Day 136 to 139 Queenstown to Te Anau.

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!

The old Taipi Hut, home of many mice

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.

Wet underfoot..Try to keep out if the deep holes

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.

Bridge over fast water

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.

Home for the night. Teepee Te Anau

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.

New friends from Sweden

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.

Day 134 and 135. Arrowtown to Queenstown. 28.5 km

The walk was easy and flat for a change as it went alongside Lake Hayes then Lake Wakatipu. The day started through The Millbrook Resort with its world class golf course, manicured grounds and many posh villas. Us mere walkers had to keep to the marked track at all times and not disturb the guests. However I needed a toilet and did not think they would be happy with me digging a hole on their golf course, even if discretely behind one of the nicely trimmed bushes. Therefore I had to disturb a guest and was directed to a toilet. Whew!!!

Golf or toilet?

The path followed a cycle trail most the way to Queenstown so was easy going. The morning was cold, although sunny.

It was probably the coldest morning of the whole TA. Somehow I managed to lose my warm gloves, now the second pair of lost gloves in less than a week.

About half way I arrived at Shotover to find a huge shopping centre is under fast construction. It is called Queenstown Central. Pak’n’Save, Countdown, KMart Briscoes were already there along with a bunch of other chain stores and food shops. It was all a bit much really after being out in the wilderness for so long . The airport was close by so there was planes and helicopters ferrying tourists around. Helicopters upset me as I instinctively think someone is hurt, but probably it is only wallets hurting for these sight seeing passengers.

Is this really New Zealand???

I found the Macpac shops and bought a pair of polypropylene gloves, on special too. Then into the Footlocker shop to find a new pair of Ijininji toe socks. I ecstatic as my old ones were really only good for the bin.

Queenstown.

Off I went again after a nice lunch break with a decent coffee. I walked alongside the shores of Lake Wakatipu and into Queenstown. Queenstown is one of our top tourist destinations. After a fix of kebab I was met by Bev and Rudi from Perth (My son’s in laws. They had offered for me to share their hotel room so I am sitting here in the Copthorne Hotel with views across the lake.

I have about 16 days of walking left with a couple of rest and resupply days included. So the journey is coming to an end. Tomorrow I head off again . I will get a shuttle bus to the start of the Greenstone Track and begin the last 320 kms to Bluff.

Day 130 to Day 133. Wanaka to Arrowtown on the Motatapu Track

With a day of rain coming I decided to go as far and fast as I could so that I wasn’t up in the alpine areas in the rain. Many parts of these tracks are dodgy even in dry weather and I have been very lucky so far, so I wasn’t pushing my luck at all.

On Sunday 1 March I managed a hitch out to Glenhu Bay which is where the Motatapu Track begins. This saved me 3 hours walking and meant I could get to Highland Creek hut on day 1 rather than day 2. We passed a large, newly, developed car park full of buses, vans and cars at the bottom of Roys Peak. My driver told me that this peak had become one of the most photographed places in New Zealand especially at sunrise. So tourists get up at about 2 am to drive out and make the 3 hour walk up the steep hill to get “the photo”.

Ready to go

The Motatapu Track was constructed as part of the conditions that allowed the pastoral leases of two huge areas to be sold to overseas owners. Shania Twain owns 20,000 hectares but I didn’t manage to see her while I was there. The track connects Wanaka and Arrowtown and has some really nice modern huts that are now looked after by DOC. It is a real privilege to be able to cross these spectacular high country farms. (Even though they have some very big hills)

I started the track with 3 Aussie men about my age. They had big packs and were only going to the first hut, Fern Burn, for the night. We chatted a bit about what we were all up to then I sped off. No time to lose today. But I did lose my outer gloves which I had taken off to use the camera, and my PeeRag, which must have become hooked on something along the way.

The gloves are just cheap rubber gardening gloves which are good for protecting my delicate hands from sharp rocks, prickly bushes and mud. Easily replaced but my PeeRag is on another level and worth waiting to see if the blokes had picked it up. So I sat and enjoyed my rest at a very lovely new (2008) hut while I waited for them to arrive.

The had not seen the gloves but had seen the PeeRag. One bloke pocked it with his stick as he thought it might have been a wallet and when finding that it wasn’t, he left it there. Aussie, what do you expect!!

I explained how important that piece of kit was to me and left a note the hut asking for anyone who finds it up bring it forward for me. I added that it was freshly washed and unused since.

Then I was off to Highland Creek Hut, only 6 km away but posted to take 4 to 5 hours. I did it I 3.5 hours so going well for a 1,000 metre climb in searing heat. I am walking through

My day

Arriving at the hut the sun was out and there was 3 men on the decking soaking up the rays. So I quickly dropped my pack, threw my sleeping bag on a bottom bunk and joined them for a lively social evening. We discussed how good it was to have no sandflies for a change.

One man was an Aussie going NOBO (North Bound) South Island only. He is the skinny one without the shirt. The other 2 were kiwi trampers out for a few days R&R.

Later we were joined by 2 young Frenchies who asked if I was Karen. Yes, they had found my Peerag and had brought it on for me. I was deliriously happy.

Day 132. 2 March. A huge day.

I was up and off by just before 8am. Rose’s Hut was only 10km away but the sign said 7 to 8 hours. There was 2 huge ascents and descents to do with not much in between. I could see what was coming up all day and it was either steep up or steep down.

She is a big hill. I have to get to the top of the photo. Climb #1 for the day

So I plodded on making sure I didn’t puff going up and apologizing to my poor toes as I went down. They were getting slammed into the ends of my shoes with every step, making downhill much harder than up hill. Many walkers have knee pain on these steep unrelenting descents but I don’t. When it wasn’t so steep so I was able to get into a run (maybe a canter or jog). I felt at ease, alone in the vast wilderness, but knowing that the Frenchies were behind me made me feel safe an secure.

Then it goes down and through a few trees and over a creek.

I arrived at the Roses Hut at 1pm, only 5 hours! Shoes and socks and shirt hung out in the sun while I ate my wrap with egg, cheese, carrot and salami accompanied by a cup of soup.

The young Frenchies arrived and we discussed the merits of pushing on as there was another big hill to cover followed by 3 hours of a river walking. Rain was forecast for later in the day.

A Canadian ÑOBO arrived and his description of the trail made us decide to carry on for another 5 or so hours to Macetown. This would mean we only needed to walk along a 4WD track in the rain the next day which would be safe and manageable.

We arrived at 7.30 pm very pleased that we did not do that part in the rain. The big hill wasn’t so bad, long but not particularly steep as it zig zagged all the way up, instead of the usual Kiwi straight up the guts. . The decent was very steep and slippery in places even without rain.

The notes said the easiest way to cover the last 3 hours was to walk down the river. There was an alternative track to use if the river was high and we all decided we had had enough of walking up rivers so headed up the other track.

At times it was very dodgy. One slip and I would have been a goner. It sidled really high above the river and then we had to go down again. I really would not have managed it in the rain. I was terrible in some places in the dry. I believe the river walk would have been better.

Arriving pretty tired at Macetown, an abandoned gold mining town with a population of zero, I ate my dinner then crawled into my tent, tired but very pleased with the decision to carry on and my achievements for the day. The sandflies were back with a vengeance.

Day 133. A 4 hour walk in the rain to Arrowtown

My alarm went off at 6 am as I wanted to get to Arrowtown before the forecast rain at noon. However my forecast was 3 days old and it started raining just before I had a chance to get my tent packed up. Bugger. So off I went in the rain for 4 hours along a 4WD track, rather than the cross country route which went up and over hill called Big Hill. I had climbed enough big hills in the previous few days.

I must have crossed the river 25 times but they were all only up to my knees at the most.

River crossing. Pretty coloured stoned
Wet morning
Rock formations
Car crashed over the cliff. I presumed it had been there a while.
The last few kms followed a pipeline into town. Very pretty.

So I was wet and miserable looking when I reached Arrowtown which was swarming with tourists all looking very clean and neat. The rain magically stopped as I arrived.

I found a bunk room at the Holiday Park, as I wasn’t keen on a night in the rain in my tent. It cost $70. That is the most expensive bunk bed I have had on the whole trail. The toilet block was a separate building too. I had a hot shower, hung out my tent and wet clothes to dry and ate my lunch in the the communal kitchen.

I was soon joined by a group of Kiwi Blokes my age who were on their annual motorcycle tour. It was good to chat to people who are travelling differently to myself and we had a few laughs before I was off to get a fix of fatty food and a beer and a look around the museum.

Arrowtown was a gold mining town that had a big Chinese population at the time, now it is full of tourists and a few Te Araroa Walkers daily. The lady at the counter in the museum said that there was usually bus loads of Chinese tourists adding to the mix but this had all stopped with the Corona virus issue. This seemed to be getting worse every time I reached civilisation. I wondered how it would play out and what affect it would have on the world and New Zealand, in particular. I was happy to be away from it all.

Day 127 to 130. 16 Feb. Highlight of the TA. Lake Hawea and Wanaka

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.

Sheep droppings on the track
Sheep’s bottoms

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).

A big WOW

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.

Down in one piece(other than a toe)

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.

Lunch reunion

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.

Just what I needed

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.

Day 125. 24 Feb. 24km in 10 hours to Top Timaru Hut

I was up and away before Anouk was even awake climbing up a track to get me way above our campsite. I could see Anouk’s tent below as the sun came up over the hills behind. It was a pretty sight. After heavy rain the whole area beside the river below can be filled with water. I am so thankful for the amazing weather so far as some years the TA walkers are not so lucky.

Spot the tent.

I got a bit confused with where to go at this stage and had a btg of a meltdown and went back and forwards for about 40 minutes before finding my way. I did feel better about this when Anouk later told me she had the same issues as me.

I was now in the Otago District with only Southland area to cover before the end of my damn long walk.

This section will be mainly across farmland using a public easement, firstly over Longslip Station then Lake Hawea Station. The first part of this day was a bit yucky. The ground is wet and marshy naturally but add cow shit to the mix and it makes for smelly walking.

Prickly bushes to negotiate

After about 1.5 hours I was pleased to arrive at a wee stream that looked relatively clean so I could give my shoes a wash before heading straight up a bank to reach a farm track, which I would follow to Martha Saddle (1,687 metres). However the quick sharp climb brought on my fast heart rate again. So I used the techniques given to me by the Doctor and it worked. Thankfully. I sat for 30 minutes enjoying the views just to make sure all was well before heading off.

Looking back

Nothing exciting happened as I just weaved my way up , up and up the farm track in the hot sun singing silly songs to myself and promising small breaks at 15 minute intervals. The sun was beating down on me had me sweating profusely. I finally reached the summit (1,687 m) at about 2 pm and had a rest stop to eat my much needed lunch. I wrapped in my sleeping bag as the altitude meant that the air cold even though the sun was still capable of burning me.

I wondered why the track went up so high as it was way past where there was any pasture. The last couple of kilometres were so high in it was just rocky greywacke. No farm animals could live up here.

Then Anouk arrived and I followed her down the other side heading to the Top Timaru Hut. We had a really steep descent down the valley towards the river below starting with the usual scree slopes to walk across. Soon we are both running as the steepness is jarring our knees and it feels better to just go with the pull of gravity. Part way down I do stop to talk to the two young German girls, Melina and Lea who are going up the hill. They have done a flip flop since I last saw them. They had hitched ahead to miss expected bad weather and were now walking this section NOBO.

We were now in the Hawea Conservation Park.

Top Timaru Hit is a very new hut which would deserve 10 stars if it wasn’t for the damn sandflies.

The hut had 6 beds and Aliss and her Mum from USA, and a good looking English guy (NOBO) were already there so there were spares bunks for Anouk and I but we both ended up putting up our tents as it was very hot inside the hut. One window has a screen but there was no airflow at all. No one wanted to have the door open as this would just result in a hut full of sandflies.

Top Timaru Hut

Anouk had been corresponding with the English guy for some time and was very pleased to finally meet up with him.

Another couple of people arrived after I had already snuggled in for the night…probably about 8 pm. It had been a 24 km day with a huge climb in the sun and had taken a total of 10 hours. I was happy to again have put my mind and body to the test both passing with flying colours.

Day 124 23 Feb. Last big river crossing done.

After a nice coffee and checking the weather forecast I was on my way to do the next section. Wanaka was about 6 days walk away.

The track started back about 5 km down the road so I had a good, easy warm up before hitting the ups and downs of the trail. I think this is what my body likes best.

The first part of trail was part of the Alps 2 Ocean so easy going for about half an hour then it branched off and up, up, up through the bush, a 500 meter elevation gain. When I arrived at the edge of the bush line I could see that it was very foggy out on the tops so I sat, ate and checked the trail notes and put on my warm hat, gloves and coat as I was sweaty from the climb and getting cold quickly. I needed to know where I was going to ensure I wouldn’t get lost in the fog. The trail notes indicated that it could be a bit difficult to follow the trail so I prepared myself to concentrate fully.

Trail notes on this section

However, by the time I ventured on the fog had cleared and I had another hot sunny day ahead of me through parched land. ( Thanks again, Garry). The view back to the lake behind me was stunning and was a measure of how high I had climbed that day.

The day went well as I was able to spot the markers ahead, negotiate the deep holes, the marshy ground and manage not to get spiked by the taramea too often. That plant could be lethal if you fell in it.

Spear grass. Do not squat and pee too close to these palnts.
Deep holes to avoid.
Creeks to cross many times today
Rocky areas
Up high
I have this all to myself ( and to share with you)

At about 2 pm I came across a couple taking a photo of an animal. They were up very close to it so I waited for quite a while as I expected it to run off at anytime. But it didn’t so I ventured closer only to see that the creature was not looking well at all. It was young so I tried baaing out for its mother to no avail. I told the 2 french NÒBOs that it looked sick and was a pest and the best thing to do was shoot it. They looked horrified but were pleased to see I was not carrying a gun.

I wasn’t sure what kind of animal it was, thinking either a goat or a deer. A few days later as I was sitting in The Stags Head hotel in Hawea writing this blog, I decided to ask the question of the locals.

I looked around for a hunter type and found a group of blokes, one of whom was in camo gear. Ah ha, I thought, they look like they would know about the creature.so I showed them the photos. Well it turns out one of them was the unofficial Duke of Hawea and expert in the wildlife of the region. I do know how to pick them.

A beer later and I find out that it was in fact a young Chamois which is neither a deer nor a goat so it was understandable that I was confused. A Chamois is a Antelope found in Europe. . Franz Joseph, from Austria, gifted some to New Zealand over a 100 years ago. They are a well sort after hunting trophy in New Zealand and there was a couple up on the wall in the pub. They agreed with me that the best thing to do would have been to put it out of it’s misery.

Duke of Hawea
Chamois

The NOBOs then explained that they had camped on the banks of the Ahuriri River the previous night and had left their bag of rubbish behind. They had already drawn a map of exactly where to find it and asked me to please pick it up. I was pleased to see how concerned they were about this and agreed. They insisted on giving me $20 to buy a beer or 2 for my trouble.

Anouk arrived about this time and we continued on together, both happy to have the company as the last big river crossing of the trail was coming up.

We were soon on the flat and heading through the meadows to the river. I wonder how anyone could farm in this arid area that is covered in snow during the winter. Anouk was particularly tired this day so we paused briefly to celebrate passing the 2,500 km mark before heading onward with only the end on our minds.

2,500 km mark
Last big river crossing

Arriving at the river at 5pm we mostly followed directions of the NOBOs by crossing at the braided section. The first section had us linking up and me not too happy by the time we reached the middle of the section. The water was up to my shorts and was swift. Anouk reasured me that we were okay and it was only a few more steps before it got shallower. I trusted her so we carried on and made it through. Hugs and high 5’s then onto a knee deep easy second crossing.

We made camp being careful not to put up our tents over rabbit burrows as the place was covered in them. Anouk was showing definite signs of exhaustion as she was having problems putting her tent up. The day needed to come to an end quickly.

At the end of long days like this our legs only keep going because our mind dominates our body. Hence the saying “Mind over Matter.” My mind tells my feet that they don’t matter.

So we made a quick dinner and retired to our own homes for the night.

Day 123. 22 Feb. Twizel to Lake Ohau. A luxury night.

After a good sleep I headed off to Lake Ohau. The track is mostly bike trail (Alps 2 Ocean) and road walking so 33 km should take me about 9 hours.

At the 4.9km marking stopped for a coffee and a salmon and tomato pie at The Salmon Farm and Cafe. Was this a 2nd breakfast or an early first lunch? Eating 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day takes quite an effort.

There is a freedom camping area alongside the salmon farm filled with large campervans and fifth wheelers. The waitress told me that it was mostly retirees camped up here for long periods so they can fish. I suppose they are looking for the ones that got away and the strays. That should be easy fishing, I think.

My pie was yummy and I savoured the coffee as it would be my last for about 5 days. There was some grey clouds approaching so I pulled my raincoat out of my pack ready if I needed it.

Salmon and tomato pie.

The rest if the day was uneventful really. The trail went along more hydro canals and Lake Ruataniwha and on to Lake Ohau. 30km in 8 hours so I had been moving fast.

I didn’t meet any TA walkers as most had biked from Lake Tekspo all the way to Ohau. However quite a few cyclists whizzed by me, most aged over 50 and riding e-bikes. Our country is littered with bike trails just waiting for you to get out and ride. The e-bikes mean just about anyone can have a go and get out to see our wonderful country.

There was a bit of drizzle and it was overcast so I wore my raincoat all day. This is the first time it has been cool enough to do that. I was pleased to have an overcast day as there was no shade to be found.

Many rabbits.

The final 8 km was alongside the lake and I could see the end point way in the distance not seeming to get any closer as I walked on. When I finally arrived at the Middleton campground on the lake edge it was 5 pm and my feet were tired. 33 km is a long walk for them, especially on hard flat ground.

I couldn’t find any other hikers tents so wandered out to the road and walked up to the Lake Ohau village. Then a car pulled up with a couple of gorgeous French guys on board who asked if I wanted a lift. How could I resist? I knew there was a posh lodge 5km up the road so made a quick decision to get a lift that far with them.

Arriving at Lake Ohau Lodge I had the option of either the last room at the lodge for $140 or a tent site for $18. I decided very quickly that this girl deserved a bit of luxury before the next 5 days stretch away from civilization. The room won.

As I entered the room I was in awe of how clean and white everything was making me very aware of how dirty I was. So I took my dirty, smelly pack and body carefully into the huge bathroom, making sure that I didn’t touch any walls or surfaces. I dropped my pack and stripped off checking out my much trimmer body in the mirror. Was that really me? Then I had a long hot shower, rubbing off the dirt, sweat and grime with a thick white face cloth and a perfumed soap, shampoo and conditioners. There was as a bath mat and a big fluffy white towel to top off my luxury. OMG 10 star.

These are things we all take for granted at home but out here on Te Araroa they are real treats not to be forgotten.

I couldn’t get a full meal as the restaurant was fully booked but I could have a plate of nachos so I ordered them along with a well deserved beer ( just for the calories). I got chatting, as I do, with 2 couples who were e-biking the Alps 2 Ocean trail. At first they were a bit emabarrased about using the e-bikes but I expressed my opinion about how good they are for making cycling available to all size bottoms. I had an enjoyable evening with them and nearly managed to eat all the nachos as well as a 2nd pint. I went to bed happy.

Day 126. 25 Feb. A hard day to Stodys hut

The day started well. Nice track with ups and downs and river crossings but nothing major. It was a chilly morning so I had on my jacket and gloves for quite a while as I was in the bush and the shade as the sun was not over the hill yet.

Anouk had started with me but she was on a mission to get to Breast Hill. I was only aiming for Stody’s hut which was 8- 9 hours away with a huge climb at the end. I didn’t think I would manage more than that.

All was going well until about 2.5 hours along a nice bush track I had a funny feeling that I had passed this point before. The tree across the path looked familiar and now I thought about it, the sun on the wrong side. I had looked at the map app about an hour ago and it indicated that there was a waterfall 300 meters ahead. But I now realised I hadn’t come across it yet. The app now said I was 1.7 km from it and on the other side of it. I had somehow turned around and gone back the way I had come. I was a bit grumpy with myself so sat and looked at the map and could see what I had done. The track nearly went in a circle at one stage and I had gone in a full circle.

Sit, eat, drink, think is the back country rule so I did just that. Except I foud that I had left my bag of snacks back at the last hut so my snack food needed to be rationed. I had 8 squares of chocolate and a half a handful of nuts left. Not enough to last me for another two days.

As I was berating myself Aliss and her mum, Gail, arrived. They had been walking up the river instead of using the track so I jumped in behind them not wanting to have to repeat that 1.7 kms again. The river was cold and we had numerous crossings of the swift Timaru river up to my shorts, and lots of boulder hopping and route finding. I was very close to falling in on numerous occasions and nearly lost my sticks 3 times. I was getting grumpier by the minute.

I definitely would not have done this on my own. It took us an hour and a half to do what I could have done in 25 mins on the track. Again I was grumpy.

Eventually we were back on the track very close to where I did my turn around.

So off I went leaving them behind. Mum was a bit slow and they were going to camp well before Stody’s Hut. I sat for lunch in a nice spot with birds for company feeling better.

Bird company

The track got a bit worse as it sidled up above the river. The narrow track sloped outwards and was made up of rocks, mud and tree roots. There was many steep drop offs that do not scare me any more but I still walk carefully choosing each step to ensure I stay alive. I had a few slips and slides and kept dropping my my sticks, all signs that I needed food. I rested at the junction to Stody’s Hut, ate a square of chocolate, had a couple of Paracetamols and Ibuprofen tablets then, feeling better I went the wrong way along a very narrow scree path with a treacherous drop off. So again I had go turn around and back track again annoyed with myself. For the first time on the whole Te Araroa I felt exhausted. There seemed to be nothing left of my mind over matter attitude.

Even so I had to keep going as there was nowhere here to camp. The Sign said 1.5 to 2 hours to the hut. Only 2.2 km so very steep. I had read one persons comment on the app that said he did this in 1 hour so I headed off thinking the steep climb may not be so bad after all. Yes it took me a full 2 hours of gut busting hell. The first part was across a live slip with huge boulders and loose rock. I could slip at any time and the result would not have been pretty. I was not happy and wanted to get off there as fast as I could. I kept slipping and sliding. Getting more grumpy and exhausted.

Snack food. 1 piece of chocolate every 20 mins. I got higher and higher away from the valley floor behind me but the top didn’t seem to be getting any closer. i think there was at least 5 false summits!

I started at the bottom of that valley.

I finally reached the hut at 5.30 pm. The hut had a reputation for its rat and mice population so I decided to put up my tent in a sunny spot a wee way from the hut as I was not game to sleep with rats on my own.

Then as I unpacked I found my snacks bag hidden way down in my pack. My grumpy mood disappeared immediately.

I made double dinner but had to force feed myself. It seems that the harder the day the less appetite I have.

Soon I was joined by Jake, from Sydney, who had taken a different route up high on the ridges as he was sick of being down in the bottom of valleys following creeks. He was also exhausted and decided to sleep in the hut. We both shared our woes for a bit before turning in for the night. I hung my pack with food bag inside, up in a tree away from my tent. If the rats wanted my food they could bloody well jump for it.

Sweated salt dried on my shirt

Day 121-122. Riding a bicycle for a change – Twizel

A 57 km walk with nowhere to camp or stop was too much for this old bird ( and the majority of the young chicks too) so I hired a bicycle and a pack transfer to Twizel. $67 well spent.

The day was one of the best I have had on the trail. The sun was out, the ride flat and easy, the view of Mt Cook (NZ highest mountain) for the whole day. I loved the day. It brought back fond memories of the good times Garry and I had cycling.

The trail followed the rivers and canals that feed the Lake Tekapo Power Station. I thought about my Dad,(now 90 years old) who worked in electricity all his life and part of it in the South Island.

Canal furniture if turquoise water.

Today passed the 2,400 km mark with some pride at what I have achieved, some excitement about being close to going home to my family and friends and some sadness about the trail drawing to an end.

2,400 km mark

On the canal there were Salmon farms which I didn’t know existed in New Zealand. I stopped for half an hour and chatted with the wife of a man fishing for the ones that got away from the farm. They had returned from teaching in Brunei since 1994 to find that the only place in New Zealand that they could afford to buy a house was Waimate. She was keen to chat and I was keen to give my bum a rest. It us not used to a bike seat.

Then I stopped for lunch at the edge of Lake Pukaki . The view was hard to leave and my lunch really nice. Then along came another cyclist ready for a chat. This lady was o holiday with her bicycle on the back of her car and her pack and boots in the boot. She left saying that she had picked up some really good life options from me. There are a lot of single, older women like myself around who gave seen the kids off and find work no longer interesting or necessary.

Best cafe on the trail. Mt Cook in the background

Then a kiwi couple in early 60s arrived on their electric bikes. They have the aim of riding all the cycle trails in NZ before they are no longer able.

So eventually I was on my way again and came across a carpark full of tourist buses, campervan and cyclists. I queued up for the toilet and ended up talking to a NOBO who was also cycling this leg. As usual we had questions for each other about what was coming up.