Day 117: (Te Anau) Princhester Road to Aparima Hut

Distance travelled today: 22 km
Total TA distance covered: 2804 km

It took 1.5 hours to get a hitch out of town! Incredible. Longest time yet. Typically I’ve never had to wait for more than 10 minutes. I hit the streets around 7:30am with my thumb out. Soon after Nadine & Philippe walked past, telling me there was a junction further up that collects more traffic and was an easier spot to hitch from. They continued and I tried my luck until 8am, at which point, with no ride, I walked to the junction. Both were still there trying to get a ride. Rather than jump the line I sat off in the shade of a tree until they had a ride and then I’d go next. But that didn’t happen.

We waited, and waited and waited. Lots of cars. 90% with sufficient room. 100% not interesting to carting trampers around. To be fair most were tourists and quite simply probably too caught up in getting out of Dodge and onto their next venue.

After an hour, still no ride for the Swiss couple. Then along come another group of 4 trampers, then another 2 and then 2 individual trampers in quick succession. All heading for the same place. All trying to hitch near abouts from the same spot. Everyone is on the run towards the end.

We spread ourselves out along the road a bit. After about 1.5 hrs an Irish guy finally pulls up for Nadine & Philipe. They know I’ve been patiently waiting and ask the guy if he had room for one more. He does. They call over to me and I jump in. I have a ride out of town. Awesome.

It was a solid day and much tougher than I expected both physically and mentally. For the past week or so most of the tramping had been in relatively flat valleys with the odd hill. As we took to the Takitimu Forest it was back into thick Beech Forest, sidle tracks and crazy tussock.

Our ride got us to the junction of Princhester Road and Hwy 94 at around 10:30am. A late start but at least we got there. The others hitching out of town would arrive much later.

The first 6 km of the day were on a farm track and quick. Not particularly inspiring but it was great to get started knowing this was the beginning of the final leg of this massive journey. Nadine and Philippe are quicker walkers and Intoldvthem to go ahead. My last resupply loaded up, the pack was heavy but I wasn’t complaining. I had views to the forest ahead that we would have to tackle and was kept entertained for a bit by the incredible flying skills of a chopper spraying some paddocks a way off.

I had a quick stop at Lower Princehester Hut just catching Nadine and Philippe as they headed off into the forest to start the Takitimu’s. I followed shortly after.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this forest. I found it hard and challenging. It was great to be back in the forest but the track quickly became rooty and climbed for around 3 kilometres. Sections were sidled and the vegetation thick, covering the edge of the track and several hidden holes and slippery mud sections. My feet found several of those slippery spots and I had one hard fall, sliding off the track, my legs and hands hitting the deck to scrap against the ground and add to the collection of bruises, scrapes and cuts.

There was a short section with a steep ascent as well. It was only short but I was struggling. I think my mind had switched gears and was looking towards the end of Te Araroa. For some reason I thought the final days would be easy given some of the crazy terrain already travelled and the fitness that I’d developed over the last 4 months. Boy was I in for a surprise.

The trail soon climbed to a saddle where I found Nadine and Philippe enjoying lunch. It was a bit early for me so I pressed on for another half hour, finding a nice lunch stop on the descent from the saddle.

Leaving the bulk of the forest behind the next section ran through a series of open tussock patches, diving in and out of the forest and back into long open stretches of some of the hardest tussock I’ve encountered so far on this trip. Don’t think I’ve stumbled, fallen and tripped as much on any section of Te Araroa as much as the tussock sections of this leg towards Aparima Hut.

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Thrown in for good measure there were numerous bog, peat and moss sections. All soaking wet and difficult to negotiate. One particular section was several hundred metres of pure sponge, the ground moving 5cm or so with each step.

I caught up to Mary-Kate and James in one section of tussock as they were talking to a couple of north bounders and we spent the afternoon leap frogging each

At around 4:30pm I was done for the day. Only 22 km travelled but I wasn’t going any further. Judging from what I’d just walked through I didn’t like the chances of finding a suitable camp site beyond Aparima Hut, as the ground would either be wet, tussocky or a jungle under the beech. I was not going to try to push on for another 12 km to the next hut either. Completely covered in mud up to my the knees I badly needed a good scrub down. That was me done for the day. Mary-Kate and James were at the hut and decided to press on. At around 5pm Nadine and Philippe arrived at the hut and pressed on as well. That was all good. While we all carry tents, its nice to sleep in a hut and Aparima Hut could bunk 8 people. There still plenty more trampers to come through today. Theres an older memorial hut at Aparima that can sleep 3 as well but its a bit more run down.

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While I had the place to myself I had a wash and spread my gear out to dry in the sun.

At around 6pm the first of a big crew of trampers started coming through. First to arrive was Rune from Denmark. We had instant rapport. On introducing himself as Rune I was super excited. “You’re Rune!. Great to finally catch up and meet up. I’ve been following you guys through the hut books for weeks.”. I had been literally been following a group of trampers for weeks through the hut books, only ever a few days ahead but I could never catch them. Where ever they were, hut book comments suggested fun shared the trail with them. To me, they were the party crew. I knew that they had been travelling with POD and Disco plus Solenne and Antoine for sections as well and they would all possibly arrive at Aparima tonight. I haven’t seen POD and Disco since parting company at Ships Cove, a whole island ago. It was exciting to know that I was likely to be finishing Te Araroa with trampers I knew and had met early in the game with the addition of an awesome new bunch of friends.

One by one they arrived. Mat and Bella from the UK; Tom from the US; POD and Disco; and Celistino from Germany in tow. Nice. We spent the evening catching up, sharing tales and enjoying the company.

Right around 9pm, just as there was no more sun light, Solenne & Antoine arrived as well. Having to wait 2.5 hours for a hitch out of town they had a late start and walked the whole distance with no breaks to make the hut before all light faded. A super effort indeed and a reunion of sorts for the crew of 8 plus Celistino and myself, coming together for the final stretches towards Bluff.

Day 116: Mararoa River Swing-bridge No3 to Princhester Road (Te Anau)

Distance travelled today: 31km, plus 31km hitch to Te Anau
Total TA distance covered: 2782 km

Crazy eyes.

No photos today sorry. I woke up with conjunctivas in my left eye and was pre-occupied all day until I could reach Te Anau. I normally wear contact lenses that stay in for a week at a time before being taken out and cleaned. Unfortunately it is difficult to have continually clean hands on the trail and at some point I’ve rubbed my eye with grimy hands and introduced some bacteria. It was annoying and I had to get the lens out to prevent further infection but didn’t have a mirror to assist. Once the lense was out I had to continually flush my eye with saline solution all morning. And once the lens was out it wasn’t going back in until I had the issue cleared up so was essentially blind in one eye for most of the day. I didn’t want to try and get the right eye lense out, without a mirror and without properly clean hands. All day on the trail your hands are exposed to dirt, oily sunscreen, food, sweet and grime; even when they are kept clean with regular washing and antibacterial liquid.

The sunlight was harsh too and my eyeball blood shot so I had to wear sunnies all day. I wasn’t going to hitch showing the driver my crazy red eye.

Packing up camp as quick as I could in the dark, I was ready to get going on first light. I could have stuck to the trail on the west side of the river and ford it lower down the trail or cross it on the swing bridge and follow along the eastern bank through lightly marked trail. I opted to cross the bridge and follow the river through tussocks straight off the bat rather than get down towards Kiwi Burn Hut and find the river too deep to cross.

There was’t much of a trail along this section at all. It was lightly poled and there was a faint foot pad but for much of the way it was find your own route through. Most trampers are choosing to head straight out to the road and follow this down instead of following a barely there trail. I persisted for a couple of hours and got around 10km along but soon got sick of yet more difficult tussock walking and cut up towards the road where the trail is closest, at around TA kilometre 2763.

From there it was a charge down the road towards SH94 for around 16 km. My eye was really annoying me and I needed to get to town quick to get it checked out. Preoccupied I didn’t pay much attention to anything around me and pressed on down the road, reaching it around 2:30pm.

With a thumb out I soon had a ride into town with a local farmer. I didn’t want to scare the old bugger with my now super red blood shot eye and kept my sunnies on the whole ride in. He was fine and we chatted the whole way in.

Once in town I tracked down the medical centre but it was closed being a Saturday afternoon and I didn’t want to bother with an out of hours call for the quack. I knew what my eye had and how it needed to be treated so kept walking the street, found a chemist and explained my situation. I soon had suitable antibacterial drops and got them in. It didn’t take long for the symptoms to desist and my comfort level return to normal.

I then had a lazy afternoon, checking into the YHA, having a coffee and resupplying for the final time. Finding a nice cafe for coffee I met up with two Israeli brothers who had just finished Te Araroa and had headed back to Te Anau to walk the Kepler track. I shared a good hour over coffee and cake with these guys pumping them for information on the final sections I was yet to do. They were great. Even after walking 3000 km they werent done with tramping? I was impressed.

The Te Anau YHA has to be one of the cleanest, friendliest YHA’s around and they accept the Low Carbon Traveller discount for Te Araroa walkers even though the hostel us 30 km off trail. They know most TA trampers come in off the trail for their final resupply and are happy to support them.

Day 115: Taipo Hut to Mararoa River Swing-bridge No.3

Distance travelled today: 41 km
Total TA distance covered: 2751 km

Cruising miles, wearing smiles.

For me today was all about pushing the kilometres. I essentially have two days to walk close to 70 km and get out to State Highway 94 to be able to hitch into Te Anau for my last resupply of this trip. Do the maths and its easy to see that two days of 35 km are very feasible. My main issue with this strategy however was pushing 35 km on day two would get me out to the road late in the day and I wanted to leave plenty of time for a hitch to town. I was keen to reach the road on day two at around 2:30-3pm, so I resolved to push as much distance as I could today. I was fully expecting to do a 12 hour day today but as it turned out I got 41 km kilometres in, in around 9.5 hours. That was enough and my feet were sore.

We were all keen to get an early start today and were up getting ready in the dark. Nadine and Philippe left right on first light just after 7am and I followed shortly after. There was just enough day light to make out the orange trail markers in amongst tussocks.

Walking at first light is always great. So nice watching the early morning sun rise over the hills and spill sunlight into the valleys. Colours are always so vibrant during this time. The wind was down, the air settled and noise travelled easily across the land. I love hearing the waking calls of birds carry through the air and the crunch of my foot steps on gravel underfoot.

From the hut, the Mavora Walkway followed through smaller tussocks which was great, moving over rolling hills all morning towards Boundary Hut. There were a few small gullies to get down to and climb back up but for the most part the walking was straight forward and easy.

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Nadine & Philippe leading the way

Approaching Boundary Hut, the hut itself could be seen from quite a way off but the trail seemed to move away from it. It actually follows around to a swing-bridge over the Mararoa River. I got a bit impatient with this, picking a more direct line straight across to the hut. On sight it looked easier but required me to push through head high tussocks and ford the river. The river was deceptive. With such clear water it was difficult to gauge the depth. It looked ok and was as I started to push through, though I soon found myself in hip deep water and a saturated lower half. Bugger. Never mind. I would dry enough with a little sun and wind. I briefly stopped at the hut to sign into the intentions book and moved in, meeting Nadine and Philippe as they crossed the swing bridge. I’d overtaken them earlier on the track as we played leap frog for a while.

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From Boundary Hut the trail shifted onto an old 4wd track all the way to Mavora Lake and beyond. It was fast walking but boring. I got my ipod cranking, rocking some of my favourite tunes to get the pace up and push some miles.

There were some great views down towards the Mavora Lake and the braids of the Mararoa River as it feeds into the lake.

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Pressing on, I reached Careys Hut on the banks of the lake for some morning tea, close to 18 kilometres completed for the day. Reading through the hut log it looks like POD, Disco, Solenne & Antoine stayed here last night and are a half day ahead. It would be great to catch these guys and travel to the end at Bluff with them. Heres hoping.

The 4wd track continued right through to the Mavora Camping area, popular with car campers. I was surprised by the amount of water and deep pools on the 4wd track itself. With wet feet already I didnt have to worry about trying to skirt them and plowed straight through.

7 km of 4wd track from Careys Hut I reached a nice area of beech trees on the bank of the lake and stopped for some lunch. But it was a quick one with sandflies harassing the hell out of me. I still had quite a way to walk today anyway so a short lunch wasnt too bad.

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Only a few kilometres on and the trail passed through the camping area. A big sprawling area of grass and patches of beech trees. There were quite a few RV’s and car campers set up. Following the southern bank of the northern lake it was over a swing bridge and on towards South Mavora Lake.

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For the rest of the day I pushed on another 14 kilometres of trail through beech forest following the western bank of South Mavora Lake to swing-bridge number 3. It was close to 4:30 – 5pm, I cant quite remember, but I was beat. Doing the maths, I’d travelled 41 km and was satisfied with a good days work. That would leave me around 29 kilometres to get in tomorrow to get to the main road by the early afternoon and hitch into Te Anau, easily achievable. I surprised myself with the mileage and time, thinking I would easily be putting in a 12 hour today but it wasn’t to be.

Just near the swing bridge was a nice informal camp site, sheltered in amongst the beech trees and overlooking the river. A DOC toilet was located on the other side of the swing-bridge and plenty of water available from the river, although it does run through farm land and I filtered it to be on the safe side. A nice camp site.

Day 114: Queenstown to Taipo Hut

Distance travelled today: 24km
Total TA distance covered: 2710 km

Nice tracks

Ok, its been a while since my last blog update in Queenstown. It has now been close to two weeks since an update. In that time I have completed the trail but you’ll have to read about in a post later. For now let me bring you up to date. A lot has happened in past days and some posts may be light on for detail.

A shuttle ride from Queenstown and around the lake saw me to Glenorchy but I would have to wait some time to get to the start of the Greenstone Track. Most of the shuttle passengers were off to the Routeburn track and a couple of others to the Rees Track. I had to wait in Glenorchy until after 10am for the smaller shuttle to come back from the Rees so it could then take me to the start of Te Araroa on the western side of the lake and to the Greenstone Track. Time for a second breakfast and coffee.

Jumping into the smaller shuttle it was a pleasant drive around through Kinloch, chatting the whole way with the driver. I didn’t get to the start of the Greenstone Track until 11:30am so it was a late start to walking. I knew the Greenstone Track, being a popular circuit track with the Cables, would be well formed and the walking fast but I didn’t know how far I would get today. I got moving.

As expected the trail was really high quality, perfectly formed, wide and gravelled. Almost a great walk standard. The trail followed the Greenstone River with amazing views right through. Nice beech forest, crystal clear waters in the river and several nice side streams.

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I had a little friend that kept me entertained during my lunch break, dancing around me feet and hunting out insects in the leaf litter.

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Just before Greenstone Hut the trail crosses a swing bridge over the river with nice views down a gorgy section.

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I reached the Greenstone Hut in the early afternoon after a quick 12 kilometres on the nice track and decided I had plenty of time to keep pushing onto Taipo Hut, another 10 kilometres on.

Leaving Greenstone Hut I had to say good bye to the perfectly formed track as the trail transitioned back to a typical tramping standard as I commenced the Mavora Walkway. From the hut the walkway was initially through beech forest, back into some sidles and roots for a time before coming into more open country and having to cross Pass Burn. I saw some footage of this river after rain last year from Loic Jaffro and it was impassable. For me it was fine. Great to have a dry feet day so far and able to criss jumping from rock to rock.

From the river crossing, there were a few more kilometres of beech forest before the trail pushed back into tussock country, following rolling hills. And typical of tussock country there were a few slips and trips along the way. Nearing Taipo Hut I had to negotiate a really swampy section and inevitably my feet found a hidden soak and were instantly drench. From that point on I didn’t bother trying to skirt around wet areas and just charged through. Actually I dont think it would have been possible to keep feet dry this day.

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On reaching Taipo Hut it was late in the day. There was plenty of wind about and just enough sun left in the day to warrant leaving my shoes and socks outside in a attempt to get them dry again. I had the run of the place to myself at first and got on with chores like collecting and filtering my water. Apparently there was a dead possum in the water tank a few days ago so all water was collected from the Mararoa River next to the hut. It looked clear and fresh enough but I was back in farmland with cattle about the place and filtered it for good measure. The hut site is actually fenced off to keep the cattle out. A old turnstile provides access into the yard and keeps cattle out as well.

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Later in the evening Mary-Kate and James from the US showed up. I met these guys in Lake Coleridge on the shuttle ride around the Rakaia River but they were headed to Methven and I haven’t seen them since. These guys are old hats at long trails having completed many in the US and they have their ultralight kits perfected. Much later in the evening, close to dark but not quite Nadine and Philippe from Switzerland joined us as well. I saw these guys on the road past Kinloch during the shuttle ride around so they have had a massive day to make it to Taipo Hut. With introductions out the way we all went about cooking dinner over small talk before hitting the sack – tomorrow was going to be a big day.

Taipo Hut is stated to be an 8 person bunk but it was more like a 4 person bunk with double mattresses instead of the typical single ones in DOC huts. You’d want to be close friends to share these mattresses and squeeze 8 people in.

Day 113: Queenstown Zero

Distance travelled today: 0 km

It’s official

I’m aiming to finish at Bluff on the 13th or 14th. Jacinta is headed over for the Victorian Labour Day weekend and I’m pressing to make it to the end before she flys back home. That will mean some fairly big days of walking to get there in time but that is fine and I’m up for the challenge.

I’m ready to complete Te Araroa now and move onto to another project. I think I’ve seen the best of what Te Araroa offers and am just keen to see this journey through to the end.

To keep me honest and press the deadline I’ve booked a return flight home.

I paid a visit to the barber this morning. My 4 month old beard was absolutely out of control and needed a bit of loving.

Other than that, today I got resupplied for the next few days; booked accommodation ahead for Te Anau and my return to Queenstown before flying home; and emailed work to confirm my return date and  to start sorting some restructure stuff out.

It certainly feels like the wind up to this journey now. I’m looking forward to finishing and completing the goal I set out to achieve.

Who's a pretty boy

Who’s a pretty boy

Day 112: Arrowtown to Queenstown

Distance travelled today: 28 km

Total TA distance covered: 2686 km

Back to the big smoke.

An easy, pleasant days walking. Checking out and heading downthe street for breakfast I again ran into Carl. It seems we have the same need for caffine in the morning. He is looking to take 5 days or so off so this is likely the last chance we meet. Wishing eachother well on our journeys I was off towards Queenstown.

The morning flew by walking on gravelled cycleways just about the whole way into the big smoke. There isn’t a lot to say really. Queenstown is probably the biggest town I’ve encountered since my short off-trail break in Nelson. The towns have been building travelling south and increasing with tourists, wicked vans and campervans at each. First Arthurs Pass, Tekapo, Wanaka and now Queenstown. I can’t say I like the craziness of these places. Everytime I arrive in places like this I cringe and just want to get back on the trail. But I’m due a rest day, to get some recovery in my feet and reaupply before tackling the final leg of this amazing journey.

From Arrowtown the trail brought me around the edge of Lake Hayes before truely entering suburbia, skirting through a new housing estate on the east side of the Shotover River. With all the new development going on I lost the trail at one point and just followed my nose through all the new houses being built, eventually getting back onto the cycleway on the edge of imagethe Shotover.

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For the rest of the day it was easy, following numerous signs and walking on the Queenstown Trail, a cycle/walking trail all the way into town.

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Wandering aimlessly around town I ran into Solenne and Antoine whom I haven’t seen since Whanganui. Awesome! We met later in the afternoon to catch up over a beer. It was great to see familiar faces in a place like Queenstown and even better to share their company, stories and a drink. There is a good chance I’ll see these guys again on the trail and a chance of finishing close together.

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Day 111: Roses Hut to Arrowtown

Distance travelled today: 22 km
Total TA distance covered: 2658 km

Bye bye summer.

A chilly wind saw the day in. Gone are the hot northerlies, now the wind blows in from the south with a taste of autumn in the air. The last day of summer today. For months now I’ve worn nothing but shorts and t-shirt and perhaps an extra layer at night. This morning long pants, jacket, gloves and beanie were need to keep the chill off as I make yet another ascent up yet another long spur to Roses Saddle. It took just under an hour to reach the saddle from the valley floor. Looking back I could see the hut far below and crisp air views back down the Motatapu Valley.

This mornings climb and Roses hut below

This mornings climb and Roses hut below

 

 

I was continuing on the Motatapu Track today down towards Macetown today and beyond to Arrowtown. From Rose’ Saddle the descent down to the Arrow River was nice. A well defined track to follow and fast along the ridge.

On reaching the river I had a choice. The trail notes say that it is faster to walk in the river bed itself to Macetown or to follow the high route if the river is flooded. The river was running low and clear but it was way to cold to be charging through a river for four kilometres. As it was I still had multiple top layers on and gloves to keep my hands warm. I judged that walking through cold water for a few hours was bound to have my feet numb. I opted for the high route but found it to be a really shitty track. If I haven’t walked enough sidle tracks that are poorly construction and hell on the ankles, I now had one more to get through. It was horrible and painful on my feet. At one point I thought the river might just well be a better option but I was now up high above the river and there was no route back down. With no choice I continued to stumble my way along the high route, pulling out the gopro and having a rant. Someone has been through to mark and construct a track. I just wish a little bit extra went into actually benching a track out properly. Do it once and do it right I reckon. My feet can’t take too much more of this but the end is so close and I need to finish. I pushed, telling myself only a few more weeks. From what I’m told the worst is out the way and I can look forward to easier walking from Arrowtown.

Typical outsloped sidle track - ouch

Typical outsloped sidle track – ouch

Reaching Macetown was a relief. It wasn’t quite noon and I pressed on for a while longer before lunch. Straight into Macetown I had to ford the Arrow River and as suspected the water was freezing. Soothing for a few minutes on my ankles but very cold. Picking up a 4wd track I picked my way through the now abandoned, historic gold mining settlement. Quite a few relics were still scattered about the place, including lots of hand stacked walls and the remnants of buildings. A few restoration projects are underway as well. I passed the old bake house and had a good look around. The 4wd track continued through the settlement with quite a few river crossings. Towards the end of town my feet were numb from the cold water. I scouted for a sunny spot for lunch as I made my way up Big Hill.

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Enroute I saw a falcon sweep down and land a tree right next to me, checking me out. I was able to get fairly close and take a couple of quick pics. It soon flew off. These are the magic moments for which I walk. Walking solo there are also so many encounters like this that you do not get with a group walking and chatting. As I watched it take to sky it started to screech. Soon a couple of others joined in the chorus and I watched them fight or play in the air, I’m not sure what they were up to but it made for a great sight.

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Part way up Big Hill I stopped to dry my feet and have a feed for the final ascent of the day. The path up the the Big Hill Saddle was another shocker. Back into the tussock country. I was mighty pleased to reach the top and get a glimpse of a well benched track heading down towards Arrowtown. It had me stumped. This is all part of the same Motatapu Track but the huge inconsistency in trail construction was annoying.

From the Big Hill Saddle the track was awesome. I wouldn’t be surprised if they helibike off the saddle to town as it was of super quality. It made for fast walking and I motored along. Rounding a corner I caught the first views of Arrowtown below.

The trail continued to descend, picking its way around various spur lines and always on the contour. The odd gully crossing was thick and overgrown but it didn’t matter, they were short and you could see the good trail pick up on the other side. Winding its way down hill, the trail traversed through some remnant patches of beech. They were really nice and the trail perfect.

Eventually the trail came down to Bush Creek just outside Arrowtown, following the creek and a water pipe for a whiles before coming into town. Arrowtown is pretty. A nice old town with many historic buildings and a neat street scape. Unfortunately way too many tourists for my liking. All neatly dressed with bum bags and cameras strung around their necks, I copped the odd look as I wandered down the main street seeking out a coffee.

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I’m at the holiday park tonight. Checking in I stumbled into Maurice a Swiss guy that was sharing the hut last night. This is his last day on Te Araroa having walked for 40 days from Arthurs Pass. There was only one thing to do, find a cold beer or two and see him off in style. We’re on the hunt for some nice food and drinks.

Day 110: Fern Burn Hut to Rose’s Hut

Distance travelled today: 16 km
Total TA distance covered: 2635 km

Up and down, up and down again.

A huge day for so few kilometres. Toughest day for a long time. While it was only 16 km it was a full 7 hour day and I just didn’t have it in me to push any further. I don’t think there was any flat ground all day other than the last 300 metres to Rose’s Hut.

I took off from Fern Burn Hut around 7:30am, gathering my gear and having breakfast outside the hut so as not to disturb everyone. All the other hut occupants were just out for an overnighter and being a Sunday no-one was stirring early.

Straight out from the hut it was up a steep sidle track to Jack Hall Saddle. It was a crisp morning as most mornings are now. Starting out and I had several layers on my top half but soon shed them. Days are getting shorter too. Sun rise is around 7am now. Starting Te Araroa I would think nothing of rising at 5:30, 6am and start walking in the first light. Now it doesn’t make much sense to rise before 7am. The sun hadn’t reached over the peaks just yet and the sidle was in the shade. Only towards the top of the saddle did the sun sneak over the surrounding peaks. Looking back there were some good clear views back towards Lake Wanaka.

Fern Burn Hut

Fern Burn Hut

 

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Climbing up to the saddle wasnt too bad but the descent, the first of many for the day, was a knee killer. Once down the sidle continued up and around a few streams and passing over spur lines to Highland Creek Hut. At least the sidle was benched.

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I had a morning tea break at Highland Hut and got going onto the trickiest section of the track today to Roses Hut. Two major climbs and descents. After crossing the Highland Creek it was straight up for a full kilometre. It was slow going and I found the going tough on my ankles, arches and calves. It was hot too and energy sapping.

Finally at the top of the saddle at noon, the route descended right back down again to the same elevation on the other side. I could clearly see the route ahead and on the other side it was straight into another massive climb up out of a gully for over a kilometre onto a major ridgeline. This descent was another knee killer and it took me a while to get down, planting walking poles in front to take a lot of the weight and shuffle my head down.

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At the bottom the trail entered in a remnant patch of beech with a tranquil stream. I stopped here for lunch and an energy hit before the next ascent. Enjoying my wraps I was entertained by a fan tail chasing insects around me.

The next and last ascent for the day was another tough one. It was very slow going just putting one foot in front of the other. I was struggling physically. Sapped of energy after such a hard climb, sweating profusely in the full sun and having difficulties with my feet I had to take it slow. I was winning the mental game though. Constantly reminding myself, yes this is a tough day but there are only a few more weeks left until the end and the trail improves after this section. A couple more weeks of pushing my body. A couple more weeks of dirt and long gaps between proper showers. And a huge party at the end! It will be such an achievement to finish and the end is nigh.

Once on top of the ridge the pay off was worth it. Type 2 fun. Certainly not much fun to do but the rewards were worth it and once its done, fun to talk about. Clear skies and great views back towards Lake Wanaka and up the Mototapu Valley.

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One long, slow, final descent down right back down to the valley floor and my day was done. It was just after 3pm. Earlier in the day I had thought of perhaps pushing on a bit if I got to Roses Hut by 3pm but the next 2 kilometres were another climb. I was spent physically and needed a rest. I’ll tackle the climb tomorrow morning.

Maurice from Switzerland was at the hut when I rocked up and a few more people rolled in during the afternoon; 2 NOBOs and late in the Carl appeared having had a huge day from the carpark to this hut. Hige achievement but he was shattered as well.

Day 109: Wanaka to Fern Burn Hut

Distance travelled today: 24 km
Total TA distance covered: 2619 km

Like a broken record.

I had a great nights sleep in a hostel if you can believe that. I ended up in a mixed sex 3 bed room, sharing it with a couple of young ladies. They were great. Really quiet in coming into the room at night and not shifting through lots of gear. I swear that in most hostels there is a constant game being played out of who has the loudest, crinkliest plastic bag and who can make the most noise for the longest, while people are trying to sleep. It’s the same in the DOC huts sometimes. And sharing with two girls – no snoring.

After a big breakfast of fresh fruit, yoghurt and a danish I left the hostel in search of caffeine. I found Carl in the bakery and while ordering coffee we had a quick catch up. He needed to resupply but we were both aiming for Fern Burn Hut, around 24 km away today.

I think my daily blow by blow accounts are starting to sound like a broken record, with the same tune repeatedly playing. Leaving town it was a nice easy walk right through to lunch time for the first 15 km along the edge of Lake Wanaka. A mixed bike/walking track runs the length from town to Glendhu Bay. It was nicely levelled and gravelled the whole way, mostly flat with the odd short climb up and over head lands. Lots of people were out for their morning run, jog or ride. Throughout the morning lots of bikes kept coming past. The wind was still up. I wonder when it will dissipate. There has been constant howling in my ears for days now.

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By and by Glendhu Bay caravan park came into view and I knew it was only a few more kilometres for the morning. Getting to Glendhu Bay I stopped for a bite of lunch. Fresh out of town I had some nice cheese and a couple of types of salami which went down well. I usually try to carry some treats from town, typically some fresh fruit or a block or cheese. Leaving Wanaka I was nicely loaded up with a big tub of Vegemite as well, thanks to my work mates. The worlds most expensive vegemite given the postage. This will be perfect with cheese on wraps over the coming days. I estimate 4 days to get to Queenstown.

It was great having reception in town yesterday as well. Queenstown can be an absolute zoo with accommodation. With a few phone calls from Wanaka I was able to secure a room for a couple of nights in Q Town and arrange my final logistical hurdle for Te Araroa, getting across Lake Wakatipu to the start of the Greenstone Track. Like the Cook Strait, the lake is considered a natural break in the trail.

So after a nice long lunch break I had a few quick road miles to get in to the start of the trail up towards Fern Burn Hut following to Motatapu Track. The trail followed the Fern Burn (river), initially through farmland and then into a remanent patch of beech forest. Entering the trees the track was perfect. The beech tall and majestic with nothing in the way of ground cover other than the orange leaves of the beech. There were a few steepish pinches as the trail negotiated up and around several small gorges and waterfalls. It was such a treat to walk through this old patch of trees.

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Exiting from the trees, it was back into tussock country however there was a track the whole way and it was actually benched out of the hill side. Straight from the trees it was a little muddy as a trickle of water had found its way onto the track and made a permanent home on its way down hill. This didnt last and soon moved up into rockier ground.

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On the map the trail looked easy enough for the final two kilometres to the hut but it took a bit longer than I expected. There were a stack of small gullies to cross enroute but rather than the trail sticking to the contour it actually descended downhill to each only to climb right back up again. It was a welcome relief to come onto the final spur and see the hut down below, just one more straight down and up gully.

I shared the night with 8 others in the hut, all out forva weekend jaunt and staying justvone night. The hutvis super close to town, especially if you have a car to get to the start of the track. An older couple with two students they were hosting shared some of their wine and we all shared various stories of tramping feats from across the globe.

Day 108: Pakituhi Hut to Wanaka

Distance covered today: 36 km

Total TA distance covered: 2595 km

Wish I had more photos but my camera battery died.

A long but easy walking day today. The wind was up again massively today and day for an interesting decent from the top of the range to Lake Hawea below. The trail picked the escarpment from yesterday and continued to follow this down. Approaching onto a rocky spine the path became narrower with a few rocky scrambles around and down. Then it was a long switch backed track, crossing from side to side of a steep gully at least 20 times. The vertical distance wasn’t much but walking the switch back had to be near a kilometrs. I certainly wasn’t complaining. There need to be more switch backs on a lot of trail sections. It was easy down and easier still on the Gladstone track to the Lake Hawea township.

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The wind was still crazy. I reckon 30 knots easily. Looking at the lake you could forgive yourself if you thought you were at the beach, the wind strong enough to kick up several sets of waves with a shore break. I must need to bulk up and put some weight back on as it really buffeted me around, pushing my sideways and trying to steal my hat again.

Leaving Lake Hawea I picked up the trail along the Hawea River, following a gravelled path. It was flat and fast walking but dragged on a bit. I was keen to get to Albert Town for a feed as my food bag was the emptiest it has been to date, down to single museli bar and some powdered milk.

Well fed the gravelled path continued right through to Wanaka, following the Clutha River and around the shore of Lake Wanaka. A long walking day with easy kilometres but I was stoked to reach Wanaka. I haven’t been here for about 10 years when I climbed Mt Aspiring.

First priority was coffee then off to the post office to collect a package that my work mates had sent me. Nice one! Thanks guys. Loaded up with some of my favourite chocolates, vegemite, natural confectionary snakes and reminders of the worlds best coffee I’m missing from Fab back home. Also an article on Te Araroa from a magazine. Thanks Jo-Anne, Willow, Ash and others. Very much appreciated and a nice way to lift the spirits. It will certainly help get me through the last 400 kilometres. Not long to go now.

Wanaka is crazy with tourists everywhere. Lucky I booked accomodation ahead.  I’ve done the same with Queenstown. It’s always good to get into town an load up with nice food. I really enjoyed a large  chocolate thickshake fin the afternoon and a large serving of shanks and porter beer for dinner.