Day 136 to Greenstone Hut
I had another good sleep in a luxurious bed at the Copthorne Hotel after a steak dinner at the Speights Ale House with Bev and Rudi. They had energized me with their compliments and encouragement and I was ready for the last 280km to Bluff.
I caught a shuttle bus with Info&track out to the Greenstone carpark where the T A begins again. It was 1.5 hours (60 km) ride around Lake Wakatipu. The lake is another of the TA hazard zones tat we are expected to find alternative transport around. I felt pleased to be leaving the bustle of Queenstown. I am not a tourist town girl.
There was glaciers and the Himbolt Mountains and the truly magnificient scenery of the Mt Aspiring National Park to look at as we drove.
The driver was a young Brazilian woman who has been here for three years and wants to make New Zealand her permanent home. I can fully understand that. She tells me that the Covid-19 is beginning to quieten things down.
Everyone else leftthe bus at Glenorchy, which is a little touristy village with coffee shops selling possum-skin jackets, postcards and local art works. I bought a take away coffee.
This area is the gateway to many tracks in the area, including the Routeburn and the Rees-Dart tracks. Fishing, horse riding through “Lord of the Rings” locations and jet boat rides up the Dart River were install for my fellow passengers.
But for me it was to be a 3 hour easy walk through mossy beech forests to my home for the night. The DOC sign says 3-5 hours taking into account that this is a high tourist area so inexperienced people could take longer. This also means that the track is well formed and maintained. I begin to miss the challenges of the last couple of months: is this getting too easy now?
The Greenstone hut is a modern one with screens on the windows and double glazing. It has 20 beds and there was only 5 of us there. They were all young, male and French. One was cycling and hiking around New Zealand. The others backpackers out for a few days doing the Greenstone-Caples loop track. the female hut warden arrives to check our Hut passses. I am a bit disappointed to find that the usual warden is not there as he is a guy who has walked the TA and I had followed his blog. I had been looking forward to meeting him as I felt I had got to know him by following his blog. Maybe those of you reading this will feel the same about me.
The hut book showed the previous few nights had upwards of 20 here so I am not sure why the drop off. There is some rain predicated in a 3 days time but not much. Not enough to stop me going.
Day 137. 13 hours longest day so far.
I left at 7.30 leaving the boys all still sleeping. DOC sign says 4-5 hours to Taipi Hut, on the banks of the Mavaroa River and I did it in 3.5 hours. So by 11am I was inside Taipi Hut, an old hut that is not sandfly nor mice proof, having an early lunch. It is cloudy and overcast outside with some wind, but not a really cold wind. The morning had been easy walking through beech forests and marshy grass in the Passburn Valley. I saw some cows and there was lovely mountains surrounding me and I don’t need to climb any of them!
I wanted to get to Careys hut today to beat the rain that is due tonight. The more I can do today the better. It was another 12km (3-4 hrs) to Boundary Hut then another 6km (2 hrs) to Careys hut.
So off I went on a mission through forest then marshy, long grass, looking ahead all the time trying to spot the marker poles. My eyes aren’t the best but I managed well and moved easily and fast, well, fast for me.
I didn’t stop at Boundary Hut and kept on going with Careys Hut in my sights. I arrived there at 5pm having made good time and feeling good. It was ONLY another 12 km to the Mavora Campsite. 2 hours the sign said and as I had been walking since 7.30 am I reckoned I wouldn’t be any quicker if I carried on. I still had daylight until about 8.45pm, and the track was a 4WD track so no route finding. The hut was old and I would definitely be sharing it only with the local wildlife as there was no one else there. So why not carry on? Looking at the map I could see that there would be places to stop and wild camp if I needed to. Go, stay?
But then my mind was made up as a group of 4 teenagers and a couple of adults arrived. They were from Invercargil and doing a Duke of Edinburgh Tramp. I chatted with them for about 30 minutes as one of the Dads planned to do the Te Araroa next season. I wanted to get going.
So, eventually at 6.30 pm, off I went, head down, sticks tapping and feet stomping for another 12 km. The last couple of kilometres was in deep gravel that slowed me down significantly. I finally arrived at 8.30 pm, just as the light and my energy levels were fading at the same rate.
I spotted the toilets and a few little tents and made a beeline over there I must have looked pretty shattered as a couple came over and said they would make me a cup of tea while I put up my tent and sorted myself out. I gratefully accepted the offer and was soon sitting at the picnic table enjoying a huge pot full of peppermint tea. (I don’t carry a cup and just drink from my pot). I drank half then brought the remainder to the boil and used it to cook my pasta dinner. Peppermint flavoured cheese and bacon pasta is quite nice. However after a 40km day and 13 hours on the go I would eat anything, except peanut butter.
The rest of the tiny tent campers came over to chat. Some were cycling around NZ, and the others were Kiwi section hikers. These people do parts of the TA each year rather than thru-hike the whole thing in one go. I organised to walk with one of them in the morning as the trail notes talked about river crossings that need consideration if there had been rain.
Darkness sent us all off to bed. I was knackered but very pleased with myself. 39km in 13 hours. My longest day so far.
Day 138 and 139. To Te Anau
There was a little drizzle through the night and when I crawled out of my tent at 7 am the hills were shrouded in mist. But it was only slightly drizzling every now and then so I packed up and left with 3 others.
Easy walking again and I was pleased to find out that one of the Kiwi blokes was a very experienced tramper who had been involved in Search and Rescue for years. Great, he could be a big help at the decision points.
So we stopped for lunch at the first point. We needed to choose to carry on the track and face a river crossing a few kms up the track, then continue to the KiwiBurn Hut on the track. The next days walking sounded horrible from other peoples descriptions. Then I would need to hitch into Te Anau to resupply.
If we thought the river was too high we could cross the swing bridge and walk along a gravel road for 25 km, and then main road walking. This would mean a wild camp somewhere before heading to Te Anau.
There had been hardly any rain at all so we determined it was safe to go on, but I think I was looking for an out after my big day yesterday. So I chose to take the bridge and see if I could get a hitch into Te Anau. So I said goodbye to Al and crossed the bridge alone.
I walked for about 8 km before getting picked up by a local mum and her kids who had been camping and kayaking at the lake. They dropped me on State Highway 94 and the second car to come along picked me up and dropped me outside the backpackers in Te Anau. This lady was moving out to a small house in the countryside as she could no longer afford to rent in Te Anau. That is what tourism does to the locals.
I got the last bed at the hostel which was in a teepee . Our increased tourist numbers have meant accommodation providers are looking at alternatives to house the growing numbers of people here. I had stayed here in a bunk room a few years ago before doing the Kepler Track with my daughter Laura.
I saw Anouk’s name in the book and found out she had left only a few minutes before I arrived so I gave her a call. She was out on the road hitching back to Queenstown as she was exhausted and had hit the wall. She was planning a couple of days of relaxation on a nice hotel to see if that would energize her. I was sad to hear how bad she was feeling and told her to listen to her body and that it was okay to take a break. Better to end happy than exhausted. So I hope she gets better and catches up to me as it would be good to finish with her.
So the usual town duties filled the next day. Wash clothes , wash body, clean out pack, and food shop, I went off to the local pub for the $17 Sunday roast.
The place was packed and a couple arrived looking for a table to be told there wasn’t really anything for them. So I offered to share my table with them. They were a retired policeman and his wife who owns a jewelry shop from Sweden. After sharing my journey they were embarrassed to tell me they had driven from their hotel to the pub for their dinner and were exhausted from looking out the window of the car all day. But we all have different ways of enjoying a country. We had a fun evening and I walked back to my teepee home with a smile on my face, yet again.
The next day I got chatting with a woman from England on a year off to travel. She has done a lot of trips around the world hiking canoeing etc. We discussed gear and places and generally enjoyed the morning chatting. We both lamented the days when the hostels were full of chatter instead of everyone with their heads in their phones. (Like I am now) We will have dinner together tonight.
So I will hitch out tomorrow morning to the start of the next section. Only 270km to go. 2,730km done. Maybe 12 days.
The end is getting closer.
The beginning is still fresh in my mind.
The future is not clear.