Twig Adventures

Day 78: The most elusive petting finally in the bag

February 18th

Arthur’s Pass road SH 73 (km2216) – Hamilton Hut (km2233)

Mileage: 10.6mi/17km

It was another half-town, half-walking day. We could have gone a bit farther to make the next day easier but we ended at a nice hut. Long days following zeros/short days are not that hard, anyways. It’s nice to change it up from day to day.

We had to wait awhile to get a hitch out of town, but finally our ride came in the form of an American couple now living in NZ…my idols. I would have liked to talk their ears off about becoming kiwi but unfortunately the ride was too short. We were immersed in conversation and neglected to have them drop us off where we had ended a day before, so we missed some kms of highway walking. Oops. It was a narrow, busy main highway anyways.

We walked along a gravel road for about 1 km after that, which provided one of the biggest payoffs this trip. There was a paddock of sheep, same as any of the millions of sheep paddocks I have walked past already. But something about these sheep seemed different. They seemed…friendly, almost. I walked up to the fence and sure enough, one approached and then…. agreed to a petting! In fact, she re-positioned so that I could give her a good scratching on her back/butt. She was so friendly!

The hopeful petter approaches the pettee cautiously, so as not to frighten the timid animals.

Then finally, success!

Tuomas walked down the fence a ways and they all followed. They seemed to really like him.

Then I realized why. These sheep were tourist fodder. There was a bucket nearby with sheep-treats inside. It all boils down to food. They all went crazy when we merely opened the lid. I guess the owners intend for tourists to feed them or something. There was a mix of breeds, including a few merinos, so maybe they are used for some kind of tour. Still, I was extremely happy to finally check a (willing-full) sheep petting off my list. It’s NZ after all…you can’t come here on a petting-walking tour and not pet a sheep!

This is where your favorite merino comes from.

It was a proud moment for me…maybe kind of sad that I find my life fulfilled by such moments or maybe it’s a good thing in its simplicity. I had just learned of another school shooting back in the States, Parkland, not far from where I live. My heart was greatly troubled by the news but my existence here couldn’t be further removed from such horrors. If only we could all find solace in the simple acts of loving animals, seeking nature, and enjoying the company and common experiences of strangers met along a long journey.

Back on the trail, we began a gradual climb that quickly brought us up to some great views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Then we dropped into another river valley, waving goodby to Arthur’s Pass. We have headed over to the eastern side of the pass and country, which is governed by the rain shadow effect. Here it is much drier, which is not to say that it doesn’t ever rain. The route will pass through land dominated by tussock for the next few weeks. There are little to no trees. Today was the last day we will pass through the beautiful beech forests for awhile. We got to Hamilton hut around 5 pm. It was a large hut, housing around 20 to 30 people. There were about 15 people there, maybe half or more TA walkers. One American couple was walking northbound and had done the PCT and AT. Their names are Dormouse and Dirt Stew and have a blog at We were surprised to again see Bertram at the hut. He has been popping up ever since Anne hut, after Waiau pass. He has a sore ankle and a heavy pack but has done his best to keep up with us in past days. We told him of our plan to leave at 6:30 am and walk some 48 kms to finish the section and get a ride into Methven the next day. He seemed game but was hoping to hitch once we got to the road section. He is a very friendly guy and I am glad that he has been able to muscle through the ankle pain and stick with the trail.

I went to bed early, hoping to get some rest before another big day. I can’t believe we’re having to push to beat the rain again. Not just rain, this is actually a post-tropical cyclone. It’s like the first time one of such strength has ever made it down this far south. This makes three tropical systems this year already. I just went through Hurricane Irma this past season in Miami, now I get to deal with multiple storms in NZ. Yup, well, at least I got to pet a sheep today!

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