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Monday, 19 December 2016

An early white Christmas!

A snowy peak
Maurice the firemaker
Katie w water-repelling skirt
Our pilgrimage up into the high country of New Zealand with friends Maurice and Katie was the best 10-year Reunion – ten years ago we spent a week walking together on the Heaphy Track west of Nelson. The great walks of New Zealand were set up to promote this beautiful country – mostly to develop pride in the inhabitants themselves. They’ve done that but they’ve also been a boon for the tourist industry – such a success that now (without ‘booking’ weeks or even months in advance) it’s not easy to get hut space in the most popular ‘tracks’ – like the Heaphy, Milford and Routeburn walks here on the South Island or the Tongariro (scenery which provided much of the setting for ‘Lord of the Rings’) on the North Island.

Tramping through the tussocks
Not having to bring bear spray is among the manifold advantages to hiking in New Zealand. We enjoyed the similar walks in British Columbia (Garibaldi Lake) and Washington (Olympic Peninsula) but here there are no dangerous animals, snakes or spiders and we also didn’t have to bring our own tent, mattresses or cooking gear.

When one looked at Larry’s oversize backpack, however, it seemed we had brought excessive gear. Much of this excess was due to our lofted sleeping bags. These were developed to keep folks warm in -10 N American climes and although they’re very light, they do take up space.
As it actually SNOWED on our first night up high in the mountains the sleeping bags turned out to have been a great idea. We shared the snow with a few Wekas of New Zealand’s threatened bird species. These large and clumsy-looking birds are sometimes confused with the mostly-nocturnal Kiwi. In contrast, Kiwis are smaller and shy. In fact, apart from a similar colour and a sharper and longer bill for its size, the Kiwi is not at all like a Weka. Like its fellow New Zealand species the scavenging Kea - a type of parrot, Wekas hang around campers looking for treats. In New Zealand - as everywhere else -the message from naturalists is: Please don’t feed the animals!

Balloon Hut
The four of us enjoyed the company of a veritable League of Nations on our trip with young fellow pilgrims also staying in our huts along the way. Salisbury Lodge was shared with a Japanese and an Israeli couple on night 1 and with some Dutch sisters on night 3. On night 2 we were alone at Balloon Hut except for a short visit by an athletic French couple. Balloon Hut was a beautiful little warm home-away-from-home. Maurice kept the fire going on the snowy night.
I had failed to bring mitts - Larry handed over his to warm my freezing hands. A bigger mistake was to wear my running shoes for tramping through freezing mud. I did learn that  with completely wet cold feet you neither GET blisters, nor would you feel them (due to having frozen feet) if you DID get them. I brought my hiking poles and these (mostly) kept me from sliding off muddy slopes.
Dutch sisters - 'puzzling' and tending the fire

Weka in the snow
We are so grateful to Mo and Katie for having organized and ‘booked us in’ to the huts and reminding us of the many items we would need to bring. Without their impetus we might never have been able to organize ourselves for the adventure. We much admired the gear they have collected and the wonderful schedule of breaks, hot drinks and treats with which they make their tramping holiday such an eventful and warmly enjoyable time. Thanks for the time of sharing.

Now we look forward to a relaxed Christmas amongst old and new friends at Maurice and Katie’s home – ‘Winter Quarters’.


  1. Mary Anne, Gina, Blue Water Women here. I am having an impossible time trying to send you an email! Please can you email me at so I can put it in my contacts. Thankyou! I can see you are enjoying NZ! I am returning home for Oct Nov and Dec next year to work on the book, if you are still there?!

  2. A very merry Kiwi Xmas to you both!! Be safe from Peter and Michelle!!!

  3. Thank you very much for the nice kiwi Christmas card, it arrived safely in the mail a couple of days ago!! Wish you a Happy New Year filled with new adventures. Cheers from Eva. :-)