It wasn’t so much that we had the desire and need to prove something to ourselves.
But more a desire to return to something we started back at the end of 2016 – walking the length of New Zealand on the Te Araroa Trail.
We made the decision to postpone the South Island section after completing the 1,600 kms North Island top to bottom. At the time back then, we were a little jaded and needed a rest – remembering that it followed on from the tandem bike ride having cycled 7,500 kms from one side of Canada to the other.
That was then. This is now. A lot of chaos has transpired in-between since. Procrastination and aging, as much as forced reclusiveness over the past couple of years. Whereas all other life has kept going.
The investment in “the third bedroom” and subsequent escapes onto the backyard has certainly stimulated the reframe needed to get out there and enjoy what we have. Getting back onto the trail included. Bring this item on the “Before I Die” list to its conclusion. Even if in sections.
However, the Richmond Ranges by all the stories shared by those who have done it before, is that it’s the toughest part of the TA Trail. One must prepare for it as it’ll test you – are we good enough, tough enough, brave enough, smart enough? How much could we take? How do we measure up?
And it doesn’t discriminate.
And so, it was meant to be this festive Christmas 2021/New Year’s 2022.
But strewth, just getting the gear and food sorted for the nine days/eight nights was testing itself.
A conditioning tramp incorporating climbing, descent and distance humping fully laden packs.
Regardless the weather forecast – which turned out to be a scorcher.
Mount Herbert / Te Ahu Pātiki is, at 919 metres (3,015 ft), the highest peak on Banks Peninsula.
It rose up in-front of us as we stepped out to leave Orton Bradley Park and where we had parked up the third-bedroom the night before. A lovely spot close to the city, yet far enough away from suburbia. From its height, we could see suburbia in the distant horizon.
We passed a group getting ready with day packs and looks on their faces that said it all after we gave reason as to what we were intending to do this day. Not too sure if they were grins of encouragement or grimaces of encouragement. Any descriptive adjectives were probably whispered out of ear shot as we fudged into the tree line.
It just had to be done and so onward we forged.
We engaged a half dozen runners nearing the top, who blurred passed us half-way up now retracing their return down. They too were in training for the annual event – the Coast to Coast and were in good spirits. As is always the case when you have gone as high as you are going to go so as for it to be all down-hill after that.
It took us nigh on 3.5 hours to cover the 7.1 kms and reach the Mt Herbert / Te Ahu Pātiki shelter. Packs came off, salutations with fellow adventurers engaged, seating embraced, and lunch scoffed as chit chat was exchanged.
The temperature had certainly escalated the mercury and so water consumption to keep hydrated was imperative. There is a psychological mental emotion when emptying out water from the pack to consume that the pack weight is declining. We were carrying 3 x 1.5 litres each to substitute the weight of the food that will be carried for when all the training is done and dusted. Or is the shift from one to other just weight transfer? The chicken sandwiches didn’t touch the sides neither. Another weight transfer.
The Irish trekker questioned us as to whether we had been attacked on our climb up.
She had to call a friend to ask for help for which the intermittent service cutting out and interpretation of what she was trying to communicate nearly got lost in translation. And the Police being dialled.
Her friend on the other end of the mobile had thought she had said in her Irish accent, “I’m being attacked by a mad guy, what should I be doing?”
What the Irish girl had actually said was, “I’m being attacked by a magpie, what should I be doing?”
She was worried as she was returning the same path trodden. I reached out with a broom that was standing up right in the corner of the shelter and suggested to take it with her to use as a weapon and give the mad guy a warning sweep.
It had us laughing which is the best medicine to help you forget about aches and pains and any overthinking of there being more of the same to encounter. We hadn’t even reached the summit, so the short sharp steepness brought us back to earth quick smart.
However, when we did reach the 919 metres, you could have imagined that you were on top of the world. The 360° panoramic view was to die for. It was just stunning and friggin amazing. The slight breeze enough to dry off beads of sweat. And time for a selfie.
Our descent took us down the Diamond Harbour Mt Herbert Walkway part of the trail. The Southern Alps, Kaikoura Coast, Canterbury Plains slowly disappeared as the opposite peninsula crept higher. Across farmland and pasture, it was more open with limited shade cover and the 9kms taking us 3 hours for us to reach the tar seal. Sun weathered the bare skin. One should stop squinting as well, so as the burning gets into the cracks!
We turned left which was a southerly direction to route march the road and the homeward 7 kms that had us undulating the coastline.
There was a combination of adrenalin to keep the “it just had to be done” going and the anticipation of what the feeling was like to reach the third-bedroom so as to drop the laden packs and remove boots and socks.
Fellow campers visited our little bit of dirt to inquire about our day as they saw us walk off early morning to finally walk in 9.5 hours later. More looks of horror amplified by shocks when they lifted the packs to hasten a guess as to their weights. But congratulatory comments and further conversation about our reasoning for a training hike fully laden on a scorching Saturday day.
The Richmond Ranges are part of the Te Araroa Trail at the top of the South Island. Every TA trekker that we have had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with, have said it’s the most spectacular part of the whole NZ TA Trail. And one of the most technically challenging bits.
We completed the whole North Island TA Trail at the end of 2016 and start of 2017. The South Island TA Trail has always been on our “Before We Die” list of adventures to tick off. But instead of one continuous trek, doing it in bite sizes.
It’s where we are heading to this coming Christmas/New Year holiday season.
Entering onto the trail at the Pelorus Bridge, we hope to do the 110 odd kms over 8-9 days, finishing at St Arnaud. We have to carry our equipment and enough food for the entire 9 days.
And hence, the Mt Herbert / Te Ahu Pātiki training day. The up, down and distance with sun scorch. Complimented with the aches, pains, grins, grimaces, fellow interactions and view “wow’s”. Times 7 or 8 more days in a row.
Does it come with “are we biting off more than we can chew?”
Nah, not at all! Something ventured is something gained.