Wednesday 9th March 2016 – 15.6km, 3 ¾ hrs St Arnaud to Travers River Swing Bridge
I flew from Rotorua to Wellington then on to Nelson. I met my walking partner, Pete in Wellington. Once we reached Nelson, Maree a lovely local who had offered us a ride to St Arnaud, met us and even took us shopping for gas canisters, that we needed. It was an hour and a half drive in her work van to the St Arnaud shop, where I got an ice cream to help me out walking for the afternoon.
Once Pete and I were all repacked and ready to go, we thanked Maree again for her kindness and got walking around 2.45pm. My pack felt heavy with five days of food. I also had my left calf taped up as it had been giving me a few twinges over the last couple of training walks I had done.
The first track was very flat and followed the shoreline of Lake Rotoiti. We reached Lakehead Hut, our planned destination but there were two groups of high school students (around 40 of them) staying there and it was rather crowded. We decided to walk on. After another hour of walking, we came to Travers River Swing Bridge and a nice flat area to camp. It was a beautiful place to camp the night. The only problem were the sand flies.
I tried to tolerate the swarms of sand flies while I washed, set up my tent and cooked my dinner but it was frustrating. I walked around in circles to eat my dinner, while they drove me insane. It became unbearable and I took refuge in my tent even before the sun had set.
Thursday 10th March – 9 hours, 23.4km, Travers River Swing Bridge to West Sabine Hut
Pete and I got up at 5.30am, thinking to get an early start but the sun took ages to come up. The mountains surrounding us were blocking the light.We waited until 6.50am and started walking with our head torches on. We were to the side of the track so wandered by the river for a bit before finding the trail. It got light at 7.10am (I took note so we could start in light the next day).
The first part of today was flat and fast. We reached John Tait Hut at 9am and a guy was staying there still in his sleeping bag (not an early morning person obviously). The track started to climb after a little more gentle track. We took the one minute detour to Travers Falls and got photos. It was worth the look.
It was drizzly as we walked our way up to Upper Travers Hut. We stopped for lunch here and met a German woman and Australian woman having a rest day there. The hut was pretty cold so we told them to light the fire. They were thinking they couldn’t light it, but of course the wood shed was full and the reason for the fire is heating when required.
Just before 12pm, we headed up Travers Saddle, a 450m climb. It got me puffing and I had to take a couple of stops to catch my breathe. There wasn’t really a view to look back at, to blame as we were clouded in. I wasn’t feeling as fit as usual.
Once we were near the top of the saddle, the gusts of wind hit us. We knew they were forecasted to be up to 90km/hr. Twice I got blown over onto my hands. Another time it just kept blowing me to the left of the track so I walked up the side of it. Pete and I high fived at the top of the Saddle but kept moving as we were cold and wet.
Now it was time for the descent, which is not my favourite thing. Today included 1000m of it. After some good steep downhill, my legs (inner thighs) started cramping. First the right and then the left. I later had twinges in my right calf and left toes. My muscles were telling me that they hadn’t missed Te Araroa downhill and they weren’t enjoying the cold wind.
To make it more challenging, next up we had a scree slope. Peter and I walked down together side ways sliding. It worked well for me as I couldn’t see where I was going and just stepped where he did. There was a lot more downhill after this and we had to concentrate on every step.
The descent eased off a bit, as we crossed a bridge over a skinny canyon that was about 50m deep on one side and we couldn’t even see the bottom on the other side. The water created a loud roaring noise. Just after this we took a wrong turn off the track and came to a very steep down. We got a little way down and realised so I headed back up. I got to the top and turned around to see Pete running up the hill. I thought, how has he got the energy to do that but there was a wasp nest and he had been stung three times so was high tailing it out of there. He was all right so we carried on with the steep down before coming to West Sabine Hut.
Pete had said the down was horrible so I was expecting really bad but I was shocked when we got to the hut in 5 minutes sign. It started raining heavier so we speed walked to the hut. We decided to stop there for the day and spent time veging and drying out our gear.
Friday 11th March – 18km, 10 hours, West Sabine Hut to 2km before Caroline Bivy
We got ready quietly as there were five others still sleeping. We started walking around 7am but it was still too dark. It was a pretty nice bush track to start today then it went up and a final steep climb to Blue Lake Hut. It had taken us 2 ½ hours to reach here. We stopped and had food and a bit of a rest. I was feeling pretty tired due to not much sleep the night before (snorer in the hut).
A steep climb was next where we could look back towards the Blue Lake, that is well known for having amazing clear blue water. To me it looked small and not a spectacular colour so maybe the light wasn’t great for it today. When we reached the top of the climb, we looked to Lake Constance that was a nice blue colour with water falls.
We then sidled across and down to the lake edge. It was all fine until the last bit where I did some spider crawling style, backwards. I was happy when we made it to the lake edge and took a break.
We followed Lake Constance’s shoreline to the valley floor that was a bit swampy. We then turned left sharply and headed straight up Waiau Pass, literally. It was stony but we luckily had some grassy patches. There was some horrible scree where I was using my hands to not slip off the mountain. We got nearly to the top of the first climb and stopped and looked down on Lake Constance. Totally beautiful reward for the effort.
Another push up then the track flattened out a little so we could have some food and put on more clothing. The last climb was mostly ok just some scree near the top. It was cloudy, lightly snowing and windy cold at the top so we didn’t linger.
Now for the down. My legs were still feeling the 1000m of down we had done yesterday so I found it really challenging. It was steep and I did a lot of back wards Spider styles. This hurts my back but I go way faster than if I go forwards and I can’t see what is ahead of me. Sometimes this is a really good thing as there are huge drop offs and so many places to fall.
The down just kept on giving and I was wishing for it to finish. It changed to where I could walk forwards all the time but lots of big steps down, slamming my feet. My knees hated it!
The track undulated to by the river and changed to boulder hopping. There were a few waterfalls and swimming holes. After 4 ½ hours we made it to Upper Waiau Forks Camp site. Here we had a coffee and a lie down. It was nice to enjoy the sun, after being a pretty cold day. We had been lucky with all the water we had crossed today, we didn’t get wet feet as there had been stepping stones.
We could’ve finished our day there but decided to carry on further to camp.There was a lot of boulder hopping so we had to concentrate carefully. After an hour, I was really lacking in energy (I hadn’t eaten enough) and started puttering out of gas. We found some soft ground and set up camp.
I ate my dessert, then entre then main. It was cold so I spent time chilling in my tent so I could be in my sleeping bag. I caught up on a bit sleep that I missed the night prior even though it was a cold night and I woke at 2am to put on another layer.
Saturday 12th March – 27km, 9 hours, 2km before Caroline Bivy to Anne Hut
We actually started when it was light today at 7.45am. There was a frost so it was pretty cold, especially on my hands and toes. We passed the 2000k mark on the Te Araroa Trail that someone had marked out with stones.
We came to a river crossing and thinking we needed to keep our feet dry, we looked for a way to cross. We clung to trees leaning out on the rocks then Pete stumbled in so was committed to wet feet just walked across. I managed to get on a tree lying across the water but then had to straddle it to shimmy along. I went ok to halfway, then my hand slipped (gloves on the frost) and I barrel rolled into the water. I clung onto the log and got the right way up. I was wet from the waist down and had a wet pack. We got walking as I didn’t want to get cold.
We were power marching, still walking through frosted long grasses, over frosted slippery rocks, without the sun coming up above the big mountains. I stopped and put on warm clothes as I just couldn’t warm up. Half an hour later the sun did come out, finally. It was so good!
After a bit, we stopped for a coffee and I put my wet things on a tree clothes line and dried myself out. We carried on along a flat track. There were plenty of stream crossings and then a four wheel drive track. We had another long break in the shade and I laid the rest of my things in the sun to dry out.
The afternoon continued with more four wheel drive track, then we ventured off the Te Araroa Trail to the St James Walkway cutting through a field of long grass with swampy patches.
The St James Walkway was nice and in places muddy but I was feeling low on energy and wanted to be finished for the day. We reached a sign saying 5km to go (one hour) and it was walk, walk, walk to get to the hut.
We had to survive a dodgy swing bridge and a uphill that we plodded up. Once we saw the hut, it was a grassed stretch to get to it, that never seemed to get closer. Anne Hut is lovely, new, large and with great views.
I dried out my tent and shoes (plenty of wind). Pete got the fire started and we veged while eating. I was still hungry after I had eaten my dinner. I had a good night sleep in a very warm and cosy hut.
Sun 13th March – 29 ½ km, 8 ¾ hrs Anne Hut to Boyle River
Pete and I started walking at 7am on a nice trail to Boyd Flat Hut. It was a skinny track through long grass, undulating with a lot of variety. It took us four hours and I was pretty tired so lay on a mat on the floor. We spent time at this hut eating the last of our food. Now we had to make it out to Boyle Village to get our resupply food packs.
The rest of the track was similar but boggy in places. It went along side the river and was scenic in places but we were tired and hungry so just kept moving. We arrived at Boyle River Outdoor Education Centre and got attacked by sand flies. This is the worst I have seen them. They honed in on us and wouldn’t let up. I rung home and had to dance around while talking so they wouldn’t eat me alive.
We got our food packs and had a shower which was bliss. Put on a load of washing (chores done) and ate a lot.
I had a really sore left knee today and a sore calf going up Anne Saddle which was nothing high. Actually from the hips down, I am pretty knackered. I lay in bed early to rest up my knee.
Monday 14th March – 44km, 12 ½ hrs, Boyle River to Hurunui Hut
Today was a massive day, mileage wise. We started out at 6.30am with a two hour walk to Windy Car park along the road. It seemed to go quite quickly and we had our head torches on for the first ½ an hour.
I took a couple of panadol as my left knee was hurting. We then ventured onto Harpers Pass Track that climbs and then follows a nice forest track to Hope Shelter. This forest was filled with wasps. I felt like I was walking through one big giant wasp nest and it was scary as I am allergic to their stings. At one stage, I went to put my hand on a tree and looked and saw three wasps right there. That was the last touching of anything I did.
After this it was grassy flats for about half an hour and this clocked up the kilometers fast. Followed by more forested sections to Hope-Kiwi Lodge. We lunched here while feeling annoyed at others that had left rubbish behind. When staying at DOC huts it is a requirement to carry out all your rubbish and a couple of bags of it were lying around. We asked a man working for Fishing & Game if he could take it out.
This same man was later letting go little fishes in the stream that we needed to cross. We didn’t want to get our feet wet and he offered to back us across on his trailer. Fantastic!
Stopping for a break on the track was horrible as the sand flies attacked and I had so many bites and felt so frustrated with them. I wrapped my jacket around my legs and sat there watching them swarm around me. They are impossible to avoid!
More grassy fields for 2-3km then back in the forest. By now my knee was really hurting so I took more tablets (I usually don’t take anything so they make me feel sick). I felt like a mini guy with a hammer was banging at my knee cap with each step. I wanted him to stop. It was hard going, especially downhill. I took a couple more pills around 3.30pm and decided to just keep going to the hut, 3 ½ hours away. I said many swear words along the way.
We bumped into another tramper and then a father and son hunting. The track kept on giving and winding through the forest. Eventually we came out on a paddock filled with cattle and headed across to a swing bridge. I pulled out my chocolate supplies to get us through.
After the swing bridge, it was up, up, up to the hut. It had been a very long day, over 40km in distance. It was only Pete and I in the hut and I ate a two person meal as I had earned it and then slept very well.
Tuesday 15th March – 24km, 9 hours, Hurunui Hut to Locke Stream Hut
It was a beautiful sunrise this morning and I took a few photos that made the sky look like it had been painted. We started out at 7.20am and walked about 1 ½ hours to a hot pool. I put my hand in and it was nice and warm but the sand flies were hanging around. Luckily I’m from Rotorua and have hot pools a lot in my life so didn’t need to take a soak.
We reached Hurunui #3 Hut for morning tea. I took more pills and they kicked in so I was pain free for ¾ hour walking. We met a woman with a sore ankle and a young couple who were wanting a satellite phone to call for help.
We came to a three wire bridge that wobbled a lot when crossing. It was fine once you got used to it and used the right technique to get across. We past Cameron Hut (not the nicest) and kept going to Harper Pass Bivy. I had a lie down and more pills but this is where I started realising, I may be needing a new plan.
We got going again heading up and over Harpers Pass, passing a dead, smelly cow and the pills worked for ½ an hour. Then Pete took my tent for a really steep down hill part to lighten my load a bit. I also used a stick. The track was tricky in places and had a few river crossings so was a good distraction. I kept telling myself to toughen up.
At 4.30pm, we arrived at Locke Stream Hut, earlier than I was expecting. We decided to stop there, to rest up my knee and we knew there were at least 7 ahead of us heading to an 8 person hut and rain was coming. I used my hydration bladder like an ice pack on my knee. After dinner, I slept by the fire and it rained most of the night.
Wednesday 16th March – Rest Day Locke Stream Hut
We made a decision to stay put for the day to rest up my knee and let the rivers drop due to all the rain. It was a long day with not much to do. I rested my knee, iced and elevated it. We were joined by a French walker around lunchtime and then a young couple in the afternoon that stayed the night as they didn’t like the rain. There was no dry fire wood so the hut was pretty cold and I ended up sleeping with my sleeping bag hood squeezed tight around my head.
Thursday 17th March – 18km, 6 hours, Locke Stream Hut to Christchurch
We were away by 7.15am through bush track then out onto grassy flats and then loads of walking on river stones and doing crossings. We had one big river crossing today where the water came up nearly to my waist, The current pushed us around a bit but we made it across in one piece.
My knee was aching all day and I had to realise I couldn’t continue. I needed to stop walking to find out what was wrong with my knee and how to fix it so I could get back to the trail again later.
We came out onto a road just after 1pm and found a good hitching spot. I haven’t hitch hiked much in my life but it always seems to be interesting when I do. Today didn’t disappoint, we had a cycle event go passed (around 20 riders going over Arthur’s Pass Road) and Variety Bash cars (cupcakes on the roof, fire trucks, etc). It was interesting traffic to look at.
We had a back to front bus stop for us, blaring music, of course they were part of the Variety Bash. The bus was colourful and so were the people inside. It was a fun experience to go over the windy, skinny Arthur’s Pass Road in a swaying bus. They dropped us at a cafe in Arthur’s Pass where we finally had phone reception, to tell everyone about our change of plans and work out how we were going to get home early.
We got a shuttle Christchurch after an hour which gave us time to make a few calls and eat some normal food. The shuttle was cold and my knee ached but it offered good views of the countryside and where I still needed to walk.
We finished our shuttle at the airport and were then picked up by our accommodation. We got a basic cabin and had a chance to get clean with a small packet of shampoo. It was pizza delivered for dinner. My fantastic husband had worked his magic and booked me a physio appointment for tomorrow.
Friday 18th March – Home
The only option for breakfast was a truck stop across the road. An experience to eat where there is a ton of photos with trucks. We shuttled back to the airport and had a 10am flight home. I went to Physio that afternoon, where they stated I have an overuse injury (not surprising considering all the walking I have done through the trail and training over the last couple of years). I have to ice, rest and compress. Then I will be strapped up for a bit and then hopefully able to continue and get this South Island part done. It has been frustrating but I guess it is teaching me resilience.