Day 24: Lake Ohau Lodge to Twizel

Bike day. Since the next section involves a super long (42km) stretch along the Tekapo canal, I’m renting a bike and riding it. One of the options was to get the bike from Lake Ohau Lodge instead of Twizel, making it a 2 day ride instead of one day walk plus one day ride. I sprung for the 2 day ride option.

This morning was just unbelievable nice view from the lodge.

Seriously, I suffered.

At breakfast, the receptionist came over and let me know that the bike rental place called and would have a bike here for me at 11:30am. Considering how last minute I’d confirmed when I’d be arriving at the lodge, I was pretty happy it all came together. Also, talk about service. These folks have it in spades. But more on that in a bit.

I stick around at the lodge waiting for the bike to arrive, just hanging out in the awesome lounge area. This place is pretty sweet, seriously. Would go outside but the sun is super intense and I don’t want to get burned!

Right on time, Jill from Lakeland Explorer rolls up and gets me set up with the bike and takes my pack away. All is well. I load up the little trunk bag with my stuff for the day, send out my gps check in message, strap it all to the bike and ride off.

At the lodge there’s a sign that says O2A trail, and heads up a track that I’d walked down the night before to get from the TA trail down to the lodge. Off I roll.

After what felt like forever, climbing up a really long climb along the side of some mountains, I decide I’ve missed a turn, as my destination keeps getting farther away to my left. Up until this point I’d assumed that at some point I’d descend back down to the road. I should have listened to Jill. She originally told me to follow the road. I assumed that meant the trail would meet up with the road at some point. No. The road is part of the trail. The part I want. The track I was on is also part of the trail. Not the part I want though. That track goes to Omarama (which nobody can pronounce. It’s not what you think). A lovely place indeed, but not where I’m headed today. I didn’t realize it but the trail makes a V at the lodge, so both “directions” go south. One along the road, and one up the track. Oh well. I turn around and have a pretty fun descent down the super rocky and super bumpy track until I get to a place I can drop down to the road, where I really want to be.

Heading out in the morning I didn’t have any water bottles. My hiking ones were in need of replacement so I’d tossed them in the bin. And Jill hadn’t brought one for me to use. And town was a good while away. So the day was long. I was on an unfamiliar bike, not well fitted to me, riding on a gel saddle cover (which made the saddle wider and actually made my ass hurt MORE), oh and the rear derailleur had some ghost shifting and mis-shifting going on. I finally got around to the canal from the lake and stopped because I was so parched I had to drink water. Slurp. Directly from the lake, with my bare hands, like a boss.

Good thing it’s so delicious. Also this is a lake, mind. Not the ocean. Those waves were nearly surfable. The wind was fierce. Fortunately it was mostly at my back.

So along the canal I go, on a mission to get into town and get some proper liquids in my body. The canal is rather hard to get into, so drinking directly from it would be pretty hard. So I just buckled down and tried to go fast.

Finally I arrived into town, pulled up to a petrol station, bought my new bottles (with free water!) and a coke. That’s when I realized something wasn’t right. Where’s the garmin? Oh no, it must have fallen off when I was bombing that bumpy hill. I’d stuck it in the little bottle holder on the back of the trunk bag, carabinered to the bag itself, thinking it would be fine. Apparently not. Fortunately, it’s kinda designed to tell me where it is. Sure enough, back on that hill. Ok. I’d arranged to meet Jill at 4:30 to pay and pick up my bag, which was about 20 minutes away, so I’d suss things after that, and maybe ask her if she had any ideas.

We met, talked, she told me where I’d gone wrong, and gave me an idea: call the lodge, have them tell the next group (which is probably already there) heading down the trail to look for it, pick it up, and we’ll figure out how to get it from Omarama to where I’ll be in Tekapo. I call them, they ask me what it looks like, I say “orange”, “it’s here”. Hooray! I ask the person on the phone to do me a solid and buy the finder a beverage and I’ll pay for it when I get there. Sadly, the finder had already departed, so now I’ll have to find someone else to buy a beverage for!

Ok, so that sorted, now to figure out how to actually get it. Jill had taken my bike away to her mechanic to get the derailleur looked at and also had my pack. I let her know they had it, and when we met up to get the bike and my pack back to me (and pay) she told me the lodge comes into town frequently and might bring it for me, then she’d see to it that it got to Tekapo, apparently runs to there are pretty frequent. I went to my room and set my pack down, just about to call them and she texts me saying yes, it would be in town and then off to Tekapo tomorrow. Hooray! Between the lodge and Jill and the finder, some serious trail magic occurred and I’m super grateful for all. I’ll definitely be leaving stellar reviews on trip advisor!

Anywho, other than frustration at being thirsty and with the state of the bike, today has been a pretty great day. The dorm I’m in tonight is just me so far so it’s like a private room at dorm prices! And tomorrow I roll to Tekapo for a rest day and resupply. Not too shabby! Certainly better than yesterday with all of the rain!

On a sad note my kindle seems to be unhappy. It wouldn’t respond to trying to power it on earlier and forcing a reboot it’s now stuck in a loop. I’m waiting for it to finally drain it’s battery completely and I’ll charge it and hopefully that fixes it. Otherwise, it may be paper books for me for the rest of the trip!

Day 23: Ahuriri River to Lake Ohau Lodge

My tent survived the night. I made an adjustment, which was to stake out the headroom on the windward side to hopefully prevent it from becoming concave and pushing the tent inward. The reason this is even a thing is because one of my stakes bent all out of whack from trying to push it into rocky soil so I am down a stake. The change seemed to have done the trick, woohoo!

However, it didn’t stop the rain. The rain that started before I woke up. The rain that rained all the way to East Ahuriri Hut, the hut marked “derelict” on the map, with no real obvious looking way to get to it, but it’s called out on the TA notes. The rain that rained all the way to the top of the hill. The rain that rained all the way across the bog at the top, meaning for a good hour or so I was walking through ankle deep water about 20% of the time. And sometimes going knee deep into holes. That’s fun.

The rain that kept raining all the way down the hill on the other side. Through the really nice forest section dotted by not just stream crossings but, today, stream walking. The rain that kept raining all the way from the bottom of the hill to where the trail splits off from the bike trail it has been following for a mile or so.

The rain that kept raining while I was trying to see if Lake Ohau Lodge had a room and yes I’ll have dinner and breakfast and thanks I’ll be there in 45 minutes.

The rain that kept raining the whole 45ish minutes it took me to walk along the Alps2Ocean bike trail from where it left the TA to the Lodge. The rain that kept raining all the way up the driveway to the lodge reception. The rain that’s still raining right now, as I lay in my bed, waiting for dinner time to come, with my tent hanging up in the shower and my dripping backpack hanging out in the tub.

The rain.

So, as you might be able to tell, it rained a bit today. Yep. But for whatever reason I felt like a champion. Yesterday was a longer day than I was expecting but it felt good to make the progress I did. I wasn’t originally planning to get here today, but in large part due to the rain, I pushed through to the finish. I was totally soaked and didn’t feel like trying to get into my tent while all wet and try not to get everything that isn’t wet already wet, so I just pushed onward. These past 3 days have been long days, but honestly they’ve been really great days. It’s like my legs suddenly decided that what we are doing is ok. I’ve had a bit of pain in my right foot that has me limping a bit in the mornings, but by the end of today I was practically running down the trail.

So it’s fine that I’m treating myself a bit tonight. This place isn’t cheap, but it’s not terrible. And it’s reasonably nice. And definitely what I needed. Worth it.

Because of the rain my phone was mostly unusable today. The touch screen doesn’t really function that well when it’s covered in water, case or no case. Plus the lens kept getting wet and there wasn’t a dry spot on me to try to wipe it. I tried a few times. Unsure how they came out. Anyways the reason I mention this is because I don’t have a lot of pictures for today!

One good thing about the rain though is it makes lots of waterfalls come out to play. Some of them had what looked like would be great swimming holes at the foot. I was already cold and wet enough as it was though. And on a mission. I only took my pack off twice all day. Once to refill my water bottles and once when I was coming down the back side of the hill, decided I wanted to drop my pack for a minute. I don’t think I even sat down until after my shower. Crazy.

Tomorrow I hope to be handing off my pack and riding a bicycle for the next 2 days. The next stop is Twizel, which is just a day’s walk, but the next stretch is to Tekapo, which is about 18km to a campground, followed by 42km walking next to a canal. No camping. No swimming in the canal. Flat. Boring. Bleh. The canal is really cool, to be certain. It’s literally the bluest water I’ve ever seen in my life. But you really only need about 5 minutes to take it in, and then you’re done. But have 42km to go. Yeah nah.

So I’ve employed the services of a local bike rental place, they’ll drop the bike off tomorrow and haul my pack to Twizel, then they’ll pick up my pack again the next day and take it to Tekapo. Pretty sweet setup. And this lodge is at the end? Of the Alps2Ocean bike trail, so I’ll take that into Twizel tomorrow, should be fun!

Day 22: Top Timaru Hut to Somewhere East of the Ahuriri River

Today’s goal was to get to Tin Hut, a private hut that has been made available for TA walkers to use. Then I had a stretch goal to get past there to a place in the reserve by the Avon Burn where I could camp for the night. The idea being that tomorrow I would continue down to the Ahuriri river, cross it, and get about half way to Lake Ohau and look for somewhere to camp.

It started off well. I slept in this morning. I took my time getting ready to go and was the last person to leave the hut area. I say leave the area as I really didn’t use the hut at all. In fact this morning was the first time I’d stepped inside it, I had only stood in the doorway last night. Anyway, signed the hut book and moved along.

Today had quite the big climb up the river and then up and over Martha’s Saddle. It was all 4×4 track so was easy footing but that didn’t make it any less steep.

Finally I made it to the top after what felt like ages. The sun had decided to come out so I put on some sunscreen and drank some water before beginning the long descent down to Tin Hut.

After what also felt like ages, but also sooner than expected, I rounded a corner and there was Tin Hut. I forgot to take a picture. It was fairly grimy inside as I’d heard people describe it, but aside from the nasty looking mattresses, I could have easily spent the night in there. There was a river right outside to get water from, the platforms for the beds looked fine for me to throw out my sleeping pad on, and the toilet, despite being ridiculously dirty, seemed usable. The problem was it was only 2pm. I could easily make my stretch goal. So, I plopped down, ate some lunch, chatted with a couple of southbounders who had stopped by, and went on my way.

In another moment of “already?” I rounded a corner and found myself looking at the reserve across the river where I wanted to set up camp. Sadly, I didn’t see any way to get over there and once over there anywhere to camp. Not wanting to turn back I simply pressed on. I had time. My next goal was to get just past the Ahuriri river and back into the reserve where I’d be able to camp anywhere.

So I continued on.

Finally I arrived.

I had to scale down into this valley, ford this river, and up the other side look for a campsite.

I made it! Sadly there was nowhere to camp directly by the river so I had to climb up out of the valley. Which meant no easy water source. So I lugged as much water as I could carry (literally, all of my bottles were full) up the hill and set up camp.

It was fairly breezy when I came up here but I feel like the wind has gotten much much worse. Despite my best efforts my tent isn’t holding its shape well in this wind, though it hasn’t come unstaked yet, so hopefully it will hold up through the night. Other than walking for another few hours I really don’t know what I can do about this wind. It’s loud. Tent flapping a lot. It’s going to be a very long night methinks.

Oh well. I still am planning to only go about half way to Lake Ohau tomorrow. The trail notes say 11 hours from the car park which is about 40 minutes behind me to the lake. I don’t feel like walking that long tomorrow, so I’ll look for a nice swimming hole and maybe a campsite nearby and take it easy. That is if I get any sleep tonight.

Day 21: Pakituhi Hut to Top Timaru Hut

Very long day today. I got up early this morning and got some sweet sunrise shots. It was decently after sunrise when I made it out to the trail but it was still super pretty.

The climb to the top was pretty nice. Not too long. It was super windy at the top and I got cold pretty quick but the views were worth it.

After that it was a long descent down a farm track with some ups thrown in for fun before I got to Stody’s Hut. Martin’s Hut was bad. This place was worse. Glad I decided to stay at Pakituhi yesterday. Signed the logbook, used the toilet, had a snack and mosied on.

Past that I got down to the river after a while. The one I’d be crossing 10 times before the day was through it took a while. Very steep descent. And my feet were telling me so. But I finally got there. It was a nice river. Crossed it. Crossed back. Immediately climbed a huge hill that hut kept on going it seemed. Long nice forest track for a while then some more climbing. After what felt like forever I made it back to the river. Cross. Cross back. More super steep climb. For a while I was wondering why we were even doing all this climbing. Aren’t we just following the river? Why go up to go back down? Well. The river is a river. It flows down hill. This one just happens to be pretty steep.

Forest sections are boring to look at because you can’t see anything, so I didn’t take any pictures. I was on a mission too so I wasn’t doing a lot of stopping to smell the roses.

The river was pretty. Tasted a bit grainy even after filtering. Makes me wonder if my filter is even doing anything. Oh well, placebo effect.

Finally after ages I made it to the hut. It’s tiny. It is completely full. Like with all the people camping outside sitting inside there was no room for me to even go in. I’m camping outside. Bleh. After 12 hours the last thing I wanted to have to do was set up my tent. But here I am. I think tomorrow is going to be a short day. The pacing on this section sucks. Tomorrow is either a super short day or a very long one. The notes take me to the carpark but there’s no camping there. There’s no camping for like 10k prior, and none for about 10k after. So basically tomorrow is going to be to get to the very edge of the legal camping area and camp. Even if it’s 8am. There’s a huge climb ahead of me but it’s all 4×4 track so it should be easy. 2.5 days and I’ll be out the other side of this section at Lake Ohau.

Oh. Guess I should say. I’m grumpy. I hate walking all day only to find a stuffed full hut I can’t even go inside and sit in. I have a feeling it’s just going to be more and more frequent going forward too. Makes me kinda want to find something else to do.

I cried a bit earlier. I think I’m back to being lonely, and then pile frustration on top of that which makes me both not pleasant to be around and not even want to be around anyone and it’s a recipe for sadness. At least this time I was less worried about people judging me for being slow and more just frustrated at the hut situation. I killed it today. Very tough day and I did it. Proud of myself. But still. It’s days like this when I’m not having fun that make me wonder why I’m even here doing this. If it’s not fun what’s the point? Maybe I’ll find it in the next section.

Day 20: Lake Hawea to Pakituhi Hut

Woke up this morning dreading what stood before me. A nearly 1km climb. That’s not climbing for 1km. No. I’m 1km higher in elevation than when I started this morning.

Off right at 7am to try to beat the sun as much as we could. The climb is fully exposed with zero shade and zero water. You have to haul it all up the hill with you. Plenty of water at the hut, according to the southbounders we’d talked to, but none along the way. A flat pleasant walk along a bike trail and a place that would make an excellent camp site if it weren’t for the no camping signs, and we were at the bottom of our climb. Sadly, we thought we’d be able to refill bottles directly at the bottom so we skipped filling up before we ascended to the road that runs along the east side of the lake. Gain-Marco had brought plenty with him but I was expecting to fill up from the lake.

Fortunately, a couple of sobos arrived just then, some folks I’d found on Instagram, but hadn’t talked to. They gave me what they had left of their water which I figured should be enough. Then I got rid of one last bit of excess weight and started the climb.

In the text there it talks about a saddle at the 400m climbed mark. That was going to be a checkpoint for me. I reached it fairly quickly actually, a little over an hour I think. I was flying. Then the hill got steeper. I am actually starting to like the really steep stuff. At least on days where I’m climbing for a long time. The steeper the trail the faster I climb. And for some reason the steeper the trail it seems like the longer I can go without stopping. Maybe because I’m going slower so I have better pacing? Maybe it’s all in my head? I dunno. I like steep though.

On the way up the views kept getting better and better. There were also lots of little places to stop. I’d scramble up a steep part and suddenly be on top of a rock with a great view. Good place to rest for a minute before moving on.

I met a bunch of sobos on the way up. This pair of ladies suggested that waking up “at the ass crack of dawn” to finish the climb to the top of Breast Hill and watch the sunrise was totally worth it. They’d stayed at the hut, so they actually backtracked up the hill just to do this. I imagine they left their packs at the hut though. I would have.

Finally I arrived at the turn to the hut. One last selfie before I lose my view of the lake. The hut is about 200m off the trail and down on the back side of the ridge, so no views sadly. But it’s a very nice hut.

The next hut says 3-4 hours away. I hadn’t planned on going there today, considering I’d figured I’d take way longer than I did to get here. I arrived just after noon, in time to meet Gina-Marco one last time before he went to Stody’s Hut. That hut is pretty old, and very small. I ate some lunch and pondered whether I wanted to continue on or stay here. I’ve mostly decided I’m staying here. But there’s a non-zero chance I may finish the climb to the top later this afternoon and camp up there for the night. No sand flies, no rain, I probably wouldn’t even pitch my tent. Just sleep under the stars.

Not sure if I’ll do that though. For now I’m going to relax in the hut and take that rest day I didn’t take while I was in Wanaka.

Which reminds me. I’m going to be on the lookout for a good hut to stop and have a zero day in. Preferably one that isn’t forced upon me due to weather, because I’d like the hut to clear out during the day and get a different group of people in it. It won’t happen on this stretch. There’s only one decent but left here, Top Timaru hut and I don’t think I’m quite ready for a zero day in the woods just yet. Maybe after Tekapo.

Fast forward. Bed time. The hut is overbooked by 2 people but the conversation has been great. I’ve got my alarm set early but not ass crack of dawn. Tomorrow is going to be a big day trying to get to Top Timaru hut, but I feel confident I can do it if I just persevere. And if I don’t make it there I can find a camp spot along the way. It’ll be fine.

Day 19: Wanaka to Lake Hawea

Today was a short day. The trail was part road walk but mostly gravel bike trail all the way. We coasted along the edge of the lake for a while, taking in some magnificent views before heading inland along a river.

After a good while along the river we came across a campground and hung out there for a bit, having a snack, using the facilities, refilling water and getting the packs off. Then it was on down the trail to a big swing bridge to cross the river again and we were back on the bike trail.

A while later, the most perfect timing ever happened. For some reason we had a whole lot of people wearing matching hi viz vests biking through an intersection ahead, which caught our attention, and then this happened.

I’m certain the events are totally unrelated, but the timing of us crossing this road at the exact same time this … house was crossing the bridge… pretty cool.

Some more walking happened. Somehow I managed to keep up with Keaton, one of the fastest of our party, the entire trail. I don’t feel like he was holding back on account of me either. He was definitely holding back but only because he was saving up for the huge climb I’d be doing tomorrow that he was doing today. Huge climb. I joked at one point that if I felt good and the time seemed ok I might try to do it too, but I got here and didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t. I would have made it, eventually. But I would not have been a happy camper. And most likely a camper is what I would be. People we spoke to said the hut was full with people camping outside last night. I have a feeling this is going to be more and more common going forward, we’re running into the bulk of the sobos.

The river we were walking past for this stretch has a whitewater park. This is a place for kayakers to practice their skills and have some fun. They shaped the river such that it creates a standing wave that allows a kayaker to “surf” in the pocket where the water is coming down and not move. This also enables spin moves, apparently. The sign board said all this. Keaton just used it like a water slide.

Anywho. This lake is real pretty. Here are some pictures of the lake.

Right past this, Keaton and I said our goodbyes. He went up the hill, and I went to the bar. Literally. This hotel is mostly bar, a few rooms, some dorms, and a huge campsite. The nicest campsite we’ve had this whole time, aside from Mahuru Cottage of course, and cheap, only $12, with hot showers and laundry facilities. And a bar. If you’re into that sort of thing. We had pizza and some pretty good fries.

Tomorrow is the big climb. I’m worried. My shoes are starting to show some serious signs of wear, I may have to break out the duct tape soon. The new arch supports seem to be doing the trick but my legs are a bit sore. Tomorrow is like 900m of climb, with very little in the way of flat and zero shade at all. Mountain start, mountain finish, mountain in between. Trail notes say 6-7 hours. Oof.

Goan-Marco is also here for the night but he’ll probably drop me on the way up the hill and he’s going to push on to the next hut. Frank had another rest day scheduled but went to the doctor today about his knee and is out for a week. Marius took an alternate route north. It’s going to be back to just me tomorrow night! It feels weird, but was inevitable. Super happy to have met and spent so much time with these folks. Looking forward to the next spontaneous friend group!

Wanaka Zero

Since we got here a day earlier than expected we camped out last night at the holiday park. It was also fairly expensive like the one in Arrowtown, and the ground conditions were way worse, but at least the showers here were free. It was super windy when we arrived last night and setting up tents in the wind was interesting but everyone’s tent seemed to survive the night, hooray. It also rained a bit which meant wet tents in the morning but the sun cave out and got everything dried up nicely!

Today is a national holiday in New Zealand, Waitangi Day. So lots of things were expected to be closed. Seems like most of the stuff in Wanaka is open though, so no delays on that front. I need to go get some arch supports and a new belt for my hiking pants at the local sports shop, buy some groceries for the upcoming 6-7 day stretch, and figure out what I want to do about accommodation on the other side. Also, given that the street after this one is a 50km stretch with 42 of it being along a canal where you can’t camp or do anything else and it’s just a flat gravel road and you have to do it in one day, I’m probably going to contact one of the bike hire services that can drop off a bike for me, haul my pack, and ride that stretch instead of walking it, so I need to line that up.

There’s a legendary movie theater here in town that has fresh cookies, an intermission, interesting seating, including the back seat of an old car, so we’re planning to see Molly’s Game at 8pm, after we have a little bbq / family dinner at the hostel most of us are staying at.

I’ve also heard good things about Puzzling World, so I’d like to check that out. When I was here last year I saw it but assumed it was more kid oriented, but apparently that’s not the case and it’s pretty fun for adults too. It, too is open normal hours today, so that’s awesome.

Fast forward a bit.

Got my arch supports. High confidence. The sports shop I went to had one of those mats that you stand on and it measures your arch and helps pick the right one. Got a pair and they feel pretty good. Since I’ve been walking for so long with bad arch support it’ll take a little getting used to but I feel pretty confident that it’s the right thing. The guy helping me also commented that my shoes were getting pretty worn. 18 days on the trail and they look like they’ve been through a war zone. I sent my replacement pair on to Methven so I’m still about 2 or so weeks away from my new pair. Gotta make these hold together (literally) until then.

Fast forward some more. We went to Puzzling World. Super awesome. The illusions were really nifty and well put together, especially the tilted room which seriously was making me motion sick just trying to walk through it. Then we went to the maze. There are 4 corners in the maze and you have to go to each one. For an extra challenge there’s a particular order to visit them in. The maze had some flyovers to take you between sections, which were part of the maze and gave you a view of the maze to try to strategize. Super super fun. I think I ended up visiting every corner multiple times both trying to find them in the correct order and then trying to get back out. Super fun. And there were puzzles in the cafe area you could try out. Some captured strings, a couple of sliding piece puzzles, etc. Did I mention super fun? Super fun.

After that we wandered over to the supermarket and loaded up a cart with food for dinner. Given that we were 5 hikers we bought way too much food, but managed to eat most of it, somehow. Tomorrow a lot of us are splitting up. Some pushing onward farther than others, some doing side trips, and one taking another rest day in Wanaka. So since it may be the last time we all see each other we had a nice goodbye and dinner.

Afterward we were going to see a movie, but it was sold out! I’m both sad and somewhat relieved. I’m tired. Today was a very packed day off. And I still need to go grocery shopping in the morning before I head out of town for 7 days! I’m really sad I didn’t get to see the theater and its experience, but “I’ll just have to come back”. My FOMO is definitely hitting me hard right now. But I also really want to get back on the trail, so another day in Wanaka isn’t something I want to do. Plus there are zero vacancies in the whole town, at all. Everything is booked up. I could camp at the holiday park but bleh. Onward I must go.

We stopped into the DOC center to see if there wa anywhere to camp between the town of Lake Hawea and the beginning of the next day’s climb but they said it’s all private property and people had been getting huge fines for doing it. Not to mention it’s not a great way to represent the hiker community. Our only choices are to camp at Lake Hawea and go up the next day, or try to push forward and do it all in one go. Which might be doable for a few of this group, but not for this guy.

Anywho, instead of going out for a movie we’re watching Trading Places back at the hostel. Such a good movie.

Day 18: Highland Creek Hut to Wanaka

Originally we were shooting just for the big campground on the lake for tonight and we were going to walk in tomorrow, but a couple of days ago we met Jamie and Simon, a couple of guys from Dunedin who were hiking the track for the weekend who offered to give us a ride into Wanaka when we were done with the track. Since tomorrow’s section was 15km of mostly road walking and I’d rather be in Wanaka anyways, it wasn’t hard to convince me to go. Sadly, everything in Wanaka is booked. See, tomorrow is February 6th, which is like the Kiwi equivalent of the 4th of July in terms of holiday. Lots of bbq, shops closed, people taking off camping for the weekend. On the way out from the end of the trail we called the holiday park in town to see if they had a spot for us, they did, so we rolled into town with the guys, 5 of us and our packs stuffed into a Mazda 3.

But that was the end of the day. First off we had a climb out of the hut. Not a huge one, but enough to get us properly awake. Then the big one. 400m of climb over 1km. Steep, I believe is the word.

It seemed to go so fast though. Being the last of the 4 big hills we’d climbed over the last 3 days, we were finally in shape to take it on.

The descent was, in my opinion, much more difficult. It took a lot longer, it was harder on the mind and the body, and just in general wasn’t super pleasant. We were afforded with some great views, however.

The lake we’d been approaching slowly for the last 4 days was getting closer and closer and we kept seeing new views of it. Really nice.

Fern Burn hut turned out to be exactly the same as the hut last night if it looked in a mirror. We stopped and had a really nice lunch and hung out for a while. We were in no hurry, we got there at about 11am and really didn’t have that far to go.

While we were there a steady stream of people started showing up. One lady came in, dropped her pack, loaded up a day pack and took off, probably going to return and spend the night later. More folks showed up, some TA but most not (too clean). Some were heading on to Highland Creek Hut, some staying here. It was clear that tonight would be a busy night for the hut.

Along the way down, more crappy descent. Oh and before that started even a ridiculously steep difficult climb up the side of a hill to get even to the sidle. Finally we passed through a livestock fence, saw a sign that said do not disturb the stock, terrified a poor lonesome lamb when we popped around a corner, and saw quite a few more people heading in to the hut. At the car park there was another couple who were just about to head in and I suggested they should have a tent as the hut was probably going to be full.

Now we’re in Wanaka, showered and waiting for laundry to dry. It’s super super windy here tonight, our tents are all flapping in the breeze. It’ll be an interesting night to say the least.

Day 17: Roses Hut to Highland Creek Hut

2 hills today. 2 big hills. We originally had planned on going through to Fern Burn Hut, but decided after yesterday that a short day would be nice. We could do Fern Burn and the campground the next day and have plenty of time. So off we went.

The day started with a really huge climb. Many false summits. But the views were spectactular.

After the huge hill there was a nearly equally huge descent. At one point I crossed a stream that was barely more than a trickle and stopped to fill up my water bottles. I could hear what I thought was a larger stream but wasn’t sure if it was water or just the wind, and I had a huge climb ahead of me. About 10 minutes later I found the stream. It was quite lovely. Good spot to take a break and eat some lunch.

One of the neat things about going down and then straight back up is you get to see most of the trail ahead of you for hours before you get there. Including people coming down who you’ll meet a bit later. Kinda fun.

Finally I started the second big climb for the day and it seemed to go a lot faster than the first. There was a less pronounced “summit” as we had to sidle from one hill around to the saddle which signaled the start of the descent. I still took a selfie though.

The descent from here was mostly pretty nice. Lots of sidling so it wasn’t super steep. There were some places it got super steep but those places were pretty well stepped so it actually went pretty quickly.

And if only to prove that your day isn’t done until you’re standing in the doorway of the hut, the hut was past a little valley and up a pretty steep climb to the hut.

Finally, one last really nasty climb.

And the hut appears! Unlike last night, there’s only one other person here when I arrive, Marius. We’re expecting 3 others northbound, but it’s a good sign that we’re so far the only ones here. And hooooooo boy, the view is really amazing.

Now it’s time for dinner and probably an early night. We have a big day ahead tomorrow, so probably going to get up early and hit the trail.

I’ve heard it should rain tomorrow, so getting going early will mean we can get into the campground early and try to dry off before hopping in our tents for the night.

Day 16: Arrowtown to Roses Hut

Today’s official route has us going over Big Hill. As you can imagine, it’s a pretty big hill. It also has us going up over Roses Pass. Neat.

Screw that.

On the map there’s a nice river and a trail that runs along next to it. No hills. Let’s do that!

In the day or so leading up to this I’d been scouring the Internet looking for information about this trail, what conditions might be like, etc. I’d found info about the Arrow River portion of the route, which would allow us to bypass Big Hill, but nothing further along. Our biggest concern was water levels of the rivers we’d be following as we assume we’d be doing a lot of crossing. Since the trail up Big Hill and the trail up the Arrow River start in the same place we decided to check it out and make a call when we get there. As for the upper portion of the river, we’d make that call when we got to the split.

The Arrow River section was actually a local trail, on local trail signage, so that was a decent indication that it would be fine. And fine it was. The river was a gorge, and the trail was a 4×4 trail which had 2 options: cross the river a lot or take the high road and not do that. We took the high road.

Waterfalls. Lovely views. Nice road. Lovely.

Finally we arrived at the decision point up the river. We crossed the stream we’d be following and it was just fine, so we decided to go for it. While looking for the trail we saw a really janky looking trail and a bit of road leading up to it, and further down the trail a road that had a private road, no public access sign on it. We decided to go back and check out the janky trail. It was jank. But I figured if it got us to something good, it would be worth it. Well, a short while later, it did. A nice 4wd track. I suspected it was actually the private road we saw a ways back but hey, I didn’t see one this way!

Well, turns out someone had thought of that. We got to the stream again and on the other side was a big fence and another scary sign. We turned back. All in all we’d done about 3k getting there and back.

So, back to the official Arrow River route up to Macetown. The 4wd Track kept crossing the river, but almost always there was a side trail for walkers. In fact in one place there was but we missed it. We kinda saw where we needed to go but I couldn’t get there. Frank managed, but I saw a way through the river so I just went for it. In the second crossing I lost one of my poles, but fortunately it floats and got caught in a little eddy and I was able to fish it out. Pro tip: strap your poles on when crossing a river.

Further up the trail we got to where there used to be 8 Mile Hut. The footbridge is still intact though. Barely.

It honestly didn’t feel much more sketchy than any other swingbridge, so it was fine.

We get to Macetown, find a lovely spot to stop and have lunch next to a stream we’ll need to cross. This spot would also have been a really great spot to camp. Further on we bumped into some 4wd folks who were driving extremely happy trucks. One of them had picked up a couple of hitchhikers who were walking this section of the trail and were just dropping them off. While I waited for Frank to Ford the stream, the 2 guys took off down the trail, saying we’d probably catch them. Spoiler alert: we didn’t.

What followed was probably the sketchiest and most unpleasant 5k of trail I’ve ever walked. Sidling with no benching. Steep scree slope crossings with almost nothing in the way of footholds. Huge steps with nothing to get ahold of other than thorny bush to pull yourself up. Really really awful.

And then finally we made it to our climb for the day, up to Roses Saddle.

Really nice view from the top, including of our hut for the night, 600m below and 2km distant.

Upon arrival we find that we are people 17 and 18 in a 12 bunk hut, so the place was crowded as. After a long day of walking the last thing I wanted was a sardine can where I can barely move. Frustrated, I made my dinner and did the needful and tried to figure out where I was going to sleep. I didn’t want to set up my tent, the ground didn’t look like it was going to be very comfortable. I considered sleeping out on the deck but was afraid I’d gotten eaten alive by sand flies. I ended up setting up on the floor under the table. It worked ok.