Day 1: - Auckland to Tapawera in the South Island
In January 2018 I walked the Milford and Routeburn Tracks; one after the other and I enjoyed the tramping especially the Milford Track which really does live up to all the hype and I saw a lot of NZ native birds on the Milford Track. But on the Routeburn I hardly saw any birds because the track was so busy. There are people who run the Routeburn in a single day, as well as day trippers at each end of the Track. At one point I went 500 meters off from the main track and encountered a number of birds – so they are there, they just avoid the main walking track.
So for 2019’s walk I decided to head somewhere much more quieter than a Great Walk and instead the Wangapeka Track near the top of the South Island in the Kahurangi National was choosen. The Wangapeka is a six day track which is no longer maintained by DOC and due to a cyclone in 2014 has a number of large rock and tree falls you have to clamber over and around.
So not only was the tramp full of great rough terrain there were a number of day’s and nights where Julianne and I saw absolutely no-one. It was so nice and relaxing, and quite strange to know we were on our own in the middle of the New Zealand bush, plus to be honest a tad disturbing in that if one of us got hurt it was several days walk out to get help.
I had booked everything way back in September, as I needed to arrange babysitters during the school holidays so everything needed to be well arranged in advance as we are away for such a long time.
Quite luckily at the same time Phil Collins announced his ‘Not Yet Dead Tour’ with no concert in Auckland, but one in Christchurch several days after I was planning on completing the Wangapeka Track. So I arranged everything that after walking the track we travel down to Christchurch so I can see Phil Collins before we head home.
On the Tuesday several days before our tramp, the boys Robin and Luke headed up to my Mums. It was sad to lose them several days before heading away for almost 2 weeks but it was the most convenient way of getting them up to Leigh with both Julianne and I still working.
On the Friday Julianne were on a flight leaving at 11.30am to Nelson, so it was a nice relaxing unhurried morning checking packs, and loading the last of the fresh food. The flight down was uneventful and we arrived in sunny Nelson where the owner of Tapawera Settle, Colin pickup us up and drove us 45 minutes to Tapawera, the closest town to the Wangapeka Track.
Tapawera Settle is a camp ground that was like stepping back into the 1970’s, the owners were very friendly and helpful but the faculties were basic, quite dated and looked rundown and tired in places, but all functional and clean.
Tapawera only has a population of around 400 people, but there is a pub, a 4 square and a fish and chip shop which we had dinner at. There was a also a small but very well done museum using photos showing the history of Tapawera and the surrounding towns, with a big focus on the railway which used to run through the town.
There was also this great gateway to the Kahurangi National Park where the Wangapeka Track is located. I especially liked the Maori carving that included a European on one site, and a Maori on the other – two cultures working together in the 1800’s.
The night was spent reading and playing backgammon and a card game Fairy Tale – the two games we brought on the tramp.