There had to be millions of them. The New Orleans native who had found his home in New Zealand pondered, while steaming in the riverside hot pools with us, what the mass of all of the sandflies, taken together, in New Zealand would be. As I sat watching clouds of them over the river, scratching the many bites I’d accumulated, I shuttered at the thought.
We were in what was essentially a natural hot tub, soaking beside a rather icy river, about a ten minute walk through the bush and across what these crazy Kiwis have dubbed “a swing bridge” from our two-bed, open fireplace, no electricity historic hut. I would tell you where, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy from the friend who tipped us off in the first place. Fair enough, as an influx of people would truly ruin the magic of the place. But, as the area is reached by a 25 kilometre drive and a 7 kilometre hike from the nearest real town, you probably won’t be rocking up tomorrow anyway. Not that a 7 k.m. hike sounds terribly daunting, but when what seems like half of it is over large, slippery stones lining the river and the other half of it involves crossing countless streams as you head up and over a truly never-ending hill, all with approaching darkness, in the rain, on empty stomachs, this 7 k.m. seems to triple in distance. Particularly when going into it with the impression that it was going to be a couple hours of easy strolling through the trees. It’s amazing how your mindset going into something has such a huge impact on your experience. 20 kilometres on Tongariro, 3 days of kayaking and hiking the Abel Tasman, these are things I would have rather done again in a second, if given the option, during that hike in. This was a combination of a lot of factors. We’d had a long day, I was tired and hungry, and my rather gangly stature – not used to hiking with a heavy pack – was finding these wet river stones a bit of a mission. Nevertheless, we made it in, and had enough sleeping bags to make up for the fact that our open fireplace could not change the fact that all of the wood was soaking wet. These are times when you very much appreciate the little things: dry socks, hot chocolate, and let’s not forget those hot pools.