Finally back on the trail! And lovely weather! Keaton and I hopped on a shuttle from town to the start of the trail where we were greeted with amazing views of Lake Coleridge.
We missed our turn onto the trail and kept following the road, a very recurring theme in my travels. Oddly, the road ended at a trailhead which we walked down until we bumped into a couple of private huts right on the lake. Oops! The occupants were wondering where we were headed and let us know we’d missed our turn. Fortunately they were kind enough to let us pass through and pointed us at a trail that would get us back to where we were supposed to be. In my opinion, this was a better route in terms of view, but I imagine we weren’t really supposed to be there so having a bunch of people go through all the time wouldn’t be overly welcome.
Afterward we forded some more sheep, and reached the gravel road we’d be walking on for the remainder of the day.
Fortunately there were some decent spots along the road for breaks, complete with very insistent no camping signs, which are probably quite necessary given how lovely the spots were. We stopped for a nice break and both busted out books to read next to Lake Selfe. Of course, I can’t help but read that as Lake Selfie, so I did the obligatory Lake Selfe selfie.
On down the road I went. Keaton felt like staying longer, I felt like getting into camp, so I moved on. The campsite was pretty crappy, but it was flat, dry, had a toilet and a water spigot (untreated) and most importantly free, so it worked.
The next day was supposed to be a short day, so I didn’t hurry to get up in the morning. After a leisurely breakfast I left around 9am to start walking up the river.
Further up the river I reached the fence, which was clearly brand new and not yet finished. Polite but stern signs said that TA walkers had to keep to one side of the fence. Markers had been placed accordingly. However, zombie walking brain had me keep following the fence and markers, not paying much attention to my surroundings. When the fence ran out, I fell back on “keep the river to my right” and kept going. Eventually I arrived at a fence I had to go under, after some fairly crappy and not well formed trail. Eventually my brain decided to inform me that something wasn’t right so I checked my map. And realized I was actually meant to cross the river that was on my right now, as I’d come to a confluence. Oops. Of course, where I was there was no real way to cross, so I had to backtrack. Because of this mistake I lost an hour or 2. Oops. Crossing the river was quite challenging. Due to the course of the river through rocky land, the water was very cloudy. Also, due to the heavy rains of the previous days, it was still running a little high, or so it seemed. So finding safe places to cross was difficult. My first attempt had me in waist deep water flowing very hard and I aborted and got back out. However the actual crossings were still often crotch deep and flowing fast, so it was pretty sketchy.
At one point I found a place where 2 sections of the river came together briefly and then split again, but the larger part seemed to cross over, which left a nice big bar between the two that I could cross by first crossing the small portion, walking down the bar, and then crossing the other side which was now smaller. I leveled up a bit in river crossings right there. Hooray!
Eventually I made it fully across. I knew I had because the water I was crossing was now clear, which indicated a different stream was what I was crossing. Where these joined was pretty cool.
Further up the river I had to make a bunch more crossings, some of which were just as sketchy as the other. There was in fact one place I crossed with waist deep water and high current. Scary. Cloudy rivers look about the same if they’re knee deep or neck deep and the current was high everywhere so it was really hard to find places.
I stayed on one side of the river for a while but was getting swarmed, absolutely swarmed by flying ants. I thought they were sand flies at first so if I just kept moving they would leave me alone, but they kept piling on. I’d look at my legs and they’d be covered in little black spots. Ugh. They’d swarm around my head and I’d wave my hands through the air trying to get them to go away, which seemed to work briefly and then they’d be back. On this went for what seemed like forever but was probably more like 30 minutes. Eventually they left me alone.
More river crossings and finally, the sign I wanted to see, Hamilton Hut 15 minutes. I’d been hearing a lot about this hut. “The Hamilton Hilton”. And it lived up to its name. 20 person hut. Huge stone fireplace in the center. Triple level bunks. Lots of table space. Huge porch, though sandflies made that mostly unusable. And best of all, only 4 people.
Keaton had passed through earlier and started on the puzzle that was there. When I arrived 2 people were working on it. By the end of the night I’d spent a lot of time on it, made some good progress, and only quit because I literally couldn’t see anymore. In the morning I woke up and spent some more time on it over breakfast, and half contemplated staying another night just to work on the puzzle!
I left and made my way up the hill to Lagoon Saddle. Along the way there were some neat waterfalls and a strange … thing.
And of course the view was just incredible.
After another episode of “you’re not done until you’re in the doorway of the hut”, which was about 3 hours long, I made it to the bottom of the hill and out to the road. Before I left I made friends with some sheep. Seriously, they walked up to me and one let me give it scritches. I don’t know why I didn’t get a picture of it. But I did get a picture of the view.
I made my way to the Arthur’s Pass Eco Lodge, which the trail notes led me to believe was a backpacker but ended up being actually a pretty schmancy bed and breakfast. So, I kinda blew some cash to stay there, but the proprietor was super super amazing, the house was super super amazing, and overall it was really nice.
Let me just geek out for a minute. This place is totally off grid. Solar power. Everything in the house runs off 12 volt, which is super cool. There’s propane for hot water and cooking. A big fireplace for heat. And huge rain collection system for water supply. The rain barrel thing (they just call them “tanks” here) is actually super common away from towns. Which makes sense. Sparsely populated country, very rocky ground, makes it really hard to lay water or sewage pipes. Plus it rains enough that collecting water from your roof means you can usually easily satisfy your water needs. Most of the huts in the backcountry have them, but even residential properties have them. Hers tasted a bit like wood smoke because her chimney had deposited some flavor on the roof that made it into the tank, but didn’t affect the safety of the water. Also, she had a composting toilet. I’ve never used one of these before but it has 2 strategically placed receptacles, one for liquids and one for solids. I didn’t ask what happens afterward, but it was pretty neat. And of course the view was just unbelievable. This is from the deck which was directly outside my huge picture window.
In the morning was breakfast and then the owner took me into Arthur’s Pass to pick up my food box which she’d called ahead to check on to see if it was there yet. The weather for today is rain. Rain is high rivers. And from here it’s pretty much all rivers to get back on the trail. Sadness. I had an option of striking out and trying to get up river, skipping another section in the Arthur’s Pass area, but even that wasn’t a sure thing, and it would be a fairly long day in pretty steady rain. And who knows if the hut will be full or what. After much hemming and hawing, I’ve decided to stay in Arthur’s Pass at least for tonight, and figure out what I want to do tomorrow. What I even can do tomorrow. I might be here for a few more days even. I might bus down to Greymouth tomorrow and take a day there. I don’t know. For now, I’m warm, dry, and have WiFi 😉