We’ve all got a fun, and crazy friend who plans stuff and brings people together. For myself, and many others Wez is that person.
About 8 months ago Wez dreamed up running 3 of the Great Walks in 6 days and set about planning logistics for it.
‘Yeah I’m in’ I said and paid for accommodation and flights etc here and there and kind of forgot about it.
Fast forward to January 2018 and I started feeling a bit nervous, since Surf Coast Century 100 I hadn’t been running a lot. An ankle roll had caused a few niggles and I’d been trying to manage it, get to grips with the extra 7kgs I was carrying around partly as a result of this, and partly as a result of chocolate, and find my running mojo at the same time.
As the old saying goes ‘time waits for no man’ and the 3 in 6 was upon us.
An excited catch up at the airport.
An introduction to a few people I’d not met before but I was sure I’d get to know quite well in the days to come.
A wave and a smile from our new Prime Minister who was also flying, and we were off.
We landed at Queenstown airport, picked up our van and started our road trip to Bluff via Invercargill (for groceries). At Bluff we boarded the ferry amidst nervous excitement; the ferry crossing is known to be a bit ‘bumpy’.
Fran and I were up the front, busy chatting as we set off, and all of a sudden ‘woosh’ spray hit the ferry window beside us, the boat did a big dip, and it felt like we were on a rollercoaster. Fran screamed and I joined her, this was soon followed by hysterical laughter as the rolls kept coming, and at realising that all of the people on the boat were looking and laughing at us ‘squealers’. We clutched the handles in front of us and whooped and laughed our way through the rollercoaster ride. After all of the excitement, we hopped off the boat on Stewart island to deep, cool, clear water and a sleepy little town called Oban. Picking up our bags we walked our way to the backpackers and prepared for the run the next day.
18th Jan: The next morning we were up and ready to go!
The Rakiura track is 32km long and does a small loop on the eastern part of the island. We hoped we might spot one of the 30,000 kiwi (birds) that inhabit the island but alas no sightings. In saying that though we were very lucky to see so many other native birds. Abundant is the word I’d use to describe the bird life on Stewart Island. It was so exciting to see.
Our run started beside the big link on Horseshoe Bay and rolled along beside some stunning golden sand beaches which were glimpsed through misty fog
The bush here is so lush and green. The trails were really beautiful and it was great to see families out hiking together. Karen and I ran, and walked and talked the last 15 or so kms. It was really good to get to know Karen better. We were having a good old heart to heart, as trail runners tend to do, and at one point she said something about people dying young. It took my breath away and I felt pretty emotional.
One of my mates, Tony, had passed away on Boxing Day. I thought of him and his adventurous spirit and thought ‘I’m bloody well doing this’.
One of my favourite memories of Tony is when we were in Bari, Italy. The gas bottle in our van had run out and it needed filling. Tony, ‘Mr Fix It’, asked a local guy about where to fill it. The guy said ‘jump on’ his scooter (so Italian) and so off Tony goes, clinging onto a gas bottle with one hand, and a random Italian guy with the other hand, laughing and waving (somehow whilst holding said gas bottle). We thought we might not see Tony again and laughed at the situation and how funny it looked to see Tony being scootered off to who knows where. He was always up for an adventure, it was one of my most favourite things about him, you never knew just where a day with Tony would lead. I figured that this 3 in 6 might be challenging but, like Tony did, live it up whilst you can.
On we continued. We finished the Rakiura trail and had a little bit of an anticlimactic run back into town.. The trail ended up reading 37km on my watch by the time we made it to the beach. Karen and I joined Ryan and Simon by jumping in the water and having a (very brisk) swim in the bay in front of the pub. That afternoon we watched a local movie at the cinema and had a beautiful dinner at said pub.
19th Jan: Up early for the 8am ferry. This trip was much calmer. A trip to the signpost in Bluff (what a cool little town) for an obligatory ‘bottom of NZ’ pic, then off to Te Anau we set.
It was a bit of a rush, we had a Milford Sounds cruise booked for 3:15 that afternoon but we made it and even had a few minutes standing around in the sunshine before cruising.
The cruise was a little underwhelming to be honest. The landscape is beautiful but I felt quite removed from it sitting aboard a huge boat. Either way it was a good way to relax and spend the afternoon and the Milford Sounds really is something special. We checked into our accommodation in Milford and prepared our tummies and our packs for the big day ahead of us the next day.
We woke in the dark, well, maybe not woke as there’d not been a lot of sleeping.
Upset tummy. Probably nerves. Wait at the wharf and off we headed to Sandfly Point.
This trail was stunning, lovely bush, flat and runnable, lots of tumbling waterfalls and vast peaks above us. The legs felt ok. Tired, and a bit heavy but ok. After about 20 km we started to climb. We knew this was a fairly long sustained climb and Maree and I cruised up it, enjoying the scenery and changing vegetation as we hiked.
As people passed us going the other direction we’d get updates of how far from the top we were. I got very excited when a couple said to me ‘you’re nearly there!‘ I enthusiastically replied ‘really how far?!’ ‘yeah, about 100 metres’ ‘really? That close?’ ‘vertical’ they said. Needless to say the enthusiasm levels dropped a bit at that point and I chuckled at the difference that one word makes.
Ahead of us were keas calling and playing on the wind, the mist rolled around the peaks giving glimpses before reveiling them. We hit a windy McKinnon shelter and were pretty darn happy with ourselves. From there we wound down the rocky terrain and back into some more gorgeous bush and sunshine!
There was then about 27 km of fairly flat terrain that followed clear turquoise waters all the way to the lake mouth. We arrived (62 kms on the watch) at Glade Wharf to a loud scream from Sharon who’d been bitten by an eel! Stephen had also been bitten. What are the odds of that?! I jumped in for a quick, refreshing dip and then off we set on an hour boat trip back to Te Anau. I was so relieved to have completed that one. The confidence was boosted, 99kms down, a day off, and then the final run to go.
21st Jan: It was a quiet start to the day. All testing out how our bodies were feeling, big scrambled egg breakfast thanks to ‘chef” Ryan. We wandered around town, got a coffee at Sandfly cafe, perused the shops and then watched Ata Whenua at the movies. It was beautifully put together and really showcased Fiordland.
Packing again all set for the final day. Sadly we lost Shazza to a badly rolled ankle and Paula was showing signs of a nasty shin splint and wasn’t sure if she’d run either. I felt disappointed for them but both of these women are go-getters so I reckon it’ll happen for them in the future.
22nd Jan: Routeburn and the final day! We’d made it! Well.. just a 32km run to go…
Jackets on, let’s go! It was raining fairly heavily, we set straight into the 21km hill. We passed many waterfalls which also happened to cross the trail. There was one huge waterfall (Earland Falls) which totally awed and saturated us. Luckily the next part was runnable so we warmed up again but we knew that being saturated could lead to some ‘Shafey’ (group in joke because of Maree’s pronounciation of chafing- we love you Maree). Eventually we reached Lake Mackenzie hut. The lake beside it was a stunning greeny, blue, birds played on the boulders beside the hut and the mossy trail slowly sloped it’s way up the hill. I called to Maree ‘look kea’s’ They were flying above us giving us wonderful flashes of the vibrant red on the underside of their wings. I was being silly and attempting to (poorly) call them. I think they were so confused by my screeches that they came and perched on a rock a few metres away from us and were watching us with interest. Maree and I were both in fits of laughter.
A falcon also cut a stealthy line above us not long after this, so perhaps that is why the kea’s were perching and watching. Either way I hoped that Fran had seen them as she loves native birds. We hit tussocks and mountain daisies and curved around a corner to a long tussock bordered skyline. The views were wondrous and it was great fun running along, stopping for pictures, crossing waterfalls, and chatting to fellow trackgoers. We hit the hut at the 21.5km mark and Maree happily proclaimed ‘it’s all downhill from here’ … then we continued on uphill for a bit longer. Maree swearing and me laughing heartily! I really enjoyed this next section, lakes and waterfalls in the foreground, ranges in the background, cloud and sunshine, daisies, and boulders and more waterfalls.
The trails were soft which were a joy on the feet. The distance was out, I was thinking ‘1km to go’ and asked a couple of German hikers ‘how far to the carpark?’ ‘about 1 hour’ was their response. The look on my face must have been funny. I figured that that meant about 5km to go, so I’ll end up on roughly 36km and not 32. Sigh. Out again.
At this point we ran and ran. Excited and a little bit reluctant to finish we ran across the final bridge to where the rest of our mates were cheering and celebrating. High fives all round. A few of us braved the river for a cool down. Took a group photo at the end of the trail and that was it. The 3 in 6 was done!
We drove back to Queenstown full of singing and photo sharing and laughter.
We’d done it.
Celebratory dinner out that night and a stroll along the main street.
What a top notch group of people and an awesome adventure. Thanks to Wez for working out the logistics, and to the rest of the team for making it the trip that it was.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. It was a big week for myself and for my buddies. I’m already thinking, ‘what next?’. I think a few more of our Great Walks are on the agenda.
Also a big thank you to Kerry, I am a firm believer that your partner should be your enabler. Which he absolutely is. Not only does he support me to get out there and do ‘stuff’ he also single-handedly ran our business during what was a very busy time for the week I was away. Thanks also to the people who we coach for being so understanding too and giving me the space to have a week ‘off’ and go and do this.
I hope you have some fun adventures to look forward to as well because that is what life is all about right?!