of the cards. The beach again was goregeous and we were lucky enough to have another clear day to see the Fiordland mountains.
After the beach it was another steep climb to another stunning lookout. John fell over and got a booboo on his elbow, I kissed it better but I’m not sure if it is working. This was where we finally encountered the promised knee deep mud. Apparently the waist deep variety doesn’t happen for another month.
The trail descended to Waituna Bay. This was again quite lovely but then it was a 2 hr uphill. About an hour out from the Hut I was pretty much done with walking, so it was tough to keep going. The Hut sits right up high in the mountains and was extremely windy. Although the walk was tough, and we were pretty tuckered out (me especially) we had shepherds pie for dinner, awesome! It’s John’s new favorite camping meal. We sauteed onions and garlic with olive oil and chili powder. Then we added some water TVP (textured vegetable protein) lentils, and dried peas and corn and let it simmer. We added some onion soup mix for flavour as well. When that was all done, we spooned it into our bowls and made instant mashed potatoes. It doesn’t sound like much, but boy is it good!
John has made a very big decision today, to conquer his demons and build the elusive 6 pack, as he has already dropped a bunch of weight on this trip. I’ll wish him luck tonight when he starts his sit up and push up regime. We are now sipping tea and playing crib, life is good! Beat John again.
Day 8 – Big Hellfire Hut to Mason Bay – 15km ~6 hr (was supposed to take 7)
Last night was so windy. Both of us had a hard time sleeping because we were worried about trees falling. We heard from the Heli pilot yesterday that the weather and winds were changing, but when the sun came up over the valley it was just gorgeous.
The day started off with another 200m climb, taking us up to a 400m ridge over the Ruggedies. That’s when the weather turned and it got cloudy making it hard to see from the top. The ridge descended to Little Hellfire Beach and at the south end we had lunch. On the walk we spotted what we thought was a lobster, but it didn’t have claws. We found out later that it is part of the lobster family, but they call them crayfish over here.
The rest of the day was a straight up and down (we both felt awesome at the top) and then a 4km walk along Mason Beach. What an awesome beach!!
There’s a turn off from the beach, and the hut is about 10 minutes inland. When we got to the hut we saw people! There was a father with 2 sons who had flown in, a girl from Alaska and her German friend who had come from Queenstown. They were all very friendly and it was nice to chat with people. We decided to sleep in the tent though, just so we wouldn’t bother anyone since we hadn’t paid. We heard there were Whale carcasses washed up about an hours walk on the other side of the beach so we decided to have a quick dinner and go back out and look for them. On our way back to the beach we took a second to go pee, only to be caught in the act by some other trampers! They were very funny, and Irish girl and her British partner. They laughed and completely understood. When we got to the beach it was low tide which made it so much wider. We saw some funny looking tire tracks in the sand, 3 tires, and finally figure out that it was a plane landing, neat!
We found the Pilot whales washed pretty far up the beach. They were about a month old, and their ribs were showing. There must have been 5 or 6 of them. We heard that there were other packets of them along the beach adding up to 30 or so in total. John thought about taking a vertebrae back with us, but then decided against it, they were pretty smelly.
The sunset was unreal! Absolutely stunning, we were very happy that we decided to go out.
We were very tired getting back to the hut, so unfortunately we didn’t play crib. Either way, today was my favorite day.
Day 9 – Mason Bay Hut to Freshwater Landing Hut – 15.5 km ~ 4hr
We got a late start today, but it was nice to chat with the Alaska girl and German boy we met over breakfast. The walk today was flat, right across the island. Unfortunately it rained and the walk was somewhat boring. The trail ends at a river with a dock. You can take water taxis from Oban here to avoid 2 days of walking. There is a big swing bridge to cross the river and then hut is on the other side. Once we got to the hut it smelled strongly of paint. It was the wood stove, DOC had painted it black recently. We opened up the windows even though it was still raining and made some tea to warm up. Just before getting into bed to read we heard voices. It was the Alaska girl and German boy. They had decided to come instead of staying another night at Mason Bay. We stayed up late with them when the cooked and chatted for awhile. It was a lot of fun. John beat me at crib.
Day 10 – Freshwater Hut to Sawdust Bay Campsite – 12km ~ 5 hr
Today we had a quick breakfast and said goodbye to our new friends. We had heard that today was the hardest day and would be the longest for us since we had to get to the campsite which is an extra hour after the North Arm hut, so we wanted to have plenty of time. We predicted a total of 7 hours. The day started off steeply yet again, but once we got to the top of the pass it was slightly undulating path until we reached the North Arm hut. We did it much quicker than what we thought! The path was pretty, it looked out over the North Arm of Patterson Inlet. It looked a lot like a lake back home, but was tidal.
From the hut it was a quick walk along the great walk to the Sawdust campsite. Again, it was supposed to be 1.5hrs, but we did it in under 45mins. The campsite wasn’t as nice as the first one, it looked like DOC workers had been stationed there while doing trail maintenance so there were wheel barrels and shovels thrown about. We set up the tent and got to work on dinner. We had shepherd's pie again, John was very excited!
We got into the tent to read and the rain started coming down. We were worried about flooding so being the woodsmen he is, John got out and built a system of trenches around the tent and set up a tarp over top. He was very proud of his engineering, and we didn’t get wet at all! It was a very nice night.
Day 11 – Sawdust Campsite to Halfmoon Bay – 10km ~ 2.5 hrs
We powered through today! We got up at sunrise and heard all the birds calling. It is truly wild how loud they are! It was beautiful! We had a quick breakfast of GORP and coffee and started out. We thought the ferry left Halfmoon bay at noon, so we left early to give us enough time to get there to make the ferry. The walk was quick and fun, we chatted lots, and didn’t even realize how fast we were going. When we got to Halfmoon bay at 10:30am, we found out the ferry doesn’t actually leave until 3:30pm! So we had a few hours to kill. We went to the grocery store and bought some snacks, which included a big fresh loaf of sourdough, and yes we ended up eating the whole thing in one sitting! We played lots of crib waiting for the ferry and met a nice man and his wife from Christchurch. The ferry this time around was MUCH better. We sat out back this time and didn’t feel sick at all. We got some complementary coffee and really enjoyed the ride. This trip is done but there are lots to come!
We slept again at the Bluff homestead and had showers and did some laundry. The plan is to head to Te Anau and check out the tramps up there. We are really looking forward to some mountains!