I’m taking a break from tramping next weekend. To help fill it in, Stacey and I are hoping to go and visit Kapiti Island. I’d been put off in the past because my speedy anecdotal investigations had implied that it must be quite complicated to arrange a DOC permit to visit the island and separately arrange the transport. I browsed the online booking system (for DOC permits) last Friday, however, and discovered that rather than having to book weeks or months in advance, there were actually quite a lot of permits available… even for the following day.
Earlier this afternoon I ordered a couple of permits for next Saturday. I only hope that DOC’s online booking has improved since I last used it about 3 years ago, when we booked some huts on the Abel Tasman Coast Track (aka the Hiker’s Superhighway). That time we booked the huts about 3 months in advance, as soon as the online booking system was opened for that period. This seriously confused the DOC ranger at Anchorage Hut on the first night, who tried to tell us we didn’t have tickets. It turned out that because we’d booked as soon as we were able, the records of our tickets were off the end of her print-out.
The very same booking system also seemed in disarray when we reached Whariwharangi Hut. Despite us having booked so far in advance, every one of the three other groups of people who turned up that night had all been told by various DOC officers that they’d be the only people in the hut that evening. Not that we minded — we had a great time teaching the visiting Germans how to play 500. Apparently almost nobody books great walks that far in advance, and we came out thinking we were very strange people.
To be fair to DOC, it was during the off-season (May) and in Abel Tasman it’s a good bet that the huts will never be full at that time of year. Consequently I don’t think DOC took the bookings as seriously. Most Great Walk users are overseas tourists, and tend to book a few days beforehand through the backpackers’ they’ve been staying at… at least at that time of year. We only saw three New Zealanders on that entire walk which consisted of that DOC ranger, and two fun old guys at Whariwharangi Hut, but I’ve been told guess that’s what to expect on a typical Great Walk.
As for Kapiti Island, we still have to arrange the boat ride, and there are currently two choices, both of which we’ll probably consider on the easy-to-find information on their respective websites, because we don’t have much else to go on. For instance, Kapiti Tours advise that they have a “well maintained, clean vessel”, whereas Kapiti Marine Charter advise that they provide a “well presented, clean, and stable vessel”. By that comparison, I suppose it comes down to how exciting we’d like the ride to be. Kapiti Tours advise that they’ve transported such famous film crews as those from King Kong, Whale Rider and Country Calendar. Kapiti Marine Charter, on the other hand, advise they’ve transported The American Ambassador, “staff from most Embassies” in Wellington, Prime Ministers, Sir David Attenborough, and so on. By this comparison, I imagine the decision comes down to whether we’d rather go with a company that transports politicians, or a company that transports film crews.
It’s a tough decision, but I’m sure they’re both great so it probably doesn’t really matter.
Oh, and a small meta note which has nothing to do with Kapiti Island: If you’re reading this then it means you’re probably looking at my new web server, which is hosted by a new provider. It’s a little slower (at the moment). I’m now paying for and supporting the whole thing myself rather than sharing the server with others, and I might also need to fine-tune a couple of things while I get a feel for what bits of it need fixing. But I hope it’s at least consistently slower, rather than being completely down for a day at a time. Unfortunately there’s only so much you can do to mend things when your website lives on a server where it has to compete for memory and CPU time with another person’s out-of-control Bittorrent client, which is what I think was causing some recent problems that motivated me to finally try and sort it out.