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Bed bugs close Whanganui River Journey Great Walk huts

Tieke Kainga Hut on the Whanganui river Journey has been closed while DOC investigates an possible bed bug outbreak. Photo: Megan Walker

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A second Great Walk has succumbed to an infestation of bed bugs.

Following reports of “the toughest bed bugs known to mankind” in Rakiura Track’s North Arm Hut, three huts on the Whanganui River Journey Great Walk have been closed and fumigated after reports of bed bugs, reports RNZ.

DOC’s Steve Taylor said the closures are precautionary after a single report of a bed bug attack came in from a credible source.

“Consequently, we are treating this as an urgent matter and have responded immediately,” he said.

Whakahoro and Tīeke huts will close temporarily while the John Coull Hut will stay closed over winter.

First Covid case reported at Base Camp

This year’s Everest season has been marred by its first case of Covid at Base Camp, Outside reports.

The patient was thought to be suffering from high-altitude pulmonary edema, but upon arrival at hospital in Kathmandu, a positive Covid test was confirmed.

The patient’s team began quarantining at Base Camp.

An outbreak at that altitude could be disastrous, Outside Everest correspondent Alan Arnette  said.

“When you’re sitting at Everest Base Camp at 17,600 feet, your immune system gets compromised because of the lack of oxygen. Even a small cut on your finger doesn’t heal until you get back down to an oxygen-rich environment. I think the risks are really high, and people are taking a gamble if they climb,” he said.

The announcement comes weeks after New Zealand company Adventure Consultants announced it would not run any trips to Everest, due to Covid concerns.

Meanwhile, The Kathmandu Post reports a growing surge of Covid cases is putting strain on the health system. “We doctors too are very worried about the possible worst-case scenario,” Dr Ravi Shakya said. 

Kiwis getting out can’t save quiet summer

More Kiwis have been exploring than ever, but it hasn’t prevented an “unusually quiet” summer.

DOC’s summer 2020/21 visitor insights report shows 75 per cent more New Zealanders undertook a Great Walk over the summer season, compared to last year, with around 108,000 people camping at bookable DOC campsites, and 30,000 people staying at bookable huts.

“It’s been a summer like no other. Ongoing border closures and COVID-19 alert level changes continue to impact visitor patterns across Aotearoa, but it’s awesome to see more Kiwis than ever have been enjoying their great outdoors this year, especially during holiday periods and weekends,” DOC’s Tim Bamford said.

Overall visitor numbers have decreased, however, with Milford Sound/Piopiotahi down 78 per cent, Franz Josef Glacier down 72 per cent and Tongariro Alpine Crossing down 72 per cent.

Pinnacles Hut in Kauaeranga Valley was the most visited non-Great Walk hut in New Zealand, with close to 5000 people staying there over the summer season.

The full report can be read here.

 The Routeburn Classic returns

The Routeburn Classic has been held for the first time in four years.

The iconic running event has suffered three cancellations due to weather, and another following the 2020 floods that closed the track, Otago Daily Times reports.

This year’s event was enjoyed by 250 runners, including 10 Australians, who booked the run last year and flew in thanks to the trans-Tasman bubble.

Queenstown’s Sarah Douglas backed up her 2014 win with a 3hr 26min run, and Craig Fowler took top male honours with 2hr 52min.

Big step for Northland kiwi

Aotearoa’s first kiwi corridor has opened in Northland.

The 14,000ha predator-controlled corridor links Whangārei Heads and Tutukaka Coast, giving kiwi free reign between the locations, Stuff reports

The opening was marked by the release of 10 kiwi in a predator-controlled area near Tahere.

Conservationists hope the kiwi will interbreed, said Kiwi Coast coordinator Ngaire Sullivan.

“This is the first kiwi corridor in New Zealand. I don’t think anybody is working on it at this level; this is restoring the gene flow – it’s pretty exciting,” she said.