When you are going somewhere, but you don’t know what is going to happen, you don’t know the difficulties you will encounter and you don’t know if you will experience joy, exhaustion or fear – that is when you have an adventure ahead of you. I feel alive whenever I am about to go on an adventure – probably because I know that I will most certainly experience one of those things if not all of them.
Now there are just a few more days left until we will stand at the terminal, ready for taking off to Peru. The whole family, me (Wilhelm), Julia and Lima will live in a tiny village in the Andes. We will live in the jungle, the alpine areas, and work together with the local people for conservation of some of the world’s most threatened species. But before this, I’d like to share with you one more of our adventures in New Zealand.
When my mid-semester break from my studies started, I wanted to finally do a “real” adventure. As I happened to be in New Zealand, I was at the perfect location to get what I was asking for. For most people, anything may seem like an adventure in New Zealand. You can hike in rainforests and fall down glacier crevasses, all on the same day. They have endlessly long roads in dramatic landscapes. But for me, one important factor is missing in all those alternatives: the animals. I want to experience nature and to have at least the possibility of seeing a spectacular animal is important. To me, there is nothing natural about hiking across scenic sheep farms or in a rain forest empty of animals.
Therefore, we decided to go to the remote Stewart Island, New Zealand’s miniature equivalent to Svalbard. Although it is relatively a lot closer to the NZ mainland, Stewart islands climate is rough and its nature is pristine. With only roughly 400 inhabitants, the human population density is less than Greenland’s. I thought that on Stewart Island, rather than anywhere else, I could experience the real New Zealand.
I have done similar adventures before, in Sweden, in Africa and Asia. But back then I didn’t have Lima, our 10-month-old baby to bring with. Bringing her is of course joyful, but it is an effort and a responsibility which changes our capacity and priorities. Therefore, when I got off the boat on Stewart Island, nervosity started to creep up on me. Me and Julia (and Lima), planned to walk across Stewart Island to Mason Bay. If you hike all the way it would be about 30 kilometers over 2 days. Since we were taking a boat to avoid the steepest route, we had “only” a 15-kilometer hike to look forward to (or struggle with). Maybe 15 kilometers doesn’t sound much to you, but then I also suppose you haven’t been hiking with a well-fed baby yet.
Often I’d like to think that the extra effort of bringing Lima could just be ignored, that it’s insignificant. I imagine that anything can still be achieved and that Lima is not a determining factor if a hike is possible or not. But it is a lie. Things are a lot harder when bringing a baby on a hike. At this point, Lima weighed about 11 kilos which is equivalent to bringing three tents. And although three tents probably take more space than her, you can’t squeeze her in like a sleeping bag at the bottom of the backpack. No, she needs her own bag to be carried in. We had bought a Deuter kid II for hiking with Lima which also gave extra space for another 28 liters. During the four day hike which we were planning for, that is not even enough for Limas own things. Her clothes are small – but you need lots of everything as her clothing may become shitty/wet several times per day. It all boils down to that the second person has to bring everything else; two sleeping bags, two pairs of extra shoes, etc. And all the food.
Another thing we could worry about apart from our heavy backpacks was the safety. Whenever you are hiking in remote areas it is reasonable to reflect on possible dangers that could occur along the way. As there are no dangerous animals in New Zealand (apart from wasps), there are very few potential dangers as long as you have warm and waterproof clothes. But there was no mobile reception, so in the case of an emergency, there would be no boat to call to pick us up. Instead, one of us would have to run back 15 to 30 kilometers to the village for help.
Although most possible emergency scenarios were unlikely, one thing still made me concerned. The hiking track to Mason bay had been flooded for the past week, and no one knew how high the water level currently was. The flooding on the way to Mason Bay wasn’t in itself such a big deal. We would quickly notice in the beginning if the trail was submerged or not, and in case the trail was impassable there was nothing we could do about it. Then we could hike back to Oban or stay at the hut where the boat dropped us. What I was concerned about instead, was potential flooding on our way back. In the wet season, floods can happen within 24 hours and we were going to stay three nights at Mason Bay hut. During that time anything could happen. In the worst case, we could get trapped out there for days or more… When we went to bed, the rain was discouragingly pouring down. Apart from packing a bit of extra food, there were no precautions we could make if the trail would get flooded. Instead, we put our hope in our food supply and a bit of luck. We were determined to do this. We embraced the uncertainty. We embraced the adventure.