21 Mar. With the rain forecast to worsen later in the day, we went for an early start from the Tuatara Lodge Backpackers at 07:30. The Subway next door was open so Richard and I picked up a sub for a later lunch.
The trail out of town follows the Estuary Walkway for about 11km. Very light drizzle started but not really wetting, just damp. After that we were on the main road to Bluff for about 17km. This section has to be the least enjoyable of the whole trail, especially in wet weather with road spray from oncoming vehicles. There are plans to put in a new walking trail which avoids the road.
Just ahead of us on the road were Hannah and Ben from New England, USA, and a friend Nathaniel from Hawaii.
Richard’s sister Pip and Geoff met us at the outskirts of Bluff. The normal TA route around the west of Bluff hill was closed and the options were to walk over the hill or through the town. My heels were uncomfortable from the road walking, so I opted for the easy route through town. Richard, Josh, Nina and Pip went to the hill. I met Geoff at Bluff and we waited about 1:30 for the others. Unfortunately the Oyster Cafe at Stirling Point was closed as the staff were preparing for a private function, but Geoff’s car was warm and we watched the cyclists come in to the end of their Aotearoa route. Turns out that the hill group couldn’t find the mapped track from the top so they had to come back down and go through the town. All in heavy rain! Phew😊.
[Post trail note. During my lockdown period when I got home, I found out that the Oyster Cafe was the source of a Covid-19 virus cluster. The private function they were preparing for was a wedding party which resulted in over 85 infections. Lucky not to arrive a day later for a coffee!]
After the Stirling Point photo session, we all retired to the Eagle pub in town for a celebratory drink. Richard and I got a lift back to Invercargill with Pip and Geoff. After clean up, most of us gathered in the Speight’s Ale House to conclude the days celebration. The requirement to sign into the pub with personal contact details emphasised how the world has changed in recent weeks. Unfortunately Nathaniel couldn’t be served as he arrived in NZ on 15 March and has been caught by the 14 day self isolation requirement, which wasn’t in place when he arrived. Fortunately the US group has a flight home tomorrow.
One of the faster days with 33km in 7:30 hours. Flat with easy walking surfaces.
I will draft another post in the next few days with some reflections, but that’s the end of the trail journey as I fly back to Wellington via Christchurch. Thank you for joining me on the trail. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.