Distance travelled today: 32 km
Total TA distance covered: 2146 km
A big entry today.
I think the mental game is starting to play out now. With less than 900km to go the end is in sight yet still so far away. My body is getting tired. Having walked over 2000 km lots of little niggles are starting to surface including an old knee problem and sore feet again, I think from my second pair of shoes starting to go and the inner soles loosing their support. In addition, I don’t think I’m taking in enough calories. I feel like my body is wasting away and summoning energy all day today was a struggle. I’m eating all the time. Lots of snacks every hour or so and drinking lots of water – its on tap here with all the stream crossings. For the first time, today I had real cravings about getting to town and needing a massive pig out. I have a food package to collect in Arthurs Pass but will need to buy more food and possibly olive oil to add to food to get more calories in. But I promised some blog follows that this won’t be a blog about food cravings and I’ll leave it at that.
Still, I wont be beaten and will make it to the end. I had a lucid dream the other night. In my dream I woke up at home realising I had not completed the TA and was horrified, a huge wave of disappointment washing over me. I know that barring injury I will make it but how? Like anything big, my plan has been to chunk it up. Bluff is still a long way off and not even worth thinking about at the moment other than somewhere right at the back of the brain. So I’m focus on the next three sections at the moment, making it to Arthurs Pass, to Lake Coleridge and then to Tekapo. And in focusing on each section I narrow it down to days, reminding myself, ok 2 more days to Arthurs Pass, food, shower and a bed ( in that priority). And I break up each day as well. Try and get on the trail by 7:30am, walk two hours (7 to 8km), snack/rest, walk another 2 hours (another 7 or 8 km), snack/ rest, walk to 12:30 or 13:00, have a half hour lunch break, keep walking for the rest of the day until 16:30 to 18:00, resting every hour for 5 to 15 mins depending on how I’m feeling. Depending on the terrain this is the recipe for walking 25 km each day or more. With a 100 km reached approximately every 4 to 5 days, the end is not so far away. That gives me around 35 days to finish with a few rest days added in, shorter if I keep my current rate of over 30 km a day.
The joy of being out in the outdoors has not worn off yet either and I’m loving this lifestyle but getting to the back end of this journey I need to finsh what I started, stick to my goals and get to the end. Some days just feel like work, especially when there are no views or major features to see for the day. Today was such a day.
The aim for today was walking as far as possible and getting to the start of the Deception Valley to set myself up with a full day to complete this tricky section and in to Arthurs Pass the following day. It is meant to take 8-9 hours up the Deception Valley.
For the first four kilometres today, the trail lead along the edge of the Hurunui River, passing between open grassed flats and climbing into beech forest as the river would turn with the river edges presenting steep rocky sections too difficult to scramble around. Within an hour I reached the Harper Pass Bivvy but almost missed it given its small size hidden in the scrub. It was only that I heard two German guys talking that I sighted it. Here I met Peace-e and Carl both doing just the south island SOBO who I’ve been following through the hut books for a few weeks.
After a short snack I left Peace-e and Carl at the biv and continued on. Apparently the trail crosses the other side of the river opposite the biv but I missed any indication of this and continued upriver, eventually loosing the trail and scrambling around on the side of steep slopes in thick scrub for 15 minutes. Recognising I was off track I back tracked a little but couldn’t find any trail markers indicating the direction. But there was only one direction I really needed to know, follow the river. So continuing with the wet shoe theme, I plunged into the river and continued to follow it up stream. I knew that at some point there would be some indication of the direction to travel on the banks and so there was. About 5 minutes walking up the river I spied a directional arrow and a food pad on the bank.
This lead up on a rough track that gradually improved on the way up. Soon enough I was on Harper Pass with the guys there to greet me, calling me the magic man as I left the Bivvy before them but now following in their foot steps.
From Harper Pass the track was initially really good and easy to follow but declined as the trail slowly descended towards the valley floor following the Taramakau River. Climbing steeply down through gullies of scree and rough ground the trail eventually lead to the edge of the river and a swing bridge to the true left bank, continuing for several kilometres through the narrow valley through more of the same beech forest to Locke Stream Hut. By this stage I was starting to crave a little bit of variety in the forest as it has been same same for so long now. The forest didn’t dissapoint.
A short distance from Locke Stream Hut the valley started to open up into wide gravel beds along the main river with multiple braids of fast running, shallow water winding through the masses of rock. Grassy paddocks of either side of the river. The walking was fast on these flat, grassy sections with an obvious foot pad and directional indicators to follow for most of the way. Many map products dont even show a trail through here, simply showing the wide river bed by itself or the official topo maps just showing an indicative route along the gravel beds. There were a multitude of smaller creek crossings to get over. And gravel. Lots of gravel and rock walking toda, hard on the feet but easy to find your way. Basically follow the river down stream.
Through the grassy sections, directional markets were plentiful and the foot pad easy to follow. On the gravel beds though it was find your own way. If you look hard you can see a faint path by looking at the slight colour variation on the ground where stones have been turned and trampled flat by hundreds of feet; and can follow the odd rock cairn left by previous walkers.
There were quite a few crossings of the main river required as well as the trail passed from one grassy area before hitting a rocky feature on river bends and having to cross to easier ground on the opposite bank.
I hit Kiwi Hut in the early afternoon and had some lunch. Continuing on I followed the marked route, passing two private huts and crossing the river again before loosing sight of any indicators for a good couple of hours. It wasn’t a problem though as I’m use to following my nose to find a line through all sorts or terrain and it was easy, although wearing thing, following the gravel bars for the next 4 kms.
Finally towards the end of the valley I hit an old 4wd track and was able to get a quick 3 kilometres in. From here there was meant to be a track junction for a track that sidled along the Otira river, a flood track they call it. It was only 4.5 to the Morrison Footbridge and meant to take just over an hour but I’d hear through the TA grapevine that it was rough as guts, steep up and downs immediately adjacent to the river and lots of wind fall that requires tricky scrambling. Well to start with, I lost the track again and didn’t see any track junction or signage but found my way onto the right track with some careful navigation. Once on it, I thought I’d give it a go. So I did but not for long, maybe a kilometre. It was exactly as I heard it described and in a state of disrepair. At my current walking speed it would have taken 3 hours to complete 4.5 km and it was close to 5:30pm already. An easy decision was made. I bailed on the track, cut across the multiple braids of the Otira River, thigh deep, and headed to the highway to walk the last couple of kilometres parallel to the TA. I found the footbrigde in less than an hour and continued a further kilometre, setting up camp on the first cleared patch of land I found at the start of the Deception Valley. Big day. Few photos sorry. My electronics are starting to fail and hard to keep charged with big stretches between towns.