We started our day with a breakfast buffet at our hotel in Christchurch. If you have never seen BP vs. a buffet, you are missing quite a show. After only a few minutes of gorging, he was up and back at the buffet again. “Where did IT go?” inquired Hubby. “Kellen saw a white area on his plate and totally panicked.” I told him. He came quickly back to the table with a pile of pancakes to fill the void. Phew!
We Ubered over to the meeting spot for our trip. Rich’s two volleyball players ended up being Baroot: a young dad from London taking a little family break, Marleen: a woman with grown kids out of the house, leaving her sedentary husband at home, and Laura: a ridiculously smart young lady from DC who has traveled to 42 countries and can tell you everything about them. Our group is led by Tess, who had to repeat her name five times because none of us could make it out with her thick Kiwi accent. ” Is her name Tears?” I asked Hubby who shrugged. She finally spelled it out for us. The other guide is (another) Laura, who says she has graduated from University but looks like she can’t be much older than Kellen. And then there is intrepid bus Ernest or “Ernie” now “E-dog” (thanks Griffin) who is hauling our carcasses around South Island and “Kermit” or “Kermie” lagging greenly behind with all of our luggage and packs.
Today was a driving day. We needed to get to the Northern part of NZ to start our Active Adventure. We learned about the earthquake that happened in Christchurch in 2016 killing almost 200 people and injuring thousands more. The main problem was that Christchurch was built on a hidden fault line and the buildings didn’t have the infrastructure in place to withstand a 6.2 shaker. The whole town just crumbled. We saw all of the construction trying to fix the broken roads as we crossed the Southern Alps on the east side of the island. The road was narrow and a bit harry at times with a steep cliff hanging off one side. More than once I would glance up at Laura and panic: wonder why on God’s green earth wasn’t she looking at the road ahead and having two hands on the wheel at 10 and 2 o’clock!
Before realizing that Tess, our actual driver, was doing just fine on the right side of the vehicle. This happened at least 10 times.
With all of the road construction, there were many places where the two lanes went to one lane for a while and we would have to stop for 5-6 minutes to let oncoming traffic use the single lane before it was our turn to go. Every single construction worker we passed smiled and waved at each driver. It was amazing. But no one, and I mean NO ONE was a happier bloke enjoying his day than this guy.
He smiled so genuinely at every single driver, you would think each person was family. You know how they say that New Zealand has the friendliest people on earth? Totally proven true today!
We stopped off at a park by the beach where Laura and Tess put together our scrumptious lunch.
The best part were Laura’s Chocolate Cornflake Cookies. I am not leaving this island without her recipe!
We found a long cement slide with some cardboard, and Griffin went first. Not gracefully. It’s a must-see:
From there, the drive down to the Kaikoura Peninsula was breathtaking, and we saw dozens of fur seals. We arrived at our destination to do an “easy flat walk to stretch our legs” before the real hard stuff coming up we were told.
So now I know that the word “flat” is just a state of mind. It’s all about perspective. No this was not a terribly hard or long hike. But “flat” it was not! We started off with a really steep hill. This morning I received some spam email from a company called Inogen, selling portable oxygen tanks. I was thoroughly insulted. Jeez, I’m still in my 40’s! I threw it disgustingly away. Someone somewhere knew something, because towards the top of that hill all I was thinking was how amazing a portable oxygen tank with a little extra O2 would be.
The beautiful pastures we passed were filled with cows, sheep, deer and Kellens.
View from the top of our “flat” walk.
Going downhill was great and I kept up with the group like a freaking ROCK STAR.
All of these white rocks were submerged until the earthquake two years ago. The quake lifted the whole sea bed 2 feet in this area. Now it’s a beautiful playground. It looks like it should be great tide-pooling, but there’s not a sea creature to be found here.
We climbed back into Ernie and went to our final destination. We were told that although there would be a “shout out” at dinner, all other alcohol would be on us. Rich panicked. “Could you please take me to the nearest grocery store?” he said. “Well, we are already here at our apartment for the night. Do you mean you want me to drive back to town and go to a supermarket so you can purchase alcohol?” said Tess. “Thank you” from Rich. So back on the road we went. We decided to see who could find the weirdest food at the store. BP won with these:
We finally made it back to the apartments, and were blown away with how fancy they were. We were told not to get too excited, as not every place will be this nice.
Tess and Laura prepared a beautiful dinner of steak, sausages, potatoes, garlic bread and two kinds of green salads. It was all superb. The pavlova cake Laura made was divine.
Over the next three days we will be split into two groups: The Kayakers and The Hikers. After dinner our guides had a debriefing with the 6 of us hikers ( Clarks, Rich and Laura) about the details.
Tess “I’m not going to sugarcoat this guys, the next three days are going to be tough, but totally worth it.” We’ll that’s very reassuring for someone who’s been a giant ball of stress for months over this. NOT!
Tess went over how to pack our (huge) backpacks we rented with all the gear we would need. She kept talking about the importance of our rain gear ( we had some, not all) and our very warm clothes ( we thought sweatshirts were good enough, it’s summer here right?) and the dangers of cotton. We brought cotton. It’s not like they didn’t send us a packing list before we left, but we took it as more as a suggestion rather than necessity. When I questioned Hubby months earlier about all the ” Quick Dry” clothes it said to bring his response was, ” this is just a standard packing list they use all year round. We won’t need most of this stuff, it’s summer” turns out he was wrong.
Tess, “You’re heavy fleece (which none of us had) will make a good pillow. Now stop right there. Did she just say to use our clothing as a pillow?
Me,” What’s wrong with the pillows in the hut?” You already know the answer.
I’m a three pillow sleeper, and no ordinary three pillows will do. I need my head pillow that is so dense and heavy I can barely move it. Having said that, I love it so much I really almost brought it on this trip. My next pillow is a special foam one I bought from Chiropractic Lifecenter on Encinitas Blvd. (worthy plug) to use between my knees for back support. And the third is my hugging pillow which can be almost any pillow as long as it’s thick and firm. So not almost any pillow. My fleece top that I didn’t pack is just not an option, that is barbaric.
Oh and these cute rustic huts that were given NO details in the brochure, are not private sleeping areas with en-suite restrooms. It is one big bare room where we lay mattress pads on the ground and sleep with all of the other snoring backpackers that will be there. No electricity. The outhouse is a ways away. But there’s no guarantee we will even get spots in this hut so we have to bring tents too just in case. This is NOT the semi luxurious Glamping sold to me by Hubby, who was getting my Evil Eye so hard I thought he may burst into flames. This is straight out hard core backpacking and camping. In the freezing cold and probable rain. I did tons of this shit in my teens. I’m about to pull 50 and am so not there anymore. I like beds, warmth and pillows. Three pillows, did I mention that?
“Where should we pack our towels?” I asked Tess.
“You don’t need towels” was the answer I did not want to hear.
“So after all of this hiking and sweating we have no showers for three days?” OMG!!!!! Can you imagine what that hut with all those other backpackers is going to smell like? And if we are in a tent, will it be worse?
Tess continued,” Day One is a pretty flat hike (sure it is) that’s just over 6 miles.” Ok, I can do that.
“Day two is where things get really hard Guys” informed Tess. ” We’re going straight up for 6-8 hours.” Something like 3500 ft. Since my training hikes have been about 1000 ft with no pack, I started shvitzing.
Hubby noticed the terror in my face and whispered, ” don’t worry. Remember the Kaanapoli Trail we hiked in Kauaii? That was probably a 7 hour hike.” So I’m freaking out over nothing because apparently I already trained for this hike 20 years ago.
“Day 3 is going to be quite rough as well. The trail gets very rocky and we will be doing a lot of bouldering.” What I heard was, “If Kori isn’t dead afer Day 2, Day 3 will most certainly do her in”. I have had two back surgeries from horse falls. I am fused at Level L5-S1 and there are metal plates still holding things together. After the last surgery my doctor said, “No yoga and never go bouldering or do any hiking with a pack. Never sleep on a floor and always use three pillows.” He may not have actually said the last few things, but I for sure have a get-out-of -jail -free pass for never having to do yoga. I’m not going to lie, as my kids were jumping up and down at the thought of a ridiculously challenging hike that includes bouldering with large packs, tears were streaming down my face.
I walked back to my room in a shell-shocked daze. After a few minutes there was a knock on our door and an extremely kind and understanding Tess came in. Seeing my tears and look of doom, she gently said, “You know, there are other options.” The kayak trip. I wanted to hug her. A wave of relief came over me so fast I thought I heard angels singing.
I was embarrassed to tell Rich I was bailing on the 3-day and told him that I cried when I heard the details. But Rich told me he totally gets it and that he almost cried too. Rich. Strong Rich. Canyoneering, super outdoorsie, very physically fit Rich. Thank you for that validation. Thank you for almost crying too.
So I will part ways from my four boys tomorrow, and join Marleen and Baroot on a three day kayak trip that includes no packs and comfy beds at night. I will miss my mangy crew but couldn’t be more relieved.
New words for today:
Jangles- flip flops
Scroggin- trail mix
shout- free drink as in “I’m going to shout you one tonight but that’s the last one.”
Steps today: 10,316