Day 98-104 – St James Walkway then a wait in Christchurch

After 3 days resting in Nelson I was ready to go again. Robyn and Martin had brought my box of food I had sent on to St Arnaud for pick up. They needed to come to Nelson to replace Martin’s shoes. They hitched in on Monday and we met up in town for a cup of tea.

Last meal of fresh food at Nigel and Keary’s

The box of food was to have lasted me from Arnaud to Boyle Village which could take up to 8 days.

My plan meant I wouldn’t need that much so I culled some out and left it with Nigel. The chocolate stayed. This being only the second time I have carried chocolate on the whole trail. Maybe my heart needed chocolate last Friday?

Tuesday morning I was dropped off by Nigel on the main road out of town all ready to hitch hike to Lewis Pass to start the St James Walkway, which merges with the Te Araroa, after 2 days. I had decided to skip the part from St Arnaud to Anne’s Hut because it included the Waiau Pass which is said to be the riskiest part of the trail. It is very high and exposed and a couple of very long days and I didn’t want to risk my heart playing up in that kind of terrain again. Once was enough!

Fifteen minutes with my thumb out and I was picked up by a local tradesman and taken out to Wakefield about 29 km away. This reduced the number of cars on the road to mostly those heading my way.

Thirty minutes later I was in the car with Ann, a business woman heading to Christchurch. More trail magic today. Ann had tramped and cycled in the area, and had very similar life experiences to me. We talked all the way to Lewis Pass and I felt happy with my day so far.

The St James Walkway is aptly named. It really is walking, as opposed to the kind of tramping I have got used to. There is hardly any uphill and mostly just walking along flat bush tracks or across large prairie like clearings for 2 days.

Every now and then there was signs warning of avalanche risk and as looked up at the high hills I could see why. I was walking at an altitude of around 1,000 metres there would be a lot of snow in the winter.

Very dry

The St James Station was purchased by the Government in 2008 to preserve the area and prevent intensive farming. The walkway was developed and it can also be used by people on horseback and mountain bikes.

I didn’t see anyone both days on the track until I arrived at the huts. The first hut was called Cannibal Hut after the Cannibal Gorge where many human bones were found probably as a result of Maori feasting on their enemies during wars 1,000 years ago. The hut was large and old and I heard rats and it was quite creepy. Not the kind of place I wanted to spend the night alone so I carried in another 1.5 hours to Ada Pass Hut.

There was one Aussie/ Kiwi girl there who was going in the opposite direction to me. We chatted a bit, ate dinner then went to bed. In the morning we found that the mice had eaten the girl’s soap. Better than her food, I suppose.

Ada Pass Hut.

Next day I had 8 hours of rather boring walking in on and off drizzle. I stopped at Christopher hut for a lunch of hot soup and cheese and crackers to warm up. Then took off for Ann Hut really looking forward to meeting up with the Te Araroa family again.

As I walked along through long grass in flat clearings I looked up at the mountains above me. That is where the others will be coming from today..the Waiau Pass, notoriously the most dangerous and challenging day of the Te Araroa. Am I sad to have missed it? ..no not really.

My heart behaved itself so I was very relieved.

Ann Hut is only a couple of years old so double glazed and has screens on the windows. A 10 Star facility. It is at an altitude of 890 meters and is said to be the most exposed hut in New Zealand. The wind was whistling through and I had a headwind for the last 5km. So was pleased to be at the hut after 8 hours of solid fast relatively boring walking.

There was about 10 TA walkers there already including the 3 “lost ” Americans” and a couple of people who had passed me on the track the day I was in distress.

They were all happy to see me alive and well. Apparently the Waiau Pass only had a couple of tricky bits on it and was easier than the Richmond Ranges. They said it was beautiful up there. So that made me wish I had done it. Maybe on my way back home?

I washed up and had a snack then laid in my sleeping bag and watched an episode of my Netflix show. Eventually I heard Anouk’s voice. She chatted with the girls in the room for 10 minutes before she noticed me in my orange cocoon. She dived on me “da Karen, da Karen ” Dutch for “oh my god Karen”.

She was pleased to see me!

Dinner cooked with people all trying to give away food as, like me, they all had far too much. No one gives away chocolate.

I learnt a new Japanese card game…well sort of. Then off to bed feeling good to be back on trail again.

A game of cards.

Day 100. 30 January 2020. Anne Hut to Boyle Village

We all left in dribs and drab from about 7 am onward for an 8 to 9 hour day. Boyle Village was the destination, about 30 km away. We needed to be at the Boyle Outdoor Education Centre before 5 pm when the office closed if we wanted a bed rather than tenting at the Doc Camp site. The others had all had about 8 days on trail so deserved proper beds but I decided I would join them .

I was doing well timewise and stopped at a hut for a good lunch break happy that I would make the cut off in time. I decided to try listening to a podcast while walking for the first time. Many of the others do this, or listen to music. So I listened to some research done on why people don’t always react how they expect.

However while my ears were working my legs slowed down. So I ended up trying to run the last 5km. Not very successfully mind you. After already walking 25 km and with a pack on my back this Granny was not going much faster at all.

I arrived 15 minutes later to be greeted by a slightly grumpy lady who did allow me bed in a cabin with 2 others, even though I was late. For $52 I had a bed, a ginger beer, a frozen pizza and was able to pick up my food box they had been storing for me. The advertising had me thinking I was to get an alcoholic beers and a home made pizza. The Home made meant I had to put the frozen Home brand pizza in the oven. I wasn’t

A scary hitch hike and a rest in Christchurch to avoid bad weather

Next day we checked the weather forecast to find that there was to be gale force winds and heavy rain where we were heading. This would mean that we would end up trapped in a 6 bed hut with about 12 people for 3 days waiting for the rivers to recede enough for us to cross. They may drive me mad or, more likely, I would drive them all mad.

So we all headed out hitching in different directions to take a few days break.

I got a ride with a German woman in a campervan which proved to be one of the scariest rides of the trail. She wasn’t good at keeping left, drove far too close to the vehicle in front of us and was texting on one phone and talking on another at the same time. I was worried that the stress would get my heart racing again.

So I offered to buy her lunch so we could have a break. She chose a quiche and then decided we should eat as we drove. So now she was eating, texting, talking, and looking at the scenery usually from the middle if a narrow winding main highway.

I was very happy to arrive in central Christchurch in one piece and headed to have a look at the new library which was purpose built after the earthquake. One good thing to come out of the disaster about 9 years ago.

I spent the night with my cousin Nicola and her family in Lyttleton, visiting the Saturday morning markets. Their cute little dog tried to convince me to get a dog when I finish the walk.

Now I am staying with more family, Anne and Nev, who have a dog, 3 cats and a rabbit all with free range of the house. Any thoughts about me getting a pet soon disappeared! Anouk came to stay too and added a parked up boat to her list of beds on the trail

4 thoughts on “Day 98-104 – St James Walkway then a wait in Christchurch

  • Glad to hear you’re back on track! Keep chocolate in your pack from now on … it is obviously the secret šŸ™‚ Go well!

  • Great to hear all is well! We just arrived in Boyle. We enjoyed an alternative route down Rainbow road and back to TA via Mailing Pass. So also avoided Waiau Pass high winds! Going to hitch tomorrow to Hanmer, we will refuse rides from German women in campervans!

Let me know what you think and leave me some encouragement.