Section 17 – Queenstown to Ohai (7 days)

kylielang   January 26, 2016  

Mavora Walkway, Mararoa River Track, and Takitimu Track

Dates: Sunday 3rd January to Sunday 10th January

Sunday 3rd January – Shuttle via Glenorchy, Walk to Taipo Hut, 21km, 9 hours

My parents dropped me off at the DOC office in Queenstown, where I met Dot who is walking with me for the rest of the South Island (18 days). We chatted waiting and were picked up by our shuttle at 8am. We picked up five others from the camping ground and then followed the road around to Glenorchy. The driver did stop at a look out point but it was really windy so we all just looked out the window instead of getting out.

Once past Glenorchy, we had a very bumpy road to the start of the Greenstone track. Our driver complained about the road conditions the whole way, blaming others driving fast on the road as the reason for it being in such bad condition.

It was also a slow trip, as we detoured away to drop off the five others doing a different track so we didn’t get started walking until 11am. It was great to be finally walking and the Greenstone Track is a lovely track. It is very wide and groomed just like a Great Walk Track. This is due to it being near the Routeburn track and helps make this Great Walk a loop so it is well used. We followed this track and took four hours to get to the Greenstone Hut.


I filled in hut book there and we carried on. The track changed to a bit less groomed, lots of tree roots and undulating but still a pretty nice track. We could tell that this track was less used and only saw one other person, who was exploring from Greenstone hut to take photos.

This all changed for the last two hours. We came out in the open and had to go up and down in tussock, spiky plants and swampy parts. It was hard work walking, especially weaving in the long tussock. The markers were hard to see and there was hard to walk on green, grassy moss. This is is the last thing you need at the end of a long day.


We reached Taipo Hut at 8pm, finally. Two other walkers were already there settled in. We made our dinners and got into bed. It was a cold day today and the wind picked up rattling the hut. I was wondering how I was going to sleep with the noise. Luckily, during the night the wind died down. This was replaced by pigs rooting around under the hut and opossums on the roof. It was hard to sleep within all the noise they were making. I was just glad they were outside.

Monday 4th January – Walk Taipo Hut to Mavora Camp, 28km, 10 hours

We were up before 6am, walking by just after 7am. It was easy terrain today. The track was very flat to start and then had some undulating. There were creeks to cross and a couple of bigger ones, though we were able to used stepping stones to save us getting wet feet.


There were some boggy bits but the scenery was pretty good. For us to walk to Boundary hut it took 5 hours. We came across a German North Bounder. Then an Aucklander on 8 day tramp. It is nice to meet people on the trail and see what they are up to. They are always interested in what we are doing too.

The track before Boundary Hut curled around so we had to go passed where we could look across to the hut down through head high tussock, to a Swing bridge, cross over the very clear water and then head back in the direction we came. It seemed like just extra walking to us so we avoided the hut and sat and ate our lunch, cutting out the unnecessary walking.



After lunch the rest of the day was on a 4WD track. I find these horrible as it may be mostly flat but on stones that are hard on soles of feet and the mind is not stimulated at all. Dot and I plodded along the flat then tackled the up and over needed to get to Careys Hut. We spoke with a mountain bike going up the hill and then later his wife near the hut. It was good to get information on the camp we were heading to for the night.

Once over the hill, Lake Mavora was a lovely sight. We were out in open a lot and the sun was beating down. The last bit was under forest but then the track had deep gravel parts that were tortuous. We had a few stops to get us through the last bit.


Finally, after a long day, we made it to Mavora Lakes Camp Ground. I self registered us both (only $6 each to stay) and we picked a spot to set up our tents. The camp was fairly full being the holiday time of year. We had our dinners and sat enjoying the lake view.


Both Dot and I were knackered so we were into our tents early. Surprisingly, the rest of the camp went quiet early too. The Tui birds were singing in the trees and the sun faded behind the hill. I welcomed a good nights sleep!

Tuesday 5th January – Walk Mavora Camping Area to Mavora Lakes Road, 26 km, 11 hours

We were up before the rest of the camp, at 5.30am. We packed up as quietly as possible. We were on our way at 6.40am. First up, we crossed a swingbridge at the bottom of the camp and walked down the side of South Mavora Lake. It was misty in the cold morning and made the lake look gloomy. The Mavora River Track was easy and well groomed. After 1 hour 40 we reached another swing bridge but didn’t cross it. The next track was mainly lovely with just one section that was unmaintained so had tree fall and over grown parts. After 3 hours we made to the last swing bridge and we stopped to eat lunch and apply sunblock.


We had a decision to make whether to cross a swing bridge and take the track that is used when the river is high and remain dry or go along the nice groomed track and have to walk through the river at the other end. We could not tell what the river crossing was to be like so we took the safe option and crossed the swingbridge.

This track involved going over fences and a really steep downhill where I did my backwards spider crawl. There were plenty of scratchy plants to navigate around and we had creeks to go through and some mud. It made for an interesting track. It took us one and a half hours for the detour part. When we saw the river crossing, we now didn’t need to do, we were happy with our decision.


Next up, we had a track that had us following the river on one side, with a fence line on the other side. We startled a sheep that had gone to the river for a drink and couldn’t get back through fence. It ran down the trail to get away from us. Once we caught it up, it would run down the trail again, not realising we were going to keep following it. This pattern repeated for a while until the sheep finally went sideways of the track.

The marker poles were visible for most parts but the track started getting worse and the amount of scratchy plants around, was getting frustrating. It was impossible to avoid them all. We also had a part where the track was a slip that dropped off to river and it was not safe to walk on so instead we walked in river. Dydimo is rampant in this river so the rocks were slippery and there was very bright green weed. It liked to attached itself to our shoes and travelled down the water with us.


After 25 kilometers, we looked for a suitable freedom camp site near river. We choose a patch on strawy grass by some big matapouri trees for shelter from wind. It was a change for the scratchy trees to help us rather than hurt us. We set up camp then went to river to wash and have dinner. I had a Thai curry that was spicy hot and horrible. Only ate part of it and left the rest for the Seagulls to eat. The Seagulls squawked all night so I wondered if they didn’t enjoy my curry either. I didn’t know birds could be loud at night but these ones didn’t take a rest at all. 


Wednesday 6th January – Walk Mavora River Track to Lower Pinchester Hut, 27km, 8-9 ½ hours

We rose early at 5.20am and to start the day, we had 6 kilometers of walking the same as yesterday, by the river and the fence line. We climbed a few fences again chosing which ever side had the least scratchy plants. Some parts of the track was straight forward and easy. Other parts were through prickly plants or long grasses. The poles were far spaced and two were damaged so made it challenging navigating the way. We had another sheep that we herded along the track just like yesterday.


At last, we crossed Muddy Creek and then the rest of the day was road walking. Mostly gravel roads with a 2 1/2kilometer tarseal section in the middle. I was able to walk on the grassy verge a lot so it made it softer on my feet. Our biggest problem was the dust from passing cars. A couple were considerate and drove by slowly. It is horrible to need to wear sunblock to protect yourself from the sun but then this is a sticky magnet to the dust. I looked like I had a really dark tan on my legs.

Dot and I had a few breaks just to get off our feet. I took my shoes off three times today. I lay on a row of hay bails for a photo and ended up coating myself in more dust. I going to have to do some washing very soon!



The last 6 kilometers was through farm land. We had to wait while some sheep were herded into a further paddock. Whenever the trail goes through farmland, the farming activities have right of way and we have to steer clear of anything going on. We were walking through Ewes on one side of the road and their lambs on the other. All baaing at each other, not happy that they are separated. I was not happy about it either.

We finally reached Princester Hut after a long hot, dusty day. The hut ws smoky and a young guy named Ludvig, from Latvia was there and later another cyclist arrived to stay, from Seatle.


Luckily there was a stream to wash in and wash all my dusty clothes. We got busy and laid out all our washing to dry and tents aswell. We unpacked in the hut and got chatting with the others. Two motorcyclists popped in for a look at the hut and a chat. They were going around the South Island for a couple of weeks. As they were leaving Dot said they were taking photos of our washing. Our underwear may now be posted on facebook!

Thursday 7th January – Walk Mavora River Track to Aparima Hut, 17km, 11 hours

Up at 5.30am and we took our stuff outside to get ready so we didn’t disturb the other two guys in the hut. There was a beautiful sunrise glow above the hut roof. The track started with 2.5km asending on a tramping track that was nice and challenging. It then descended down. This took about five hours. The only horrible part was the over grown ferns hat scratched my legs.


The rest of the day was sections in forest and then sections in tusssock. The forest parts were nice and the tussocks were not so nice. It scratched the legs and we had to weave through. There were some boggy bits and some mud. There were also holes to avoid. I sneezed and blew my nose all day long so now believe I am allergic to tussock.


The fantastic thing about today was the signage. We expected it to be bad and it was the opposite. Dot would look up and say “I can see four poles”, whicle I replied “I can see five”. We joked that maybe we had taken a wrong turn as this couldn’t possibly be the TA.

We heard squawking and then two Falcons were dive bombing us. I wanted to take a photo as it came diving towards us but I was too busy screaming and ducking. I had to keep running up to Dot as she had her poles waving in the air. This the second time this has happened on the trail and it is an amazing experience but I also feel for the birds having to use so much energy up on everyone walking by to protect their nest.


When we had two kilometers to go Ludvig (guy from last night’s hut) met us and walked with us a bit. We then notices poles had flowers sticking out of the top of them. It was a really nice distraction to the end of our day.


We arrived at Aparima hut at 5.45pm for the night. The Sand flies spotted us straight away and were even coming into the hut as it had a big gap in the door area. Settling in for the night, we had been warned about mice so put all our food away. I woke to rustling beside my bed and realised my toothpaste was there. I put that away. I awoke to more rustling in my electronics bag and saw a little brown mouse scurry away. What could it possibly think was food in there? I didn’t get much sleep after that.

Friday 8th January – Walk Mavora River Track to Freedom camp, 21.1km, 12 hours


Again we were considerate of sharing a hut and we took our gear outside to packed up. We were off at 6.40am and straight into a Swing bridge crossing. The track was out in the open for 2.5km then forest for rest of the day. We had a slow pace through the undulating bush. We spotted a deer or maybe two. It was hard to tell if we were seeing the same one or two different ones.


Dot and I, reached Wairaki Hut after 8 hours, realising we wouldn’t make our camp site tonight. After the hut it was a steep up hill. I began sweeping all the debris off the path (it is covered with many branches) as I walked up the hill.

We made it to the top just as it started to rain. It was cold and windy so we put on more clothes but then made the call to go back down into the trees and set up camp, rather than risking getting too cold and wet through the exposed section. There was no where really flat to camp so we scrapped away branches and put up tents close together. I cooked up my dinner and soup to help warm me up. It was a cold night but we had made the right decision not to push on.

Saturday 9th January – Walk Freedom camp on …..ridge to Birchwood, 17km

My bed was on a lean in the night so I kept sliding off my mat. It was cold but there was only some spits of rain during the night and we were sheltered from the wind. Luckily no pigs visited as there were many dug out hollows in our camping spot.

Dot and I got up, packed, had a snack to get walking by 6am. We knew we had an extra 4km to make up from yesterday. We climbed back up and walked over the ridge top. There was a beautiful sunrise with pink clouds and views all around. The wind was buffering us around.


We walked down the ridge, some rocky parts challenging us. Following poles all the way down the valley to Telford camp, where we had planned to stay last night. It didn’t take us long to get here and we stopped to get water, change into walking clothes, have breakfast and brush our teeth. A French couple were camping there and just getting up so we said hello but they didn’t speak much English so we left them be.

We had to cross a river so unfortunately it was wet feet time. A nice stroll on 2km of farmland where we herded sheep again. We then came to a Bridge with a “cross at own risk” sign. That never makes me feel secure!


The rest of the day was walking on gravel farm road. We bumped into three guys walking North bound. I had a long chat with them. They wanted lots of advice as I am finishing and they are starting. I told them they will discover for them selves. We did talk about shoes a bit and I promoted mine.

After a long 2km uphill we stopped for a lunch break. I’m getting sick of my food and am having to force down what I have. It is bearable but I am longing to have some fresh food. After lunch, we undulated on the gravel road for 10km. There were some interesting streaky clouds which must have been caused by the strong winds. I took lots of photos.


The last 2km were very windy. It was so windy that Dot got blown into an electric fence. She got a shock from her hand up to her shoulder. It pushed her to the ground. I was surprised with how it happened and felt for her as this added to the long hard day.

We finished with a footbridge and came out to the road. From here I rang Dave from Taylor’s Lodge. This is a very run down mustard coloured big house that is in Ohai, 7km away. It is like sharing a family home that everyone is too busy to look after. We headed there to stay two nights to recoperate and then return to the trail.

It is great to have a bed and a pillow, a hot shower, washing machine and dryer, fridge and real food (eggs, coffee). I made the most of it and got clean and did washing.


What was also fabulous about this time off was Anete (who was to walk this section with me but had needed shoulder surgery) came and stayed and helped Dot and I out. She drove us to Winton for dinner, where I ate until I was so so so full! I had steak, fish, chips and salad washed down with a beer. I then finished off with Chocolate cake, ice cream, cream and chocolate sauce. My tummy bulged at the seems!


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