A 28km day in 8 hours. One of the nicest and easiest days of the trail.
Jimmy, an Aussie guy, and I managed to sort a ride from our lodgings to the Bealey Hotel which was my last ending spot. There we popped in for a pot of tea before starting the day.
A couple of km walk down the main highway was a good start to the day. The wide Waimakariri River runs along side.
A convoy of about 10 tractors towing little huts came past me. One had “The Last Adventure Before Dementia” written across the back. I wondered if this would be my last adventure before dementia.
Then I walked another couple of km of gravel road into the Craigeburn Forest Park where I believe a moa (a 2 meter high bird supposed to be extinct) was sighted by the owner of the Bealey Hotel in 1993. This could have been a publicity stunt as no moas were found and the pub gained a lot more visitors. But I decided to keep a sharp eye out today incase I came across one today. I daydreamed about this for quite a while imagining selling my footage to TV One for a million dollars. That would mean I could do some more damn long walks.
Started at 10am and made it to the Lagoon Saddle Shelter at 12.25 to have my first lunch. These A Frame shelters are designed for use as emergency shelters in the snow. There was 6 others at the shelter, all going in the opposite direction to me.
Beautiful views of southern alps and glaciers. It was good to be above the bush line and out of the valleys so I kept stopping to look around me at the views as I climbed higher above the road. I could see the Southern Alps in the distance and the glaciers some of the walkers had climbed up to the day before.
5.9km to next hut for second lunch so I am off
I met lady from Hawkes Bay walking NOBO with her son. She had been talking to Anouk the night before so was on the look out for me. So I was only a day behind her now.
The day was mostly walking through beech forest so the shade was welcome as the wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was very hot. There were a couple of recent big slips to get around but those ahead of me had made the paths. At times I felt like running as the track was soft and easy to negotiate after the last week or so on rocks and river beds. A hikers high I think. Needless to say I didn’t break into a run as I can’t focus well on the ground at the best of times.
West Harper Hut at 3pm. Built in 1967 it hasn’t had much maintenance done over the years and I would need to be pretty desperate to stay in it. Looking at the Intentions book most people have the same thoughts. Close by the river, with a long drop toilet, it would be a perfect camp spot except for the sandflies.
Sat in sun and dried feet. Only one dunking today and I could have had dry feet if I had picked my crossings better. The Harper River was easy crossing after what we have had.
I was passed by a couple as I sat in the sun. They didn’t even bother having a look in the cute little old hut or to even greet me. I continued to come across them for the next week or so and they remained aloof to say it nicely.
This day just got better. I walked through beech forest for another 4km, getting passed by 3 young ones. I got a fright each time as I just go off into my own head space and sing and talk away to myself. So when someone comes behind me I jump. I wonder what they thought of my made up songs about Te Araroa.
There was a couple of swing bridges to cross just before the hut. And then I was there at the Hamilton Hilton. A nice big hut with screen doors to allow air in and sandflies out. Well most of them. There was some coils lit inside so the windowsills were covered with dead ones. A dead sandfly is always a good sight for itchy feet.
Day 113 Walk to Lake Coleridge then hitch to Methven.
A hut fill with 24 people begins to come alive about 6am with the ones who like to be in the front get up first and begin the morning routine. I tend to be in the middle of the pack these days as I cant see the sense in arriving early to spend more time fighting iff the sandflies. Mostly they leave me alone in bed and when I am walking.
The morning routine is usually completed in about an hour
- Gather torch, ear plugs, mask, phone, charger and anything else on the bunk with me.
- Climb out of bunk (may be bottom, middle or top)
- change into smelly hiking clothes
- Go out to the toilet
- Gather gear and take out to a table
- Get pack, probably hanging up out of mice
- Unhook food bag which was also hanging out of mice reach
- Put pot on for coffee
- Stuff sleeping bag into its sack
- Stuff clean? clothes into clothes bag
- Make coffee and eat muesli
- Clean teeth
- Continue putting everything into the backpack
- Go to toilet again (hopefully poop this time)
- Check around hut to make sure nothing left behind
- Sweep floor or wipe bench (I try to do some cleaning at each hut)
- Put on sunhat, smelly dirty socks and shoes
- Sunscreen on
- Another quick toilet if not finished poop
- Pack on
- Grab sticks
- Ready to go
- Look around and check I haven’t left anything behind
Nothing much to talk about for the 20km of this day except that I followed a 4wd track all the way down the valley towards Lake Coleridge playing leap frog with SOBOs and meeting ÑOBOs all day. It was very hot but there was some welcome cloud cover as I was out in the open all day.
I passed the 2,200 km mark today so less than 800 km to go.
Pictures below of the trail for the day.
There is a campsite here by the lake that has kindly been provided by Trustpower for our use. Unfortunately Health and Safety issues necessitated the removal of the big trees that gave shade so on a hot, dry day like today the idea of camping did not appeal to me. Also the next day was a 28 km walk along the side of the lake along a dry dusty road with little shade. At the end of that walk is the Rakaia River which we are not allowed to cross because it is very wide and to dangerous for us. The Te Araria Trust likes to keep all the hikers alive.
So the Te Araroa stops there and starts again across the river. Most walkers try to hitch into Methven, a small ski resort town for the night. Then get a shuttle back out to begin walking again on the other side of the river.
The first sign of life was at the Trustpower bulldozer shed. So I boldly knocked on the door and was greeted by the cleaners who were happy to give me a ride into Methven. So I sat with a glass of fresh water and used the very recently cleaned flush toilet. Again I am easily pleased.
This couple have the contract to clean the building which includes living quarters because the bulldozer drivers, maintenance personnel and contractors can get stuck up there for days in the winter snows. There is a series of canals that regulate the flow of water in and out of the lake and down to the power station.
So this couple come out once a month and clean here and the toilets at the camp site and others around the lake. So I was very lucky to get a ride with them and their cute 9 week old puppy. We stopped at the camp site and picked up 2 more guys leaving 3 girls to start their walk. They didn’t look too pleased to see that I had taken a space in the car. We shared the wee puppy.
So off we zoomed along the gravel road for 28km where we stopped to have a look over the bridge at the Rakaia River. We passed about 10 other SOBOS and 6 NOBOS. I felt sorry for them all out there in the heat and hoped if they wanted a ride they got one.
Then it was another 17 km into Methven where were were dropped at the Methven Camping Ground. As we were checking in the 3 girls we had left at the lake campsite arrived as they had managed a hitch very shortly after we left.
I shared a cabin ($25 each) with the two German girl, Melina and Lea, and found there was probably about 15 other TA walkers there already. This includes a couple I haven’t seen since just out of Auckland on day 35 18th of November, and a girl I haven’t seen since before the Tararuas at the beginning of January and Anouk who was having a rest day. I enjoy sharing our stories of the trail.
I showered quickly then headed to the chemist to get some cream for my back. About 6 days ago I developed a rash on my lower back, probably from my pack rubbing on my skinny back. There is no fat left there to load to make a padding. I have been putting Vaseline on it to help reduce the ribbing but it is getting quite a nuisance. So $14 later I have a tube of cream and an excuse for another day off to let it heal a bit more. Also this allowed the “not so friendly group” to get ahead of me.
On the advice of the couple who gave us a ride I went to the Blue Pub as opposed to the Brown Pub and shouted them a drink or 3 and some plates of hot chips. I had a few too as I was feeling quite dehydrated after my long day in the sun and needing to put some padding back on my bones.
Methven is a nice little town that gets very busy during the winter with skiers. Mt Hut skifield is close by and I will come back sometime to see this area in the winter. It must be beautiful and humming.
A day of the usual relaxing, planning and eating fresh food and I am ready for the next section.
I will take 3 days to get to the Rangiata River which is another one we cannot cross. So I will hitch out to a little town called Geraldine where my 3rd pair of shoes awaits me. Thanks to Cara, Tabitha and Anne for forwarding them throughout the country for me. They are much needed now.