Heaphy Track Day #4: The Ants Go Marching Six by Six

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Start time: 8:15am
Arrived at Kohaihai at 1:30pm
Distance: 16.2 kilometers (10 miles)
Weather: Morning showers

Out of all the ridiculous songs we sang for the past three days, the ant song I taught everyone was the favorite. “The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah!” We had made so many friends by our last day that our party had literally doubled in size, and the ants were now marching six by six: Steph from the States, Katharina from Belgium, Cornelius from Germany, Katrien from Amsterdam, Jasmine from Germany and Ted from Ireland.

Even though we only had a 5 hour homestretch to make, this day was by far the toughest. Mentally, we all seemed to have checked out. After reaching the Heaphy Hut last night, it seemed the worst was over. Today felt like running that last .1 mile of a half marathon; so close, yet still so very, very far away. It didn’t help that I got horribly bitten by a sandfly on my big toe either. If you are unfamiliar, the New Zealand sandfly is a different breed of awful biting bugs, and I am convinced that the West Coast sandfly is a direct export from Hell. My toe immediately swelled up so badly that I attempted to hike the day in jandals, which was a great idea until they broke. Then I was all Jimmy Buffett singing about how I “blew out my flip-flop.” Walking barefoot was short lived and about an hour and a half in, I was forced to cram my engorged left foot into my hiking boot. To keep the graphic details to a minimum, my inflamed bug bite caused multiple blisters which in turn got infected and hurt. A lot. This did not end well for me.

The track seemed to drag endlessly, and as we carried on in the West Coast rain, it almost reminded me of that scene in Forrest Gump when they march for months at a time through the Vietnam monsoon season. We hiked past loads of hazard signs, too; signs for falling rocks, man eating snail crossings and ones that warned us of high tides. The tides in New Zealand can be quite impressive, up to and exceeding more than a 6 meter (close to 20 feet) difference, making paths dangerous and impassable. We trekked on white sand beaches, through lush rainforests and over creeks formed by long waterfalls in the distance. It was relatively flat for the most part, but every time we encountered the slightest of inclines, I struggled. A lot. At one point, Cornelius literally lifted my backpack up while Katharina pushed me up the hill. No tramper left behind. I have made such wonderful friends since I’ve been here! Seriously, if it weren’t for them, I might still be crawling along the Heaphy looking for a way out.

Nevertheless, we made it! And rather successfully I might add. There were no severe injuries to report, and nobody ran out of food. In hindsight, I had a blast, and I couldn’t have asked for better company. We laughed, we sang, we had silly conversations, and I can bet that it will be a long time before any of the other trampers forget us! We are officially no longer tramping amateurs! We crossed our last suspension bridge over the Kohaihai River just before 1:30pm, and when we met up with the rest of the group in the car park, I went up to our former British roommate and just said, “Bet you didn’t expect to see us so soon!”

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