The Heaphy Track
Day One on the Heaphy Track
The second stage of Daughter of Moosey's North West Nelson Loop Trip, after staying overnight in Karamea, was to walk the Heaphy Track. This is Part Two of my great couch-hiking adventure, enjoyed in the summer of 2012. 'Couch-hiking' is lots of fun, hee hee...
'Tell me about the Heaphy Track' I asked, still sitting in my kitchen.
'I can't believe you haven't done the Heaphy yet, Mum' said Daughter, chopping red onions and mushrooms for the evening's pizzas. 'It's very popular with the grey nomad set. I suppose you're one of those - aren't you?' I shook my silver-blonde plait and humphed quietly. Daughter was becoming more comfortable with being interviewed while cooking, and she almost clicked into tourist brochure mode. Almost.
Tell me about the Heaphy Track...
- 'The Heaphy Track is one of New Zealand's Great Walks, and totally should be. It's diverse, taking in three different types of track in one trip. Day One is on the coast with the Nikau Palms, the beautifully wild West Coast beach, and lots of sand-flies. We opted to camp and had to sand-fly-proof ourselves - wearing gloves, sunglasses, head covering, totally covering up...'
Camping at the Heaphy River Mouth
- 'Day Two is in the forest and we camped again at the James McKay Hut. He was one of the old surveyors who found the initial route from Nelson over to the West Coast. By the way, Mum, you have to book everything - huts or camp sites, so there's not a lot of flexibility. Then we plodded across the Saxon Downs. We'd pre-booked a hut at Gouland Downs, a historic hut. Fortuitously it was the bad weather night, and the hut was empty. After dark we listened to the kiwis.'
On the Saxon Downs
I had to stop her - hearing kiwis, in their natural environment! Wow! That must have been an amazing experience (and not one that many New Zealanders have been privileged to enjoy). 'What sort of sound do they make?' I asked. Daughter paused dramatically. My fingers were poised to type in her description. She screwed up her face thoughtfully. I waited. She then arched her neck and made a distressed wailing sound. Oh dear. A kiwi impersonation in my kitchen!
Another funny bird moment. New Zealand back country huts usually have a sign on the door, asking users to sweep the floors, shut the doors and windows securely, etc. when leaving. It may be days (or weeks) before the next visitors. In Gouland Downs Hut there is an additional hand-written message: 'Please make sure the weka is not inside before you close the door.' A weka is a flightless hen-like native bird. They can be nosy nuisances around huts, and obviously someone had shut a weka in the hut by mistake. Oops...
Heaphy River Mouth Hut
But back to Daughter's narrative.
- 'The next day we walked out. We saw two blue ducks, and a snail - that famous New Zealand native snail that I can't spell.'
Snail - Powelliphanta
I had to interrupt - this was really exciting stuff. I love those snails! So what was it doing? 'Just cruising along the track.' said Daughter, proud to have shared such a moment.
Nearing the end of the track her narrative seemed to lose momentum, and I had to prompt her. What else happened? On the Downs she'd walked over 'Blue Shirt Creek' and that reminded her of her Mum (me) who always wears blue gardening shirts. Awwwww....
Then near the very end of the track she'd met a tramper carrying two big-size packs - one on his back and one on his front. Why? He didn't like to run out of food. He asked her how far the hut was. Only five hours away. Oh dear me. OK - he had a tent, but all that food?
And there was the Heaphy Haiku, written in her diary amongst her scribbly bullet-point notes.
- Heaphy Haiku
- Following footsteps
From nikau to bonsai beech
Along greenstone path
Thus ended Daughter's second five day trip, from Kohaihai to Brown Hut, on the Heaphy Track.