Stewart Island Miracle Diet

Trip Start Oct 01, 2003
Trip End Jul 29, 2008

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Northwest Circuit Hike, Stewart Island NZ

while still in Takaka, we decided to attempt the 10 Day Northwest Circuit hike on Stewart Island. one of our friends who had done it described it as "10 days of slogging through mud, arriving at each hut dead tired, get up, do it again and again and again...." and she ended up 10 pounds lighter when it was all done. neither of us has really backpacked for maybe 8 years (wow, how the time flies). i was in pretty good shape though from religiously doing workout videos all winter long but i know backpacking is much much different than step-aerobics. we both viewed it as a challenge and it sure was.

i'm not sure that either of us lost ten pounds (actually ron might have--he's looking quite svelte these days). but it was a helluva hard trip. they say you can skip days to make the hike shorter but i don't see how--we were dead tired each day and in the end, it was 12 days before we emerged back into the town of Oban. so, here are some tips that would have helped us out, along with what we ate (because it is hard to estimate how much food you need, not to mention carrying it). one important thing is the town of Oban has no ATM machine--so bring enough cash...although most businesses accept credit cards and we got along just fine without much cash.

after a scary/rough/seasick/horrible ferry ride (one hour=$50 each one way), we arrived at the teeny tiny town of Oban and set out to check ourselves into a backpacker, which was full. so lucky for us we got upgraded to the hotel for the same price ($55 per night). ron had a bad cold so we spent a day so he could rest up. we arranged our hike at the DOC office, rented an emergency beacon ($45), bought our circuit passes ($45 each), bought a new raincoat for me ($140), etc. etc. i should mention that this hike is not cheap...

Helpful Tips:

don't skimp on raingear--get the pants too. make sure your hiking boots have an attached tongue so the mud doesn't get in. take benedryl with you for the sandflies and painpills for your aches and pains. be organized and ready for sudden downpours (strap your raingear to the outside of your pack). make sure you have a packcover. have snacks in your pockets so you don't have to stop so much and take off your packs. do not underestimate the weight of your pack (we ended up dropping things at huts along the way). bring good food--it's the only thing you have to look forward to at night. rinse the mud off your boots/socks/pants every night--it does wonders for the morning attitude (clean wet versus dirty wet). winter hat is mandatory, warm gloves too. NO COTTON NO COTTON NO COTTON. you must have gaitors. you must have good socks and at least 4 pairs. bring a book (small).

Our Food List:

2 small packets of raro orange drink mix, two huge chocolate bars, approximately 8-10 pounds of trail mix (mostly peanuts), 4 "meal on the go bars", 16 small granola bars, 1# cheese, 1# salami, small hunk of fudge, 24 oatmeal packets and granola to sprinkle on top, 11 dehydrated food meals for two (Backcountry brand made in NZ), 3 packs of dehydrated mashed potatos, 6 ramen noodle packets, 1 pack of cooked chicken, 3 bags of tuna. it probably all added up to at least $200. i'm so glad we didn't scrimp on the NEED good food. 1 small propane container for your stove was fine for us--without extra boiling (we brought two large and one small--leaving the two larges at huts along the way). *buy your food in Invercargill--the Oban grocery store is very small.

Backcountry Dehydrated Meals Taste Review:

"babotje"--tangy and hearty, a tasty treat...don't let the name scare you from this yummy dehydrated meal.
"beef curry"--good and spicy, lots of peas, leaves lips tingling.
"roast lamb and veggies"--too solid, i like the soupier ones better. kind of weird--still tasted good.
"nasi goreng"--good--although could have used some more spice.
"mexican chicken"--tasty, messy chip packet though.
"lamb fettucini"--badly needed salt. not alfredo like i had expected.
"cooked breakfast"--a nice change from the oatmeal.
"beef hotpot"--good wholesome taste, good comfort food.
"morroccan lamb"--really good, nice spice, i needed salt, ron didn't.

The Days Broken Down:

saturday, nov 11th--walk to port william hut. ron got a pretty bad blister the first day from the road walking. then we got completely soaked on a beach crossing. we were rushing to get there and ended up very tired, hungry and cranky. nice hut though. started a fire and went to the beach when the rain stopped. saw a seal eating something--playing with it like a dog, rolling around and throwing it into the air and catching it. lesson learned--be ready for the rain, and take lots of breaks--it's not a race.

sunday, nov 12--walk to bungaree hut. met a penguin researcher there who was fun to talk to. hiking that day was muddy, slow and we were sore and a little overwhelmed. questions arose about whether this was actually a good idea or not. had penguin researcher use her cell phone to extend our trip with the DOC, they'll be no skipping huts for us.

monday, nov 13--walk to christmas village hut. another hard days hike (fyi, they're all hard). ron's pack felt really heavy (it was). two hours of mud/hills, then it switches up a bit during the day. lots of sandflies. no rain all day.

tuesday, nov 14--ron's birthday! walk to yankee river hut. nice hut, nice location--right on a river and close to the beach. too bad about the horrible sandflies. huge amounts of mud. rained in the morning, nice in the afternoon. met another penguin researcher. suprised ron with a very small bottle of scotch (very small), that i had hidden in my pack.

wednesday, nov 15--walk to long harry hut. a pretty good days hike. my boots started letting in the mud (damn cheap boots). walked across smokey beach which was absolutely gorgeous. we both saw our first wild kiwi...ran right in front of us and hid under a bush--right where we could see him. washed clothes at hut--sunny all day.

thursday, nov 16--walk to east ruggedy hut. rainy shitty wake-up. turns out we need to time this hike with the tide so we can't get an early start. overall a pretty decent hike--beautiful beach. ron saw one of the big kiwis.

friday, nov 17--walk to hellfire pass hut. long muddy day. another day we had to time with the tides. so much mud you had to laugh--you wonder if you might be on camera sometimes it's so frickin ridiculous. we need to rest and took two nights at hellfire pass.

saturday, nov 18--day of rest at hellfire pass hut. a pretty cool hut. there's a huge sand dune out front. we washed up, rested, trying to heal our extremely overused feet.

sunday, nov 19--walk to mason bay hut. we both saw a big kiwi--flopped out onto the trail right in front of us looking like a big clumsy thanksgiving turkey. another hard hike but before reaching the hut we saw a beached whale carcass. i'm so bummed i didn't take a picture, it looked so weird. like a big rock covered with ropey, sinewy plants. we even went up to it to see what it was and couldn't figure it out until we smelled it. it was about as big as a small car. we didn't see kiwis at mason's bay but we didn't put that much effort into it either--we're worn out. ron did see a possum in the middle of the night though.

monday, nov 20--walked to freshwater landing hut. this is the least muddy day for awhile. still it seemed to take forever. we are both so ready to be done with this hike. got to the hut early (and first). used an empty ash bucket to heat water and soak our aching feet. my hair looks sort of like the whale carcass we saw--stringy and decomposed. mostly i have my winter hat on though--it's usually pretty cold. sick of hiking.

tuesday, nov 21--walk to north arm hut. i had a bad day. my boots started gouging my left ankle with every step. we did see a kiwi though--for about 5 minutes we sat and watched it foraging for food right off the trail. lots of deadfall to cross over but not real muddy. basically feel beat up, dreading the trail in front of us. so close, yet so far. rainy day.

wednesday, nov 22--walk back to oban. my foot throbbing--had to walk out in my crocs (, thus carrying my water slogged boots in my pack (which ron very nicely took over about an hour in). we couldn't get there fast enough and about noon arrived at the hotel in Oban.

After the Hike:

during the hike we had big plans to party-hardy all night long (yeah right!) we had some food, a few beers, a couple tequila shots and were sound asleep by 8 p.m. we must be getting old, haha. i ended up doing four loads of gross muddy laundry and then donating our boots to the recycle center. they smelled like rotten swamp mud even after washing. another tip...*time this trip with the time you'll be getting new hiking boots and wear your old hiking boots on the trip because whatever ones you wear will never ever be the same.

so we spent a couple days and a few hundred dollars in Oban resting...before getting back on the terrible ferry. my ferry riding tips for the easily motion sick are this: take the earliest ferry, have one half piece of dry toast for breakfast, take a motion sickness pill (sealegs worked for me), put one earplug in whichever ear is opposite your dominate hand and then stand the entire time, holding onto the seat in front of you and try to imagine it's a ride at a nice safe amusement park. i actually felt much better on the ferry back in--not great, but not sick. on the way in i actually had something really weird addition to being sick, my hands lost all feeling and curled up into a claw-like formation. a little freaky but all went back to normal before the ride was over. ron says i should get an anchor tattoo now for getting through all the ferry rides we did this year.

i'd love to hear from anyone who is doing this crazy adventure...i will always remember it and my pictures are absolutely stunning, but what a butt-kicker of a hike! oh yeah, and Invercargil tip--*find the Botanical Gardens, they're an amazing suprise in a somewhat depressing, cold and windy town.

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