Day 141 to 144. Telford Camp to Otautau

Day 141. 11 Mar. A day of two halves. Aparimu Hut to Telford Campsite

I woke to find that the mice had been in my pack and into my food bag. They had enjoyed a good feed of my muesli which has a packet of passionfruit yogurt mix added to it.  Nothing else was eaten but I was slightly revolted by the fact that they had been in my food bag as Cara told me that mice are incontinent. I don’t so much mind sharing my food with them but am not happy with them peeing in my food bag.

So I was off again at 8.30 am heading for Telford Campsite. Lower Wairaki Hut, another old NZ Forest Services Hut, was about half way. The DOC sign said 8 hours to the hut AND another 7 to the campsite. 15 hours all up???

Our trail notes said 6 and 4 hours making 10 hours all up. So off I went not knowing how long this day was to be but pushing myself to go as fast as I could. It was about a 250 metre elevation gain through the muddy forest to begin with then down the other side to the hut in a small clearing. I arrived about 1pm , only 4.5 hours so what are those DOC signs thinking saying 8 hours to here?

Natalie and I played leapfrog throughout the morning and she was at the hut when I arrived. I boiled up some water for a hot drink for us both as were were cold from the wet feet we had had all morning.

Taking off my shoes and socks at lunch time has been my habit the whole of the trail and it has definitely helped keep my feet in good condition. But it is an awful job when I have been up to my calves in mud all morning. Putting them back on is even worse.

We were back out for another steady climb up to a ridge that became quite steep at the end. I huffed and puffed up there determined only to stop for a moment at each 10th marker. This track is one of the best marked tracks I had been on. At times I could see up to 4 markers ahead. Thanks to the people who look after this track.

Coming out of the bush at the top was a real shock. I was in a completely different world. Gone were the trees, ferns and mud and they had been replaced with a rocky alpine terrain with little growing on it.

I stopped to soak up the views to the south down across farmland and right out to the coast. I hadn’t seen coast for at least a month and I knew that I could now nearly see the end of my damn long walk.

I could also just make out the toilet at our campsite 6km away down below. It was steep going down and I had a couple of slips that sat me on my bum. These sit downs are a good chance for a wee break and to take photos.

Taken after a fall

I carried on down and arrived at the campsite at 5.30, only 9 hours after I began. (Not 15 as per the DOC sign)

I erected my little house and went off to visit Greg and Vivienne from Cromwell. They had shared the Mavoura Lakes campsite with me and are doing sections of the TA as training for the Dusky Track. We chatted for a while enjoying the instant bonds that happen when we share similar experiences with others like minded people.

Day 142 . Telford Campsite  to Birchwood Farm.

I had a mouse invasion again and woke to find they had eaten a whole muesli bar and had a good go at my half bag of chippies.

Greg had been up in the night to pee and saw a bird circling around their area. After getting back into his tent the bird swooped down into the tent vestibule to catch a squeaking mouse. No luck for me.

This year is what us known as a “Mast Year” which means that conditions are right for everything to grow well. This means lots of good food for the animals so they breed particularly well too. Hence our mice plagues on the trail this year. I do hope that all the humans who are wanting to breed this year have mast year too.

I left again about 8.30 and noted that leaving times are getting later as I get further south and the sun rises later.

As I crossed the first fence I entered Mt Linton Station. I would walk 25 km across the largest privately owned  farm station in New Zealand. Renown for its genetics. It is beautiful farm to cross.

The many signs warning us to keep to the assigned route and what would happen if we didn’t, coupled with the extensive trail notes outlining the rules of our access, indicated that this access was difficult to obtain by the Te Araroa Trust.

The days started well with an easy to walk on farm track through paddocks filled with nice trees giving shelter from the elements for the livestock. Then I had this wonderful view from a fodder paddock.

But then the day went downhill from there. Well not all down hill but up hills and down hills like a yo-yo. And we curved around and back and around and back again following fence lines and farm tracks. The farm tracks were very uneven and hard to walk on because they had recently been ripped up by some machinery to lay water pipes to troughs for the stock. Add the recent rain, a whole lot of big sloppy cow poos and animal tracks. This proved to be very difficult walking.

The route across the farm seemed to be designed to be as difficult and long as possible. No such thing as the shortest route but let’s give them a complete tour of the place and make it as hard as possible.

At one stage I got a bit lost and had an encounter with some cows who were a bit close for comfort. Also I couldn’t see any track markers so was afraid of the farmer who was notorious for finding people off track and sending them back where they came from. This wasn’t the nice farm walk I was expecting at all! But maybe the cows knew I was going the wrong way as I retraced my steps and found I had been wrong.

I managed to get back on track to then share my day with young steers who were less interested in me and then mothers and calves. I made sure not to split them up. Over stile about number 25 and I was I in the land of the sheep. I feel much more comfortable with them.

Now I could see my end goal for the day and it looked further than the 7 km it was.

I had been having wardrobe problems all day. Coat on, coat off, hat and gloves on then off. The sun had come out but there was a cold wind that got me every second corner. Add in the ups and downs and my poor body didn’t know how it felt.

Also I had run out of water by lunch time and I don’t do well under dehydration. The water sources shown on the map were very popular with the sheep and cows. They have no idea of good hygiene as they stand in the water and pee and poop as they drink. Even I won’t share that.

All the overseas hikers have water filters with them and some even filter the town tap water. This makes me feel lucky to be living in New Zealand. I do carry some water purification tablets and have used about 10, mainly to appease the people I have been with who are horrified at what I drink from. The water from creeks, rivers and huts, and cheap wine hasn’t done me any harm yet. As my Dad would say, “I must have a cast iron gut”

I am digressing. So I am not really enjoying the nice farm walk that the day had started out to be. Sometimes I might even get up a gallop on the downhill parts but the ruts in the track make this a bit risky. I don’t know whether I am hot or cold and I am damn thirsty. I tried to listen to a couple of podcasts to take my mind off myself but today I didn’t manage to get myself in a happy place. I slipped over few times and the last 6 km seemed to drag, especially as I could see the end in the distance.

I had booked to stay at a private hut about 2 km from the track end and was glad to finally arrive at the Birchwood Hut to be greeted by Greg and Vivienne. I felt better after 4 glasses of water and finding out that they had had a hard day too. I don’t think I am competitive, but just want to be able to measure myself against others to ensure that I am doing alright.

Sarah arrived with our huge hot roast meals and a couple of beers each for us. She told us that she had seen the Ta Walkers coming through about 4 years ago so decided to clean up an old farm building and make a haven for us and a couple of dollars for herself now that she was home with with her babies. I was happy to pay the $45.

A hot shower, armchairs, microwave and a kettle, books, phone reception and no sandflies. Too good. But there were mosquitoes which we haven’t see for a while. But I had a good nights sleep after dealing to a few of them.

Day 143 A rest day on the farm

I woke in the morning having decided that 3 long hard days in a row was enough for this old bird so I have had  another rest day.

Consequently I have sat on the porch in the sun watching the farm work around me. I have been visited by some big bulls, some farm dogs, had tractors and sheep trucks, farm bikes and the farmers and their kids past. They lit the annual bonfire and I updated this blog.

A young German couple arrived at about 7.30 pm and they had also had a very hard day. They were pleased to arrive to a warm welcome as I had chopped wood and had a roaring fire going, although I needed to open the windows to let some of the heat out.

Tomorrow is another 27 km farm walk. Then 3 days through Longwood Forest  and then another 3 days maybe to reach Bluff and the end of this damn long walk.

Day 144. MAR 14. A nice farm and forestry walk.

This was a lovely day which started out cold and foggy but I soon warmed up as is usual there was soon a hill to climb. Dean, the owner of Birchwood Farm had spent the previous day moving the trail that weaves through his farm to accommodate stock and crops. So I was a real trail blazer this morning. I had learnt what that phrase means from Americans on the trail. They call the track markers blazes where we call then markers. So a trail blazer ui someone who puts out the original markers on a trail.

I christened about 10 new stiles and made the pathway for others to follow. The sun came out and I managed to get through the few boggy bits without getting too muddy. However my shoes were wet from the dew on the grass. I was joined, for a while by husband and wife from Invercargil who were section walkers.

The sheep were friendly and they don’t make such a mess of the ground so the farm walk was pretty good. Lovely views back across the Takitimu Range I walked a few days back.

Then it was down to a forestry block where I stopped in cleared area in the sun for lunch. The mess left behind after logging is a blot on the landscape and always unsettles me.

Lunch spot
I need to resupply. Lunch is getting limited.

After that there was a few km of back country gravel road in the sun before back into a Forest again.

By 3.30 pm I was out on the road between Tuatapare and Otautau. I needed to get some more food for the journey ahead so decided I would try for a ride in either direction. So here I am in Otautau because I was picked up by a van of young shearers on their way home from a days work. I think they were impressed when I said I liked the way they smelt as it of reminded me of Garry. They did not reciprocate.

So I have a room at the Otautau Hotel for the night and their menu looks good too.