We were only a day behind and felt confident that we could make that day up in the Richmond Ranges. So we booked an extra 24 hours of luxury at the Alpine Lodge - a place that is a great stop for most budgets.
You don't need to know about our slothful and gluttonous adventures at Saint Arnaud...other than food and chairs were involved.
THESE BOOTS WEREN'T MADE FOR WALKING
Walking Te Araroa that is.
Whiona had phoned ahead and got her old boots sent to the lodge because the Zamberlan alpine boots she'd bought for the trip had sprung a large leak in the left boot's toe.
She'd only walked about 40ks in them before we left home and they died at about the 1100 kilometre mark. If the gaping hole wasn't bad enough, their Goretex lining had also been an abject failure. If you're planning on going walking in New Zealand, Goretex in your boots isn't only a complete waste the extra money it costs, but the stuff actually becomes a hindrance.
No amount of Goretex will stop water getting in if you're walking through streams and rivers which is something that happens most days in New Zealand's mountains. And once New Zealand's inevitable water does arrive inside your boots, the "magic" properties of Goretex won't let it go. i.e. Goretex not only resists water entering clothes, it resists letting it out too. The result for Whiona was that her boots and feet were damp for long periods of time, while my "old-fashioned" boots usually dried over night. Her Zamberlans eventually rotted from the inside out.
My Asolo alpine boots still had a fair bit of life in them. They'd done about 300ks before we left...Saint Arnaud made that 1400.
Question: Does anyone make a pair of boots or shoes that'll last the whole length of Te Araroa? We've seen some stunning failures along the way.
The worst would have to be a make of Lowa boots we've seen fail on two different Sobo walkers. Both pairs had been bought in Wellington as replacements for other brands of boots that had died on the North Island trail. Both pairs of Lowas were well on their way out by Arthur's Pass.
These tough looking boots aren't cheap and come with an impressive looking rand around the base of the upper.
TE ARAROA GETS ITS OWN TV SHOW
We'd heard that there was a TV series about the trail on Maori TV - Te Araroa: Tails from the Trails - by comedian Pio Terei and felt somehow lucky that our room's TV would be able to play it for us on our night off.
We finished our meal at the lodge's restaurant early and rushed back to the unit with Anna, Twisties, and a bottle of cider.
The opening credits rolled. It looked promising.
Unfortunately, the credits were the high point for us all. Anna left half way through the programme and we struggled on till the end. There were a few snippets of interest from a Te Araroa perspective, but really...the show missed the boat almost completely.
In the original review that I wrote, I bagged it. I was rude about it. Pio's mum would not have liked what I had to say about her son.
But I've moved on. I've got over my disappointment in the programme now and have deleted my poison penmanship. Let's just say that my take on the programme was as nasty as Pio's look at the trail is shallow...and leave it at that.
Now that I've had time to digest what we saw that night, my urge to criticise has dissipated. I'm just left with the feeling that the programme was an opportunity wasted.
THE GREAT SAINT ARNAUD NOODLE SCAM
Before we left Saint Arnaud I thought it would be a good idea to pick up a few packs of instant noodles at the general store to supplement our diet. Instant noodles are full of energy, easy to cook, light to carry, and best of all, cheap....NOT!
Well, at the Saint Arnaud General Store they weren't cheap. Two bucks a packet - four times the price of them in a supermarket - is a ridiculous price to pay for such a trail staple. I'd understand the price if the shop had to boat, or fly supplies in, but two bucks a packet implies that the noodles had come to Saint Arnaud with their own armed escort. I bet they're cheaper in Afghanistan.
We were planning up to nine days in the Richmond Ranges and my pack had a bit of spare space, so I thought I'd jam it with some high energy food to help us through. Here's the maths: If I wanted a packet of noodles a day it would've cost me eighteen dollars. If Whiona wanted them too, that's thirty six bucks...for nine bucks worth of noodles.
It must be tough running a store in a small place like Saint Arnaud, but there was something about the shop that left us feeling less than sympathetic.
Another Te Araroa refill station, the Lake Hawea General Store, operates in a very similar business environment to Saint Arnaud, but there is no comparison between the too. Whereas the Hawea shop was friendly, the Saint Arnaud shop was sullen. The pies at Hawea were fresh, made on the premises AND AMAZING (Salmon Pie anyone?). The pies at SA were stale, dried up imitations of food. We were offered free phone charging at Hawea. We were ignored by SA's manager while she spoke to a friend on phone.
"But it's only a shop! Give them a break!" I hear you saying. "Leave those poor store keepers alone. Life is hard enough for hard-working business people without up-themselves bloggers with too much time on their hands exposing them to ridicule on the internet. Why aren't you writing about all the big problems in the world. The things that really matter..."
"If you were hungry why didn't you just PAY THE TWO DOLLARS YOU BLOODY CHEAPSKATE!"
To a point you'd be right. But this is a blog about the physical AND mental trials of long distance walking. Yep, we were going to be hungry in the hills, but we left Saint Arnaud with that comforting glow of righteousness glowing in our bellies.