Pete has joined me walking now and will stick around for the next month. He walked three days with me in the North Island and has been doing a lot of training walks with me leading up to my South Island leg.
The alarm was set for 5.15am and we ate gifted food from Karrie-Ann and Chontelle for breakfast (thank you!).We were on our way at 6.10am. The first part was road walking for 13km, with a couple of kilometers of tar-seal and then lots of gravel road. There was absolutely no traffic so we used the whole road. We did have to deal with a sloping, meandering, undulating road though.
We had to navigate passed two cows that we assumed had taken a wrong turn back from milking. The morning warmed up pretty quick by 8am. There was one ferocious dog that wanted to attack us but luckily was behind a fence, which it ducked under but with more luck there was a gate now stopping it.
As soon as we stopped for breaks the sand flies were at us. They are very pesky and swarm around me wanting my tasty blood.
After just over three hours, we arrived at the trail head. From here it was a lovely track beside the river, where you could look down on the emerald green water. We then had a bit of climbing but still on nice trail to Captain Creek Hut. We didn’t bother stopping there instead went across the swing bridge and had lunch down by the beautiful water.
It was nice to have a break but soon the sand flies were at us. We had more swing bridges but after 1 hour 10 we reachedMiddy hut. It was a lovely hut with plenty of fire wood. We went down to the river to collect water. I had manag A ed to drink 2 litres already today. It was definitely warm and I was sweating more than usual.
We brewed up a coffee and another walker turned up, Keith who was doing the Te Araroa Trail too. He stayed a little while then got on his way. Pete and I had a decision to make about carrying on or not. The weather had started to drizzle but nothing too serious. We were feeling ok and there was still plenty of time. We agreed to head on to Rocks hut.
It was a 600m climb over 4km so took us a couple of hours. It was challenging due to having a long day already. We also had very heavy packs due to carrying 9 days worth of food. I ran out of steam a bit. It lightly rained on us as we plodded along.mWe reached the hut just before 5pm so it had been a long day. We had just walked two of my planned days in one day…yay.
Rocks hut sleeps 16 but we had the place to ourselves. It had a fire but there was not much wood around. Surprisingly there were flush toilets which is very rare for a hut.We had an early dinner then I slept by the fire on a mat on floor listening to the nice rain on the roof.
This was the best morning as we had no start time to make or no one to meet and for the first time ever I didn’t have to get going and it was raining. We had a slow start and with a leisurely breakfast we chatted until the rain eased. It was 9am when we finally got going. It was perfect timing as the rain had stopped and we had avoided getting wet.
It took us 3 hours 20 mins to walk to Browning hut. It was a nice track but had roots and rocks to step over so the legs were constantly lifting up higher than usual and I was waving all over the track to avoid things. I got wet feet from the rain puddles and creek crossings. At one of the high points, the track was weather bashed and trees were down and uprooted. It would not be nice to be up there in strong winds.
Along the top there was a 15mins tussock section that we really notice being exposed to the wind and then the contrast of calm when we went behind trees (and they only needed to be little trees).
At Brownings hut we had lunch of soup and a toasted sandwich (cold and purchased from Pelorus Bridge cafe as they last in packs good). There were some abandoned glasses there and they were wooden ones. I have always wanted Wooden sun glasses so I got our my ones and did a trade.
It was then on to Hacketts Hut and this was a lovely track that took us an hour. We did need to cross the river a couple of times. Near the end both Pete and I spotted the hut. We kept on walking and got to the hut which wasn’t the hut we saw. We decided we were both imagining it.
After getting more water, we tackled the last section for today up to Starveall Hut. It was to be a 800m climb over 4km. I was psyched for the climbing but what actually happened was the trail went by the river and we had to keep crossing it at least 8-10 times. It was good flowing and brown due to the rain from last night. In one crossing I got my foot wedged by a rock and it was sore for the rest of the day.
These crossings are a slippery, stumbling experience where you are hoping to not fall over and get yourself and pack wet. We have to spend time working out the best place to cross and we join together if it is knarly or deep.
Finally, the river crossings stopped so now it was time to go up. And up we went on a steep track that got us puffing. It did have its flat and down parts but mostly we spent 2 1/2 hours climbing. What made it challenging was the heavy packs (still carrying lots of food) and end of day tiredness.
We felt like we were plodding and the 15mins was steep in places and we were zapped. The hut was a lovely sight and Pete got the fire going and I brewed up a coffee. It was cold and windy so we got clean and into warm clothes.
We ate two dinners because we can due to doing two days in one and we were hungry. Of course we also had dessert!
Day 11 – Thursday 5th November, Starveal Hut to Rintoul Hut, 10hours, 20km
This morning there was a frost and Pete had left his boots outside to wind dry but instead they froze. He had to boil up some water to pour on them to defrost before he could get them on his feet.
The first part of today was climbing but we instantly got good views. It had me taking lots of photos which gave me an excuse to catch my breath. Those who have walked with me, know I use this trick a lot.
It was then into a forested section and the frost was melting so we had drops of ice falling on us. It looked beautiful.
We arrived at Slaty Hut after around two hours and I was hungry already. My appetite is increasing and my tummy is growling regularly.
The next part was across a scree slope then down and then up again. It was great to look back from where we had come from and see the distance we were covering. More scree, forest section, rocks and boulder hopping.
I managed to scratch my hand a tiny bit and it wouldn’t stop bleeding. When I walk, my hands swell up so I think that was why. I stopped to put on a plaster. We also ate lunch and admired the view.
Next up was a rocky cliff that had us scrambling by the edge with a long drop below. It makes you use your hands and hold on to the rocks as you go by them. We got through that section quickly and then came to a turn off to Old Man Hut. It was a steep track off the main track so we didn’t need to venture there.
The day was getting hotter so while going through a forest section there were small clumps of snow. I thought I may be running low on water so started sucking on the snow and it was great for cooling down and refreshing me.
We climbed up Little Rintoul and I wondered why the title had “little” in it, as there was no “little” in the climb. It was all walking on large rocks where you have to be careful placing your steps. Even when you are careful, a rock may look solid but then move under your feet so then you have to quickly rebalance yourself. There was also scree parts where each step can slide and cause you to fall. It doesn’t sound like much fun but luckily the views were amazing and made up for the effort getting to the top.
At the top we had a rest, food and took photos. We felt on top of the world.
Next up, a steep decent. This is the part of today I had been dreading as I knew it was going to be crazy steep and rocky. I couldn’t really believe what I was seeing and that we really had to go down where the markers were saying. I ended up adopting a backwards spider technique that really worked for me. I treated the cliff like it was a ladder and climbed down facing inwards. It meant I could have both feet and hands having contact points and my centre of gravity was low to the ground. It did give me a sore back from the pack weight but least I wasn’t sliding down the mountain side. I was a lot faster using this technique and I couldn’t see how steep the decent was.
Finally, at the bottom of that section so now it was up again to climb Mt Rintoul. Yes even higher than Little Rintoul (1643m) at 1731m. Again it was rocks and scree with patches of snow. It went on and on and about 10mins from the top I started feeling knackered but the day wasn’t over for me yet.
After admiring the fantastic views again, we headed downhill. After a while it became loose scree where you can just dig in your heel each step and stride down sliding with it as you go. This was followed by more rock hopping making me exhausted.
We reached the tree line and had 20 minutes of more steep down hill that went on and on. I had to hold on to the trees and was swinging from one to the next (felt like a pin ball machine ball). It was so fantastic to finally see the hut. It also had a fantastic view out to Motueka too.
I had a cold water bucket shower and did some washing. We ate two dinners and a dessert. I had to lie down as my legs and hands were swollen and it was really uncomfortable. It had been a big day!
Day 12 – Friday 6th November, Rintoul Hut to Mid Wairoa Hut, 8 1/2 hrs, 14.5km
We are a big lot of porridge for breakfast and a dessert too. The first part today was nice trail with a steady up that I felt good on. We came out to an open section, rock scrambling that allowed some good views. We got cell phone reception so I rang my husband as I have a hole in my shoe, to ask him to send me my next pair.
We made it to Tarn hut after a long time plodding. It was down to a small lake which was quite brown with a lot of dead trees around it. The hut was about 20m away from the lake. We brewed up a coffee and had lunch. I took a mattress outside to sit in the sun and it was great listening to the loud bird life.
We walked on to Mid Wairoa Hut which took us about 3 1/2 hours due to stops and plodding energy levels. The last part was a steep down hill so we each got a sturdy stick to use. It did help but I still fell over and now have a good graze on the side of my leg.
There was a swing bridge across the river and then the hut. We washed ourselves and our clothes in the river and relaxed for the afternoon. It has been a lovely sunny day so it was lucky we have been under canopy most of the day. The hut had an open fire so had a toasty warm night.
Day 13 – Saturday 7th November, Mid Wairoa Hut to Hunters Hut, 10 1/2 hours, 17.5km
Today was walking beside the river with some skinny ledge parts. Don’t look down and cling on to the bank is the only technique to use in this situation. The river looked beautiful and there were quite a few waterfalls. There were also some good water hole swimming spots that would be great to cool off in.
This morning we miss read a directional triangle and headed up a steep bank climbing over fallen down trees. It was tough going and we realised we had gone the wrong way so had to get down again. I fell down twice due to the steepness and landed on my butt and grazed my left shin. It was frustrating. Later during the day walking through the tussock it kept hurting the graze on my leg.
It is important when doing hard out tramping to stop for regular breaks and food. If you wait too long you get a bit of a slump and can make mistakes. I’m usually pretty good at listening to my body, knowing when to take a break.
Around lunchtime, Peter and I made it to Top Wairoa Hut. It is painted bright orange and we could see it a while off so was nice to have a target to get to.
Next up was a rocky barren landscape of Boulder hopping. Then some more scree slopes as we followed the track pole to pole. The rocks were now all an orange colour and it felt like being in the desert.
The descent today was nicer than usual but it was a hot day and the sun was beating down on us. We also had strong wind across the top so were getting burnt. I needed to stop every hour for food to give me energy.
At last we came back down to the river and could use he cold water to cool down. I lay down on a rock and used another rock as a small pillow to rest. I think I was knackered from yesterday’s big day and had puttered out of gas. It was a slow pace from then on.
At the end of every day there is a challenge of some sort and today it was a 15 minute climb up a hill to the hut. I found it really hard after a tough day but when we reached the hut it was fantastic to sit on the deck and look at the amazing view of where I had walked that day.
Day 14 – Sunday 8th November, Hunters Hut to Red Hills Hut, 9 1/2 hours
Today’s walking had some sharp steep ups but plenty of terrain where we could stride out and get some fast pace walking happening. We walked up big boulders. I announced I was putting Boulder hopping on my CV as we have done so much of it.
We had a lot of passes today and it felt good each time we made a summit. The pattern was go up for a 100m and then down for 100m and repeat, repeat.
There were lots of scree slopes where we walked across the hill and were slipping down. There was not even a ledge to walk on. Some of the up hill in the scree had me walking at an angle where my hands could touch the ground. You look up and can’t believe you have to go there. Each step it is luck if it stays in place rather than slipping out from underneath you. Near the top of one knarly scree slope, I made us have a lying down stop to recover.
There was a long wide trail that led down to Porters Creek Hut and we could see the bright orange hut we were aiming for for our morning stop. We had soup and wraps there. I applied sunblock as it was getting warm.
Today included a few creek and river crossings which we did via stepping stones. We had a break at one and due to it being really hot, I wet my hair and face. Another one we took our shoes off and put our feet in. It was refreshing but felt like there were ice cubes in it.
Being cool didn’t last long as it was a straight up hill and we looked down on a nice waterfall and had a break as we hadn’t had any food for a while.
We knew we had about an hour to go and we were striding out nicely but the weather had changed and the grey clouds had moved in. It started spitting. It didn’t amount to much so we only got a little wet. I pointed out that the rocks with red moss on them were illuminated. I may have been losing the plot.
Lastly, a swampy section where my shoes got wet and muddy but included the final stretch to Red Hills Hut of open tussock swamp. It was great to see the hut but it was a sloppy walk to get there. The Hut was built in 2009 so was very nice. No fire but instead double glazing. The rain set in but it didn’t matter as we were inside. We have been very lucky with our weather in this section!
Nothing was too hard today but the energy levels went up and down. I’m feeling tired as it is my 8th day walking in a row and I need a rest day. Roll on St Arnaud.
Day 15 – Monday 9th November, Red Hills Hut to St Arnaud 3 3/4 hours, 16km
I am really happy to be heading out to civilisation today. Pete and I got walking at 6.45am and followed a four wheel drive track for 5.5 km. It was mostly down hill and didn’t involve much concentration which was nice after the last six days of tough terrain.
We then ducked onto a forest track that was flat mainly with one up hill to get us puffing then we popped out on SH 63. 10.5km of road walking is not easy. I have a hard time mentally as there is not much to look at or different movement for legs to do. The slope and hard surface of the road is horrible.
We did come across a pig farm and there were twenty pigs of all different sizes. They came to the fence to say hello. There were six tiny piglets that didn’t look very old at all. So cute!
The last stretch was tough but finally we were in St Arnaud and we headed straight to the cafe and I had a pie and a piece of carrot cake. Well earned! It was then time to check into our accommodation and we got the great news that we were being upgraded from the backpackers to the motel. Great news.
Having a shower and doing washing made me feel like a new person. My hair was all fluffy after a week of not washing it. We had lunch and wandered down to the Doc Information centre. It was nice walking without a pack. We needed to make a decision on when to start the next section with the weather coming. It is looking like a rest day tomorrow, then get going again on Wednesday.