Rakaia River to Rangitata River

Tuesday 3rd May – Glenrock Stream to Comyns Hut, 15.7km, 4 hours 45

I woke at 5.20am to catch the school bus out to the trail again. The bus driver enjoys the company on his trip out to get the school kids and said we were the 78th and 79th tramper’s that he had transported this season. It was only $20 which is much cheaper than most shuttles. This helped us get around the Rakaia River which is a hazard zone on the trail and it is stressed that it is best to go around the river, rather than cross on foot.

I enjoyed the ride, looking at all the stars and staring across to where we had walked to on Sunday. The river looked full and not safe to cross so I was glad to be transported. The track started through farmland where dark piles of animal evidence where everywhere. The track steadily climbed, going by a good rock climbing face. As I looked back, there was a good view of the mountains and Rakaia River. Looking forwards, the sun was travelling down the mountains casting a golden light.

After an hour, we stopped for a break as the steady climb made us puff and looking ahead we could see the track zig-zagging up to Turton’s Saddle (1120m). We attacked the climb and slowly made our way up. Travel was easy after this and we saw A-Frame Hut’s toilet off in the distance as we descended.

We reached A-Frame Hut after 2 ½ hours walking and we discovered an awesome three bunk, well thought out hut. I would have loved to have stayed the night there. We did have a morning tea break.

After another 2km, we had four river crossings that we crossed via stepping stones (often looking for the best spot as we had plenty of time to put effort into keeping our feet dry). We climbed up and down into Mutton Gully and one more river crossing that required a huge leap (hard to do with a heavy pack on) and then it was only 700m more to the hut.

There were actually two huts. One was built in the 1890’s and was very old and had plenty of missing wall parts. The other was built in 1957, out of corrugated iron and novo-light on the windows. It also had a bit of ventilation but was a welcome shelter from the wind that raged all evening and night.

We arrived at this Comyns Hut before 12pm but couldn’t walk on as the next hut was too far and camping options didn’t look good. We spent the afternoon collecting firewood and water, eating lots and reading the hut book. Pete ventured out and stopped all the rattling parts of the hut that were making a huge noise with each wind gust. The toilet didn’t have a roof so we guessed it is windy here a lot.

There was a lovely night sky with the sunset and the beautiful stars. We were toasty warm in the hut and it gusted all night.

Wednesday 4th May – Comyns Hut to Manuka Hut, 20km, 7 ½ hours

There was very gusty wind through the night and spits of rain from 4.30am. We put our jackets on to start. I forgot the stick I was using to support my sore knee so had to go back a couple of minutes to the hut to collect it.

The route today followed a river up a valley where we had to cross the river 51 times. The marker poles to follow, were far apart so we had to choose the best route ourselves. It was enjoyable as the river was low (shin height) and the sun came out.

After 2 ¼ hours, we left the river and climbed the saddle through lots of tussock. There were great views at the top but it was windy so we didn’t stick around long. The down section involved lots of sidling (tussock and four scree slopes). We rested a couple of times when we could out of the wind. I could see the flats I wanted to get to.

There were more gusts of wind and we finally made it down to the flats. There were hares and bird life but otherwise barren to all other life. We reached Double Hut Junction with 5km to go. It was a four wheel drive track and my legs were on autopilot. The wind was blowing us around and made us feel like we were dancing. We passed by two dried up lakes. Getting to the hut was a welcome sight, to get out of the wind.

I had a soup to warm up. Manuka Hut was great with six bunks and a nice fire place. We sat in front of the fire reading Wilderness Magazines that had been left behind by others. While we were sleeping a big gust of wind blew the door open, even though we had a big round of wood up against it.

Thursday 5th May – Manuka Hut to Mt Potts (Rangitata River), 34km, 8 hours

We were up early at 5.30am and started walking in the dark to make our 3pm deadline for being picked up. It was a four wheel drive track so it was ok for seeing with our head torches. We got to a sign and I used it to lean on to tighten my shoes. We continued on and actually went the wrong way. A lesson learnt in not being blasé around DOC signs. We had to go back about 5 minutes of walking. We then studied the sign and it had been tampered with and was giving confusing information.

Back on the right track, we then lost the track and found ourselves cutting back to find the right way again. Enough of doing that!

The track undulated and then came out by Lake Emily. We continued on in what is a fairly remote area. The road changed to gravel that was hard to walk on. Luckily, most of the time there was a grass verge to walk on. It was really boring road and scenery.

We had a coffee break by a bridge and then started on a track that was 21km in length. It was good for walking fast while still having a variety of terrain. There was not much to look at, there was no wildlife and we had a few breaks along the way.

We came upon a dried up lake and then we looked over to where we were heading and views over to Clearwater Village and Lake. A steep downhill had me going down backwards and clinging onto the fence. The track undulated a lot and had plenty of signs telling us which way to go.

The last 3km went to the right when we knew we had to go left. As we followed this track, a helicopter was dropping spray on Matagouri plants (way too close for my liking). We were power walking to make our 3pm deadline.

We dropped down to the river and could see the bridge that we knew would be our finishing target. We finally made it there at 2.52pm. My Aunty Lyn and Uncle Barry were there to meet us and we were all happy to see each other as it is such a remote spot.

On the drive back we stopped for drink, pie and ice cream – well earned! Only two more walking days to go!

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