Spectacular view, the first big river and a „hobbit house“
After our break the first day is an easy one as it goes from Wanaka to Lake Hawea. We follow a river all the way to lake Hawea. We already arrive at noon and are not yet tired. As it is not possible to start with the next part without finishing it, we stay at the campsite and relax.
We start early in the morning the next day. Our goal: Stodys Hut, 22km and 1200 height meters. Let‘s go! The first part seems hard even as the way is really easy. Why hard? It is only the way to the start of the climb of Breast Hill. And than it begins, first very steep and later steady up. The view on the top is absolutely stunning and we enjoy it with a long break! We meet a fellow hiker who is willing to make a pic of us. As we talk he promises to promote our project at the Rotary Club of Christchurch, great!
The way down is easy and we eventually reach Stody‘s Hut, a very small, basic hut. It fills up with fellow hikers coming from the other direction. We decide to putch a tent next to the hut and enjoy the quiet! 😉
The next day our goal is „Top Timaru Hut“, only 14 km. However it seems to be a challenging tour as it is calculated with 8 hours. And what can we say, it was challenging! First there is a very steep ascend which is more of a climbing than a hiking part. Several times we hit the ground, probably it would habe been faster to slide down on the behind… Later there is a river you cross several times, always climbing down and on the other side up again. As we reach the nice hut, we are very happy! We meet a nice english couple and enjoy the evening!
We want to start real early as we have a challenging day ahead of us: first a sattle to climb and after the ascend the first real river to cross (Ahuiri River). However as we are leaving the hut it is still dark and very windy and cloudy. Change of plans. We enjoy coffee and breakfast and than go out in the wind. The climb is long and exhausting, but much easier as it looked from below. Only the strong wind is annoying and adds to the difficulty.
As we reach the top we are frozen and happy to ascend quickly. At „Tin Hut“ we stop for a long break. To the Ahuri river it is than an easy walk of 11km which we accomplish very quickly. Before we reach the river we meet a fellow hiker who tried to cross the river several times however the current was too strong to cross alone. However together we manage to cross the river ( more a mental challenge than a physical) and are happy to find a nice spot where we can pitch our tent. We are happy and proud of our achievements today and celebrate with a healthy sip of our precious whiskey !
Our goal today: lake Middelton, 26 km walk. In the morning it is still very cold and with the wind freezing! We walk as fast as possible to get warm. Starting from noon the sun starts shining and we enjoy the way until the campsite. We even take the chance to take a bath in the lake, feels fantastic!!
Again we start early as our goal is Twizel, 31 km hike. However it is a very very easy path, along lakes. We are surprised how fast we are. The almost empty backpacks help further to our velocity. So we reach Twizel at 2pm, fantastic! We first go to „cycle journeys“ where we rent two bikes. As many Te Araroa hikers we are going to lake Tekapo by bike as the walk on the canal is long and flat. We are allowed to already take the bikes and drive to Denise, a trail angel in Twizel. In her garden she has a „hobbit house“ and she offers it to TA hikers for free. She also opens her home and heart for the hikers, what a great thing to do! We enjoy staying in this sweet little house which could be owned by Frodo of Lord of the Ring and the hospitality of dear Denise! Thank you for your generosity!
The 68km by bike is easy and quick. At the first part we enjoy a fantastic view on the Mount Cook. Already at noon, we arrive at lake Tekapo where we treat ourselves with a motel. We fill up our groceries and enjoy the comfort of a bad and bathroom.
As we feel very relaxed we decide not to make a full rest day but already start the next day at noon. Goal is to go easy 15 km and then pitch a tent as soon as we reach the Richmond Trail. The first 13 km we follow a gravel rosd. It is easy walking, however with the full backpakcs (food for 8days) and the sun burning we are really slow. Step by step we fight to come to the end of the road. No fun, no energy, just road. Thn a camper stops. In it, Peter and his grandson from Timaru who ask as where we are going. We have a really nice chat in which we recognize that Peter and me are both proud Rotarians. Peter even gets out of his car, makes pictures and promises to promote our project at his home club. Thank you Peter for the pictures and the contact to the press. It was so nice meeting you!! To meet such nice guys gave so much energy and after it we managed to reach the start of the Richmond Trail. However until we found a suitable place to camp with a accessable water source took us quote long, so that the „easy half day“ turned out to be a long walk.
Our goal today is a real short walk, only 13 km as we already walked more than we anticipated the day before. However as we reach our goal, it is 1pm and we are not ready yet to finish for the day. After checking the map we see our possibilities: end or descend to stag sattle (highest point of the Te Araroa). Ok, lets descend the sattle, its still early! There are two possibilities, through the valley or over the ridge. Surly we take the ridge. It is supposed to have stunning views. And it really was fantastic! Not easy, as it is a steady, long descend, however very rewarding. We not only reached the highest point or the trail but also made half of the way of the south island, 650km! After the saddle we look for and find a nice camping spot where we celebrate the achievements!
The night is cold (no wonder, we are still on 1800 meters) and it is hard to get out of the warm tent…But as soon as we start walking the cold is forgotten. We ascend the sattle and reach „Royal Hut“ where we take a nice breakfast break. At noon we reach „Stone Hut“ which was the planned goal for this day. But it is still too early, so we decide to climb the next sattle and aim to sleep at „Crooked Spur Hut“. As we start on the saddle, the weather starts to look as if it would raining and, sure enough, just as we enter the hut in the late afternoon it starts to rain. We gladly take up the last two bunks in the hut!
The next day is a challenging, as we want to try to cross the river „Rangitata“. It is a so called „hazard zone“, means it does not belong to the trail. The recommendation is to hitchhike around it. However due to the dry conditions we want to try to cross. We will see. First we have a steep ascend to the Bush Stream which we than have to cross several times. We manage to be at the end of the trail at midday. After a long break we start to hike to the river. The water in the river is very low, however the current is strong. However slowly and carefully we make our way across the river. As it is so wide we need 1hour to reach the safety of the other side. Due to the really low water level it was more a mental than a physical challenge, however it is easy to imagine that this river is not safe to cross with a higher water level. We are happy to be safe on the other side and enjoy the evening.
The next day we hike 29 km until Lake Emily. It is a long hot day and the going is slow. There is almost no shadow and the sun is burning. However the path is very easy so we manage to reach the lake where we enjoy a bath!
After the long days we have now some easy days. As we have organized a transport which picks us up at the Rakaia River, which we don‘t attempt to cross, we have lots of time to take it easy until than. So we decide to climb the next saddle and camp somewhere below, a 15 km hike. As it turns out, it is a perfect plan, as it starts raining at the very moment we finished pitching our tent below the saddle. We enjoy the feeking of warmth and comfort in our tent while the rain is drumming on our tent. Perfect!
Not so perfect is the morning where you have to open the warm tent to embrace the cold morning. It is cloudy and wet. Brrrr. However after 2hours walking as we have our breakfast break the sun starts to beat the clouds. It is wonderful to feel the sun and slowly it gets warmer! Already at the early afternoon we reach our goal of the day: A-frame Hut. Time to dry the tent and enjoy a lazy day!
The next day we have a short walk to the pick up place. Wayne drives us to Methven where we enjoy two full rest days!