Punakaiki is Wet

Yesterday was just one of those days that you don’t forget.  So different, so exciting overhang-punakaikiand so fun.  Paula and I really like hiking in nature.  If you looked at me or me looking at me for that matter, you would not expect that from my personality.  But I just love it.  We’ve climbed mountains with real high verticals where my body is crying, lactic acid burning but we’ve gone through the most scenic views from Patagonia, Antarctica to Big Sur, Switzerland and on.  Most of these hikes include amazing terrain and generally I love every second of the pain.

But yesterday was different.

punakaiki-paula-and-graWe hiked through the river streams of Punakaiki, New Zealand.  How to describe this region of the South Island?  Well, its very reminiscent of the west coast in California along US1, Pacific Coast Highway — almost identical views of ocean on one side matched with rugged and hilly terrain criss-crossing, high bridges — hugging along the coast.  One thing that may or may not be unique to this region is that the huge cliffs are dotted with rivers cutting through.  Thats the real topic of the day.  Our hiking through those rivers.

Graham told us that we would be getting our boots wet.  What does that mean to you?  Well, to me, it means that I will get them walking-punakaikiwet because we will be dotting through some streams.  Big deal, who cares right?  What Graham did not tell us was that we were going to be going waist deep through cold rivers with rocky bottoms.  Seriously different that what we had done ever before.

So the morning started by leaving the northern Abel Tasman region and driving 4 hours south-west though large mountains with tons of sheep, of course, diary cows and forests — all of the above.  4 hours through winding and noxious roads.  I was seriously getting close to getting sick in the back of the van and I don’t care how comfortable it is.  Winding roads in a mid row are winding roads.  We stopped in a quaint town where we stretched and Paula and I went into a local grocery shop.  Saw some neat local Kiwi packaged foods including chicken flavored chips.   That almost seems like a Chinese taste.

After our drive terminated in the Punakaiki region, we stopped again at a hiking location — lets call it the river crossing hike.  Not exactly a tourist exit and although we did see a Canadian couple who were living out of their nearly broken down caravan for the past few months and had just completed their hike — otherwise, it seemed to be pretty much a quiet hiking location.  Got ourselves ready surrounded by massive cascading cliffs which are just incredible and I don’t care who you are or where you’ve been  — this scene is incredible.

nice-scene-punakaikiSo now for the fun part, we start out for our four-hour hike.  We have our Marino wool socks and hiking shoes — Gore-tex of course.  Hahaha.  Gore-tex!  The first part of this outing is, well typical.  We go through fields, rocks, huge steps that Graham calls Granny Steps which means that it separates the strong from the not-so-strong.  We traverse around mud, super duper slippery mossy rocks, fallen trees and even saw some wild goats which passed our path.  Up and down we go along and passing through small crossings where you need to do some hopping over small cracks in the ground.  No big deal but I will say you had to focus on each step along the entire path or you will be face-planting.

Graham tells us that we will be passing through some rivers — like 6 or 7 and we should expect to get wet.  Ok, mate, sure, no bigpaula-walking-through-water deal until we see our first river.  I look around to see what our options are to go across.  No way are we going through — No way.

Yes way.  Huh?  No, you don’t take your shoes or socks off, you walk right through.  The first crossing was cold and went calf deep and it was long — at least longer than I had imagined.  My feet are clearly soaked and socks drenched as well as the bottom of our shorts are wet.  Finally we cross, done.  Well done.  We continue with our hike another 20 minutes and then a series of 4 or 5 more rivers.  This time the current is much stronger and we all connect to one another, tied to each others hips and arms locked.  If not, we could be pulled into the water’s current.  The second time getting wet its no big deal since were already drenched.  Seems like we actually traverse over 8 or 9 rivers along the entire tour — I think Graham under stated.  Each with very slippery and rocky bottoms so each step means something — again serious focus is required or you go home swimming.

Long story short, our last river returning back , the water was so deep that my camera parked in my back pocket got submerged and totally water logged.  In fact, it stopped working because of the water damage.  Ok, what can you do?  Sure, my $1,000 camera just got fucked with water damage.  You would think I would be pissed right?  No, in fact I loved every second.  How much fun it was to do these crossings, get massively wet and continue with the hike — always surrounded by thousand foot high cliffs carved on each side of the river.  I had never done anything like that before and to be honest, I was sorry that the hike was ending.  The four-hour crossing ended too early.

Graham had done us well by giving us this unique experience.  As for the Gore-Tex shoes, well lets just say that I don’t think they were build to repel water from waist deep river streams.  Call that feature and fabric useless on this trek.

The happy ending is that it seems like the camera has dried out and is still functional — happy.  We nailed another experience in a real unique place.  All is good.

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