Day 42: Sabine hut to St Arnaud

I’m sure Upper Travers Hut was neat and everything, but last night’s hut was pretty well situated. I mean come on.

Fun fact: there’s a water taxi from the other end of the lake that would have picked me up and taken me to town if I wanted. This hut is basically a zero walking hut if you really want. There were a handful of people taking the water taxi out this morning, myself almost one of them, but I think most of the folks at the hut were walking at least part of the time.

The trail today was mostly easy. I was able to blast down it and even up it when it had its ups. There were a few places with storm damage, some of which was old and had had the trail cut through it, and some which was newer which had to be worked around, under, or over.

At one point on the way up to the high point for the day there was a good half kilometer or more boardwalk, which is the first boardwalk of any length I’ve seen along the trail. Of course, I’m actually off trail right now, but whatever, I do what I want. It was neat though, and there was a little rest area at one point with a really great view.

About half way in there was a really nice hut, with quite the view. I stopped for lunch and had my first bowl of ramen for a while. I wasn’t sure if I had enough fuel left to make pasta with so I just boiled some water quick and dumped in a package of ramen. It was actually pretty good, I must say. There may be a few more of those going into my pack for the next section if I can find some.

After that I screamed down the track. It was a mix of rooted horribleness and lovely smooth track. Makes me wonder who put “well graded track” in the DOC brochure for this trail. Every time I came across a particularly gnarly section I would say “well graded track”. It’s all good though. Got to the carpark in record time and got to see a lovely view of a different lake and the town of St Arnaud.

One of the folks from the hut last night, one who took the water taxi in, was hanging out at the carpark, so we chatted for a bit. At one point I thought he mentioned giving me a ride into town, it was another 1.5 hour walk down a pretty ugly road to town, but then he disappeared. I waited a while to no avail. Fortunately, it looked like 3 cars were about to leave the carpark so I started walking down the road, figuring one of them would pick me up. Sure enough, a trio of Germans did! Their English wasn’t good so we didn’t have much conversation, but I got into town so that was good.

I had called a place from the carpark to see about rooms and they wanted $75/night for a dorm bed and $180/night for a private room. Whaaaaaaaaat. I called another place and I got a private room for $50/night. Much better. Tomorrow I’m going to try to clean my pack and my shoes. So much mildew. It’s disgusting and I just can’t take it anymore. Spending the time and whatever money might be required will be a worthwhile investment to improve quality of life for the next stretch, methinks. And the next stretch is gonna be a tough one, so I’ll take all the quality of life I can get!

Day 41: Blue Lake hut to Sabine Hut

Yea, no Travers Saddle for me. Forecast said 60km/h winds at the top and I just used that as an excuse not to go! It’s ok though!

Before I left this morning I wandered to the lake to get a picture of how clear the water is. There was some wind though so the surface was rough. Still beautiful though.

Wandered down the hill to West Sabine hut which is a 34 bunker! Apparently the other night they had 36 there. It’s tiny though, I can’t imagine it with even 20 people. 36 must have been insanity. I had it all to myself for lunch though. Saw a couple of day hikers from the hut going up to blue lake along the way.

Amazing views all along the way whenever there were open parts of the trail. It was mostly forest though, varying between rooted and crappy and rocky and crappy and smooth as ice and lovely. A couple of short climbs in for good measure. Near the end of the day there was a quite nice climb up above the river as it turns to go into a gorge, then you cross it on a bridge.

Water is super clear and super deep. The depth hides the current though, shortly after this what would otherwise be an amazing place to cliff jump you have some nasty rapids. Seriously the water was unbelievable. Really really nice.

A while later came across a waterfall next to the trail.

The hut is on Lake Rotoroa. The brochure says there’s a water taxi from here to Rotoroa village at the other end of the lake. I considered taking it just for fun but it’s kinda pricey and then I still have to get from there to St Arnaud. I’ll walk. But for now I’ll enjoy the view from the porch. Actually from inside because outside is sandfly city.

Mostly full house here tonight. It was pretty loud and chaotic in the kitchen earlier. Lots of folks out to walk the circuit. Some are taking the water taxi in the morning, but I think most will be walking my way. Maybe I can hitch a ride from one of them from the carpark into town.

This hut is pretty neat, 2 bedrooms each with a double decker long bunk bed about 8 mattresses across, and a huge kitchen with 2 sinks and plenty of seating.

Anywho, looking forward to St Arnaud tomorrow and all you can eat bbq the next day! And maybe a clean pack that doesn’t smell so bad! Seriously this thing is gross, and not just gross but extra terrible gross. The mildew didn’t go away and it’s just been getting worse. Hopefully I can find a basin to soak it in with some vinegar. That should do the trick, maybe!

Sleep now.

Day 40: Waiau hut to Blue Lake hut

What a day.

I’ve been anticipating this day for literally months. Worrying that it would be too hard for me to do, the weather too bad for me to even attempt. The trail notes make mention of crampons and ice axes and that made me super concerned.

The first part of the day for me was to walk from the hut up to the “informal campsite” up a ways. But on the way there the trail goes past the old Caroline Bivvy which is a tiny tiny tiny little shelter that’s very old and is to be removed because of the new Waiau hut where I stayed last night. I stopped in to say hi and sign the hut book. Last night I’d considered continuing on past Waiau hut since I’d gotten there so early and Caroline bivvy was one of the places I had been considering. I’m glad I didn’t. It’s tiny. It’s kinda gross. And there’s no toilet. But it is historic!

Afterward I continued on to the campsite. The trail was decent until it wasn’t and then I got to the campsite. It’s little more than a clearing along the trail where someone made a makeshift fire pit, but it would have been a pretty good place to camp in a pinch. I stopped here and had a rest, unloaded some extra weight I was carrying and started the climb.

Finally, I arrived.

Absolutely stunning. The weather could not have been more perfect. Cool. Clear. Dry. And surprisingly only a very light breeze at the top. I climbed up to a little peak right next to the top of the pass and just hung out there for a while, taking in the scenery, and what I’d just done.

Sadly the descent was awful. And so was the route from Lake Constance to blue lake hut. But I’ll leave out the details of that.

Blue lake is cool. The clearest water on the planet it is claimed. I haven’t gone over to the lake yet but from above I could definitely see pretty deep into it. Pretty awesome.

I’m at the hut now and it’s full of people. Many not TA hikers. Since the latter portion of the day put me in a bit of a crappy mood I’m hiding in my bed trying not to be grumpy.

And trying to think about the amazing accomplishment today was. Months I’ve been anxiously anticipating climbing this pass. And I climbed it like I was out for an afternoon stroll. And the reward at the top was so good. So good. Wow, what an amazing feeling.

I remember when Keaton said to me that he was proud of me way back when we were in Queenstown. And I’m proud of me too. I looked at my notes yesterday for the pass and one of the things it said was “if you’re reading this from the top of the pass give yourself a high five”. I almost backed out this morning, not gonna lie. Looking up at what I needed to climb from just past the campsite I felt pretty intimidated. But I pushed on and did it and I’m so glad I did!

The weather forecast I got yesterday morning said there could be snow above 1000m. I met the hut warden at the top of the pass and he said that wasn’t the case. The weather for the next several days is supposed to be great.

Tomorrow I am set to cross Travers Saddle, which is a nearly as difficult climb and descent as today. There’s a hut along the way about 3 hours from here where I might stay or might decide to get into St Arnaud using a different route. I’m fairly certain I’ll be leaving this hut, not that it’s bad but just because even on a rest day I can do some distance and the distance to the next hut is pretty trivial.

Proud of myself. Today was huge for me. I think I’ll sleep well tonight.

Day 39: Anne hut to Waiau hut

Such an easy easy easy easy day today. Came pretty close to just heading on past the hut, but I decided not to. Tomorrow is going to be a long, challenging day. I want to rest up and get an early start and that’ll be a lot easier in a hut than in my tent.

But back to today. Again I am bad with the photo taking but as I was walking along a guy on horseback and his 2 horses came up behind me and we chatted for a bit. He had two beautiful horses and was out exploring the area for a month on horseback! It was so cool! He had some really interesting stories about walking into towns on horseback and having people come up to him and show him where he could park his horses. Such a neat thing, and I’m intrigued by the idea of wandering around the backcountry of New Zealand on horseback.

No rain today but cloudy all day and pretty cool. Some river crossings and one of them I got pretty chilled by to the point I almost stopped to take my wet shoes off and such. I kept walking and was fine.

Tomorrow is the big day. Waiau pass. I’m still pretty anxious. Mostly that tomorrow is going to be an 11+ hour day. Ugh. I doubt it will be. And if it is, well, that’s fine, I’ll be at blue lake hut and be comfy afterward. Hopefully it won’t be packed full of people, but it’s a weekday so it should be good hopefully.

Weather forecast this morning from DOC said there could be snow down to the 1000m level on Friday. Waiau pass is 1700+, blue lake hut itself is at like 1100m, and on Friday I’m set to go over travers saddle which is also 1700+. And travers saddle is an avalanche risk area, so, that could be interesting. Fortunately the track down from blue lake is all down hill along a river, and before I head up to travers saddle I’ll arrive at West Sabine hut which is the biggest hut on TA with 34 bunks, and I can decide from there if I’m going to continue on to travers saddle or if I’m going to instead take the Sabine River track downhill into St Arnaud. Both routes lead me into town, both routes will take 2 days, so it’s just a matter of if I can or want to attempt travers saddle. I’m hoping by the time I’m ready to leave west Sabine, some southbounders will have come through and said whether or not I should try it.

Anyways, that’s all later. Today was just an easy day. Honestly I was expecting this entire section to be super hard, but really it’s all been super easy, just lots of distance. Tomorrow and the next day are the only 2 hard days, but I’ve heard they are very rewarding. Also the forecast seems to suggest I’ll have good, clear weather tomorrow afternoon, so I’m hoping it holds true!

Here are some pictures. Despite it being cloudy all day, I think the scenery here was quite lovely.

Waiau Pass anxiety

I’m so anxious about this walk. The last 2 days have been super easy. Tomorrow is supposed to be just as easy. And then super hard up over the pass. For some reason I was dreading this whole section as though the whole thing would be as hard as the pass. But really it’s just distance. The pass itself is tough. There’s another tough section just before blue lake hut. But the rest is straightforward.

I have been anticipating this for so long and it’s nearly here. I even remember thinking to myself it was crazy that I needed 8 days worth of food for this section! And now I’m carrying all this food and it’s not even a big deal. The next section, 10 days of food. Nervous about that. But even then that’s probably not going to be that bad. The next section is definitely harder. Way harder. But I feel less anxiety about that than I do about this pass.

I think some of the emotions I’m feeling right now are a not wanting this to end. That after it is over I’ll think back about all of the things I regret about how I did, or worrying that I went too fast and didn’t take it in enough. I’m really glad I have this blog to look back at, despite the posts getting a bit more boring lately. Honestly this last week or so I’ve been kinda on autopilot. I’m a bit discouraged about the skipping bits thing, despite it being the right thing to do, I feel like I missed some things or wasn’t complete enough. My inner purist is coming out, methinks.

Day 38: Boyle Flats hut to Anne hut

Lovely day today. Got up early, rolled out after a decent breakfast, had a nice walk.

Part of the way in to today was a pass, Anne Saddle, which I took quite a bit faster than I expected. I was quite surprised when I got to the top of the hill.

Anne hut is super nice. The surrounding area is just beautiful. There’s a nice wood heater with plenty of chopped wood, lots of counter and seating space, huge windows with screens to take in the view, and a radio I can use to call for weather reports.

Which I’ll need to do. A couple of hours after I got here it started absolutely pouring rain outside. There were 2 people behind me and they were taking a long time so I was a little worried since it was raining so hard. A southbounder showed up soaking wet and said there were 4 more behind him. We lit the fire and got it roaring and it’s nice and toasty in here and everyone’s wet clothing is hanging up to dry.

In an ideal world, I’d be up and over Waiau pass the day after tomorrow. But I’ve been told, and plan to do, go over the pass only if it’s clear. The views are amazing, and in rain it can be rather sketchy since a good portion of the climb is very nearly mountain climbing more than hiking. So in the morning I’ll be using the radio to get a weather report and if it looks good I’ll move on, otherwise I’ll be hanging out here for another day. I’m not optimistic about the weather so I only had one dinner tonight, opting to preserve some of my food in case I’m here for an extra day or 2. I have plenty of food, but no reason to eat too much of it!

Lots of pretty mountains today.

Day 37: Hanmer Springs to Boyle Flats hut

Pretty uneventful day. Bumped into Christian again but he was going to stay at Boyle village for the night, he’d been sick in Hanmer Springs and was still recovering. Met a couple of other northbounders and walked with them for a bit but they camped a bit farther down the trail and only briefly stopped at the hut.

It was a short day, only 3.5 or so hours. The next hut is about 6 hours away but I had to do some stuff before I left town this morning and then of course had to hitch out to the trail so wasn’t planning on going all the way. It was a fairly easy walk, especially with company. River crossings were all bridged.

The hut is nice but the water tank is broken. So we’ve been taking turns filling up a bucket with water from the nearby stream and using that. Not the greatest system but it works.

Day 36: Hope-Kiwi Lodge to Hanmer Springs

Wet. Stinky. Sand flies. Those are today’s themes. I woke up this morning and it had been raining most of the night. It was still raining when I got out of bed, but stopped as I was packing up. There were still people sleeping in the kitchen (and I just remembered now I meant to get more pictures of the hut and didn’t, I’m sorry 😐) so I had a cold breakfast and headed out onto the trail.

And then turned around almost immediately. I’d forgotten about the fallen trees, and man they weren’t kidding. So I started my way around the tree line. Since this was so recent there wasn’t much of a track. And since it had been raining, and it was all grass, it was wet. And often squishy. My poor poor shoes. After a while I came across a marker that led me back into the forest but it was still bad.

Seriously like the whole forest was already standing dead trees and the cyclone came through and just toppled it all over. I wonder if they’ll just reroute the trail, so many fallen trees would take a super long time to cut a trail through.

Ok, coming back to this post hours later and much happier and I’ll change the tone a bit!

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. I made it to a crazy swing bridge, crossed it, and braved it a second time to get some pictures. Enjoy.

Shortly after that I arrived at the carpark which would be the end of my walking for the day. I quick changed from my horrifying clothes into my slightly less horrifying clothes, walked out to the road and stuck out my thumb.

After a bit a kiwi couple from the north island in a big RV picked me up and took me to the turnoff for Hanmer Springs. Funny enough, as they pulled up to drop me off, another hitchhiker was there trying to hitch, so she got a bit of a surprise as I got out and she got in. It’s like they were driving a bus!

A bit later got my second hitch the rest of the way into town. First impressions: I like this place. Beautiful setting, lots of amenities, and not loads of people. It’s kinda chill and relaxed here. The Main Street through town has a big park separating the 2 sides and is totally lined with RVs and campervans. Craziness.

Got into the hostel and took a shower and did some MUCH needed laundry. Oh, and this hostel puts hikers in room number 3, since our packs generally smell so bad. I’d heard about this on the way up from some folks and was happy to find out it was true. I now want to open a hostel somewhere on a thru hiking route called room number 3.

Met up with Greg again. He’s apparently been about half a day ahead of me this whole section. We went out and got really really good steaks at a local place. There’s supposed to be amazing pizza here too and the burger shack is supposed to be pretty great.

Anywho, Greg sent me this picture he took of me crossing the Otira river a few days ago.

Sketchy.

This place is beautiful. I hope the weather clears up a bit tomorrow so I can get some good scenery in. Though even in cloud and rainy it’s still pretty great.

Tomorrow is a zero day. Not because I need the rest, but because I need to resupply and I need to ship off a box full of food to St. Arnaud to get me through the Richmond ranges. Since that is 10 days of food it’ll take me a bit to get everything sorted. I’ll also be hitting up the hot springs and meandering around town a bit. Should be fun!

Day 35: Hurunui No. 3 hut to Hope-Kiwi Cottage

Today was a trying day. It was going to be a long day no matter what, but some things added to the frustration.

First off, there was a hot spring along the route which was highly recommended by a lot of people to go have a rest in. I totally could have used this. Sadly, I never saw the sign to turn off to it. There was a place where the forest section went down to the river bed and then the trail disappeared, so I kept going along there and never found the trail. I had to backtrack a bit until I found a small trail to take me back up. But because of this I missed a bit of the forest, and perhaps the turnoff for the trail.

I did see a hot spring at the top of a waterfall, but since I hadn’t seen any indication that it was the one I was after, and didn’t see any obvious way to get up to it, I assumed it was just a different one than the one I was looking for. So no hot spring for me today.

Next up I’d heard about a forest section ahead that was particularly hard because of storm damage and I’d be better off going along the tree line. So I did. And the trail ran out. There was a little trail leading up a hill but it didn’t seem at all reasonable. I tried a couple of other ways but all ended in terribleness. Eventually I went back up the first bit and ended up bushwhacking through fallen trees, dead branches, all sorts of nastiness, for about 30 minutes trying to get back to the trail. I eventually did though and things went a lot better from there.

Until I caught my foot on a branch. It would have been fine. I stub my toes on things all the time, I stumble a bit and keep going. This time though the branch decided to follow my foot, meaning it wasn’t going to let me go without a fight. It won. I ended up face first on the ground. I felt like just staying right there.

Eventually though I ended up at the hut. It’s huge. And super fancy. And as far as I can tell, rat free. Though the sand fly situation is pretty awful. Fortunately it’s not too hot so the fact that we can’t open any windows isn’t that big of a deal.

Pictures.

I had a nice meal for dinner. Pretty happy about that. If it rains tomorrow I may just stay here. I have plenty of food, and this place is pretty swank. I’ll try to get some pictures in the morning.

Day 34: Locke Stream hut to Hurunui Hut No. 3

Rats.

No, really. Rats. They didn’t get into my food because I hung it up but they were all over the counter and table and everything else all night. Little turds everywhere. Gross. They also stole my bar of soap. I didn’t know rats ate soap. Now I do.

I decided to just have a bar for breakfast rather than try to cook anything. This also had the benefit of getting me out the door a bit quicker than I otherwise might have. It had rained most of the night and seemed to have stopped but who knew how long that might last. Out the door I went.

Nothing to eventful until the summit over Harper Pass. Nice view from the top though.

Along the way I was making friends with these little birds who seemed to be curious about me. I was trying to get one to perch on my finger but they wouldn’t. But they would circle around me and look at me trying to figure me out. This was nice a bit later because I walked under a low tree branch and absolutely clocked myself. So hard I feel like every bone in my neck cracked. It knocked me flat on the ground and I just laid there for a few minutes recovering from the shock of it all. One of those little birds came up to check on me and see if I was ok. It still wouldn’t perch on my finger but it did perch on my trekking pole. Hooray!

Didn’t get a picture of it actually on the pole because it’s like a cat, any time they’re doing something cute you don’t have your camera ready.

I passed a couple more huts along the way, stopped in and had a little break at one before heading on. About halfway between the last 2 huts I encountered my first 3 wire bridge.

These are a lot like swing bridges but instead of having a place to put your feet there’s just another wire. And this thing swings around all over the place. Slowly but surely I made my way across. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit worried until I got safely to the other side. I probably could have just gone through the river, but despite the scariness, this was probably a safer bet.

Tonight’s hut is much nicer, hopefully with less rats. It also has a wood burning heater and lots of firewood. It’s nice and toasty in here right now. I’m not alone, but it’s just me and a German southbounder, in this 16 person hut. He was one of a big group that had gotten backed up at St. Arnaud because of the cyclone. Telling me about how they’d be in 32 bed huts and totally full. But I think this means I’m about half way through that group and that’s probably the last of the big pack of southbounders. With that and the large huts coming on the next section I feel like I shouldn’t have much trouble getting a bed at huts anymore. Phew! Still going to take my tent and such though, just in case.

Tomorrow I’ll make a push to get to Hope-Kiwi Lodge and then it should be a short day from there to get to the highway and hitch a ride into Hanmer Springs. I don’t feel like I really need a rest day just yet but I have a big resupply and a big food box (10 days!) to send off, as well as wanting to check out the town and such, so I plan to have a zero day there. Hopefully I can find a bed!