Te Araroa Trail Stories Days 72-80: “Passes, Rivers and Wet Feet.”

In the past 9 days we hiked from St. Arnaud to Arthur’s Pass and covered 231,5 kilometres on the Te Araroa Trail.

Total TA kilometres: 2170 kilometres according to maps

Best moment

Philippe: Waiau Pass and other hikers

Nadine: Waiau Pass

Worst moment

Philippe: Walking in the river bed

Nadine: Stumbling through river beds without a trail

Please note: 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 72: St. Arnaud (Zero Day)

0 kilometres

Philippe

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 7/10

Our rest day wasn’t as restful as I had imagined in the Richmond Ranges. In the morning we could drive to Richmond with a staff member of the lodge. Then another 15km to Nelson with Marty.
In town we visited almost all of the outdoor stores. Finally in Rollo’s we found someone who could remove (with a heat gun) the tip of my hiking pole. Unfortunately, the replacement tip from a different brand didn’t fit. Additionally, the metal of the same pole had splitted at one point. A few kilometres more and it would possibly have broken. Anyway, I bought a new pair of Black Diamond poles (with easily removable tips). Another unxpected but affordable matter of expenses. And we also bought a new pair of insoles.
We hitched back to St. Arnaud with Marty, who fortuitously was driving to Christchurch and made a detour for us. And he bought ice cream!

Nadine

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 9/10

For the trekking poles (Philippe bought new ones) and the insoles we drove to Nelson. On the way in with a staff member of the lodge plus hitchhiking, on the way back with Marty, who already took us the last kilometres in the morning. He also introduced us to the unspoken rule that in New Zealand, when you pick up a hitchhiker after 3pm, you have to buy them an ice cream. Of course he didn’t have to say that twice. It was delicious 🙂

Day 73: St. Arnaud to Upper Travers Hut (Nelson Lakes National Park)

30 kilometres, 7h45min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 7/10

The first two days before Waiau Pass wouldn’t be all too long. So we started later (8am) and – after the obligatory picture at the jetty of Lake Rotoiti – and found ourselves shortly on a very nice trail. It was unfamiliar to make way so fast. Until the second hut (John Tait Hut) the path was in wonderful condition. Obviously because of the Travers-Sabine-Circuit, which is part of it.
After a late lunch (Peanut-Butter-Jelly-Time) we walked higher up, what I didn’t really notice. The valley got narrower and Mt. Travers came closer and closer. Tomorrow we walk over the Travers Pass. At 5pm we reached the hut. An early finishing time.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

At 8am and freshly showered we started the next section. The stress of the Zero Day slowly alleviated while we walked along Lake Rotoiti towards the mountains. The valley narrowed and narrowed and soon we followed Travers River towards its source.
The 1000 metres of elevation were comfortably spread out. The Upper Travers Hut sits on a plateau beneath mighty rugged mountain tops.
Tomorrow we climb over Travers Saddle into the other valley.

Day 74: Upper Travers Hut to Blue Lake Hut

15 kilometres, 6h20min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

450m uphill. A good start into the day. On top of the Travers Saddle we enjoyed the first rays of sunshine and the stunning views. Mountains! And some snow. Afterwards we descended into the shade of the valley again. 1000m downhill. Hard on the knees and the mind. Luckily we were still fresh and mastered this section without difficulties. Back down below the bushline we followed the East Branch Sabine River to its westerly brother river, where the West Branch Sabine Hut lies.
An early lunch and a conversation with German section hikers later we were on our way again. The sun burned and slowed us down. We were ascending again, up to the source of the river at the Blue Lake. The Blue Lake is the supposedly clearest lake in the world, with a visibility of up to 70-80m. Check out some videos on Youtube. When we arrived at the hut we wanted to certify that. And truely: it’s breathtakingly beautiful. A swim would have been nice, but we comply with the recommendations/rules of the DOC.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

I love these mountains! Even though they’re rugged, steep and a challenge for my knees. And up to now every climb had been rewarded by awesome views. The weather had been fantastic. Hopefully it stays like that, because tomorrow we have to go over Waiau Pass, supposedly a very risky section, especially in bad weather.
This afternoon we followed West Sabine Branch River up to its source and the Blue Lake, the clearest lake in the world!

Day 75: Blue Lake Hut to 14 kilometres before Anne Hut

28,5 kilometres, 10h15min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 10/10

💪: 9/10

At 6.30am we were on the trail again. A big day laid ahead of us and the weather promised to get hot and sunny again. Eleanor and Charles (Te Araroa hikers) had already started but we caught up with them at Lake Constance and walked from this point on unregularly together for the rest of the day. We took off at the 500m ascent “in direct fashion” up to Waiau Pass, what earned us the name mountain goats. The climb to the Pass was okay. At the top we enjoyed the panorama of the surrounding ranges and the view down to the valley.
The descent was less fun; especially for the knees. But it was easily doable (in good weather) and we had to climb (using our hands) only once for a few minutes. Down in the valley we followed the Waiau River. Firstly over bulder fields, then over open meadows and stands of trees. And the sun was always on our tails.
At some point we reached the 2000km mark. If you take the map as reference. It’s never exact because different sources tell different numbers.
After 6pm we decided to finish the day and let our hiking companions continue on. We set up the tent at the river and went into position warfare with the fucking sandflies. Nasty beasts.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 10/10

💪: 10/10

Today we ate mountains for breakfast! 😉 At 6.30am we started walking to tackle Waiau Pass before the mid day heat. It was less arduous and tricky than expected and before noon we were down in the valley on the other side.
The rest of the day we walked on the floor of the valley without many metres of elevation, until we decided it had been enough and pitched our tent next to the river. Our evening routine with washing, stretching, cooking, writing always takes some time. So we stopped at 6.30pm, even though we could have walked further, joining Eleanor (USA) and Charles (F), whos company we really enjoyed and who walked on. They don’t have such an extended routine in the evening… Eleanor was impressed by how we “ran” up the almost vertical track up to Waiau Pass like mountain goats, especially since we’d just started walking again around 10 days ago. It must be because of our Swiss DNA, that mountains awake unknown powers in us.

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Day 76: 14 km before Anne Hut to Boyle Village

42,5 kilometres, 10h35min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

Cold mist was hanging in the valley when we woke up. And the sandflies were already lurking. It wasn’t a good start. Wet sleeping bag (let the tent open) and a hungry mob of sandflies inside and outside of the tent. I was very relieved to walk again.
The fog only thinned out after two, three hours. We passed the tents of Eleanor and Charles after an hour, who slept in. At Anne Hut it was hot and muggy again. We caught up on cleaning the teeth because the sandflies gave us no chance in the morning. I hate sandflies!
For kilometre and kilometre we followed the mostly flat valley through meadows, swamp and forests. After 30km we reached the Boyle Flat Hut and I already rubbed my hurting limbs. But we wanted to continue. Would we gonna make it to the Outdoor Education Center in Boyle? +42km. Too much for my foot? I plugged in a podcast and walked on. The kilometres seemed to take ages. 35km. Break. 38km. Break. Should we stopp? When we reached the road, the trail tricked us a last time. We faced the last two km and stumbled into the Outdoor Center. Done! A hot shower was waiting for me!

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

The clouds hung low in the valley and a drizzle covered our tent. It was quiet outside, but the silence was deceptive. Millions of sandflies lay in wait for us to come out of our tent and to be at their mercy. So once we were outside our packing and setting of was very hasty.
And then we walked 42,5 kilometres. One of our longest days, but because we walked in the valley floor (except for one low saddle), we could set a good pace. And after all, a shower and our next food box (3 of 5) were waiting for us.
We were one day faster than planned, so we’ve got quite a lot of extra food. Tomorrow we’ll have to sort that out.

Day 77: Boyle Village to Hope Kiwi Lodge

25,5 kilometres, 6h55min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 6/10

💪: 7/10

After the long day yesterday we had a slow morning. Breakfast, unbox the food parcel and pack the food, sort out food, eat leftovers, pack things together and a hot shower for me.
The first 10km were shitty. Scrub, river, swamp, Matagouri (prickly small tree), misleading markers… I’m not really sure, if the parallel road wouldn’t have been the better choice. Mhm, nope.
After that it was okay. Walking in a valley. Bit dumb. And again, really hot. The last kilometres were slowly passing.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 7/10

Are we back on the North Island or what? Undefined trail, swamp up to the knees, overgrown paths with gorse and other nasty spiky plants. The first three hours weren’t enjoyable. But I didn’t mind the river crossings (mid-thigh deep), at least I was clean afterwards. 😉
The rest of the day was better, but warmer. For a long time we walked over open grassy flats, where the only shade-giving thing were weird about 2m high trees/bushes that didn’t have leaves or needles, but 5cm long hard spikes. Not nice.

Day 78: Hope Kiwi Lodge to Hurunui No 3 Hut

27 kilometres, 6h55min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

It’s fresh outside. The night was cold and clear. My fingers already turned to icicles. And T-shirt and shorts are not very warming either. Then – after 300m – we had to cross a small stream. Shriek!
A few hours later it was boiling hot. Fortunately the trail mostly led through the forest. And finally the Hot Pool came. A hot stream with a pool for two dirty hikers. Just keep your neck over the water. Otherwhise you could get Meningitis. Because of the summerly temperatures we didn’t stay too long and prefered to cool ourselves in the river.
The cooling didn’t last long. Soon we were on open terrain. We reached the Hurunui No 3 Hut in the late afternoon. Again a short day. And no sandflies in the hut! Or not that many.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

The whole day I had been looking forward to one thing: the hot pool! Supposedly one of the highlights on the Te Araroa. And about 1,5 hours after lunch in the Hurunui Hut it was finally there. A small pool with 35-40° C hot water, just for the two of us 🙂
My muscles relaxed, the sweat dripped off my forehead. A superb gift from nature!
It got even better with a following swim in the cool river nearby. I could get used to that.
Before four o’clock we also finished the day already. The next hut would have been four hours further, and for tenting there are just too many sandflies…
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Day 79: Hurunui No 3 Hut to just before Morrison Footbridge

36,5 kilometres, 10h45min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 6/10

💪: 9/10

Up the valley. Over the pass. Down the valley. Follow the river. It doesn’t sound like challenging or very special. But: it was BS. Not the scenery. No, the navigation, the markers, the terrain. Today it was more bush walking than hiking.
As starting situation you could go with this: This is a river, follow its course. There is no real path. Every few minutes (or hour) you’ll see a marker. River crossings, horray. The terrain is mostly a riverbed. That means a lot of small and big stones. OR: Seek and maybe you shall find.
My mood was really great today. And I didn’t get angry at all when we had to do totally 1 hour of detours due to our navigation.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 6/10

💪: 9/10

Your way isn’t my way. Today we had plenty of choices regarding which track we should follow. Few markers, eroded terrain and paths that branched and (mostly) rejoined later on. When I think back it seems like I stumbled across river beds all day long and forded the river maybe 20 times. Zigzag until the last minute. We camp on the river once more. In comforting vicinity of the next trail marker, but again with thousands of sandflies that sit on the net of our tent and just want one thing: our blood!
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Day 80: just before Morrison Footbridge to SH73 before Arthur’s Pass

26,5 kilometres, 9h50min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 7/10

Today Goat’s pass was on the plan. Like yesterday: along the river. 800m up and then down again. And a thousand times steeper and more challenging. But the best: today and tomorrow is the Coast to Coast Race (~240km, bike-run-kajak) from Hokitika to Christchurch. The Deception Track is part of the running competition. Roughly 350 people were competing today. Very crazy, to run up the pass. Walking was enough for me.
After we’d been walking for 2 hours on the “trail”, the first racer passed us, From then on the stream of racers didn’t end until we had lunch at Goat’s Pass Hut. Afterwards there were only occasionally some runners.
In the beginning it was tedious to stop and sidestep, so that we didn’t disturb the racers. At the same time it was interesting to see such a race from a different perspective. And most of the runners had a “thank you” and “how are you doing” on their lips. No bad word was expressed. Not even from the leading group. New Zealand :mrgreen:.
After 6 hours we were on the pass and ready for a break. On the way back my legs wer jelly and we walked slower. A few slower runners passed us from now and then. Otherwise it was the daily walking.
We camped before the SH73. Tomorrow we hitch to Arthur’s Pass to get our food parcel. And maybe we get a shower and can wash our clothes.
Later James and Mary-Kate showed up. What a surprise.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 9/10

My incentive of today “knocked” on our tent when we were about to devour our dinner. Mary-Kate and James had been walking two hours behind us all day, apparently. We thought they’re ahead of us, but they made an earlier resupply stop in Arthur’s Pass.
I was delighted to see them again, even though we couldn’t spend much time together because of the sandflies and the advancing nightfall.
This incentive was necessary, because today was arduous.
Maybe Philippe writes more about it, because I can’t / don’t want to now… I’m enjoying the sensation of having dry, warm feet.

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