Invercargill Estuary Walkway(1845.5)-Bluff/Stirling Point(1862.9)
We knew it was going to rain by noon, so we got an early start and packed up in the dark hoping to beat the rain. It was a calm and mild morning. We walked in the dark on the Invercargill Estuary Walkway/Bikeway as the sun came up and gave us a great color show with the clouds.
Then the highway walking began. It was pretty classic to end the TA this way. It was a few hours of highway walking that felt like an eternity. There was a ton of traffic, much of it tour buses and trucks, so I was glad I took my time to reflect yesterday on the beach. It wasn’t happening today!
I was entertained listening to the radio when they announced that they were going to stream Ed Sheeran’s complete new album that was released today. Each hike I do, there are certain songs that remind me of that hike that were current or that I heard many times over the hike on the radio. One of the songs that will always remind me of this hike is Ed’s “Castle On The Hill.” It is played a lot on the radio over here, and I was fully entertained to get to hear the whole album over the road walk to Bluff.
We could see Bluff in the distance almost the whole way. Although there is Stewart Island to the south and many other islands, Bluff is considered the southern most city in New Zealand. I’ve attached a photo for reference to visualize how the hike ends.
Normally, it would walk around the west coast of Bluff to Stirling Point. However, the last section there has been closed for over a week due to a private farm land that has some dangerous bulls there at the moment. The options are to either continue walking the highway along the east side, or to head over The Bluff summit in the middle to then drop down to Stirling Point. We decided hike to the top of The Bluff since it really would have felt odd to finish such a journey on a highway. Plus, we thought it could be a great view as we hiked down.
As we headed up, and rain began to fall, we were treated to just the second full rainbow I’ve seen here in NZ. Some of you may recall that I’ve had a few hikes end with a rainbow the final day. It really was an uplifting thing to see it today as we reached the final moments. I made some tough decisions on the South Island as to how I should hike it, and when I should finish. That rainbow felt like a small wink from the universe letting me know that I was right where I was supposed to be. 🙂
Unfortunately, the rain kicked in a bit early our final hour to the end. When we got up the climb, the views were socked in, and we made a wrong turn for a bit trying to find the right trail down. We knew we needed to take the Topuni Track down to Stirling Point, but the GPS had the track in a different spot. Eventually, we figured it out after getting all the way to the top and ignoring the base map track on the GPS.
For other hikers doing the same thing, just go all the way to the top and the signage will clearly direct you to the Topuni Track, which is a breeze and a great way to end the hike. We had some nice wooded trail and then emerged to a view looking down on the yellow signpost at Stirling Point.
When we got there at 11:45am, there was a light mist of rain, and there were far fewer tourists than usual. It’s a popular tourist destination and the beginning of a scenic highway many people take up New Zealand. It was pretty great to get time to relax there and get it to ourselves for the most part.
Of course we took a ton of fun photos individually and together.
I have to include one of our outtakes, which apparently shows Griggs’s hidden talent of working a stripper pole. Does he really have to excel at EVERYTHING!?
The people taking our photos at the end were an American couple here for their honeymoon. They were driving through Invercargill, and gave us a ride. As we drove off, a full tour bus of preteens was parking. Man, we just dodged a crowd! As we drove to Invercargill, we saw Min and Josephine each a few kilometers apart as they were walking the highway to also finish today. It was fun to pull over for each of them and give them one more hurrah as they powered on. The temps had dropped significantly, and the wind really picked up, so although we had rain, we made it out before the tough stuff came. Less than thirty minutes after finishing, we were having our celebratory lunch at Subway!
We checked into the Southern Comfort Backpackers and the hot showers were heavenly with how cold and wet we were by that time. It’d been six days since we showered, so it was well overdue and felt amazing. Then we went down to the Kathmandu outdoor store and I got new hiking poles. A big THANK YOU to Lou and Liz (who I celebrated the end of the South Island with in Wellington) who were kind enough to gift me these after hearing I’d broken one of mine. I do love the Fizan poles, and was really happy that they not only sold them at Kathmandu, but were part of a huge 40% off sale they were having. Sweet!
Griggs and I also got thin fleece pullovers for Tasmania. It will possibly be colder and wetter in Tasmania, so we wanted to have one more warm layer that would work well with a lot of rain if needed. We are totally matchy-matchy as we both bought the same ones that were on sale. At least they are in different colors, ha! Yeah, now everyone will for sure think we’re a couple, ha! Again, just great hiking partners everyone. After going to Kathmandu, we went to the post office and got our bounce boxes for the final time in NZ. Then we headed out to the Buster Crabb restaurant and had our big celebratory steak dinner. It was awesome and I totally recommend it for people celebrating their hike! They even made me a great chocolate milk!
I have to add that yesterday I was able to Skype my nephews while walking on the beach. I was hopeful to share the finish with them, but I didn’t have service at the signpost. By the time I called them, they were at an evening school event. My sister was sure to get a celebratory photo of them doing a “Wired pose” to celebrate the moment. Pretty adorable:)
Whew, what a day! I told you it would be a full one. It’s after 11pm as I write this, and we will be up early to get our rental car for the next few days. As I mentioned, Griggs is headed to Queenstown to take a paragliding class (he’ll actually fly solo a handful of times by the end of the day!), and I will be visiting my mystery friend many of you might remember. I did some of my reflection on this hike in yesterday’s post knowing today would be too busy. There is definitely more to come, as there’s one more thing I need to do in NZ before I consider my time here complete. Stay tuned…:)