This was a huge week for all of us getting out of our comfort zones.

We left the cozy comforts of St Arnaud and headed to Nelson to grab our expedition gear and plan for our three night backpacking adventure in Kahurangi National Park. We were all relieved to see that the weather was changing in our favor and that the low temperatures would now rise above the negatives (Celsius!) and the rain seemed like it would no longer follow us up the mountain.

The night before we left we had a huge meal planning session, we needed to buy high calorie and low weight food that we could carry and satiate our huge crew for three dinners and four breakfast and lunches, plus snacks! One of our great successes was instructor Madeleine’s idea to make snack packs for each individual to carry and self moderate. In each pack we had: trail mix, jerky, oat bars, dried apricots and sour worms. Some of us were better snack managers than others, but suffice to say not a single sour worm lasted to the end of the hike.

The morning of our hike we had a huge spatial challenge to get all of our expedition and regular gear into our trailer; Ori our Tetris king stepped up to the challenge and we somehow left our hostel with more space in our trailer than we had ever had before. We met our guide Mark in Mapūa, whose has run this trek with Pacific Discovery over thirty times, and we loaded up our gear into his van and followed him through the rolling hills of the countryside and up some very strap dirt tracks to get to the Flora Carpark. From there we began our first day of hiking, a whopping 35 minutes to our first camp site. We had all acknowledged how tired we were from our big previous night of camp planning that we were too tired the first day to actually go the big distances.

But that’s alright, we learned some bush skills with Mark at camp. We learned how to identify ideal fire making material in the forest and worked in teams to build our very own fires. He also taught us how to whittle tent pegs, spoons, and knives and which types of wood we should look out for for carving purposes. Then we put our newfound skills to the test to build our very first campfire of the trip at camp. Mark also taught us how to find the best parts of the rivers to find drinking water and for many of us this was the first time we’d ever drank directly from a stream. The streams ended up being some of our best friend’s on the trip, they provided us with drinking water, cleaning water, cooking water and a refreshing (although freezing) spot to take a very quick dip.

On our first morning we were feeling much better and most of us managed to stay pretty warm in the night, but we were determined to hike a longer day so that we could camp in a hut with a wood burning fireplace. The Salisbury hut is first come first served, which motivated us to get up, quickly eat some oatmeal, and pack up and break camp. Amanda, who was one of our team captains for the week, lead the charge and kept us all together at a good pace for the whole trip. She was a brave hiker and encouraged us all to keep up. We hiked for about four hours, the path gradually became smaller and we stopped several times to check out the amazing forest around us. Everyone on our team kept the hike morale high with riddles and jokes and we stopped may time for photo ops.

We stopped for lunch at the Dry Rock Shelter, which is an amazing camp that is built out of a huge rock overhang. We feasted on PB and Nutella wraps and ham, cheese and lettuce sandwiches, and as the ingredients dwindled, Mason revolutionized the lunch snack options by inventing the Nutella on lettuce. Yep, that’s it, Nutella on lettuce. Yum! We hiked about an hour more and found ourselves at our hut destination. Just farther down the track, there was a bit of a pond and a group of the boys headed down for a swim after our sweaty hike. August launched himself into the middle of the pond and paddled around like a crocodile and soon earned the nickname Bog in the bog, a play on his last name, Bogner. That evening we had a big cozy fire, Mac and cheese for dinner, and we all slept in the 20 bunk hut together. Just before bed, a big group of us laid out on the deck to star gaze and they saw a total of five shooting stars. Fairley was absolutely loving it, she said that the star gazing was one of her absolute backpacking highlights.

Delia woke up early on our second morning just as the sun was beginning to rise and began making oatmeal for our hungry hikers, the day was going to be a huge one, almost 7 hours of hiking up and down steep mountains so we had to be fueled up. Despite our wobbly legs, hiking up to the top of mountains gave us the best views, and Livia could not help but every so often exclaiming, “this is actually insane” as we climbed to new heights. Over the day we shuffled some weight around the packs so that the our hiking stamina was all comparable, and Nick notably carried more than his share to help keep the group walking together, at one point, he even carried Will who was still wearing his pack in celebration of reaching the top of our final peak. We topped four peaks that day, and got to about 1,400 meters before our last steep descent of the day. Will kept morale up by DJing some of his favorite tunes as we walked down to our hut for our last night before the last day of our trip.

As we unpacked our packs for the last evening, A weka (a chicken-sized wood hen) cheekily snatched Lily’s wood spoon that she had spent the previous day carving, thinking that it was food. Lily chased the Weka down the trail before finally returning to camp triumphantly, spoon in hand. Liam started chopping firewood unprompted, and soon he had made a huge pile of wood so that we could have an epic s’mores night, and enough leftover to keep the fires going all night and keep our little cabins cozy.

The next day we had a cruisey hike back to the car park and with happy tired bodies we celebrated our accomplishments with pizza as we returned to Nelson. This as been an absolute trip highlight and a defining moment for our crew which worked so well together as a team. I think we can all agree that we now love camping, and we won’t forget our adventures in Kahurangi National Park!

 Backpacking Adventure Kahurangi National Park

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Author Pacific Discovery Outreach Posted