On 10th June the Department of Conservations opened booking for some of the great walks for the summer season. This season would be different. No-one from overseas. Would they be able to open? Would they be able to fill all the bunks? (at the time we were still in alert level 2). Would the huts take longer to book out?
My previous DOC booking at Easter had been cancelled due to alert level 4. Was I game to hope that Christmas would be better?
The Paparoa track is new. Last season it was only partly open. This season all 3 huts are available and it can be walked (or cycled) end to end. The side-trip to Pike river (Pike29 memorial track) is still closed until the current exploration there is finished. I have walked (or paddled) all the other great walks and also walked the Queen Charlotte and Hump Ridge tracks, so I thought I would give it a go.
I was lucky enough to book from 29 December to 31 December – leaving the track on 1st January 2021 (a new better year we hope). The track was sold out within hours of bookings opening.
So now I need to book the rest of the holiday. This is the part I hate.
Across the strait by ferry and back. The ferry crossings book-end the holiday. I need to start sometime between Christmas day & the 28th, and come back before Sunday 10th January. Altogether nearly 2 weeks.
Then I book accommodation and transport. Do I stay in Blackball overnight on 28th or Punakaiki. How do I arrange transport to the track (Smoke-ho car park) on 29th. Then accommodation at Punakaiki on 1st January.
After that there is some days before 28th to fill and a week after to spend on the West coast. Also I need to book a night in Picton (or nearby) at the start and end of the trip.
For the rest of the trip I need to know where I will be every day so I can book accommodation. I will choose some nights in the bush. It sort of works out, and so far with this sort of holiday I have not been caught out by weather or other misadventure. Because it is holidays it is hard to expect to just turn up and find somewhere to stay.
Holidays are good, but I miss the spontaneity to just go and see what happens. I hate booking. How do other people do it?
I think I should have revived this blog at the beginning of the year or last year to have documented the course of the pandemic. It is an exceptional event (some say the most significant event worldwide since World Wide II). There are examples of personal diaries that incidentally documented world events. The diary of Samuel Pepys is interesting as it was written in London over the period of plague and fire as well as political change. The best example so far from this pandemic is Fang Fang’s diary from Wuhan (here in chinese – or available as a book in English).
Let me try to reconstruct it. It will exclude lot of personal stuff, but also miss some interesting things which look trivial in hindsight. It is hard to remember when the world ran out of masks, hand sanitiser and toilet paper.
2 December 2019: I decided to ride to work every day in Summer. I used my old (very old) road bike. It was slow (lots of people passed me), but I managed to get to work with all the showering gear and clothes I needed. As the days went on I got better at it but the limitations of my old bike became apparent. I broke a lot of spokes in my back wheel. I repaired it enough to get home.
24 December: Christmas eve – I left work early. In Petone I ran into the back of a car and broke a brake cable. I don’t know whether the cable broke causing me to hit the car, or broke after hitting the car. I bought a new cable and fixed it, but it really is time to get a new bike.
30 December: After coming back from holiday in Palmerston North. I ordered a new bike. of course I would not get it immediately due to holidays. Australian bush fires are starting to affect NZ. The air smells of smoke.
1 January 2020: I read a report that SARS was back in China. Someone (later named as Li Wenliang) posted a message on Wechat, and was admonished for spreading rumours. An outbreak of unexplained pneumonia was reported to WHO. Smoke from bush files more noticeable.
3 January: A lovely still day – I paddled down the river and across to Matiu/Soames Island. No camera to take a photo to prove it. Tension overseas as the US murder an Iranian leader in Iraq.
6 January: Back to work (on my son’s mountain bike). Not many people around town as a lot of people don’t start again until 13th. Lots of cafes and lunch places still closed. Generally I get my lunches from the New World supermarket.
8 January: My new bike arrived. I had to buy pedals and shoes, so it was not until the 10th that I could ride to work. It was much more enjoyable to ride, and I was much faster. I also ordered some more gear (lights, clothes bag etc) from Aliexpress in China.
16 January: Japan reported its first case of the virus. Suddenly it looks closer to my son, studying in Kobe.
20 January: the fish and chip shop across the road from work has a note saying that they have come back from China (Guangzhou), but will stay closed for another week as they didn’t want to risk spreading the virus – as cases had been reported in Guangzhou.
23 January: the world watched in amazement as China locked down Wuhan, and restricted travel elsewhere.
28 January: New Zealand banned travel from China (against the advice of WHO). WHO didn’t appreciate how poorly prepared NZ was for such a disease. My bike accessories are going to take longer to arrive from China.
3 February: Share prices down in NZ due to worries about tourism and education markets.
4 February: Mercy flight bringing 158 New Zealanders from Wuhan arrived. The passengers go to quarantine in Whangaparaoa for 2 weeks.
25 February: Big drop in share price all over the world as Chinese production dries up and recession looks inevitable.
28 February: first confirmed case of the virus in NZ in a woman who traveled from Iran.
2 March: Travelers from Northern Italy and South Korea are required to self-isolate for 2 week.
16 March: I bought a freezer to stock up on meat. Who knows what is going to happen, but NZ is not immune to what is happening overseas. Time to start hoarding flour, rice, canned food etc.
18 March: the government warns NZers overseas to come home while they still can.
21 March: The PM announces the 4 level alert system and says that NZ will immediately go to level 2.
23 March: With confirmed infections growing the PM announces that NZ will move to level 3 and that level 4 will start in 2 days time for 4 weeks. I go home early to get my home office set up.
24 March: I return to the office (by bike) to pick up some more possessions, and to reset my password in anticipation that it might be difficult from home. Lots of people were taking chairs desks, screens etc home so that they could set up. Nobody knew how long before we could return.
26 March: Working from home: At lunchtime I went out for a bike ride around the Hutt valley. There were almost no cars. It was quiet, and the smells had gone. I could enjoy lockdown I think.
So yes we cheated by getting a boat to Christmas Village and getting picked up at Freshwater. This cut about 4 nights off. It still was a very hard but very enjoyable 7 days walking. Lots of mud and some steep slippery banks