30 March 2011

The final countdown

Cold, been a while since I've been this cold.  Hands have stopped working as hands, are more like wooden paddles.  The compass fumbles out of them.  I spin around into the wind and start trying to lever it up with my paddles.  Snow slides off my shell and down through my hair.  I need the stupid bloody compass because the batteries in the GPS have died.  Getting the lithium set out of my pack would require stopping, and stopping doesn't seem like a very good idea.  Bent over digging through the tussock, I see that my legs are bright red -- scrub cuts of the past ten days having been provoked by the cold to bleed a very light fraction of blood, like motorbike oil.  Compass now in hands.  Can't see anything to take a bearing, but anywhere SE will do.  Clear this slip to the left.  Down to the beech until this weather clears.  Out of the wind.  Try again tomorrow.


A wave on top of a wave on top of a wave washes in a lot further than the rest, and drenches my boots.  I don't mind.  Not much left of them for salt water to ruin -- the tread is gone, both soles have huge cracks and the stitching on all but one of the five repair patches are at various stages of rot.  Even the shoelaces are knotted in two places where the gaiter hooks eat at them.

I'm happy, I think, to be on Te Waewae Bay.  Three and a bit months to get here.  Eleven days since I last saw civilisation proper.  But I'm not relieved, which I half expected, sad, or even satisfied.  Just the same feeling as it always is at the end of a leg: what next?  My body is a bit tired, but in a day or two it'll be firing again.  I have a few more weeks.  A few ideas in my head.  Some people who might be keen.


High cloud, low wind, nice temperatures.  I check the topo.  A few k's up the spur and then follow the ridgeline up and down for a few more k's.  I've come up 1300m in about two hours, care of Fiordland's wonderful lack of a coherent scrub band and significant deer pressure on my ascent spur.  Below me, everything is a sea of cloud.  Mountains poke out of it like islands.  I grin.  Damn straight.



13 March 2011

Still alive & still raging

A week is a long time in football.

It follows that six weeks is slightly longer, particularly when you'd given the impression that your tacky little website would have "updates".  Which implies "up to date".

Obviously, things have kinda slipped.

But try spending three months in the backcountry and see how much care you have for schedules, or plans, or the indoors.  When you do get into town, it all comes down to priorities: pizza, resupplies, route info for the next leg.  It's hard to bring yourself to spend hours in an internet cafe, although invariably you end up spending at least two figuring out how to get the viruses on the computers compatible with your digital camera.

I do have the scrawled diary entries though, and photos.  I'll type it all up at some point.

At the moment, I'm in Queenstown having traversed as far as Makarora from the north and circumnavigated Stewart Island in the south.  Some interesting country between Arthur's Pass and Makarora.  Fond memories of fine days on rugged tops in Westland and the generosity of hunters everywhere in the Canterbury alps.  Less fond memories of never ending scree ascents, epic river crossings and those days spent in tents before conceding that the river will never drop.

Anyway, through the poor weather of the season and circumstance I'm going to generously allow myself to include my 2006 traverse from Makarora to The Divide as part of the overall conceit.  So, strictly, the only thing required of me is to cross Fiordland over into Southland by one of (who knows how many) routes.

To everyone that I've crossed paths with so far: you're awesome; to those on Te Araroa: keep going; to friends in ChCh: hope the recovery is going well; to everyone at work: suck sh-t; and to the small set of people who've stitched together their own traverse over the years: you still live on in hut books, and we probably have the same dreams and nightmares.