Couch-Hiking in North-West Nelson

 Me relaxing on the top of Snowy Peak.
The Moosey Hiking Boots

Lately I've been too garden-busy to take days off to go hiking. The ridges, spurs and valleys have been whispering encouragements, sotto voce, but I've blocked my ears and plodded off resolutely with my garden tools and wheelbarrow. Hmm... maybe next week?

North-West Nelson Loop Trip

But oh, dear me - the joys of vicarious hiking! Daughter of Moosey and Son-In-Law have just returned from a three week loop trip in North-West Nelson. They tramped the Wangapeka Track, the Heaphy Track, a brute of a route across the Douglas Range to the Cobb Valley, then up to the Tablelands, down to the Leslie-Karamea, and back out to their car.

Their itinerary was carefully spread-sheeted, with the huts they expected to reach each night, the kilometres to travel, and so on. I was the safety back-up person. I knew where they were supposed to be, and when (if the situation arose) to start worrying and contact Search and Rescue.

 Daughter of Moosey and husband.
My Hiking Companions

Off We Go

And so I embarked on my own couch-hiking trip. Each day I'd check the weather and read the plan, imagining my legs and knees on the track: For example, Saturday 11th Feb, Day 14, Adelaide Tarn to Lonely Lake Hut, only 7 kilometres but estimated at 10 hours. Eek! Suspect this was a pretty demanding day. By this stage I'd already couch-hiked a rugged 175 kilometres - that's over a hundred miles. Wow!

On the sunniest days I'd wish I was actually there, but other days, when it was damp and drizzling, I'd giggle with relief. You see, a couch-hiker never gets wet. Snug in Pond Cottage at night I'd think about drafty huts, wet firewood, sore knees, and sleeping bags which disallowed one to sleep comfortably in the starfish position. Phew!

I've been properly (in person) to just two of the huts that Daughter stayed in - Fenella Hut, high up in the Cobb Valley, and Balloon Hut in the Tablelands. But I haven't yet 'done' the Heaphy Track, or been in the Leslie-Karamea where trout fishing clients are helicoptered in and out. And the brute of a route over the Douglas Range is best left to others stronger, more experienced, fitter (and younger?) than I. Sob, sob...

 A historic hut on the Wangapeka Track.
Cecil King's Hut

Couch-hiking with a spread-sheet is rather cosy. First thing in the morning one checks the day's destination, conjures up images of blue skies, puts on one's imaginary hiking boots and looks forward to a jolly decent lunch. This can be eaten by a cute, babbling stream or a calm and mysterious mountain tarn. The mind wanders effortlessly along forested valleys, scoots up delightfully gentle spurs, and across broad, benign ridge-lines. There's no excessive wind, or rain, or thick cloud blankets. In fact, there's no personal discomfort at all, and one doesn't have to carry a heavy pack, hee hee.

No Sore Knees!

In the late afternoon, after a good day's mental plodding, one reaches the hut, which is warm, welcoming, and empty. After oohing and aahing about its name and location, one lights the log burner (the firewood is already stacked and dry), eats a jolly decent hot meal, and then relaxes in the glowing dusk with chocolate biscuits. Hee hee. And no sore knees to spoil things!

I will take time off from the garden to follow in some of Daughter of Moosey's footsteps - the easier ones, on the easier tracks. But in the meantime she's allowing me to interview her and 'publish' details of her big trip, using her photographs and the haiku poems she wrote. Watch this space, and be prepared to enjoy!


A well as couch-hiking, the author (me) goes couch-cycling every July with le Tour de France, couch-climbs mountains in the Himalayas, and has even couch-dog-sledded across the Arctic.