Here, you will find a chronicle of our adventures. These trips are the reason we make the products we make, to allow us and you to push ourselves to even greater achievements. Please note that the stories found here depict our endeavors as they happened and without much polish to the rough edges.
How does it feel to be wet and miserable?
I was wet. My waterproof jacket and trousers were wet and my base layer underneath was wet. My shoes in particular were wet. This state of affairs had continued for the past two weeks and I was getting sick of it. Not only was I sick of being wet but I also detested the crushing weight of my backpack on my shoulders and the same monotonous taste of the food I was carrying inside it. I took a few steps and climbed over yet another fallen tree. Trees, fallen and otherwise were one more thing I could add to the list of things I hated in this world.
The seed of my misery was planted well over a year ago when I got it into my head, that I wanted to see if I could hike through Fiordland national park in South-West New-Zealand. Based on maps and aerial photographs I had carefully studied, I had planned a bit over 300km route through the completely inhabited and notoriously difficult to access park. I wanted to do the expedition in unsupported style which meant I had to carry food for a month or so to stand a chance of making it through. 300 km in a month may not sound like much, but as I left the last remains of any kind of trail at the South-Coast, it soon became evident that I had set myself one tough goal.
The New-Zealand bush was quite a different breed of jungle than what I had been used to back home in Finland. First of all, there's a lot more trees and at least half of them seem to have fallen over. When you combine this with dense undergrowth and steep mountain slopes that cover the entire park, what you end up with is almost impenetrable wall of leaves, trunks and rocks. Walking through this kind of terrain in constant downpour is, as I mentioned, hateful… Still, I knew there would be moments like this when I would be willing to sell some of my non-vital body parts for a warm bath, but I didn't quite imagine that the moment would last for a couple of weeks.
Besides physical discomfort the isolation from the rest of the world was taking its toll on me. By the end of the first week I was speaking my thoughts out loud for I had grown so used to not worrying about someone overhearing and when I lay in my wet sleeping bag at night, my greatest pleasure was to plug in my headphones and turn up the music just to hear the sweet sound of an other human voice. When you're in this state of mind even smaller setbacks like dipping your legs knee-deep in dark smelly mud gets you on edge, but when things really started to go downhill, it can be hard to keep desperation out of one's mind. One of the most memorable, desperation inducing screw-ups of the expedition took place at day 8:
I had set my camera to film outside my backpack and not surprisingly, it got snagged on a branch and fell off. When I noticed this I left my backpack on a small clearing and went looking for the camera. One of the not so good decisions I made during the trip. I found the camera fairly easily by retracing my footsteps but as I started looking for the backpack it soon became evident I was in a lot more trouble than I had been with simply a lost camera.
As you can see from the video, I did finally find my backpack but it did indeed take several hours of searching in grid pattern as well as retracing my footsteps way too many times. Also as you can see my spirits were not too high while I kept searching. At the time I estimated the search to have taken between five to seven hours as it felt more like ten. I was aware that I was likely to overestimate the duration but I was still surprised when I checked the timestamps on video files and discovered that only a tad over 3 hours had passed between finding and losing the backpack. It's funny how easily your mind starts to play games on you in situations like this.
At the end I stumbled on the backpack by pure luck, but as I had been searching the area for hours, I suppose it was not luck after all but simply a matter of time before my roaming around would take me close enough to the backpack for me to spot it. The final effort that led me to find the backpack was however in no way systematical and in that sense I was lucky. The last spot on my route that I was completely certain I had passed was a certain rock formation along a stream I had crossed. When I started scanning the ground, for what turned out to be the final time, in the general direction I knew the backpack to be, I kept my eyes on the ground and tried to look for any familiar signs that I might recognize. However at this point it was impossible to tell if the markings on the ground or familiar looking trees were something I had encountered during my previous search efforts or during the original passage. After some 10 minutes I was quite sure I had walked past the point where I set my backpack down. I sat down and pressed the record button in my camera, pretty much the only piece of gear I had with me. I looked at the cam and started talking, something about how things are not looking too bright and that I might have to resort an alternative exit strategy without the backpack.
After a while, I shook off the moment of self-pity and got to my feet. I decided to walk back in rough zigzag pattern across the route I had tried to follow. I didn't have any accurate clue at this point if I was anywhere near the backpack and certainly didn't think I'd find it this way. It was just that I didn't know what else to do and I had to try something. About five minutes into my zigzagging, out of corner of my eye, I spotted a glimpse of orange behind the bushes close by. My heart throws a triple gainer while leaping to my throat: It's my paddle blade securely connected to side of my backpack! I couldn't believe my luck. I flick the camera on and start blabbering something incredibly cheesy and incoherent while the joyful euphoria rushes into my mind.
Just like that the game had changed completely, I was still alone in the middle of nowhere but I had plenty of food, shelter and warm clothing. In short, everything I needed not to evacuate myself but to continue my expedition deeper into Fiordland.