An adventure into the New Zealand wilderness

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We arrived in St Arnaud, in New Zealand’s Nelson Lakes, to persistent drizzle and a grey cloud that hung in the air and made driving difficult. It wasn’t a great start to a three-day walk into New Zealand’s wilderness, and a real mood-dampener considering the bad luck we had already had with the inclement Kiwi weather.

The blood-sucking sandflies – infamous in the South Island’s Nelson Lakes region – were also out in force, driving my friend Julia into her tent in the wake of their bloodlust. The shower of insect repellent she sprayed in the cramped confines of her tent resulted in a dramatic coughing fit and the near expulsion of a lung.

The adventure was going swimmingly!  Continue reading

Planning isn’t everything

Yip, I admit it, I’m a control freak. I love planning and I love making to-do lists. And the recent month-long trip to New Zealand was no exception – I had a detailed calendar of our movements, a spreadsheet, and an A4-page to-do list to make sure all logistics and bookings were sorted.

It worked like a dream. I was so organised. I knew where we had to be and when, my parents knew our whereabouts and what days we were in for dinner, and it largely worked at keeping the boyfriend in line and on time (no mean feat that last one I can tell you!).

Happy days!

However, there was one thing I hadn’t factored in during my planning extravaganza… Continue reading

Another epic weather fail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe rain on the tent sounded like an army chucking thousands of buckets of water over it. It had sounded like that all night; a constant drumming as the torrential rain pelted the tree above us, which jettisoned the water directly onto our tent. To say it was wet was an understatement.

We’d completed the three-day Tongariro Northern Circuit trek the evening before and had set up camp in Whakapapa Village (it had already started to rain by that point). I was still gutted that I hadn’t been able to climb Mt Ngauruhoe – what should have been volcano number seven in my quest to climb 40 volcanoes by the age of 40 (#40by40) – because of the crappy weather. But this would be rectified – the plan today was to make the drive west towards Mt Taranaki, the 2,518m peak that pokes out the side of the west of New Zealand’s North Island. Tomorrow we would climb. Continue reading

When the weather scuppers your volcano-climbing plans

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Are there any questions? Does anyone have other plans for tomorrow?” the hut warden Sally asked the motley group of trampers as we huddled in the Mangatepopo hut on the skirts of the Tongariro National Park in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island. Outside the wind was buffeting against the hut’s wooden walls, whipping the tussock grass (and tent flies) into a frenzy. But inside, it was cosy; the wood-burner was alight, slowly drying wet clothes whose pungent steamy fumes mingled with the homely scent of Pizza Hut pizzas some entrepreneurial Germans had carried up from civilisation.

I raised my hand, catching the eye of Sally. “We’re planning on climbing Mt Ngauruhoe tomorrow,” I ventured tentatively, worried I knew the response. Sally had already mentioned the weather conditions for the next day and while rain wasn’t going to be a massive problem (at least not until the evening) the wind was going to be frenetic, with gusts around 45km. Continue reading