Today marked a massive day in the life of me and this knee.
Firstly, it is now 6 months to the day since the knee replacement and secondly it was the day that we attempted our first day hike in many years. What better a place than the hump ridge track, the last big hike I managed before the demise of the knee!
The hump ridge track is a tough 3 day hike that covers 61km and almost 900m of climbing (all in day 1!) but you reach some stunning areas of Fiordland only accessible by foot. It starts on the coast, before climbing up to the top of the ridge to get stunning panoramic views of Fiordland. From there it’s all downhill for a second day of 21km ending at Port Craig. This was an old mining settlement – inaccessible by road. The last day is along the coast back to the start point. Here is the blog I wrote when we walked the whole track in 2014. I was already on strong pain killers back then and having to walk with poles. I had not remembered that detail till I re-read that blog! I am hoping that I will be in better shape (both me and this knee) when I next attempt the whole loop!
On this occasion we never intended to walk the whole track – we only intended to walk along the coastal stretch, for 3 hours max, before turning around and walking back. It was so long ago since I last did it that I seriously couldn’t remember the track well enough to be able to guess how far we would get. To be honest, that was much less important than the notion of walking constantly on this new bionic knee for 5 hours straight.
The contours of the coastal track are:
- initial stretch through the bush, relatively flat and easy under foot.
- descends down steep steps to the coast then over the river and along the beach for 3km. Back up route on high tides – a rough 4×4 track adjacent to the beach (neither terrain were all that easy on this knee to be honest!)
- another more undulating stretch through more bushland – which comes out onto a 4×4 track till you reach the fiordland border where you enter the bush again.
We did not get right to the next river crossing and junction with the coastal path and hump ridge track which starts its ascent, but we estimate we were only around 2km short.
I had no idea how the knee would fair, but pushing the limits is the only way to improve. So here goes!
The initial route in the bush was relatively easy, flat and well maintained cinder path. the steep uneven steps down to the beach took me a while to navigate (coming back up at the end was way easier!) Then there was the 3km of sand. Ack! This was tough going, particularly as the tide was coming in so we had to stay high up on the beach, often traversing the shingle and pebbles washed up high on shore. Suffice to say this was my slowest stretch! The uneven badly maintained back up 4×4 track was not much better!
There were heaps of trampers coming the other way, 15-20 of them at least which did not surprise us because the car park was chocka, way busier than the last time we were down here. Young, old, you name it they were there and they kept on coming. Quite remarkable for such a remote part of New Zealand! Easter weekend must be a popular time to walk the track! judging by the age of some of them, I hope I can still do this at their age! many were women, older, and alone. I seriously admire them because I am not sure I could do it without Mark’s physical and moral support!
From there we re-entered the bush and eventually were forced to walk on the off road 4×4 track which took us along side some baches and fishermans huts before eventually delivering us to the bush again by the Fiordland border. we continued along here for a wee while, before stopping for food and then the return journey. We had a close eye on the clock and the amount of daylight we had left. We had already checked the time of sunset and wanted to be back at least 30 mins before that time to make sure we had enough daylight to see clearly.
while sat on the felled tree drinking a hot drink and munching a pie, we were visited by several birds, up really close, many of which we were unable to identify but I did recognise this wee guy – the rare and protected species – NZ South Island robin. Magical things happen in the bush when you stop, sit and wait / listen.
We later found a map and worked out where we were at this point: we turned and set off back after this. Maps suggest we were only 1 – 1.5km from the track junction, which means we covered around 16km of walking.
I am pretty stoked with that because I did not think we would get anywhere near that far along the track. I am also surprised at what bad shape me and this knee were already in the last (and only) time. I re-read the blog and was quite shocked. And also encouraged. Because me and this knee did this today, without WITHOUT drugs.
My goal is to walk the hump ridge once again, perhaps carrying my own pack this time!