Days 30-32: Methven to Arthur’s Pass

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.

Amazing.

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 😉

Day 29: Crooked Spur Hut to Geraldine

And I almost didn’t make it!

This morning, woke up, lovely weather, myself and a French guy doing a section of the TA were set to catch our 6-7pm shuttle from the carpark down the trail to Geraldine. Since the carpark was said to be 4 hours away, no rush! Sleep in, hang out at the hut, read. Probably nothing to do at the carpark anyways so may as well stay in the shade at the hut.

About noon a couple of folks headed southbound arrive at the hut just as we’re packing up to leave. We chat with them and tell them about our shuttle and they asked if it was the Alps2Ocean shuttle. They’d come in on one last night, late. Hmmmmmmm.

So I finish packing up and head out and on the way I quickly “type” up a message to the shuttle service to confirm our booking. No worries. I keep rolling down the trail. It’s a really pretty trail today, but lots of river crossings and this river is feeling pretty frisky today, probably as a result of the rain the other night. Water mid hip at times and running pretty fast.

Eventually I check the garmin to see if I have a reply. “Nope, that was last night. Best I can do is 9am Monday”. Ugh. So we no longer have a ride. And this carpark is in the middle of freaking nowhere on a road that nobody drives down, so hitching is probably not going to happen and no cel service so finding an alternative hard.

What’s worse is last night at the hut there was a hunter up for the night who was parked at said carpark. We’d seen him off hours prior. Had we not been expecting the shuttle we could have left earlier and almost certainly gotten a ride with him.

Bleh.

So we get to the carpark. There’s one car. I’m 80% certain it’s our hunter. But always one to hedge a bet I pop off an email to the Geraldine info center asking if they have any ideas, and Alps2Ocean had told us about Mesopotamia Station having accomodations, so since that’s directly on the way out from the carpark we start walking to see what we can find at the station.

Well. Not a whole lot. There are a good number of buildings but nothing that even looks like a house. I know the station is just a farm so I’m not exactly looking for the lobby but even a car in a driveway would be something. I don’t have a contact for them so I can’t message them, so it’s hopefully walk up service. We don’t want to venture far from the road either in case our hunter comes past or really anyone else at all.

We give up on the station and hang out by the entrance to the car park. There’s a big v shaped snow plow blade that offers us shade and shelter from the extreme winds. After a bit a couple of farm vehicles go by, but we decide not to flag them down as they probably wouldn’t take us to town. Eventually, a car rolls up! Not our hunter, but we’ll try anyways. Boom, thumbs work. The guy is also a hunter coming back from a different place. His vehicle only has the 2 seats so the French guy, being skinny, hops on the center console and I squish in next to him. Not the most comfortable seating arrangement for either of us, plus I can’t get a seatbelt on like this so every time we round a corner on the gravel or crest a blind hill I’m gripping for dear life. Not that the guy drives bad or anything, I just know how squirrelly a car can get in gravel. I used to be a teenager in Iowa, remember!

Hour and a half later and we arrive in Geraldine. We even get rock star service right up to the holiday park in the center of town. Sweet as. And the holiday park is nice! Nicest one yet I’d say!

As we walk into town to get burgers at the local diner I’m reminded that I’ve been through this town before. I drove through last year on my trip from Greymouth back to Christchurch by car. I distinctly remember the little hotel downtown I wanted to stay in but they were full up. This is a great little town.

Now, sadly, it’s only been 4 days since my last zero day. Geraldine wasn’t even a planned overnight, but the shuttle idea was too good (and only failed because of a miscommunication, I hear Alps2Ocean is solid, usually), so it became one. On the forecast though we have a Tropical Cyclone Gita bearing down on us.

And the next section has 2 flavors: “water is scarce during dry season” and “The track follows beside and through this river and therefore should be attempted only when conditions allow safe passage”, which means it’ll be days before I’m able to traverse this section. A section that’s only 2.5 days long and actually quite the logistical nightmare to get into and out of, being nearly as remote as the section I just completed. So….. I’ve been contemplating skipping it for the past several days anyways, now I have an excuse.

Tomorrow I’ll wander down to the i-Site and see if I can figure out a way to get to Methven where my spare shoes socks and underwear are. And then I’ll try to go there. Once I’m there I’ll probably take a day off or 2 to wait out the storm, send off a resupply box to Arthur’s Pass, resupply to get me there and head out from there.

Meanwhile, Geraldine is a lovely little town!

Day 28: Royal Hut to Crooked Spur Hut

10% chance of rain. That’s what the garmin said about today. Early early this morning (or maybe late last night? Dunno) there was a sudden very large gust of wind that sounded like it was going to blow the roof off of the hut, and then the rain started. A couple of people had stuff outside, including a camouflage colored Trash Bag tent which had blown away but they found it, so there was a bit of mad dash to get everything inside. The rain kept up all through the morning, and so did the wind. It was hard at times to know if what I was hearing was wind or thunder, and I was a bit worried about being in a tin shed in the middle of an empty tussock field in a lightning storm. Fortunately it either wasn’t thunder or at least we didn’t have any nearby strikes.

Someone’s alarm went off early. They shut it off and went back to sleep. Nobody wanted to go out into the rain. Eventually we all started trickling out the door, I left around 9am and it was lightly sprinkling.

After almost exactly 2 hours (the same as the trail notes suggested) I arrived at Stone Hut. A guy was in there waiting for the rain, he wanted to cross the saddle on a clear day so he wasn’t in any hurry. He said he’d probably take off and head up to Royal Hut if the weather cleared up more but was otherwise content to just hang out in the hut all day. I told him I was envious as I walked back out into the rain.

At some point the rain stopped and the sun came out, which was a pleasant change.

After a bunch of river crossings and some meandering along, I finally got near the top of the day’s climb, up to “an unnamed saddle”. There was a pretty amazing view of what seemed like an entire valley of scree. Super glad that wasn’t my destination.

It was cool to look at, but I wouldn’t want to climb it. Instead I climbed a different scree slope.

It wasn’t too bad. Scree is annoying to walk up because like walking in sand you lose a lot of your distance with every step, and then of course the wind was getting pretty serious the farther up I went.

I made it to the top snapped a photo and headed down. After rounding a corner I was greeted with a view of the Rangitata River. The first of the 2 big rivers that cross the trail that aren’t officially part of it due to how dangerous they can be.

It looks really close! I had to tell myself that it’s something like 5-7km wide though. It looks close because it’s just huge. A while later I arrived at the hut and got settled for the evening, which has turned out pretty nice!

Most folks I’d talked to said the Rangitata was fordable and had done it. Most had said that the next one, the Rakaia, was not, that they had heard of someone who did it but was basically swimming across at points. I won’t be fording either. One of the southbounders I talked to at the hut last night said to contact Alps2Ocean, that they had reasonable prices and excellent service. I dropped them an email and they’ll be picking me and a French guy who was walking this section about 6pm, so since tomorrow is a pretty short day time wise we’ll get to sleep in a bit before heading down to our ride. I’ll be spending tomorrow night in Geraldine. An unplanned town stop but I hope to make it back to the trail early the next day to get started on the next section. This section is already a full day longer than I originally planned, and I’d rather not have to spend the next day just getting back out to the trail. We’ll see though!

Day 27: Camp Stream Hut to Royal Hut

Today is the day. The day I hit the highest point on the trail, Stag Saddle. Several southbounders have told me about “the ridge” and to take it. So I did. It was pretty great. The climb was long and occasionally a little steep, but the trail was nice and easy to follow. And the views just kept getting better and better.

Finally I reached the saddle and took the obligatory selfie.

And a shot of what I’d just climbed up.

The wind on the climb was fierce. It was mostly a crosswind but was continually pushing me to the side so the going was slow and rather irritating. I didn’t stop much other than to catch my breath.

The descent took a lot longer than I was expecting. So many times I lost the trail, which is definitely my MO in tussock sections but also frustrating when compounded by sparse trail markers. I did finally make it, and rather than push on to Stone Hut as was my original plan, I decided to call it a day. It wasn’t an early day though. I got into camp at about 3pm, when I was expecting not much later than 1. Oh well. The hut is nice and a shorter day is always welcome.

I think I have figured out what I want to do for getting around the upcoming river. There’s a shuttle that runs from the trailhead to Geraldine and some folks at the hut spoke very highly of it. I’m going to try to get an email to them in the morning to see about a reservation. If all else fails I’ll try to hitch out from the carpark at the trailhead but I’m not super optimistic about that. The trail notes say there’s a toilet but no camping allowed. I wonder who would complain though and maybe they’d be willing to give me a ride somewhere? We’ll see.

Day 26: Lake Tekapo to Camp Stream Hut

When I woke up this morning my tent was full of condensation. Annoying. Not unusual for a single wall tent but it meant that I was going to sleep in a bit and wait for the sun to come out and dry the tent before packing it up. I gave up waiting. This meant I got a fairly late start as I didn’t get up at first light but much later. No big though. The trail notes for today say 11 hours and no way am I walking for that long at any rate so I’ll just camp earlier or something.

A mobile espresso rig has set up in the campground and I go partake. Yum. I still need breakfast though. After I finish packing I roll into town and stop at four square to grab a soda and a fruity yogurt. I hang out and eat it while reading the local paper and putting a bit more juice into my phone and battery. Oh, I didn’t finish yesterday’s entry, but, my kindle. It’s dead. I tossed it in the bin. Super sad. Which is why I’m reading the paper.

Walking through town I watch the guy selling nuts and used books getting set up so I take another look through his collection. A few things catch my eye but I settle on Genghis Khan by John Man. I have fond memories of the Hardcore History piece on Khan, and it seems like a fairly dense (from a words per gram perspective) book, so $2 poorer and a book richer.

I figure if nothing else it’ll be cheap toilet paper. Badum-ching.

Anywho I keep walking. Past some tourist stuff, I drop the rest of my small change into a donation jar (gotta save grams) and keep walking. And walking.

And walking.

I’m on a long gravel road to where the trail leaves the road. Eventually I come across some workers who are using a big plow to grade the road. Awesome! They leave a nice smooth spot for me and my feet thank them.

Eventually I get to the point of no return, or at least the point of “no water past here”. I walk down to the lake to fill up for the section ahead and there are a couple of folks kayaking in the lake. I chat with them a bit while filtering my water, feeling slightly bad that I crashed their party, but really, water. I need it.

The next section is super super super boring. The only interesting part was that it was EXTREMELY windy. Like far windier than the strong headwind bike day. It’s coming across me and so my backpack is like a sail and I keep getting shoved out of the track. To give you an idea of how windy, here’s my hat.

After what feels like forever I make the turn to go north along the mountains. Directly into the wind. Slow going but I wasn’t in a hurry. I wasn’t planning to make it to Camp Stream Hut anyways.

There were some really neat effects because of this. Dust was being kicked up and hazing the sky. Localized rain over the lake being blasted by the wind. Pretty.

My destination was the Coal River. I knew I would have water there and if I could camp there, let’s do it. Well, I got there. Then realized the hut was probably an hour farther. So I went for it. The difference this time is I went expecting to not have a bed. I arrived. Surprisingly, there’s a bed, despite the tents outside. Some people just don’t want to pay the $10 to sleep in a bed I guess. My gain.

Chatted with some French southbounders and a section hiker heading north, ate some dinner, and now heading to bed with Khan, just like old days.

Tomorrow is probably going to be a sleep in, short day. But I haven’t looked. I honestly don’t really care. In my trail notes this is day 31, so I’m 5 days ahead of trail time with only 2 unplanned zero days so far. I have plenty of food and will likely be hitching out to get around the coming river (it’s supposed to rain) so there will be an opportunity for at least a snack fill to add some extra food if I need. Feeling pretty good. Tired, especially after 3 days off my feet followed by a long day, but feeling pretty accomplished and content.

Day 25: Twizel to Lake Tekapo

Today was going to be a boring day no matter what. The canal I’d be riding along, while really pretty, is just a canal. You need about 5 minutes to take it all in and you’re set.

Before I got to the canal though there were some good times. Someone stopped me along the trail and asked if I had an Allen key. I’d asked for the repair kit for the bike I was riding in case I got a flat and I thought maybe it would. Sure enough it did. So achievement unlocked: trailside bike mechanic in another country.

Then I got to the shore of Lake Pukaki. This is the lake Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand sits on. It’s also very very blue. Very blue.

I got some lunch from the visitor center and refilled my bottles and rolled onward toward the canal.

That’s when the fun stopped. Headwinds. The entire time. All the way along the canal. I finally rolled into Lake Tekapo and was so exhausted I could barely speak. At the information center they said unless I had a tent there was no vacancy anywhere in town. So the holiday park was my only option. And it was outside of town a bit. Fortunately the guy who was picking up the bike and dropping off my bag agreed to take me out to the holiday park. It turned it to be not so far, but in my condition any amount of distance was not welcome.

I then texted a friend and was basically quitting. Huts have been more full. Towns have been harder and harder to find accommodation. Logistics of food and even navigation around major obstacles (the 2 big rivers in the next stretch) are getting more complicated. My pack is mildewy after the rain the other day. I can’t even zero day in an actual bed, I’m just in my tent. Bleh.

She talked me down, and now that I’m set up at the holiday park it’s not so bad. My campsite is about 200 feet from the lake, the ground under my tent isn’t just gravel and cigarette butts, I’m feeling better about my predicament. Tomorrow is going to be a rest day, and quite possibly the next day, just for grins. I have some resupply to do but really I have so much food leftover that even after getting rid of some of it I’ll have most of what I need for the next section. I still haven’t quite figured out food but at least I’m carrying food I eat and I feel like I’m generally eating enough, so that’s fine.

Tomorrow I clean my mildewy pack and find the leak in my sleeping pad and go for a swim in the lake. Tonight I sleep.

Oh, and one of the biggest issues is that my kindle died. Seriously this is a huge blow. I often joke that my kindle is the most important thing in my pack but it’s not far from the truth. I guess I’ll have to find a dead tree to read somewhere.

A rest day will be really nice though!

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.