My parents are hippies. For example, they went to the University of the Americas (Universidad de las Américas) in Mexico City where this one time my dad, who failed Spanish accidentally ate 8 piles of 8 different kinds of mushrooms (ocho piles) instead of just a single mushroom from each pile (ocho pares) because again, he failed Spanish, and anyway the way my mom tells it he was out cold for about two days and basically unconscious until the morning of day three when he opened his eyes but still couldn’t move; by day four he was making guttural noises and sucking a damp cloth soaked in potable water. Also, from the moment I can remember he bought ALL his footwear and boots at the Renaissance Fair. And my mom, let’s see, well when she wasn’t Transcendentally Meditating—before you judge though she was a Sidha and those bitches are bad-ass, they can hop or semi-fly and eventually they can walk through walls and photosynthesis sunshine instead of eating food—she was feeding me regurgitated seaweed and brown rice and backpacking naked. When I was born they named me Frodo, but that’s not why we went to New Zealand.
We chose New Zealand and the Southern Alps for the first Dead Reckoning Expedition for several reasons.
- We wanted to begin this project immediately and New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere where, supposedly, it’s Summer during our Winter.
- The Southern Alps, best known for Mt. Cook, Mt. Aspiring, Queenstown, Wanaka, Helicopters, the Franz Josef Glacier, Bungee Jumping and Mordor, are remote and rugged, and perfectly suited to creative Overlanding. You see, it’s our contention that Overlanding is a lot like Skateboarding—as anybody who’s ever tried to heelflip a bench to pop-shovit to wallie a planter box to kickflip 5.0 a 12-stair handrail to 360 ollie off a curb into the street will tell you… you’ve got see it in your head first. And then, if you see you it hard enough, eventually you’ll make it.
- We knew a guy. And knowing a guy, especially a guy like the guy we knew, makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE to planning and coordinating a successful campaign. Side note: To be 100% accurate, we knew a woman, who knew a guy, about which guy she spoke VERY highly. But to be clear, we didn’t actually know the guy until she introduced us to the guy via email. And but even then, after three months of several dozen email threads featuring detailed plans and reports and contingencies and outlines and options regarding possible routes, in search of, the whole time, the “perfect” coast-to-coast trans-alps route, one that was ambitious-maybe-audacious, we hadn’t “all the way” met our guy. We had Skyped several times but, due to connectivity issues, audio only. Paul was probably was a real person. I mean, he had a website, we saw photos… we emailed…
The Evolution of the Brodrick Pass Expedition in the Form of Email Highlights
- 11/13/14 | Paul: “Rosara Joseph passed on your email as she thought I’d be interested in the guidebook project you are doing for Yonder. I can see something that includes wild beaches, glaciers, native bush, and alpine crossing, gold mining history, barren tors, kiwi farmland, a city (Dunedin) and finally out to a Gannet colony on a peninsula. It’d take in road, old goldmining tracks, native bushbashing, bike hauling, high country trails and lots of gravel.”
- 11/18/14 | Paul: “Any further south or north and you end up hitting 3000+m at either Mt Aspiring or Cook – not somewhere I’d want to try to take a bike! Need to avoid National Parks too – they really don’t like bikes in those. There’d be a fair bit of bike hauling, but there are also plenty of helicopters set up around there to help get over the real grunty bit. I’m not what you’d call a climber or alpinist for sure! Anyhow, crossing somewhere over there from the west coast glaciers ends up getting to Mt Pisa and the area inland of Cromwell – which is my favourite part of the world – all barren plateaus and gold mining remnants. There are a whole load of stories about the early kiwi pioneers who made the first crossings over that area (mostly in search of and finding fist-sized lumps of gold) – and even earlier Maori routes over the mountains.”
- 12/11/14 | Paul: “But that is messy and might take us a week of bashing through thick bush to get anywhere. Routes like that can be seriously impassable – and if we catch a rainy time (quite likely) the rivers will be brutal. Inland of there there are loads of great options – but they tend to follow a big loopy path – the ranges run north-south so travel east-west means days of big ups and downs. The whole thing – coast to Dunedin is probably a 10 day trip.”
- 1/3/15 / Paul: “We might have a route. Exciting! Now. Here’s another option that came up just yesterday. Mainly because the rafting people I was talking to will be down on the Landsborough at the right time and keen to help out. Note – the Broderick pass section will be tough going – but should be easy do-able from Ohau to Landsborough in 2 days. Dunedin (east coast). Taieri Gorge train to Pukerangi. Rock and Pillar Range to Naseby. Hawkdun Range to Omarama (high mountain doubletrack). Lake Ohau. Hiking route in to Brodrick Hut via Huxley. Over Brodrick Pass into the Landsborough River. Meet rafters at airstrip at the Landsborough and raft out towards highway 6. I reckon the heli could transport our bikes to the rafting get-out. It’ll be one day on an awesome remote NZ river.. Train out, then two days riding over the ranges to Ohau.”
- 1/14/15 | Paul: “The rafters have suggested 9th ties in with them. Which means us riding from 6th. Any chance you guys could make it a day earlier and we ride from 5th? I’ll get costs together. But it is looking awesome! We HAVE TO MAKE IT TO THE PUT-IN by the morning of the 9th. The whole ride depends on it. So we better build in some extra time just in case.”
The final route was settled. What made it possible was timing our crossing of the divide, the crux of our entire trip, Bordrick Pass, so that we’d meet a commercial outfitter on the far side, the Western Slope, of the Alps, at which point they’d float us out of the wilderness on the Landsborough and Haast Rivers until about 30k short of the coast, where we could pick-up trails again, and eventually paved roads. The plan was solid but:
- There are no roads on the western slope of the Alps in the area. So, the rafts and our guide, and all the other rafters/clients/guests would have to be helicoptered in.
- If the weather is bad, and the weather is often bad, helicopters can’t fly. If helicopters can’t fly, there is no way to get rafts to the put-in.
The whole way from Dunedin to the crux of our route, Broderick Pass, we had roads, double track, trails and, at the very least, semi navigable river beds to follow. From the bottom of the East Slope of Broderick Pass to the top, the Pass itself, there was a very primitive semi-navigable bush trail to follow. Once over the top, down the West Slope, the trail became, allegedly, even less established.
- The point is, once over the Pass, the only way out, especially with bikes, was a raft. Once over the Pass, we were 100% committed.
- Because of that, possible weather, and the “timing” factor, the plan was to call the Rafting Outfitter the evening of the 8th to confirm everything.
- Spoiler Alert, on the evening of the 8th, we were unable to reach the Rafting Outfitter and, it turns out, it had nothing to do with the storm.