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Finding Christina Helene

The day I did the Heaphy Track was probably one of the best days I’ve had in a while. Jordan and I haven’t laughed together like that in a long long time. It was November 2nd, 2017 and Jordan and I were heading out for a teaser of one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks – the Heaphy Track.

Back at Slaughter House, I’d heard stories about how people have run this track in a little over 9 hours. Mind you, this track takes normal people about 4 days to walk. They start on the North side so they can end on the easy side in Karamea. This is the side of the track that Jordan and I did.

 

Doing a track teaser is almost harder than a great walk, because you are doubling what the hikers do in a day. Instead of 9kms, you’re doing 18km or more. But this was the easy side of the Heaphy!

One of the first things we noticed on this track was how many old people were on it. They were doing bike tours (I’ve heard this is the only Great Walk that allows bikes, and not super far in on it either) or in it for the long haul with their big backpacks and all.

 

On this day, Jordan and I hiked 21.68kms in a little over 4.5 hours (thank you Strava.) Of course, I spent most of the time on the way out taking these beautiful photos you see. The way back my stops were much more pragmatic – catching my breath!

On the Heaphy Track you can take a high tide or low tide track – at least that’s what the paperwork says. Out on the trail, however, the low tide track had been blocked off from hikers. Of course Jordan climbed over the fence and went exploring, looking for the low tide track. I’ve yelled at him about not doing this many times on this trip so far, but this time, being next to the ocean and it was so beautiful, I followed along.

We walked on the beach for most of it, sometimes going up on the old trail when it wasn’t completely washed out. I’ll admit, I had fun. We eventually climbed up the rock to the high tide track. On the way back, we couldn’t find where we had climbed up, but looking down on the beach we could see only two sets of footprints in the sand. Ours.

A lookout of Scott’s Beach

On the way back to our campsite (Brown Campsite at Kahurangi National Park) we were both a bit delirious from the fresh salty beach air and endless views of nikau palms. I stopped for some yoga on the beach and Jordan exercised his photography skills. I won’t admit it to him, but sometimes he has a much better eye than me.

This one is mine – I stopped for about 5 minutes in a no stop landslide zone. That’s right, I put myself in the line of danger for my photography passion.

 

When we got back to our campsite, we continued to play with a handstand competition. I found a sense of calm in my balance that my handstands have been missing for years. Focusing on a shell, I lower my energy into the ground as I rise up, upsidedown.

We walked over to an area of the beach by the cliffs that looked particularly interesting. There was a river inlet, or outlet…. where a fellow camper was looking to whitebait. He was vacationing from Christchurch with his wife and their friends. We’re talking old cuties here, each with their own trailer or campervan. He excitedly invited Jordan and I to camp on his land next time we are in Christchurch (yeah, right). It was a sweet sentiment. We talked about where we were from and really just shot the piss.

As we talked, the sun began to set and the sandflies came out. The sandflies had really not been a problem all day, however as soon as the sun hit the horizon – whoom! All three of us were trying to keep up conversation, while sandflies attacked our faces, our legs, any skin that was showing was up for grabs. I remember talking to this poor guy while he had at least three sandflies snacking on his face.

Jordan and I ran back to the campervan to take cover. The only problem was, we hadn’t eaten yet. Shit.

The bridge at the start of the track

We’ve had sandflies around while camping before. They come with Spring and all her beauty. If one of us has to get out of the car, we quickly close the door to keep the beasties out of our home. On this particular occasion, however, fate had struck.

I open the door of the van to go help Jordan with cooking outside right when the old man is walking by. He’s holding a whitebaiting net and his face is covered in flies again. “Couldn’t stay out there too long, being eaten up!” And he proceeds to stand there and talk to us for maybe ten minutes before he decides to leave to get some tea from his wife, Shirley.

During those ten minutes, Jordan and I were so surprised that we got caught putting our shoes on and left the camper door wide open. Inside the van was a black cloud of sand flies. Luckily Jim came with a can of bug bombing spray. We took almost everything out of the van or covered it up with a blanket. We must have been a sight for the old people from Christchurch. They thought they were getting out of the city, and here were these two beach bums, spreading out all their earthly possessions for display on the shore.

As we waited for the bug bomb to disperse, we made dinner while being attacked by the flies. We came up with an interpretive dance to keep moving and keep the flies away. As one knows, staying still is death by sandfly. Imagine a native rain dance to invite the rain…. this was the style and attention getting kind of dance we performed for our new friends and neighbors at the campsite.

I would not take the sandflies back. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. Needless to say, Jordan and I slept well that night under the Nikau palms and listening to the waves and our random bursts of laughter as we recalled the events of the day.

 

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