The trail notes said that the track goes over Breast Hill and down to Lake Hawea via Pakituhi Hut . The track is high and exposed and has been described as a day of drama and one of the highlights of the trail. The last 1.5 km is described as a very challenging 950 meter decent down a very steep cliff face.
I had planned on stopping for the night at the very new Pakituhi Hut so that I would be fresh for the descent the next day. The notes and stories I had heard of the descent had me slightly on edge. Steep descents are always trickier than ascents and I was not looking forward to it.
However a couple of NOBOs I came across told me that the weather was not going to be good tomorrow. Therefore I decided I would push on all the way over and onto Lake Hawea township making a 22 km day. I didn’t want to be on any exposed ridges and cliff side descents in wind and/ or rain.
The track wound up over high country farmland and I soon saw signs of sheep on the track. Then I saw sheep. Then they saw me and turned their backs on me and wandered away. No manners at all. It is surprising how any sign of life is exciting after weeks of sharing wide open spaces with only a few other living creatures. We do not know what we will miss until it is no longer there.
I toddled on following the farm track snaking in front of me until I saw the trig station on the top of the Breast Hill.
So what were they talking about? Nothing had been very dramatic so far. So I dropped my pack and put on my video to record the last few meters. I was totally overwhelmed with the view. My meager collection of words cannot describe the beauty in front of me. God really did make a paradise when he created New Zealand.(except for the sandflies of course).
I sat for at least an hour soaking in the view, the ranges all around me, Mt Aspiring in the distance and that bluer than blue lake. I thought back over the trail. Yesterday had been a bad day for me but this made up for it 100 times over. I knew that Te Araroa would remain one of the highlights of my travels alongside The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, Torres de Paine in Patagonia and the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
But I couldn’t hang around for for long as the day was less than half done. My phone was nearly out of juice so not many photos going down to the Pakituhi Hut where I ate my lunch with an English couple who were running up to Breast Hill and back. MAD
Then it was down, down, down that ridge. When I was able to take my eyes off the track and my feet I could see the Lake getting closer and closer. It was hot and I was low on water having neglected to fill up enough at the hut.
There was a few tricky bits but all in all, the trip down wasn’t really that bad at all. Sometimes expecting “really, really hard “and only getting “hard” means it is easy.
I arrived down at the road with a blister forming under my big toe so had to sit in the shade for a bit and deal with that. I have been successfully wearing a pair of thin toe socks under my main socks for the whole of the trail. But they were now wearing out and the big toe was non existent. That is where my blister was forming so it proves how good the toe socks are. Trouble is the have to be purchase them online from overseas. Come on some in New Zealand…please get them in our shops.
It was a good excuse for a wee rest before the 2 hour road and lakeside track walk to Lake Hawea township.
I limped into the Stags Head Hotel at about 5pm and was given a backpackers room to myself for only $20 because there was no key. I haven’t had a key to my tent for 4 .5 months so it didn’t worry me at all.
After a shower, that was only second to the Huntly Camping Ground, I headed to the bar for the backpackers deal of meal for $12 and pints of the local ale for $5. I needed 2 of them to bring up my calorie intake for the day as I didn’t want to wither away to nothing.
DAY 128 Zero day at Lake Hawea
I spent most of the day in the bar writing up my blog and chatting with the patrons. I felt happy that I had done a big day yesterday because it was blowing a gale outside and raining.
I ate lunch with a group of walkers , including Aliss and her Mum, who had come down in the wind and they said they were at the limit of their comfort zones.
Day 129 and 130.
The rain didn’t stop me leaving for the 25 km walk to Wanaka. It was alongside a river that was a water park. Used for surfing, and kayaking as well as part of the power generation scheme. We are good at making use of our assets.
At lunchtime I arrived at Albert Town and stepped off my wet gear at a nice cafe right on the trail.
I warmed up and was watered and fed then continued on an hour later in the sunshine. I shared the track with numerous cyclists and people out walking their dogs.
It took me a while to cover the distance as I chatted with quite a few people on the way. I am continually surprised at how many local people don’t know about the Te Araroa that passes so close to their doorsteps. So I make it my mission to educate them. They say “Oh, I wondered what all those people are with the big packs on their backs” . Well now many of them know and will have a great respect for us all.
Eventually I reached Wanaka with it’s boats fishermen, tourists and shops selling souvenirs mostly made in Asia. The cars and all the people on the footpath scared me a bit as I wasn’t used to looking out for other moving things. I felt over stimulated and uncomfortable.
Another day was needed to get my food bag filled up for the next 5 to 6 days walk to Queenstown, an even bigger tourist mecca. There is heavy rain predicted for Tuesday so I packed some extra food in case I need to wait out in a hut. This section is Alpine and has a river crossing that needs waiting out if it gets too high.