This was one of my memoirs (or email back home!) about my backpacking experiences in the Otago region of New Zealand…
Came down West Coast of NZ; rainforest running right down to the pounding ocean, the stuff excellent seascape photography is made of. It rained a lot but that was understandable being a rainforest and all. Been staying for free on Department of Conservation camps, these are always in pristine locations but usually full of bastard sandflies. Stupid creatures, so slow, I swear they can see a hand coming towards them and yet they still persist. Anyway, rubbing sweet almond oil all over you does the trick, still not sure about the best sandfly repellent though!
Went straight to CROMWELL; the stone fruit capital of NZ. We weren’t lucky/good enough to PICK cherries so we had to PACK them. That university degree has been bloody useless thus far. Picture the scene, huge shed, 3 slow running conveyor belts smothered in cherries. Human beings stood inches apart pulling the storks apart and occasionally removing shitty ones. You can’t sell cherries with 2 storks, they must be pulled apart. Local markets get the bruised cherries (same deal with the lamb, export markets gets the best price therefore quality). 10 hr days.
I lasted 4 days – ‘Repeat FM’ killed me off to be honest. Met loads of interesting people; one guy was a Chinese student studying animal genetics, incredibly intelligent, going back to Shanghai for a holiday a millionaire with his Cromwell cash, not a fruitless occupation for him by any means (sorry). He’d ‘served’ 3 weeks.
Got engrossed in weather forecasts. I am a geek. The weather has put paid to so many plans so was very happy with a huge high pressure on the way. Perfect hiking weather. Chose the Gillespie Track nr Wanaka in Mt Aspiring National Park. Amazing.
We didn’t see a cloud for 4 days. Bought shed loads of dry food, took the portable camp stove and caught a jet boat into the Wilkin Valley for 45 mins. So remote. Snow still on the peaks. Stayed in backcountry huts. Had to drink snow water, best I’ve tasted, so pure. Took a day trip (whilst up in the mountains there) to a perfect Cwm/Glacial Lake (ooh GCSE geography) and saw mini avalanches above us, crossed ‘thigh deep’ rivers to get there. Didn’t see anyone else all day.
The next day over the pass nearly killed my girlfriend, Lindsey. There were ‘slips’ on the path, saw Lindsey go through every emotion to cross that bit of path. Then we hit snow on the top and sat there for ages taking piccys etc. Going down = PAIN. Walked out of the valley in 9hrs, thoroughly exhausted but buzzing. The worst river crossing was the last, 4k’s from the car park. I’ve honestly never ‘worked’ harder. The stronger person goes current side first and links arms going diagonally against the flow. STRUTH. We took 2 attempts and very nearly WENT. Bungee jumping is for wimps.
Probably the best outdoorsy type thing I’ve ever done. The Gillespie Track, respect. Back in civvies now, might do some more ‘menial tasking’ somewhere (not damn cherries though), before finding another track. I love New Zealand.