I could get used to this. Waking up next to the beach after falling asleep while staring up at the stars is starting to become my second favorite thing (after food, of course). Unfortunately I doubt we’ll get this opportunity much longer, as we’re slotted to leave the country in a very short period of time. What the next countries will provide us will indeed be different, but no doubt good in their own ways. But they won’t be this.
Today we took the good advice of about 5 people we spoke to and made our way to the beginning (or end, depending on how you view it) of the famed Heaphy Track in Karamea, New Zealand. The Heaphy Track is widely known on the South Island—and the rest of the world, really—as one of the most gratifying hikes you could ever take. Starting in a rainforest you chase the coastline for about 10km, after the which you pull up into the northernmost part of the Southern Alps and hike along alpine trails with valleys and snow-peaked mountains, then finish the journey 50km later in Golden Bay where beaches run for miles. We weren’t about to do 50km with Carter, so we found a close-by waypoint an hour or so’s hike away and began the trek. What we saw was incredible.
At this point we weren’t sure if we had stepped into another country, or perhaps another planet. There was red water. There was jungle about us. There was a swing bridge. And we were elated.
It didn’t take us long to discover the effects the recent cyclone had on the West Coast. At the entrance of the Heaphy Track we took a detour to a trail that was supposed to lead us to some cool views of the deep forest. Within 20 feet you could tell that maintenance had not been performed on the trail since the storm, and the result was devastating. What was labeled as a trail easy enough for an elderly couple was at once a bushwalk worthy of carrying a lucky machete. Nevertheless, we pressed forward and almost enjoyed the ability to see how nature giveth, and nature indeed taketh away.
The Heaphy Track was quite the opposite; though the storm no doubt affected the trail just as much as the other, during the past 2 weeks it had been cleared completely with almost no signs of damage. To this I owe the great effort of the National Park Service, as they really, really stepped up their game.
Because of our recent trip to Abel Tasman National Park, some of what we saw seemed a bit repetitious, and we therefore didn’t respect the view we had. That’s how you know you’re doing too much traveling too fast—when you’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and you’re more worried about your burning thighs as you power up a cliffside with a 20-mile view of the ocean.
We reached our waypoint, Scott’s Beach, in just over an hour. We wished we could stop, but our bug spray had run out and the wicked scorn of the earth known as sand flies had taken notice. We were in paradise, but we couldn’t keep still long enough to enjoy it. We had a bit of lunch and turned around to head back to the car.
We do not regret our choice to walk a very small portion of the Heaphy Track, but we do regret not being able to hike it in full. The jewel of the track is in the entire journey, not just the trailhead, and when we perhaps come back to New Zealand to live for a couple years, this will be one of the first places on our list to conquer. Besides, so far it’s been the only place our monkey-for-a-child has felt right at home.