Section 9 – Mesopotamia Station to Lake Tekapo (4 days) Two Thumb Track and Road Connection to Tekapo-Twizel Track
Tues 8th Dec – Get back to the South Island, Walk 10km to Crooked Spur Hut, 5hours
My day started at 5am and I felt like I was starting my whole walk again, going back to Rotorua airport on a flight to Wellington (just like I was six weeks ago). My flight to Wellington went smoothly, then a short half hour gap and another flight to Christchurch. I was feeling excited to be getting back to my walk.
As I walked through to baggage claim, I had Royce and Judy spot me (everyone else was in suits and dresses while I was in casual walking gear). They are joining me for section nine. They are both from Palmerston North and are keen trampers that go out with a group every Thursday.
Royce’s sister, Verona, was able to drive us out to the start. This was a couple of hours drive. But gave me a chance to admiring the flat plains contrasting the majestic mountains.
We stopped at a cafe for an early lunch then headed towards the mountains. We met up with Kevin, from Geraldine, who was also joining us walking (creating a group of four). We had a 47km drive down to Mesopotamia Station. We stopped for a couple of photo opportunities. I was enjoying being back in the South Island and seeing the beauty in all directions.
We took the compulsory start photo and waved off Verona our kind driver and got started. The Two Thumbs Track mainly followed the river today so we were walking in the river bed and doing crossings regularly. There was a lot of chatting getting to know each other as we had all just meet for the first time. After a couple of hours we had a food break.
An hour after this, Kevin suggested that we could carry on down the river instead of going up and over. So off we rock hopped, doing a few river crossings but then we got to a tight gorge and the crossing seemed too dangerous. Kevin was testing out the depth a with his walking stick and it whisked out of his hand and took off down the river.
After deciding the crossing was not a wise move, we headed back the way we came. After 100m or so, Kevin spotted his stick and clambered through the river and rescued it. A happy reunion!
A climb was next and it warmed us up and got us puffing. It wasn’t long before we gained a lot of height and could look down on the river we had been by all afternoon. This was followed by a down hill that had some steep sliding parts. I didn’t enjoy some parts.
I saw my first spindly plant (crazy Irishman). The last part of today was another up hill that switched backed up the hill. After 20 odd minutes it came to a flat part and we could see the hut…yay! And what a cool hut, Crooked Spur Hut is. The window had a view back all the way back to where we started from. Rusted corrugated iron with lists of those that had stayed there, dating back years ago. There were a few holes in the walls adding to the character.
We settled in and I had to cook my dinner straight away (Kaweka meal) as I was hungry. I also helped Judy eat half of her dinner as she had so much. Walking sure gives you an appetite. I enjoyed the beautiful view as I brushed my teeth. We had the hut to ourselves for the night.
Wed 9th Dec – Walk Crooked Spur Hut to Royal Hut, 16.6km, 8 hours
Leaving at 8.08am We walked up the gully by the stream. The first photo of the day was the Spinyard plants in flower with their spikes, followed quickly by a rocky peak poking through the cloud that was stunning. We made friends with a weta and I got a good photo of it.
It was an hour and a half up to the top of the saddle of Crooked Spur with stunning scenery surrounding us. We stopped for a break at the top and then headed down a scree slope and then into soggy tussock. One extreme to the other.
The second saddle of the day was a sneaky up where we were going pole to pole. We had lunch at the top even though it was only 11.30am. There view was brilliant and then Kevin spotted a Chamois (a mountain goat). When we later got below the Chamois, we saw it was a group of eight grazing on the hill top.
It was a lot of undulating walking spotting a pole and walking to it, then finding the next one. Every stream we crossed we drank from or were wetting ourselves to cool down. I put on sun block three times today as it was lovely and sunny but we were exposed, out in the open all day.
Early afternoon we came to Stone Hut. The end wall with the fire place is the only stone part left as the rest was destroyed by an avalanche. The missing part was built back but not in stone. Another lovely hut to have a break in. I had a lying down rest with my legs up on the bunk. I came outside and my pack had a skull on it (cheeky Judy and Royce).
We got going again along side the stream. There was a bit of sliding on tussock today and sometimes it loops around your foot and tries to trip you up.
We sat on the side of the track for a while and watched about 11 Tahr (large goats-like animals) climb up the rocky slope. Very impressive as they are fast and agile going up the rocky cliff face. It was enjoyable to see the challenging steep slope and they bolted up it making it look easy.
It wasn’t much longer and we came across a falcon and it started dive bombing us. It was joined by it partner holding a mouse. It kept dive bombing us a lot so I tried to get a video of it swooping in. It was fantastic to see. We continued on, walking beside the stream with a pretty flat track. Scenery was still amazing.
When we got to the hut we were greeted by Miriam (32) and Peter (62) a wilderness couple who for the last 10 years have travelled around and lived in their tent in the wild. Miriam hitch hikes into towns every two weeks for food. She has a gun so shoots rabbits, hares and goats for their meat. Their packs were huge and they are taking over a year to walk Te Araroa. They walk some days and stay in places they like. They are focused on having time to enjoy living. They walked on to tent further on.
The four of us sat outside to eat our dinner as the view was great and the temperature was still warm. I made everyone desserts that they enjoyed. Royal Hut is 1310m high and made for a cosy place to stay.
Thurs 10th Dec – Walk Royal Hut to Camp Stream Hut, 14.5 km, 8 hours
When I woke, there was some drizzling rain and then no more for the rest of the day. How is that for kind weather. Today’s walking started by travelling up the stream, many crossings, with very gradual climbing.
We reached a Plateau for a break and then passed a tarn (lake). Up Stag Saddle which was not a hard climb. There were patches of snow so I made a snow ball and left foot prints. There were fantastic views at the top down to Lake Tekapo. Stag saddle is 1925m above sea level and is the highest point on the Te Araroa route.
We walked across the scree slopes and unfortunately slid on my side and will have some impressive bruises to show for it. We stopped for a lunch break by some snow. We then climbed up the ridge to an easy walking track and had amazing views over to Mt Cook and down to Lake Tekapo. I took heaps of photos and again had the feeling of being on top of the world.
We walked along the ridge looking at the view, trying not to trip up. It was absolutely beautiful!
We then followed a 4WD track that was nice and wide so we could walk side by side and talk. Kevin had lots of stories to tell me. We had to go up and over to get down to a stream and then rejoin the Te Araroa Trail. We crossed the stream and then it was a muddy few steps before the last part around a corner and looking down at the Camp Stream Hut. Another hut that looked like it had character. It was built in 1897 so is one of the oldest huts in New Zealand.
We were welcomed by Miriam and Peter, who we had met yesterday at Royal Hut. We took off our shoes and sat round talking in the sun. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon. Royce was kind and gave me some of her crackers and blue cheese (one of my favourite things).
We all cooked up our dinners and desserts and shared with each other as we were interested in what everyone was eating.
The highlight of the evening was when Miriam went off Hare hunting and within 10 minutes came back with one she had shot. She then showed me how she hangs it up and skins it and how to store it over night.
Peter and Miriam kept us entertained with many stories as we got ready for bed in the cosy hut. Three of us slept there and three went in tents.
Day 47 Walk Camp Stream Hut to Lake Tekapo Backpackers, 39km, 11 hours
First thing in the morning, Miriam cut up the Hare and cooked up certain parts for us to try. I’m always up for trying new food so had a few pieces. It was delicious and tasted like beef.
The first part of walking today was beside the stream, through a few prickly plants and crossings. We headed upwards and looked around to see a great view of Mount Cook (highest mountain in New Zealand at 3724m). We then had good views for the rest of the day. Sometimes we had to look behind us but I’m not going to complain about that.
Kevin had to head off from us around morning tea time to meet his pick up, so we were down to three. The next 13km was on a mountain biking track that was easy walking apart from a few steep down hills that I know on a bike would be fun but walking with a heavy pack was challenging.
The last four plus hours was road walking and I hate road walking. There was hardly any traffic but when something did drive past, it coated us with dust. It was horrible walking giving us sore feet, cramping muscles and the feeling of this is never going to end torture. There were nice views of Lake Tekapo but it was easy to get in plodding mode and focus on other things.
I spent a lot of time thinking of ice cream and listing all the flavours I could think of. I then started inventing new flavours (the things I do to make the road walking bearable).
By the end, we were all creaking along instead of walking. We finally got to Tekapo Village and then up the road to Taylor Made Backpackers, where we were staying the night. It was so good to finally be finished. 39km is a lot of distance and 11 hours is a long time walking. A text came through from Kevin, saying instead of being picked up at lunchtime, his wife came at 6pm so he had walked nearly as long as us anyhow. I had to take back calling him a piker.
After an amazing shower to wash off the dust and sunblock, Royce and I headed down the hill to get fish n chips for dinner. We were starving so ordered heaps and ended up giving heaps away to other backpackers. Not long after that we went to bed (I had a mattress on the floor but it was still luxury to have sheets, duvet and pillow).
A big thank you to Judy (64), Kevin (65) and Royce (68) for joining me on this section. I have added their ages to show how tough they all are and how inspiring I find it doing this hard tramping with big packs and they aren’t stopping any time soon. Thanks for your great company and sharing this beautiful track with me!