Day 22 and 23. Decision Time.

We started our day a bit layer than usual, 7.30am, as we had a short day out to the end of the Motatapu Track. Then it was to be a 2.5km walk to Glendhu Bay motor camp followed by a 16km walk to Wanaka the next day. 

I remembered this as really easy piece of gentle downhill track through peaceful beech forests. I had nearly run it last time thinking it was one of the easiest parts of TA.

But they had changed the track dramatically!  There was steep drop offs, tricky bits, dodgy bits and I became more uneasy about the whole damn walk.

So I discussed my concerns with Kay. I felt good talking it out aloud and Kay as very supportive and understanding, agreeing that there are many other options for me. 

My  2019-20 Te Araroa was a significant feat for me; a milestone in my life; something I had planned for many years. I cannot repeat the magic of the trail, or being blissfully unaware of what was going to happen next.

So by the time we had accepted a hitch into Wanaka I had decided to look at other options.  I need to live in a decent body for a few more years yet. I have nothing to prove to myself oy anyone else. 

A good view of Lake Wanaka from our hostel

Friends,  Pip and Jane are on a SOBO and will be in Tekapo on Monday so I will hitch there and cycle a section with them.

Kay and I gave enjoyed our time in Wanaka, staying in our beds until 11am and  catching up on news around the country and world. Neither of us can get to Western Australia to visit our kids and grandchildren and the whole country has gone into Red Traffic Light. 

So watch has this space.

Adventure doesn’t only  mean tramping. The best job I ever had was planting tomatoes and there is lots of that kind of work going down here.  There are many  vacancies in hospitality although I am not sure how hospitable I can be these days. I have people to visit and people to meet.

Day 21 Another big hill to Furn Burn Hut. 6km. 5 hours

As has become our routine we were both awake at 6am and leaving the hut at 7am. 

Breakfast for Kay

Today would be an easier day with only one huge climb compared to yesterday’s 2 huge climbs. It was cool and we were in the shade as we went up up up, then just as we gained some decent elevation the damn track takes us down part of our gain into wee valleys.

The start of the track was quite narrow with very steep drop offs and parts were covered with thick bushes meaning I  couldn’t see where I was placing my feet. I began to feel quite anxious and was not in my usual relaxed mind set.

Close to the bottom the vegetation becomes thick and covers the track. These valleys are water courses so it becomes mushy underfoot and there are underground water ways.  So I had to concentrate to ensure I didn’t step into any of the holes into the water which would have been disastrous. There are high drop offs sometimes on both sides of a narrow track which made me unusually uncomfortable.

DOC needs to get in here and do some track maintenance,  cutting back the vegetation so we can see where to walk.

But then we would climb out again and be in the short tussock grass on a narrow ridge track.

Furn Burn Hut
Lunch stop. Happy.

We met along the way a Dad and son, a church group of 4, and mum and daughter. They were all going the opposite direction to s and give us a good excuse fir a long stop and chat. The SOBOS are always interested in hat is coming up and we are the same.

Today I was again doubting my sanity. Should I be going forward with RA again? Do I really need to put myself through the risks that I know it will present? This time I know what is coming up. I know how how much it will hurt if I fall. My body is another 2 years older and in good shape; do I need to risk accidental damage? Am I stupid to carry on? Maybe I should just do some easy stuff instead and there is lots of that in the South Island.

I was thinking this throughout the day to Furn Burn Hut.

We arrived early in the day and I had Granny nap before a Mother arrived with a huge pack full of fresh food. I was on the last of my food supply having no dinners left I ate a wrap with cheese and carrot for dinner. Mum was a but worried because 25 year old Daugherty daugher was late arriving but it turned out that daughter had been taking her time and having a nice day on her own. Mum and daughter time needs to be managed well I think!

Day 20 Motatapu Track Roses Hut to Highland hut

I had asked Garry to talk to the Weather Gods and cool things down a bit. Being in the high country with little shade is hard work when the temperature are high 20s. So he came to the party and there was snow on the hills above us overnight.

We had 2 huge hills to climb today so I was pleased to start off with my jacket, hat and gloves on. The grass was wet as we had gad some hail overnight so my shies were soon wet and my feet cold. However they warmed up as we climbed straight up the first hill. Each time we thought we were at the top there was another peak ahead of us. I set a slow pace and we had lots of little stops to look back down the valley below so it was quite enjoyable climb.

Finally at the top

Then it was down, down down to a creek for an early lunch stop in the shade. Then us was up and down another damn mountain with beautiful views forever.

I wasn’t really enjoying the tracks as we got lower because they are overgrown and very hard to see where to place my feet. There are underground water courses that can be stepped into if we are not careful. Also the tracks have long drop off that could be disastrous if I fell.  I was becoming a bit anxious about these parts. I know I won’t bounce well and a fall will hurt and take a lot of time to heal.  Am I doing the right thing risking this again?

On the way we met SOBO Isaac  used him as another excuse for a stop. An big,older Army man, he was going at a good pace, doing long days,  with a huge pack. He was known to pick up and pack out any rubbish left at huts and well liked by everyone who had come across him on their Te Araroa journey.

Isaac keeps a list of all the TA walkers he meets

At the hut Erin who was a SOBO having  rest day.  She has worked star gazing guide and ski instructor rest day.

Later Jacqui and Debbie from Waikato arrive. Jackie was pleased to meet me as she had been following me right from the start of my first TA and knew she would finally meet up with me on this section. I am always proud to have had some influence on others decisions to walk Te Araroa.

Day 19. 55 River Crossings. Macetown to Roses hut. 8 hours.

It rained lightly from a 4am so woke to wet tents and hastily packed up. Last time I did this section we took the highly dangerous upper tracks so this time I was walking up the river come hell or high water. The rain had only been light and was the first for weeks so we decided we would be okay.

Left at 7.15am up the river. I had on my new rainskirt fashioned from a black rubbish bag.

All good for about 1.5 hours. We were in and out of the river following in the footsteps of those who had made obvious trails to lead us in and out of the river. The rain was light and the water warm so we were a happy couple of old ducks.

Eventually we came to a gorge too deep and swift fir us to pass through as neither if us were ready to end our lives at this stage. So we made the call to try and climb up the ciff and get passed the gorge. So we went straight up until we got as far as our comfort level allowed. (Actually probably a bit higher). We found a relatively safe place to stop and decided we needed to go down and get into the river. Going down was even more scarey than going up!

There was a lot of thick Matagouri that we had to scramble through.

But by good luck rather than good management we found a way into the river and it was above the risky gorge part.

We walked along the edge of the river clinging to bushes along the bank for about a kilometre, pleased to be making progress against the flow of the river.

We met 2 girls on the other side of the river who were going the other way (SOBO). We tried to talk to them above the noise of the raging river but couldnt hear too much with our old ears. However we deduced that they were alive so it couldn’t be too bad. So off we went. Eventually w9e had to climb up another sheer cliff to find the track to Rose’s Saddle. A bit mean we thought .

So up we went in river out of river, then up hill saw pole. Looked too steep but went on anyway then saw the sign sitting there in middle of prickly bushes. Good on the right track

Drying out my raincoat as I puffed up the hill.
Looking back down to the river

2.5 km straight up hill. Easy to follow track but steep and needed lots of stops. I was doing better than Kay which made me realise that I had gained some fitness from my 15 days on trail. I also always feel better when I am not the slowest one.

Kay completed a full SOBO the same year I did mine but she was a few weeks ahead of me. However she had missed this section because of bad weather hence her coming to join me. I was enjoying her company and I was particularly glad to have her along on the river section.

Signal at top then down for 2.5km. Seeing hut all the way. Arrived 3pm tired but happy.

Dried clothes etc watched 5 people take about an hour come down big hill we will climb tomorrow.

We play the game. Who is this? Walking fast, big packs, no walking poles, so not TA walkers. As they git lower we decided they had to be young, maybe hunters, no they look strong and I reckon they are army boys.

Yes 5 young army kids with huge packs at least 25kg plonked themselves down on the front steps. They were on holiday and decided to do Te Araora from Tekapo to Queenstown. Not owning any lightweight tramping gear they were using their extremely heavy army gear. I think they were very impressed with Kay and I.

Day 18 Arrowtown to Macetown 12km

Arrowtown Camp

I packed up my little home and wandered down to fund a coffee while I waited fir Kay to arrive. Again a sad wee town with only one coffee bar open and I overheard a conversation between 2 business owners who were closed 2 to 3 days a week because of lack of staff and lack of customers.

Kay arrived and I very quickly liked her and was sure we would enjoy our next few days together. A retired lady from Waikato, Kay had done a SOBO Te Araroa the same year I did, but missed this section because of injury. So via the TA Facebook page we organized to do this together.  The shared experience of Te Araroa and  children and grandies gave us plenty of fodder for conversation over the next 5 days. I think our lips moved faster than our legs most of the time!!

The 12 km walk up a 4Wd track was punctuated by 25 river crossings. Being a hot day we were only too pleased to get our feet wet. There was an alternative track that went up and over Big Hill but we knew we had enough big hills to come so took the easier option.

About 2km from the end one of the Dads who had camped next to me came by and gave our packs a ride to the road end as they were getting a bit tired bumping around on our backs in the scorching sun.

Pretty Lupins

We reached the relics of an old gold mining town and stopped in the shade with a father and son who were doing part of Te Araroa together. We quizzed them about the track ahead and gained some good Intel.

Father and son resting with us after our day in the sun

We made camp and had an early dinner and retired to our beds as there was some light rain and many damn sandflies. Funny last time I camped here I had a very similar experience.

Day 17 to Arrowtown

I started the day by having coffee with some friends of mine from New Plymouth who were on holiday in Queenstown with their 2 lovely children. We hadn’t caught up in person for 3 years so we had lots to talk about. Nine year old, Amelia, was quite interested in why I wanted to walk so far and they were not really impressed by my food choices.

I carried on walking alongside the great Kake Wakitipu until I reached Frankton which is a massive shopping area. I had some lunch then decided that the mostly road walk to Arrowtown was not necessary as it was 26 degrees with no wind. Passing through a golf course showed how dry it is here.

I noticed how few planes and helicopters there were compared to when I was here pre Covid-19. Although there are quite a few kiwis out on holiday they will never make the numbers that came from overseas.

So I hopped on a bus and $4 and 20 minutes later I had saved myself a 4 hour walk and reduced my chances of getting skin cancer.

$26 gives me a tent site next to 2 Dads camping with their 14 and 16 month old toddlers, giving their wives a break. These modern Dads are amazing.

I did a bit of shopping for the next section and was planning on eating up the last bits and pieces in my food bag for the last supply fir my dinner. A lovely family must have felt sorry for me and shared a nice fresh salad and chicken with me. Kiwis are good people.

Tomorrow Kay arrives to walk the best section with me as she missed it last year . I am looking forward to giving some company during the day. This section goes from Arrowtown, another tourist destination out to Macetown whuch us an abandoned Gold town. Then over the Motatapu Track for 4 days ending in Wanaka.

Day 15 Taipo to Greenstone Hut to Queenstown.

4.5 hours nice easy walk through valley carved out by glaciers many years ago then, as sun became very hot I was into the shade of  Beech forests again.

Today I listened to a couple of podcasts as it was to be an easy day. One was about shortcuts and the other about an English guy who rode a bicycle from UK to Australia taking 3 years.  These passed the time for me but I am not really so keen on having the distraction. Part of what I like about these damn long walks is that my mind slows down and I don’t have to think much. My body gets a workout while my brain gets a rest.

This area is a Recreational Hunting Area (RHA) with  fellow deer, red deer and Camois. Hunters go into a ballot to get access to a particular block for up to 5 days at a time during the season.

Similar for fly fishing 1 Feb to  31 March . And Nov to May.

The end of my day brought me close to the well onown Routeburn, Rees/Dart Track, and Greenstone/ Caples Tracks. This means the tracks are better maintained  and much easier walking.

I met a few SBOB walkers who had all expected to be meeting me on the track.  I met 2 separate women whi had followed my original TA and were inspired to have a go themselves.  One said she liked how I shared some good examples of what NOT to do. 

I arrived at the very big, flas Greenstone Hut at noon, sat in sun to eat lunch then had a wee snooze as I was uncertain whether I would carry on.

Eventually  a couple of young Canadian girls arrived having walked in for lunch and a swim in their pretty little shorts and tops with no heavy, smelly packs. They looked very clean and fresh!

They offered me a ride to Queenstown which I was grateful for.  This meant I didn’t need to find a place to camp at then end of the road and bother with booking a shuttle for the 1.5 hour, 82km of gravel road.

Nice easy surface for a change

So I left in a hurry leaving them to fins a swimming hole.  The sign said 3-5 hours to the carpark and I did it in just 3 hours. It was an easy track underfoot, mostly downhill and I really pushed myself  to go as fast as I could so that I didn’t hold them up.

Bridge over a small creek as closer to a tourist area
A massive slip area to cross

I paced it well as they arrived about 10 minutes after me. We had a good conversation on the way to town and they dropped me outside the Adventure hostel at about 7.30pm.

Thanks driver.

I showered up and headed out for a much needed dinner. The first place I came to had a sign saying $20 hamburger, chips and a beer which sounded good to me. It was a hot evening so I headed outside and joined a table with a young couple and a man about my age.

That was to be today’s mistake. The man went on to tell me how bad my meal choice was.  He lived in some kind of monastery and didn’t eat after 1pm each day and fully fasted 2 days a week.

I observed his 2nd pint of beer being ordered and him smoking a cigarette from a packet that had a horrible picture of a deformed fetus on it. So I replied, “Oh, so I see you just drink beer and smoke cigarettes all afternoon!” That shut him up for a bit and gave the young couple a laugh.

Then he asked me how old I was (very rude) and where I lived, commenting that Palmerston North was full of scumbags.  I didn’t really feel like making a scene so left without finishing my meal.  Some people!!!

I am giving  rest day tiday Sunday and need to wait to hear from Kay, who us coming to walk the next section with me. She us out doing some other walks in the area so it is quite hard trying to coordinate things. I am ahead of schedule so happy to rest up here in Queenstown. This is one of our biggest tourist destinations and it has been hit hard by Covid-19. There are a lot of Kiwus here and very few from overseas. Surprisingly the local newsletter had lots of job vacancies inthe hospitality industry. Not my scene as I don’t think I could manage to be too hospitable to difficult people.

Jobs to do, washing clothes and shoes and plan next section.

Day 14 Carey’s to Taipo Hut. 18km 7 hours

There was fog around the hills as I left at about 8.30am. After 1.5 hours I stopped for first lunch at Boundary Hut and met a couple of school teachers from Auckland. As I ate my yummy crackers with hummus and cucumber they talked about the need to get right away from Auckland and Covid-19 stuff. They have a renovated horse float that they can sleep in and can carry their trail bikes.

Early morning sky

I adjusted the laces on my right shoe and removed my ankle support to see if that would reduce the pain i had been getting over the top of my right foot. It did the trick.

Tonight’s home will be Taipo Hut
Do I walk on the grassy area or the stoney ruts??? The big decisions for the day
Stunning lake and rutted track

I continued on the Mavora Walkway which eventually joins up with the well known Greenstone-Caples walk.

Aiko and I played a bit of leap frog earlier in the day. I was quite pleased to hear that she had taken a wring turn at ine stage so I was not the only one to do so. She took off deciding to go a bit further than me today.

I took my time, enjoying being the only person out there accompanied occasionally by some cattle who weren’t interested in me at all.

It was a very hot day again with a bit of a tail wind and no shade at all. Everytime I crossed a creek I washed my face and soaked my feet in the cooling water.

Cold fresh water.
Very scratchy bushes

After nearly 7 hours I crossed a swing bridge and was at Taipo Hut. It is a very nice 4 bunk hut with no sandflies and a beautiful swimming hole nearby.

I did have a swim and washed my clothes, had some more crackers then had a wee snooze.

At about 5.30 a SOBO man arrived and he was quickly snoozing too. When he woke up he had a shave which us something I had never before seen on Te Araroa or any other tramp for that matter.

We got chatting and I soon realized that I had found the rich, single, fit man that I have been looking for. It was just a shame that he was going the other way!!

At first I thought he was 50 then as he told me about all the amazing adventurous travels he had done I decided more like 60 then by the end I decided he was probably 70. He told me he had worked hard in his own engineering business in Auckland and sold up and retired at 55 with more money than he could ever spend. Not having had a family he has been free to do whatever he wants to and living in a retirement village means he can come and go as he pleases.

So he has spent his years doing lots of stuff all around the world. He has cycled through many countries including a full circumnavigation of USA. He had also been a quite a few big climbing expeditions in the Himalayas and other places. He was on his 3rd Te Araroa and had all Zpacks gear like me. This man is one of the few people I have met with a lighter load than me.

Next morning he headed off southbound and I went North. I briefly considered turning around and following him but I was quite sure I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with him!!

Day 13 to Mavora Lakes from Te Anau

I enjoyed a long brunch and a couple of phone calls to connect me with home before heading out to the wrong highway to hitch to Mavora Lakes.

⁹Luckily the first car to came along stopped and asked if I was a TA walker. “Yes”  I said   feeling pleased that we were being recognized by the locals. He replied “You are on the wrong highway. This goes to Manapouri”.

Hopeless I am. I didn’t think there could be two ways out of such a small town.  Anyway off I went and found the correct turn to take.

Fourth car along picks me up.  A French woman who has been in NZ for four years and was happy to take me the 30km to the Lake turn-off. I had decided to skip the part if the trail that goes through to Kiwi Burn hut as the 2 days track is apparently very neglected. I walked half of it last time and hitched the rest.

The rest of this section us the Mavora Walkway which joins up with the Greenstone-Caples tracks ending on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. We then need to get a ride to Queenstown where we start walking again. I think there could be another option of kayaking the Lake instead.

Yellow line is for walking and purple is driving. Greens are huts, brown is camping

We chatted away until we arrived at the turn off snd then she said she was enjoying my company so was happy to take me the extra 35km along the gravel road towards the camp ground. I didn’t say no as was was a very hot day and I didn’t expect much traffic along there.

Beautiful Lake Mavora and hit dusty road

She dropped me about 5km from the campground as the gravel was getting a bit much for her low car. I was very grateful. I chatted with a couple who had been swimming in the Southern Mavora Lake. They had been biking in the area, he had  mountain bike and hers was an e-bike. They were an adventurous retired  couple having done quite a number of the bike trails around NZ.

So off I walked along the picturesque lakeside watching people fish and families picnicking, kayaking and swimming. This area is very a popular destination for fishing, camping, trail and mountain bike riding and 4 Wheel Driving.

Soon I was picked up again by a Gregor who was off on a tramping mission to explore some peaks around the lake. He parked at the main campground and took off to Carey’s Hut, 2 hours around the main lake.

I checked out the campground which was alive with families and sandflies. Being as it was only 3pm I decided to go onto Carey’s Hut as well along a rutted 4WD track in the blazing sun.

SOBO section walker, Matt, was at Carey’s Hut as well as Gregor, and a bit later Aieko, a Japanese woman ÑOBO arrived and we chatted enjoying the nice spacious Hut that even had Christmas Decorations.

Carey’s Hut

Day 12 and 13 Te Anau for resupply and rest

I walked out along a gravel road through sheep farms for 6km to reach Sate Hughway 94 at 9am. The second car to come along reacted to my thumb 👍 and  gave me an enjoyable ride into Te Anau.

As soon as sheep see me they turn their bums to me.
A long bale of sheep food for when the grass gets in short supply over winter.

They were a young SriLankan couple who were working very hard to make a life in New Zealand. He was milking cows and she was working as a caregiver, even though they are both very qualified people. The long hours and shift work means they have very little time together so I was privileged to share the ride with them.  The woman was very interested in Te Araroa, wishing she could be doing that instead of working.  I understand that!

Te Anau is the gateway to some of our best Great Walks and scenery and pre covid19 was a very busy tourist town. But now it us very quiet, sadly quiet. The streets used to bustling with tourists and campervans and beds were hard to find.

Coffee and Lake Te Anau

This time I can walk down the main street without passing a soul, restaurants and hotels are boarded up and it makes me quite upset for the local business owners. I had an 8 bed bunk room to myself at the Top 10 Holiday Park.

I cooked my dinner in the main kitchen area and got chatting with a couple who were on a trip away from Auckland.  Molly had worked in the Mental Health area at Palmerston North Hospital at the same time I had so we went back down memory lane together.

Then along comes the wife of Dennis who I had shared a hut with a couple of nights ago. She is driving the campervan  around the South Island meeting up with Dennis and Barry when they come out of the wilderness. From New Plymouth, she recognized me from having worked in the Kiwi Outdoors shop which was one of my favorite shops that took quite a few dollars from me.

I posted some of my blogs, did some much needed laundry and scrubbed my very smell body and went shopping for the next 5 days of food which will get me to Queenstown.

Pre wash shirt before putting in the machine
Yukky socks

I have made a few changes to my food for this section. Crackers with hummus and cucumber for lunches should be a nice change. The best food value for money is a $2.60 bag of dates which are really nutritious and sweet treats to keep me going in the afternoons.

Even a change of bars this time
Plenty of choice for dehydrated meals.

I added a couple of Steinlargers and a frozen Fish Pie and coleslaw for my dinner.

I am enjoying another half rest day today, Thursday 13th. This afternoon I will hitch out to Mavora Lakes campsite instead of a 48km road walk. There is another option off the road for about half of the distance but the track is pretty rugged so I am giving it a miss.