John "lakewood" Fegyveresi

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Surviving the Mud on Stewart Island

Well I have survived the Northwest Circuit on Stewart Island.  The track is about 125km long (~77 miles) and doesn't seem like it should be too difficult or take too long.  It turned out to be a hiking experience like I've never had before.  I spent days trudging through knee deep mud and avoiding swarms of sandflies.  Despite this though, the track was absolutely amazing.  You'd wind along rooty muddy trail, only to dump out on a 4 km remote beach in the middle of nowhere with rock walls and caves all around.  I saw several yellow-eyed penguins and 3 kiwi birds.  I camped most nights but did stay in a couple of the huts too (which are really nice).  I hiked the entire trail with fellow WAISer Elizabeth and she turned out to be a perfect hiking partner.  She has also an avid thru-hiker.  She's thru-hiked the AT, PCT, CT, Arizona Trail, and several other smaller trails.  We both hiked under the same type of mentality.....get up early, hike most of the day, and camp late.  We kept a steady pace every day, and managed to finish on the 6th day.  While this doesn't seem like it would equate to very long days....I compare hiking on Stewart Island to hiking in southern Maine.  Kilometers go by as slow as miles and we spent over 10 hours each day hiking.  The guide book actually recommends 10 days to do the trail.

It rained every day, but never for too long, so we never felt like we were getting soaked on.  I would definitely recommend this trail to anyone looking for a truly remote experience, but it must be known that there's simply no way possible to avoid getting ridiculously muddy.  We tried everyday to hop over and avoid...but there always came a point where we slipped in and simply said, "screw it" and trudged right through for the rest of the day.

I'll try to get some photos up once I get back to Invercargill tonight and add more details to the blog and trailjournals site.


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