Sections 19 to 21 – Heading to the finish line!

Saturday 16th January – Riverton to Invercargill, 32km, 8hrs 

The start of the day was gloomy with some spits of rain. It cleared up a little but remained cold most of the morning. We ventured off from Kiri’s house and headed down some gravel tracks, making our way to the beach.

We had started off later than usual due to the need to fit in with the tide (we had a large stream crossing later in the day, where we needed it to be at it lowest point). The problem with fitting in with the stream crossing later, was that we had a reasonably high tide to start our beach walking. This meant some hard work walking while sinking into stones. The tide was going out but we didn’t have room on the beach to avoid the damp stones.

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We came to a small stream crossing and tried to figure out a way across without getting our shoes wet. I ended up taking off one shoe and doing a big step into the middle of the stream (with the bare foot) and bounding the other foot onto the sand on the other side. I then dried my foot and put back on my sock and shoe. Easy peasy.

The walking was pretty tedious as the beach hooked around with a right turn but was gradual and felt like a never ending corner, that we never got around. There were no land marks to gauge our progress by and I started feeling like I was back on 90 Mile Beach, where I started this long walk.

After 12km of walking the beach, we came to the big stream crossing of the day. I dealt with this one by taking both my shoes off and walking through and again drying them on the other side. The water felt pretty cold which added to the chilly and windy day we were having.

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We quickly got moving as we still had 10km of beach walking to go. We passed a couple of rusted out, part buried abandoned cars. We came across two American walkers heading North followed closely behind by a South African walker. It is always nice to stop and have a quick chat with them.

The tide was fully out now so the walking was easier on compact sand and we ploughed through those 10km quickly. The strange thing about today was that we kept having breaks every hour. Usually Dot and I can go for two to three hours before we need a break but today, every hour we had a short sit down and ate something. It worked well to break the boredom of the same scenery.

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Finally, we saw the power pole with a light on it, that marked the way off the beach to our road walking part of the day. This was a car access to the beach so we had a few vehicles come our direction. Also a few dogs, which Dot doesn’t like so we beelined out of their way.

We had a gravel path beside the road, leading away from the beach and the wind died down. We knew we were getting closer to civilisation, when we came across a restaurant and bar. How could we resist! We got a coffee to go and I pulled out my chocolate supplies to give us a boost for the rest of the afternoon. This helped to warm me up and I started feeling a lot better.

The road walking didn’t seem as bad as it usually does and Dot and I quickly motored along, edging closer and closer to Invercargill. Today’s walk ended at a wharf and we were lucky to have Dot’s brother, who lives in Invercargill, pick us up and take us to the camp ground. It was 2km away, which doesn’t sound like much but is huge when you have already walked 32km.

When we got to the Camping Ground, we were booked into a basic cabin but decided to upgrade so we had a few more comforts. We were staying two nights so it was really worth while to have a nice room and en-suite to relax in.

Section 20 – Invercargill to Bluff, 34km, 8 hrs

Today was a 7am start and I was joined by Dot as usual but also my Uncle Trevor and his partner SallyRose who had come over from Australia to join me to walk the day into Bluff. We all hopped in the camper van to get back to the wharf as our start point. Dot, Trevor and I were the starting group and we headed off on the Estuary Track which offered some good scenery, a bit of bird life and a nice track away from the main road. The track had lovely bridges and it meandered along for around 9km. It was exciting seeing Bluff, our destination off in the distance.

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Unfortunately, after this the road walking was upon us and we headed for the hard surface of tarseal and the busy road filled with trucks. At one stage, we had us three walking South with a truck coming towards us but on the other side was another truck driving South and two cyclist riding South too. The road wasn’t wide enough to cater for us all. Luckily the truck coming towards us slowed down to let everything pass. I was really thankful to that truck driver.

Halfway through our days walk, Trevor took over driving the camper van and SallyRose joined the walking party. It was not the nicest walking for her as she had recently hurt her knee. She was walking with a stick to help her out.

We stopped for lunch by an abandoned fruit stall, on the side of the road. This was perfect timing as Judy (Dot’s sister in law) bought us coffee. She joined us for our lunch break and got to hear how excited we were to be drinking coffee. I was definitely in my happy place!

SallyRose was having knee trouble and starting to limp so I got Trevor to come pick her up and had those two go to the end and meet Dot and I a little way in on the track.

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Dot and I, had 2km road walking then 7.5km around Bluff Hill to the end. The first half of this track was horrible. It was a track of overgrown grass and you couldn’t see the rocks underneath so had to be careful not to roll an ankle. It did have lovely views out to sea. At halfway, we hit the nice part of the trail and it was well graded the rest of the way.

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There were plenty of birds and I could feel the excitement of getting to the end point rising. Of course this was tinged with the sadness of knowing I haven’t finished yet (I have 20 days to make up due to my husband having an accident and I had to go home and look after him). But I needed to enjoy this moment as I wont get to experience this again.

Trevor and SallyRose walked in to meet us and then the end was in sight. I walked quicker and quicker. I had the yellow sign posts in my sights and I grabbed it and swung myself around in circles a few times. I woman was posing for a photo and I apologised for getting in the way but I had walked a long way to get here!

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Dot pulled out the plaque she had carried all the way from Invercargill today and presented it to me, with a very official speech. Trevor and SallyRose opened a bottle of bubbles and brought out the glasses. It was great celebrating and explaining to those around us what we were doing. I made myself soak up the moment and sit back and enjoy!!!

Tuesday 19th January – Bluff to Stewart Island. Walk Rakuira track, 38km, 8 hrs

Dot and I, went down to the bakery and had a very interesting breakfast. Dot called my toast flying toast as it was so white, it had flown through the toaster. Another weak coffee, oh no!

Gayle caught a shuttle down from Invercargill and meet us at the Ferry Terminal. Gayle walked two days of 90 Mile Beach in the North Island and the Queen Charlotte Track in the South Island. She was back for more to do the Rakuira Track. It was great to see her and we were both excited about going to Stewart Island.

While we waited in the terminal, I eavesdropped on someone talking about doing the whole Rakuira Track in 9 hours. Once on the ferry, I told Gayle about the doing the walk in one day idea (rather than over two days). She pretty much said yes straight away.

It was a smooth ferry ride over and nice coming into Oban and seeing Stewart Island take shape. Ann (who is Kiri Mum) met us and took our packs on her four-wheeled motorbike, to her house. Ann is 78 years old and has the energy of a 20 year old. She has lived on Stewart Island a long time so everyone knows her and she has so much knowledge to share. It is so nice she has taken us in to stay and it is way better staying with a local in a house than in a tent at a backpackers.

Gayle and, I walked to the DOC office to let them know we wouldn’t be camping and cancelled out our booking. We didn’t want anyone searching for us later. We then walked to Ann’s house and quickly got our day packs ready and got going. We were aware of the time as it was 11.15am so we had a late start to our new plan of walking it all in one day. We didn’t want to be walking in the dark at the end and we were still not sure how long it would take us.

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We set off at a fast pace and had a road walk for 45 minutes. This did pass some nice bays and took us to the start of the track which was nice and compact, with gutter edging. It was very undulating and offered beach views to start which were very nice.

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Gayle and I,were passing lots of people to start with and most were going the same way as us. They would have been taking two to three days and had time to enjoy themselves and take plenty of rest stops.

After a bit, we had a stretch of beach we had to walk along and I spotted a small (virgin) Paua shell. I picked it up, thinking it would be a good momento of this walk. At the end of the beach, there was a swing bridge. We headed across and continued hooning along ahead of everyone else.

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We came to the Port William turn off (which is where we had planned to stay) after only 1 ½ hours. After this the track became skinnier and muddier. There were lots of bird sounds around that were new to us.

We had a ten minute break and then continued our fast pace onwards. We reached a buoy hanging in a tree labelled “halfway point” and that was exciting to know we were on track to make this walk out before it had any chance to get dark.

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There was a short downhill followed by an uphill that kept on giving at each turn. It zapped a bit of energy. We had a couple more breaks and I had a couple of panadol due to my right heel being sore again. This was making the last 10-12km hard with the compacted track (feels like walking on a tarsealed road) making both the soles of our feet sore. It became kinder on the feet to walk in the mud because it was softer.

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That track had a nice ending with it being mainly a gently sloping downhill, wide track and we could walk side by side. We had to finish with road walking and Oban township was a welcome distraction but we were walking like we had aged 50 years. Our last challenge was Ann’s steep driveway which we could hardly walk up.

It was so good to be finished. A shower was bliss and then Ann had made Blue Cod for dinner with potatoes and salad. It was so yummy and melted in my mouth. We had time to relax after dinner and Gayle and I felt pretty exhausted but the plan was to stay up until it got dark to go on a kiwi finding mission.

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After 10.30pm, we walked around Ann’s garden and driveway and then up to the cemetery looking for kiwis. There was no sign of them anywhere and no calling we could here. We went back and got in the car and drove around to the walk start. We saw two wild cats, opossums and a deer but unfortunately no kiwi. Least we tried and it was still an adventure. I was so so so tired when I fell into bed after 1am.

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