Sunday, 19 February 2017

Hiking the Kaimai Range – 82km in 5 days, Part two

For Part one, click here.

For Part three, Gear, Click here

This post is some extra thoughts on hiking the Kaimai Range, that didn’t quite fit into my first post.

Training – The hike around Ruapehu had been really tough, and I knew this hike was likely to be even harder so I really wanted to get some good training in. The plan was to load up my pack to 20kg (I hoped to start the hike lighter than this, but that didn’t work out) and to do about an 8 hour hike each weekend starting in November at the latest. This didn’t happen at all. I managed 4 training hikes in-between Christmas and New Years and that was it. Despite the small training volume, I’m sure this little bit of training helped a lot. My shoulders were a little more acclimatised to the weight of the pack, and my legs as well. I think it’s important to build up to a large multi day hike like this because the less it hurts you physically the more you can just enjoy the experience and opposed to survive it.

About an hours walk to the trig as training

The first day – I found this day mentally quite hard. It didn’t help that it was raining the whole day, and trapped in the bush, but that wasn’t really it. I just kept thinking “why am I doing this?”. The best I could come up with at the time to keep me going was the stoic idea of putting yourself thought difficult situations so that when they are over come you are much stronger and more resilient for it. The next days were so much easier; mentally it was all downhill, towards home. It helped that the tracks and, views and scenery improved as we moved along too.

"What have I got myself into?"

Wet shorts – Since it was raining all day long the first day, I ended up moving around in wet shorts for over 10 hours, then starting the next day it was still raining so again wet shorts. This lead to some quite painful chaffing. Luckily someone else had some Vaseline to sooth the chaffing, so now I have some packed into my first aid kit. This is definitely worth preparing for.

Clearly it rained a lot

Possibly the coolest thing I saw the whole trip came on day one. I saw some movement just off the track, then a huge Red Hind (Female Red Deer bolted across the track. I felt so fortunate to see something so amazing.

The two places we camped at aren’t listed camp sites, so aren’t on any of the maps, and don’t have sign posts at them. So if you don’t know what you’re looking for then it’s hard to know if the clearing you’re at is the one mentioned in the track description, or if there is a better spot around the corner. The Wairere falls camp site was a large clearing with another larger clearing further back off the track, there was water but no long drop toilet. This site was only 10 minutes past the Wairere falls turn off. The Thompsons track camp site was 10 minutes north of the turn off for the hut and the smaller (very small) clearing had a long drop in the bush (needs some work though). There were also a number of good camp sites about 30 minutes north right at Thompsons track, but again, no water and I didn’t see a long drop at all.

This is most of the larger clearning

Speaking of camp sites with no toilets, be considerate and walk a good distance into the bush (don’t get lost) then dig a hole for you business. Don’t go straight on the ground then drop toilet paper everywhere, it’s just plain gross.

The long drop near night two's camp

Another negative about rough camping is that there often isn’t anything to sit on. Given our modern lives with so much chair sitting, it can be hard to get comfortable floor sitting, and this is all that is available when camping. Maybe if we had more time or energy at the end of the day we could have organised some logs to sit on, but we were so worn out we just huddled under the tarp to cook. One tip for long term would be to get more comfortable with floor sitting (Maybe read and listen to Dr. Katy Bowman’s work)

By the end of the second day we were all pretty worn out and felt beat up, it was two days of 8+ hours which isn’t a massive amount, but the tracks were pretty rough and the packs were heavy so we all agreed not to climb an hour and a half uphill to the hut. It apparently has the best view of the Ranges, but it’s a long climb and to reverse it the next day is a big ask. I’d like to check the hut out one day, but if you’re hiking the North South, I’d advise planning to skip it, and camp.

This was camp on the second night

There were a number of really cool spots (almost like hidden secrets) with beautiful pools of water. There was also one or two camp sites set up quite close to some of these places. Clearly people in the know spend a bit of time there. Sadly I didn’t make these on my map; it would be great to have them marked as alternative camp sites for a multi day hikes. As I’m still fairly new to hiking a don’t know a lot of these local spots, but the more tracks you check out, the more cool hidden spots you can find for a second visit.

These two spots are not next to each other
These two spots are not next to each other

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