Longwood Forest, New Zealand
Posted on March 26, 2020 by Karen Griffiths
I was on Day 146 of the Te Araroa, New Zealand’s Long Walk. I had walked 2,900km and had only 3days of walking left to complete my 3,000 km hike.
The TA track from here is a very gnarly, muddy 9 – 10 hour day, but I had been sent through a short cut that only takes about 5 hours. Some of the track was on the maps but the latter part wasn’t. Others had used the track and said it was well marked. I had had enough mud walking to last me about a quarter of the rest of my lifetime, so decided to take the short cut.
I would put my live tracker on my Topo GPS app on my phone so if I got into trouble I could easily retrace my steps. The trail notes warned us to stay on the track as there were numerous old mine shafts in the forest, covered with thick layers of moss. It was dangerous country.
The last 2.5 hours was to be the track not on the map. But I was pleasantly surprised at how well marked it was. No problems at all. I stopped to check my tracking and could see that I was well on track to make it out in 2.5 hours. I congratulated myself for my good decision making and started off again singing Christmas hymns out loud. After a while I realised I hadn’t seen a marker for a while.
No markers. Okay I’ve got this as I had put on my GPS tracker on. I will just go back where I came from.
After nearly 2 hours going in circles in bush full of old mine holes, I was getting cold and there was no sun to orientate myself with. I put on all my layers of clothes as I was cooling off quickly, I ate and drank. I just needed to head South and I would hit the road eventually. It was probably less than an hour away. But the bush was too thick, the moss soft and could well be covering mine shafts. I felt really ashamed and annoyed with myself. I tried to get phone reception, thinking I could get the local Search and Rescue guys to walk up the track and get me back on track. However I couldn’t get coverage: it just wouldn’t send any messages.
I didn’t want to wander around anymore trying to get cover so realised I had to push the button on my Personal Locator Beacon, yet again. I could have spent the night there but would have still been lost in the morning.
A helicopter arrived about 40 minutes later. I was in very thick bush so waved my orange sleeping bag and shook a tall spindly tree to attract them.
Soon a guy was being lowered down to me as I scrambled to get everything back into my pack and be ready for him. The wind was blowing my stuff around.
So it was onto the sling, me hooked onto the man and my pack hooked onto him. Then we were winched up. It is all very noisy and windy and we had a few trees to negotiate through but soon I was up scrambling into the chopper and safe.
The helicopter came from Te Anau and when I said I could hitch back here they said they could drop me at my destination. So off we went straight to the Colac Bay Pub where I had a room booked. They landed in the empty section directly across the road from the front door of the pub.
The locals thought I was a rich celebrity come to town so were out with their phones filming me. How embarrassing! One of the crew insisted on wearing my pack right into the pub and delivering me onto the hands of the staff. He then told the 30 or so patrons that I would tell them how I managed to hitch hike to the pub.
The locals said I was very lucky to escape a fall down a mine shaft. They all had a story about a hunter who had lost a dog down one. The publican told me that many of the TA walkers use the short cut, more successfully than me obviously. Maybe they don’t sing Christmas hymns?
Words of wisdom
Don’t go off the marked route on your own. I believe that I wouldn’t have gotten lost if I was in a group as someone else would have noticed that I was leaving the track.
Thank you note
Thank you again for the beacon. I could have been in serious trouble without it.
Longwood Forest, New Zealand
Local Search and Rescue
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