OK, so this is a new thing I’m trying. As I walked the Coast Track, I took photos of each trail sign. This allows me to use the timestamps on the photos to figure out what time I made along each part of the track. This may be useful for hikers looking to plan their routes!
Unfortunately for this trail log, I only got the idea partway through. So I took a photo of the first sign, the last sign, and then every sign on the way back. This one will be a little more sparse than any future ones.
I also didn’t keep a log of how each section went. I’d like to do that in the future, and feel free to let me know in the comments what would be helpful to know.
(Taking pictures of each trail sign also came in handy when I encountered a group of people looking to know if they had already passed Apple Tree Bay. I was able to look through my photos and determine that, nope, it was still ahead of them. I’m glad I could have been of help!)
First sign, 11:15am. 11.8km to Anchorage, estimated 3h50m. They’re assuming slightly over 3kph.
Penultimate trail sign. 1:25pm. Time since last sign: 2h10m. Distance from last sign: 9.9km. My speed: 4.6 kph.
1.9km to Anchorage, estimated 35m. They’re assuming 3.2kph.
Final trail sign. 1:53pm. Time since last sign: 28m. Distance from last sign: 1.2km. My speed: 2.5kph. (This includes eating lunch. Sorry, I got a little sloppy in my timekeeping there).
11.8km to Marahau, estimated 3h45m. They’re assuming the same time on the return trip, slightly over 3kph.
2:51pm. Time since last sign: 58 minutes. Distance from last sign: 4km. My speed: 4.1kph. (This includes hiding under a rock outcropping for several minutes waiting for a downpour to pass)
7.8km to Marahau, estimated 2h30m. They’re assuming 3.1kph.
3:21pm. Time since last sign: 30 minutes. Distance from last sign 2.3km. My speed: 4.6km (I could do that one in my head :)).
5.5km to Marahau, estimated 1h45m. They’re assuming 3.1kph.
(Legs too tired to crouch and get the sign straight-on, haha).
3:55pm. Time since last sign: 34 minutes. Distance from last sign: 2.6km. My speed: 4.6kph.
2.9km to Marahau, estimated 55m. They’re assuming, you guessed it, 3.1kph.
Ayy, final sign. 4:28pm. Time since last sign: 33 minutes. Distance from last sign: 2.9km (I think this is false, I believe there’s a few fractional km left to Marahau from this sign, but it’s not listed). My speed: 5.2kph (implausible).
Total distance: 22.2km. Total time: 5 hours 13 minutes (including lunch and a significant photo break at Anchorage). Total average speed: 4.25 kph.
As you can see, this is quite an easy trail. There’s a few ups and downs elevation-wise, but no major climbs. A fat American was able to consistently travel over 4kph and do it in well under the estimated time (the sign estimates say it should take 7 hours and 40 minutes, meaning that including breaks I did it two and a half hours faster than the signs estimate).
Route planning advice
I believe based on these data that one could do the entire walk in 2-3 days rather than the 3-5 days estimated. If I were doing the hike, I think I would start at the other end, because that would get the steepest bit out of the way on the first day when I’m the freshest. I could make it the 22.6km to Awaroa without undue hardship, but if I were really pushing it and the tides worked out (there’s a tidal crossing between Awaroa and Waiharakeke Bay) I might be able to power through to Bark Bay, making the first leg 36.1km. If I did that, it would leave time to check out Cascade Falls and Cleopatra’s Pool as I make my way down the 24km to Marahau for a total journey time of 2 days.
Rather than doing either of those options, though, I think the better strategy for a 2-day hike would be to give the huts a miss entirely and make camp at Onetahutl Bay. The extra pack weight of the camping gear would make the trek more difficult, but I think it would make the first leg more pleasant. A 3-day hike would be downright leisurely, and would give plenty of time for checking out some side attractions. The only way the hike would take more than three days is if you spent significant time doing side hikes and messing about in the water.
Whatever you choose, make very sure to plan your crossing of the Awaroa Estuary between Awaroa and Totaranui very carefully, as you have less than a 4-hour window to make it.
I hope this post is useful to someone. Feel free to leave comments about how I could make these more useful in the future. When I’m planning a trip, hearing from someone who’s actually done the things I’m thinking of doing can be invaluable, so I hope I can provide such a service to people intent on checking out the South Island!
We’ll be back to our regularly-scheduled photo blog next post.