Te Araroa Trail Stories Days 63-71: “From Sea to Summit.”

In the past 9 days we hiked from Picton/Ship Cove to St. Arnaud and covered 218,2 kilometres on the Te Araroa Trail.

Total TA kilometres: 1941,5 kilometres according to maps

Best moment
Philippe: standing on Mt. Rintoul

Nadine: realizing that we could walk on

Worst moment

Philippe: 800m descent in a wasp infested environment

Nadine: letting my menstrual cup fall into the pit toilet (and fishing it out agin…)

Explanations: The stated kilometres are approximate. The hiking times are pure walking times, without breaks. On average we take 1,5 – 2 hours breaks during the day. The smiley’s describe our mental, the muscle arm our physical state. 10/10 is the best.

Day 63: Ship Cove to Camp Bay (Campsite)

27 kilometres, 5h25min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 10/10

💪: 7/10

We’re on the trail again. After four weeks of break we started in Ship Cove on the South Island. The next few days shall show if my foot is fit enough for the South Island. This first section is very good for an assessment. The first 71km are on the Queen Charlotte Track. It’s a private “Great Walk”, which is well maintained and leads along a tongue of land in the Queen Charlotte Sound. And until the beginning of the challenging Richmond Ranges there’s gonna be gravel roads and farmland most of the time. Not too bad for a start.
The start, respectively the first day, was already very good. Firstly, because my foot managed the 27km without bigger problems. Surely I walk cautiously and try to avoid roots and stones, but the foot really did a good job. After a few hours it hurt more, but at this point I can’t expect more. When we arrived in the late afternoon my head was glad that I got so far, and my foot was happy about the rest.
Secondly, the nature, the landscape, the whole setting was awesome. Turquoise sea, smooth beaches, native bush and so on. It was also the hottest day on the Te Araroa so far. 26°C in the shade. Such a day one has to celebrate accordingly with a swim in the sea. The water in Camp Bay was very refreshing. The perfect thing after such a torrid day.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 10/10

💪: 8/10

What a day! We’re back on the Te Araroa Trail und it feels awesome. Admittedly my hip hurt, but I believe this will pass with time. After all we were off the trail for four weeks.
Apart from that today was great. The sun shone, the sea glittered, the cicadas chirped (ear-deafening) and the sweat dripped. After we arrived at the campsite and pitched our tent we even jumped into the turquoise sea! Those who know us might guess how hot we must have been to dare… 😉
Anyway… I know that we shouldn’t put too much pressure on us, because we consider the Queen Charlotte Track (the first 2-3 days on the South Island) as the final test for Philippe’s foot. Only after that we will decide definitely about the course of our trail. But I really really really hope that we will be able to continue.

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Day 64: Camp Bay (Campsite) to Mistletoe Bay (Campsite)

33 kilometres, 7h30min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 7/10

33km (1300m up and down). Exactly, that’s right. Another long day for my foot. And yes, hopefully I won’t pay for it. In the morning I had already thought that the 27km from yesterday were too much. The foot hurt after getting up. But after we had walked off, it was good again. After 4 weeks off the trail I had totally forgotten that this was normal. But I was still alarmed.
A light drizzle and low clouds spoiled the views until lunch. In return it wasn’t as hot as yesterday. Sweet as.
The route had more elevation gain and steeper climbs today. Otherwise we walked on nice paths over ridges and through forests. And after lunch we could admire the stunning views over the Sounds and see over to Picton.
On the last few kilometres I felt my my foot much more and I worried with every step of doing more harm. In Mistletoe Bay I was immensely relieved that my foot wasn’t obviously harmed. But let’s wait until tomorrow.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 8/10

We were back in our old trail-mode in no time. Rising early, starting to walk shortly after 7am, taking the usual (well, a bit extended) breaks (müesli bar, müesli bar, lunch, nut bar, nut bar) and experiencing the familiar incompatibility with our minds to stop at 2pm already. So we took on the highest peak on the Queen Charlotte Track (407 metres above sea level) and reached Mistletoe Campsite before 5pm. There we received an unexpected discount (for Te Araroa hikers, asking pays out oftentimes ;)) and treated ourselves to a hot shower.
Today’s weather was overcast with occasional drizzles. But the track was highly enjoyable, despite the many metres of elevation (1300 up and 1300 down). The trail should always be like this. Oh well, but I guess we might get bored…

Day 65: Mistletoe Bay (Campsite) to Havelock

20 kilometres (+9,5 km hitchhiking), 4h

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 6/10

Last day on the Queen Charlotte Track. The last kilometres were less spectacular but still beautiful. The trail was mostly flat with not much incline. After two hours we stopped at Davis Bay and then it was only 3km to Anakiwa.
At the end of the track we met two other Te Araroa hikers, Lars (AU) and Romina (DE). They already knew a bit about us because of the bush telegraph and facebook. We exchanged some infos, then our ways parted for the moment.
After that we followed a gravel path next to the road and out of Anakiwa to the main road and then further in direction to Havelock. The hard surface gave our feet a hard time and after some kilometres they felt sore. Before the petrol station the gravel path suddenly ended. Therefore we decided to hitch the last bit to Havelock. We wanted to avoid the last 7,5km on the road (+ 3km up and down a 400m hill) and to give the feet an early rest.
The rest was really necessary because we already want to walk into the Richmond Ranges tomorrow or the day after. My foot isn’t 100% fit but did a good job in the last few days.
And if the coming section should be too tough, we still could walk out at the first day.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 8/10

The Queen Charlotte Track ended unspectacularly and soon it was road walking again. At least there was a gravel footpath alongside the road. Still, after lunch and 20km we decided to hitch the last bit to Havelock. My feet felt like pudding and that way we could get some rest before heading into the Richmond Ranges.
A retired couple from France picked us up. They hike sections of the Te Araroa during their vacation in New Zealand and for their lack of command of English we communicated in a really basic French.
In Havelock we bought Ibuprofen (my hips are doing better every day), musclecreme (our shoulders have to get used to the backpacks again) and apples (the last ones for a while), before we pitched our tent on the campground.

Day 66: Havelock to Captains Creek Hut (Mount Richmond Forest Park)

22,5 kilometres (+20km hitchhiking), 5h35min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

In the morning we hitched from Havelock to Pelorus Bridge. We spared us the 20km on roads and on a track over farmland. Moreover we wanted to take the chance of the good weather window in the next few days.
We got our food parcel without problems. More problematic was to stuff all that food in the backpack. In total 7 days + todays food.
In soft rain we walked for the first 14km on a road (tarmac/gravel) to the beginning of the Pelorus River Track. Not very interesting. Only a ton of wasps. We were happy that the sun was coming out slowly. Otherwhise we would had been fried.
But later it got really hot and the sweat was dripping while we were walking up and down through the forest. A first endurance test: everywhere roots and stones and overgrown and eroded parts. My foot did a good job, we only had to take breaks regularly. I felt the additional weight. And this part is still a Tramping Track. Probably the day after tomorrow the track will change to a “Route”; more challenging and partially only with markings for orientation. Well, I’m curious.
After four o’clock we reached the Captain’s Creek Hut. We could have walked further to the next hut. But for the beginning we take it easy. And the Pelorus River was too tempting. The ice cold bath was only short. The sandflies ate us alive.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 10/10

💪: 9/10

To be easy on Philippe’s foot before the Richmond Ranges we hitched from Havelock to Pelorus Bridge (with the postman). The route would have been on roads and through farmland and it seemed like we didn’t miss anything by taking the quicker option.
In Pelorus Bridge our first food box awaited us. Eight days of food were packed into our backpacks and off we went into the wild. Although, the first 14 kilometres were on roads. At least with very sparse traffic. Afterwards we followed the Pelorus River and slowly felt the exertion because of the increased weight. Good that we just planned a short day.
Do you actually sometimes wonder what goes through the head of a long distance hiker? Let me give you an insight into my thoughts-carrousel:
Puh, it’s hot today. But at least it isn’t raining. The next days are supposed to be fine too. Oh, Philippe picked up his pace. I hope there’s access to the river from the hut. Ouch, stupid roots. Man, the backpack is heavy today. But 300g alone are pure chocolate. Hmmm, chocolate. The bar has 11 rows. So I can have 5×2 rows and 1×1 row. Oh, a wasp again. Do they ignore me because I’m so smelly? I hope I can have a wash in the river.And I hope there’s room in the hut. And then I’ll have some chocolate. How far is it still?

Day 67: Captains Creek Hut to Hacket Hut

23,5 kilometres, 7h30min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

I have a love-hate relationship with huts. They are comfy, protected, and warmer than a tent. But are there any snorers or a fidgeter above your bunk it’s hell. This night it was like that. And it didn’t make it better, that all of us were Te Araroa hikers.
We started at 7.15 and crossed our first swingbridges on our way to the next hut. I always had the video in mind, which showed a group of four with a Gopro while the bridge collapsed. Luckily for them the water was deep enough.
Oh man, we should have pushed on yesterday. The only one in the hut would have been a hunter. Afterwards the path climbed up to +800m. It was an exhausting affair and we were happy to be in the shady forest. When we arrived in Rocks Hut we were admiring its luxurious size and the flush toilet. Then we walked on on a winding path through a forest of beeches. The many roots and stones slowed our speed tremendously. The steep bits were balancing acts and knee destroyers at the same time.
From the Browning Hut to the Hacket Hut – where we stayed – it was only an hour more. We thought (I mostly) to continue to Starveall Hut (it was 4.15) but Nadine was tired and let reason prevail. Further 900m uphill in 5km would have been tough. 1300m ascent and descent were enough for today.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 7/10

From Captains Creek Hut the track led us over four swingbridges, through forest, over the treeline, past three huts and always further into the Mount Richmond Forest Park. At Hacket Hut, after 1300m up and the same amount down, it came to a showdown. Should we stay or should we continue to the next hut? Another 3 hours at least and 900m uphill. My ankles and feet were sore and we still wanted to take it easy on Philippe’s foot as well. So we decided to call it a day.
After we washed and refreshed ourselves in the river we assessed the following sections. It’s all good, were still on time. And should the weather stay that good we should have some acceptable day’s marches ahead of us.

Day 68: Hacket Hut to Old Man Hut

19 kilometres, 7h30min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 10/10

💪: 8/10

There is a type of hiker, whose presence dislodges all others from the others. Talkative, crazy, on drugs or booze. I was happy that we changed to the tent for the night.
The first part went along a river. I kept dry feet but Nadine missed a stone at the last crossing. Typically ;). After that it was uphill to the first hut for 900m. And to the next hut another few hundert meters again. In total it were 2000m uphill and 1100m downhill.
Today the alpine route started. Similar to a Swiss alpine hiking track. When we were above the tree line, we finally could see what we were looking for. Mountains! We were in our element again. My foot liked it too apparently. It did an amazing job considering the terrain. Steep, stony and lots of ups and downs. The real endurance test comes with Little Rintoul and Mt. Rintoul. Long, difficult descents with scree and talus.
At Old Man’s Hut we finished our hiking day. Good weather, mountains and an interesting route. I was happy.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 8/10

A 1100m climb directly after breakfast. Today was an arduous day. But once we’d climbed the hights we were treated with terrific views. The weather was fantastic, the only clouds were beneath us in the valley. The track then led on more or less along the ridges wich meant lots of time was spent for pictures and filming.
Of course we also met quite a few other hikers. On the South Island there are more Te Araroa hikers in general and with such a tightly nit hut network there are always some others in the huts.
Tomorrow we’re going to climb Mt. Rintoul, the highest mountain in the Richmond Ranges. I hope the weather stays that good.

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Day 69: Old Man Hut to Mid Wairoa Hut

20,7 kilometres, 9h10min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 10/10

💪: 8/10

Today the Richmond Ranges showed their full beauty. No clouds on the sky. Only the blazing hot sun, which fried our brains. After 7am we left and were already sweating. Over boulder fields we climbed Little Rintoul and descended on the other side sliding/tumbling/climbing. The dizzy height stimulated my digestion. The boulder fields didn’t want to stop. On Mt. Rintoul (1731m) we had a 360° panoramic view. In the North the sea and in all other directions mountains. It was awesome!
The descent down to Rintoul Hut was steep but in some parts I could ski down. After some rest for my foot we continued through the forest. What a relief. The sun was murderous. After many ups and downs we reached Tarn Hut. The tarn was more like a pond but my feet appreciated the cold water nevertheless.
And then began the worst part. We had to climb down the gained elevation. From 1200m down to 370m. Tough work for the knees and my squashed pinky toe. Down, down, down and always an eye on a gazillions of wasps,  which prefered to hang out on the ground. Nadine just had told me that a wasp sting is more painful than a bee sting, when 5 minutes later I got stung in the arm. Reflexively I flicked the wasp and so probably prevented a bigger swelling. In the Mid Wairoa Hut we locked us up from the wasps, took a quick bath in the river and looked after our limbs.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 10/10

💪: 9/10

With wobbly knees we arrived at Mid Wairoa Hut. No wonder, the last two hours we descended 800m to the Wairoa river. And we did this after we had already climed several summits today. Well, the soreness will wear off, what will last are the memories of the best views so far. From Mt. Rintoul we had a 360° panoramic view beneath a cloudless sky. Perfect.
In the hut we quickly started our normal routine. Checking the intentions book, eating a snack, unpacking our backpacks, going for a swim or wash, eating a snack (yes, we’re hungry), stretching, cooking and eating dinner (finally!), writing notes and tiping them, eating dessert, brushing our teeth, sleeping. In between we would chat with fellow hikers and prepare the food for the next day.

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Day 70: Mid Wairoa Hut to Porters Creek Hut

24 kilometres, 10h15min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

Beer! Ice cream! It was damn hot today. That’s why we started at 6.30am. Our hut neighbours – two American Te Araroa hikers (James & Mary Kate) – already got up at 5am (they were very considerate), so that we wanted to get up anyway.
First we walked along the Wairoa River and uphill for several hours. We had to cross it 8 times along the way. In bad weather it wouldn’t have been possible. Quite worn out we reached the first hut. But that had only been the first third of today’s hike. The sun had just begun her inferno and for four hours we climbed through desert-like scenery. The red mineral-bearing rocks and the relentless heat immediately reminded us of the landscape on the Lara Pinta Trail in Australia. It all wouldn’t have been too bad, if my insoles wouldn’t have kept shifting around in my shoes. Wet shoes and gel insoles just don’t work together, evidently. I’ll have to find some other ones in St. Arnaud.
In sweltering heat we hiked and were slowly cooked through. Arriving at Hunters Hut I felt close to a colapse in the heat. Awesome weather, 3pm, for those matters a good time to stop and cool down. Well, we went on. Probably peer pressure. 😉
Technically, the track should have continued through “undulating” country. But it got more extreme. Up and down and finally a moonscape. We were in the Nelson Mineral Belt and the Red Hills. The sun emphasized the wasteland brilliantly.
Completely drained we finally arrived at Porters Creek Hut. Aching muscles are guaranteed tomorrow, but also a beer.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 9/10

Why are we still walking? 12 hours after we set off this morning we were still walking. That happens when you plan your hike related to huts, arrive at 3pm at a possible hut to stay, and there are four other hikers that push on. And of course our idea to camp along the way was quickly declared impossible by the terrain.
I now also understand why the Richmond Ranges are said to be the most stunning, but also the toughest section on the Te Araroa Trail. Every day more than 1000 metres uphill and downhill, very steeply at times, on hazardous sidling tracks, across in rainy conditions unfordable rivers.
But the views, the scenery and the surroundings are just extraordinary.  image

Day 71: Porters Creek Hut  to St. Arnaud

28,5 kilometres, 7h50min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 7/10

Another early start but I somehow enjoy getting up before dawn. And we could marvel at the alpine glow from the hut. Then we were off. The last four hours on our way through the Richmond Ranges. Up and down, sidlings, river crossings, tussock. When we arrived at the last hut (Red Hills Hut) we were steaming. The sun let us feel her full strength again. And then it suddenly was over with the so far most beautiful part of the Te Araroa Trail. 5 kilometres on a 4WD track and another 10 kilometres on a state highway. Hurray.
The roadwalking in the sun was especially nice. The tarmac melted and stuck on our shoes and trekking poles. And then it happened. One of the tips of my poles fell off. Now we don’t have to hitch out of St. Arnaud for new insoles only. I imagined a more relaxing Zero Day.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 7/10

The Richmond Ranges Section ended with 10 kilometres in the scorching heat on melted tarmac. We left Porters Creek Hut at the crack of dawn and saw red glowing mountain tops in the distance. Alpine glow!
After that I had only two things in my mind: shower and ice cream! Both I got at the end of a gruellingly hot day.
Unfortunately our Zero Day tomorrow won’t be that relaxing, because we probably must hitch to Blenheim or Nelson (1h30min by car) to get new insoles and a new trekking pole tip.

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    2 Comments

    • Patrice says:

      Great to read the updates!!!! So glad the foot is doing well. Hopefully no more injuries!! Happy trails!

      • nadinefreuler says:

        Hi Patrice, yeah we’re really happy about the foot doing so well too ;o) Our bodies are now enjoying an earned rest day in Methven. It’s like hiker town here, TA hikers everywhere :o)

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