Finishing the South Island

Thursday 28th April – Otira River, Aitken’s Carpark to Goats Pass Hut, 7hours 20, 16 1/2 km

After a night in Otira Hotel, that has a Museum feel about it with a collection of stuffed animals, life-sized people models and old mechanical machinery, we enjoyed our breakfast by the roaring fire.

The hotel owner, dropped us back at the point I had walked to prior to having a sore knee (five weeks earlier). I say us, as I was joined by Pete again and also Trix a friend who loves tramping. We had half an hour of road walking to start. There was not much traffic and they were considerate and moved over for us.

We reached the Morrison’s Foot bridge and started the Deception-Mingha Track around 8.30am. It started out nice and flat, well marked and easy going. This lasted half an hour and then it was time to get our feet wet. The first crossing was only knee deep (the rivers are really low at the moment so it is a good time to be doing this track as bad conditions means waiting a day or two for rivers to go down).

We followed the river by boulder hopping and walking through the water as required. It was cold but not too bad. I got my shorts wet only twice so not too bad. At one stage, we came across a side stream and noticed as we walked through that it was warm and there was a very strong smell of sulphur. It reminded me of home, of course and was nice on my cold feet.

The sun came out and gave us a nice sunny day to walk with. This track is the run part of the Coast to Coast Event and it was good walking along thinking of the athletes when they do it and how it would be a good challenge.

We found a nice spot for lunch and enjoyed the sunshine. After this the trail was hard to follow in some parts but cairns helped and the odd orange triangle. We crossed the river a lot and there were trail parts that were lovely and allowed for faster walking. It offered a nice mix and I was enjoying the track and scenery.

The last stretch had us rock hopping on bigger boulders and we took a short break at Deception Hut. Up the river, climbing more steeply for 2km to the Goats Pass Hut. Not long after reaching the hut, the sun dropped below the ridge and the wind picked up. The hut didn’t have a fire so food warmed us up – soup, coffee and dinner.

There was a great view from the hut but it was too cold to stand on the balcony and enjoy it for long. Two English girls turned up for the night. Trix and I played Connect Four, as the game was there. We were pretty cold – you could see our breath but I was warm in my sleeping bag all night. We hear kiwi calling in the evening.

Friday 29th April – Goats Pass Hut to Bealey Hut, 27km, 7 hrs

Trix took off early to make an appointment and Pete and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and two coffees. We had a small climb to the top of the saddle and then it was down hill. It was windy and cold so I had my big jacket on and gloves.

There was board walk across the top and the track down was nice and gentle. I used a stick to support my knee, as it is the downhill that was aggravating it last time. I had no pain at all on the downhill so was very happy.

There was lovely forest track and we were following the river down. We got out to the road after 3 1/2 hours. We then navigated through road works and road walked our way to Bealey Hotel. We were looking forward to getting some warm, yummy food there and picking up our resupply packs. When we got there at 12.30pm, we found it closed. Oh no!

We made a hot drink and discussed our options. Waiting for the owners to return was too frustrating and may be a long wait so we decided to hitch to Arthur’s Pass to get food.

We walked down the Hotel drive and a camper van was at the bottom. I approached them and told them our predicament. They were a retired couple who were heading in the direction of Arthur’s Pass so didn’t mind giving us a ride. It was very kind of them and they gave us some muesli bars too.

At the cafe, we got food to eat straight away and enough to get us through the next two days. When we were ready to go, I got talking to an Australian woman who was heading to Christchurch. She gave us a ride back to Bealey Hotel. Another kind person helping us out!

So we were back on track at 3.30pm and road walked for another hour. We then headed up a long drive on an uphill incline, through a paddock of sheep and then up a steep hill to Bealey Hut, where we were staying the night. We quickly discovered that there was no water (we need it to cook with, wash and drink) so we ventured back down the steep hill to a house. Again we encountered lovely friendly people that didn’t mind helping us out.

The view from the hut was amazing and the light as the sun went down was spectacular so I took many photos. We were joined by two German’s in the hut for the night. They were also kind and shared their quinoa soup.

Saturday 30th May – Bealey Hut to Harper River Camp, 10 hours 40, 29km

We did some gear talking with the German’s – a very popular topic among trampers. They gave us some fruit and took out some rubbish for us. Very nice.

Our day started with two hours of uphill which warmed me up. I found a stick to use but it was digging into my hands. At A-frame hut along the way, there was the perfect stick leaning outside. A good replacement.

There were good views of the braided river and mountains but it was misty so I couldn’t always see it. The track was quite swampy and muddy. At the summit, we sat and had a break/snack and it felt like we were in an avery. Loads of birds flying above us, including two kea’s.

The downhill was gentle so good on my knee. We had a few stream crossings and the track followed the river. We stopped for a coffee break when the sun came out but it ended up being an annoying time with all the sand flies biting us.

We continued on and came to two swing bridges that lead us to a junction. We headed off the trail for a 10mins walk to Hamilton Hut so we could cook up our lunch and not be attacked by sand flies again. This hut was nice with good views to look at while we ate our pasta.

We got back on track and followed the river with loads of crossings, using a four wheel drive track. We went by three hunters set up camping and then four walkers going the other way. There were great mountain views around us but the track was getting fairly boring and flat. We stopped for a break by the pinnacles – a jagged mountain side with pointy rocks. It was hard to capture a good photos with the sun right behind it.

A long open stretch followed and then we reached Glenthorne Station where we had a sign tell us to go around the fence line. This was a very new fence and it had an electrical wire on the outside so I guess they are serious about us staying out.

It was walking like a zombie time – walking, walking, walking.

There were lovely Autumn coloured trees but we were following a gravel road that was long and boring. The sun was going down, it had been a long day. We reached Harper River Village and walked 300m more to the camp site. We set up tents as dusk set in – very good timing. Once set up and clean/changed we had a three course dinner and I got in my sleeping bag to stay warm. It actually ended up being a really warm night with lovely clear sky, filled with stars.

Sunday 1st May – Harper River Camp to Lake Coleridge, 7 hrs, 29 1/2 km

I woke up to a dry tent. This is a novelty as usually there is dew and it adds a weight to carry. There was a lovely sunrise to watch as I ate my breakfast. We got walking and it was 22 1/2 km of road walking – a daunting task!

There were good mountain views and four lakes to go past (including Lake Selfie, where I took a selfie photo). It is hard walking on gravel roads so we had a break every hour to cope. It does help to make it tolerable.

We had a car stop to offer us a ride and the driver had bloody scrapes all down his arm. He had been bush bashing on his walk. The cars going past today were mostly considerate but some zoomed by and gave us dust to walk through.

Finally, we reached the tramping track of the day, only 3 1/2 km but it helped my legs going up and down and stepping over things. That didn’t last long and soon we were road walking again. It was really hard now and my legs were on auto pilot. The road just kept giving and giving.

Finally, we reached Lake Coleridge Lodge and picked up our supply packages and then walked down to a picnic area. I had just taken off my shoes (bliss) and Trix arrived to take us to her place in Methven. The next section is a hazard zone of the Rakaia River so we needed to get around it somehow. Thankfully Trix could help us out.

Once in Methven we showered, put on washing, made calls and relaxed. I had tired eyes – probably from the dust. I made pear crumble as Trix had a pear tree in full fruit. After a three course dinner, I had a fantastic, well earned sleep.

Monday 2nd May – Rest day, Methven

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