Te Araroa Trail Stories Days 81-95: “In Tussock Country.”

In the past 15 days we hiked from Arthur’s Pass to Wanaka and covered 441 kilometres on the Te Araroa Trail.

Total TA kilometres: 2596 kilometres according to maps

Best moment

Philippe: the colours of the lakes

Nadine: walking along the ridge after Stag Saddle (highest point on the Te Araroa)

Worst moment

Philippe: freezing in the rain and wind

Nadine: fording hip deep rivers

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 81: Arthur’s Pass to Hamilton Hut

16,5 kilometres (+ hitchhiking), 5h

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

We walked 4 kilometres to Arthur’s Pass, then someone gave us a ride for the last 2 kilometres. At the YHA we got our parcel (10$) and didn’t get a room. Arthur’s Pass was fully booked due to the race.
But a hot shower and laundry we found at the Sanctuary (BBH Hostel). The shower revitalised me and improved my mood tremendously. What hot water all can do? Bill – the owner and a great guy – let us stay in the community room to sort out our food parcel and charge our devices. In total we now have 41 muesli bars (bought) and 14 self made ones. The result of not using any extra days on the trail. 7 of the bars we even could sell to a backpacker.
After some hours we hitched out again. The 4 kilometres from the morning and the 4 kilometres extra from yesterday we accumulated with the road part today. In Bealy we started walking without having had a needed rest day. But we’re going to catch up on it in Methven.
The trail to Hamilton Hut was very nice. First a few hundred metres climbing up to Mt. Bruce with superb views over surrounding mountains, valleys and forests. After that we followed the river downhill. The river crossings I managed without wet feet. The path was in good condition for a change. Will that change tomorrow?

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 7/10

We were denied a Zero Day in Arthur’s Pass. Because of the Coast to Coast Race every accommodation was fully booked. In the Sanctuary we luckily found a coin operated shower, a washing machine and a communal room to organise our food.
Only at 1.30pm we started walking again. We hitched to the beginning of the trail and thus skipped some kilometres on the road. In the morning we already had to walk almost all the way into Arthur’s Pass, because there was hardly any traffic so early in the morning (two cars in 45 min).
The track was great (for a change ;)) and we had awesome views in the beginning. Later the track took us into a river valley. We crossed the river several times but always with dry feet, yay! Still, I felt my knees and they signified that they really need a Zero Day in Methven (in 2 days).

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Day 82: Hamilton Hut to Lake Georgina

35,5 kilometres, 7h30min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 8/10

In the morning one’s feet freeze off and as soon as the sun is out one gets cooked. Welcome to Canterbury.
In the morning we crossed several streams for 2-3 hours. Soon my feet were numb; my hands anyway. I wished for the sun.
Later we walked for 22 kilometres on a gravel road in the blazing sun. Without trees, without shade. I wished for the cold of the morning.
After hours of baking in the sun we reached Lake Georgina, the last passable camping spot before Lake Coleridge (another 12km). A jump into the cold lake brought me back to normal temperature.

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Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

To the right over there? Or maybe left? The search for traces continued. But the basic direction was clear: downstream along the river until just before Lake Colridge. Then 22 kilometres on a gravel road under the merciless sun. Without shade, because Europeans had the glorious idea to burn down all the forest in the area. Thanks.
Tomset up camp we chose the best possible spot. In the shadow of a stand of conifers, next to a small lake. The latter also provided us with the eagerly awaited cooling after this hot, dusty day.
PS. There are no sandflies here! :mrgreen:

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Day 83: Lake Georgina to Lake Coleridge Village (and Methven)

12,5 kilometres + 4,5 kilometres off trail, 2h30min + 55min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 5/10

💪: 6/10

We wanted to start early this morning to improve our chances of a hitch to Methven. But it was still too late. We walked into the small settlement of Lake Coleridge Village at the Rakaia River before 9 but there was far and wide no evidence of life.
James and Mary Kate had arrived 15min earlier and had gotten a ride. We had to wait for 2 hours until a villager took pity and drove us to the next better junction in 5km. But it didn’t help. 5 cars in 3 hours and nobody stopped.
Accordingly I was angry. The responsible person for this section took the easy way. Similar to the water crossings in Paihia and Whangarei.
After an hour of road walking someone finally stopped and took us to the main road. From there we got the next ride. The day was saved! We checked in at the BBH Mt. Hutt Bunkhouse. A very cosy hostel. Then we stormed to the supermarket and later on met seven other Te Araroa hikers in a pub. Fun. With pizza, ice cream and a movie we ended the day. Tomorrow: Zero Day!

Nadine

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 9/10

After an odyssey of 2h30min walking, 2h waiting, 5km driving, 1h walking and then driving again we finally reached Methven. We had to circumvent the Rakaia River, which can’t / shouldn’t be crossed on foot.
In Methven we got fresh veggies and fruits for lunch and thus the exertions were soon forgotten. And after all we now have 1,5 Zero Days in a homely hostel (BBH Mt. Hutt Bunkhouse). We met some other Te Araroa hikers for a beer and then retreated to the living room of the hostel with frozen pizza and ice cream. Movie time!

Day 84: Methven (Zero Day)

0 kilometres

Philippe

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 8/10

The inner clock woke us punctualy in the early morning hours. More time to do stuff! Eating, organising, planning, washing; the usual tasks on a Zero Day.
We also booked the school bus for the transport to the trail head on the other side of the Rakaia River. 20$. Very okay. But then in the afternoon James and Mary Kate asked, what we gonna do because of the bad weather forecast for the next two days. Thunderstorms and gale winds of 80 km/h on 1000m. It really didn’t look very reassuring. Especially because we would walk on ridges and through Tussock country. After some pondering we decided to stay another day and postponed the transport. More time to read, eat and watch movies.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 10/10

A great Zero Day featuring eating, skyping, some administrational and organisational work, more eating and relaxing in the hostel’s garden.
But one thing worried us: severe weather warnings for the next two days including thunderstorms and gale force winds.
After a meeting with Mary Kate and James and some pondering we decided to not take the risk and to stay in Methven for another day. Better a second Zero Day here than to have to wait it out somewhere in the mountains. But it better not be sunny tomorrow! 😉

Day 85: Methven (Zero Day)

0 kilometres

Philippe

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 8/10

Today was a truly lazy day. Lots of food, reading and moving as little as possible. A healthy lifestyle. And Pizza a second time!
But tomorrow we’ll go. Otherwise we might strike roots. Twelve Te Araroa hikers drive with the school bus tomorrow. School trip.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 10/10

We haven’t had such a lazy day since Wellington. But my legs were itching and I really would have liked to be walking. The weather in Methven wasn’t too bad either. But we saw the clouds in the mountains that boded ill.
Tomorrow we’re going to head out again for sure, though. With at least ten other Te Araroa hikers that are staying in Methven at the moment. We have never seen so many hikers at one spot so far. It’ll be a race to the few huts along the next days…

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Day 86: Methven (Trailhead) to Double Hut

32 kilometres, 9h15min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 5/10

13 Te Araroa hikers were in the school bus this morning. Therefore we had to do a group foto at the trail head. The weather was still okay, when we started. Only the wind let us stagger often. We reached the A-Frame and Comyns Hut quickly. The 4WD-Track was in good condition and even the +650m climb to the first saddle was in a zigzag.
But afterwards it was over with nice. The next 2-3h we spend in a river and easily crossed it more than 50 times. And it started raining. After the stream section I was so cold I couldn’t feel my fingers for several hours. The feet were cold anyway. Nadine even had to help me putting on my rain pants, fleece jacket and mitts. My fingers weren’t able to open a zipper anymore.
A bit warmer we climbed another saddle and from then on walked downhill. Tussock, Spaniard Grass, Matagouri, Scree and not really a path. It was exhausting but not demotivating. At the Double Hut we finished this wet cold day. Hopefully tomorrow it will get better.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 6/10

💪: 7/10

After three weeks of sunshine I had completely forgotten how awful it is to walk in rainy weather. And to be cold. Since noon it has rained continuously and I yearned for the dry hut. Also, my hips hurt again. I guess they don’t like Zero Days.
In the school bus this morning we were 13 Te Araroa hikers. We started as the first ones and arrived in the hut first. I hope not all the ohers plan to come to this hut, as it only has six bunks. 😉
Oh yeah, as if the rain wouldn’t have soaked us already, we had to ford several rivers / streams almost 70 (!) times.
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Day 87: Double Hut to Lake Clearwater Village

36 kilometres, 7h55min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 8/10

It was ass cold in the morning. I needed a while to get out of the sleeping bag. Everything was still wet but the T-shirt and the boxer shorts. And all of it stank from the puny fire from the evening before. Therefore I wore my down jacket and leggings.
It was raining on and off during the morning hours. The 4WD-Track made it bearable. Around noon it cleared up; the right time to have lunch. After half an hour Paola suprisingly showed up. We met in Hobart the first time and now she’s hiking the Te Araroa northbound. Sadly, the reunion was soon over. But there were still some kilometres left for all of us today.
The wind got stronger and stronger and obviously blew in the opposite direction. My head soon felt tired and dizzy. Kilometre after kilometre we walked through the yellow brown landscape. Apart from bushes and mountains not much for the eye.
7km before the trail end at the Rangitata River we turned into the other direction to Lake Clearwater Village. We wanted to catch the last cars coming from there. The water level was sadly to high to cross. And apparently will stay like that for some days because of the newly fallen snow. Therefore we try to hitchhike the 145km! detour (or part of it). Could be very difficult though. We will see…

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 9/10

When the morning broke the sky above us was clear, but in the next valley the clouds hung low. And the mountains around us got snow caps over night. Yes, it was cold. Soon the sky above us was covered in clouds as well and until noon we had a few light showers. In the afternoon it finally got sunny but extremely windy. The weather had our sharp attention today.
After we had had lunch we had an awesome (but short) reunion. Paola, a friend of ours, who we met in Hobart (Tasmania, Australia), walks the Te Araroa Trail northbound and here on the Clearwater Track our paths crossed. We chatted while she had lunch but then our paths parted yet again in the opposite direction.
The Rangitata River that flows between this and the next section is unfordable at the moment due to the heavy rain during the last three days. Thus we try to get around it with hitchhiking (there’s little traffic). Again a section where the Trust made it too easy for themselves, it seems.
P.S. we were four people in Double Hut last night.

Day 88: Lake Clearwater Village to Bushstream Carpark and to Crooked Spur Hut

8,5 kilometres, 1h40min (off trail) and 9 kilometres, 3h

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

145km detour. I thought it would take more than a day. We did it in half a day. 8,5km walking, three hitches (two of them on the utes back) and one ride with the postman to Mesopotamia Station (15$, 6 Te Araroa hikers). We felt lucky. Others were even faster.
The 9km to Crooked Spur Hut were more challenging than expected. We had to cross the Bush Stream for several times. The water level was high. We fought against the strong current in hip deep water. The poles were vibrating. I found it kind of funny but Nadine struggled.
At the hut we set up camp. And see there, in the evening James and Mary Kate showed up. What a surprise! They managed to get here too.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 5/10

Three free rides (twice on the back of a yute), one paid one (with the postman) and 8,5 kilometres of roadwalking. Just after midday we arrived at the beginning of the trail on the other side of Rangitata River. It worked out better than expected.
But the next 9 kilometres were full on. The “stream” that we had to cross multiple times was often waist-deep. The current was so strong that my poles vibrated and I had to lean against it. Quite scary…
So after this day I’m really tired and I was quite happy that we arrived at the hut after 4pm and decided to stay.

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Day 89: Crooked Spur Hut to Camp Stream Hut

30,5 kilometres, 8h40min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 9/10

Tussock. Everywhere tussock. During several hours we stumbled through this nasty terrain. One step away from the slightly visible track and one could fall into a hole or into a bush of Spaniards Grass. The trail was mostly inexistent today. Only some far distant markers and a big choice for the next steps.
The highlight today was the Stag Saddle, the highest point on the Te Araroa, and the following walk over the ridges. The turquoise Lake Tekapo far down below and the partially snow covered alpes in the background. Breathtakingly beautiful. One of the best parts so far. And the weather played along. No clouds in the sky. The gold brown tussock accentuated the blue sky perfectly.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 5-9/10

💪: 8/10

This morning I hated the trail. This afternoon I loved the trail.
When I woke up I felt fit and well rested. Nine hours of sleep did their job. But I had great difficulties with the trail in some parts. We had to navigate across open Tussock country a lot. Where there was a trail it was overgrown with Tussock and Spaniard Grass. Hidden underneath were tripping holes and rocks, which made me stumble and swear often.
Fortunately, after that came a great section. We climbed up to Stag Saddle, with 1925 metres above sea the highest point on the Te Araroa. Thanks to the awesome weather we then chose the high route (climbing even higher) and for three hours walked along ridgelines with splendid views of the Alps and Lake Tekapo. The past exertions were soon forgotten.
And tomorrow we’re going to reach the village Lake Tekapo. I can already smell the fresh food.
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Day 90: Camp Stream Hut to Lake Tekapo Village

36 kilometres, 6h55min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 8/10

One last time through the Tussock country with the great panorama over Lake Tekapo and the Alps. Then it was time again for the gravel road until the touristy place Lake Tekapo. The kilometres flowed. Everybody made tempo to get to Tekapo as quickly as possible. Some even didn’t take any brakes.
The Foursquare Supermarket was naturally our first station. Juice, chips, fruits, bread. Everything a hiker’s heart desires. On the campground we had just enough time to wash the clothes and shower. Tomorrow we change the saddle to a mountain bike for the next 100km.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 10/10

The day began with track searching in the tussock once again. But soon we walked on a defined and well marked trail (superb!) over a plateau with views of the Alps and Lake Tekapo. In the morning light the panorama looked quite different.
After some hours the path took us onto a gravel road and soon we were amidst busy tourists in Lake Tekapo Village.
The countless tourists and the whole hubbub was a bit too much and in the supermarket the sensory overload was complete. Luckily it’s a wee bit quieter in the Holiday Park.

Day 91: Lake Tekapo to Lake Ohau Lodge

106 kilometres, 8h (cycling)

Philippe

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 8/10

My ass hurts. So much. 106km cycling in one day. Bananas! It was great. I will regret it tomorrow ;).

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

100km of walking, mostly on roads? No thanks. 100km of cycling? Oh yeah.
But 100km of cycling don’t pass painlessly, when you’ve only been walking for the last months. I still hope that I’ll need different muscles when we continue walking tomorrow and that I won’t feel too big an impact…
Nevertheless, I’m glad that we chose to pedal for a day and bringing this section behind us fairly quickly.
Going past four turquoise lakes with the Alps in the back ground was definitely an impressive scenery, too.
Mary Kate and James, Roos (NL) and Aron (USA) were cycling too and as relieved to reach the lodge with wobbly knees as we were.
My GPS- and tracking-watch now states that I should recover for 120 hours. Well, 12 hours will have to do.

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Day 92: Lake Ohau Lodge to Ahuriri River

28,5 kilometres, 7h30min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 6/10

As expected my knees were jelly after yesterday’s cycling, Jelly that hurts. Therefore we took it a bit slower or at least we took more breaks.
First we had to walk back to the trail, then we climbed up 900m through forest up to the land of bushes (aka tussock). And of course we had to walk down again. Actually not a very bad day if the 106km cycling wouldn’t have been yesterday.
On the trail we met a Swiss couple (Jenny and Phil(l)ip(p)(e)). They walk some sections of the Te Araroa and they knew our blog – haha, someone reads our blog ;). We camped with them at the same spot in the evening.
After the Ahuriri River it was fine for today. After 4pm – an early but needed evening. Mary Kate and James eventually made it there also. They had their issues too 😆.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 7/10

My body recovered pretty well from yesterday’s exertion. But I got hardly any sleep. At about 10pm I realized that I was lying on the ground. Great. My sleeping pad had a hole. After inflating it three times over the next hours I gave up and arranged myself on the hard ground. This evening I found a small cut and sealed it with textile glue. I hope this does the job for now.
However, it’s still defect. 12 days ago a chamber ruptured. Yes, like my last pad… 😐 At least I bought this one in New Zealand and it should be easier to get a new one than it was with the last one. Though this will have to wait until we finished the trail.

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Day 93: Ahuriri River to 7,5km before Stodys Hut

31 kilometres, 8h

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 7/10

The first few kilometres went over slowly. Body and mind were tired. But a headache-pill made me fit for the uphill to the Mt. Martha Saddle (1680m). Someone bulldozed a 4WD Track up to the Saddle. For whatever reason. We were glad about it anyway and could outpower ourselves with the elevation gain.
A cold wind blew us almost from the track. Only after the descent to the valley bottom it lessened. In the Top Timaru Hut we had late lunch and talked with other Te Araroa hikers, who stayed for the night. But we decided to continue after hearing some reports from Nobos about possible camping spots between the here and the next hut.
We walked beneath the treeline again and green returned into our lives. Shortly before 5pm we stopped and set up camp on a moss-grown spot. And soon we were hurrying to the close by waterfall.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

My sleeping pad didn’t go flat! So with a bit more sleep than yesterday I started the seemingly endless ascent to Mt. Martha Saddle. The descent however naturally was much quicker. Because of the fierce wind we delayed our lunch until we reached the hut. Yet, to end the day it was too early, but the next hut was too far away. So we camp in between. Mary Kate and James are here as well. This campspot has a great advantage: 3 min away there is a waterfall aka shower. 🙂

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Day 94: 7,5km before Stodys Hut to Hawea River Camping Area

40 kilometres, 10h25min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

Today it went up and down, up and down. And accompanied with a constant cold wind. The section between Stodys Hut and Lake Hawea was exposed or lead over ridges. It was really exhausting. I never knew where my next step would lead me. Sudden gusts pushed my leg one meter away. On Breast Hill we had a great (and windy) view down to Lake Hawea and Wanaka.
After the first challenging 22km we were at lake level. From there it was still windy but flat and uninteresting. We pushed on because we wanted to reach the DOC Campsite, so that we would reach the post office in Wanaka in the morning. After 40km we reached the campsite in light rain; tired but happy.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 8/10

Today was absolutely bananas. It began in the darkness. The first sidlings and river crossings we did in the moonllight and with our headlamps. But the fun part came next. More than 2750m ascent and 3150m descent. And all of that during the first 22 kilometres. With in parts such severe winds that I was literally blown off the path a couple of times. It was really quite tiring.
The last 18 kilometres however were flat and unspectacular. We walked so far so that we will reach Wanaka tomorrow before noon and can get our bounce box. Post office hours on a Saturday… tststs.
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Day 95: Hawea River Camping Area to Wanaka

14 kilometres, 2h45min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

We started even before dawn. After all we wanted to be at the post office at 9am. The trail to Wanaka lead on well developed recreational paths. Thus we travelled this part quickly. Always to our right side the river and later Lake Wanaka. The early sunrays let the surrounding mountains glow. A great entry into Wanaka.
The Bounce Box was unboxed and repacked quickly. Nadine needed new shoes and I needed a T-shirt. Then we did a big food shopping. Fresh food as much as possible but also unhealthy stuff.
Together with Mary Kate and James we had booked a cabin in the Lake View Holiday Park. One of the last “cheap” options with a roof. Wanaka is very busy. Tourists and “no vacancy” signs everywhere. Still much more relaxed than Queenstown. But for now we enjoy the two rest days.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 9/10

Early this morning we swiftly walked the final 14 kilometres to Wanaka. Man, four months ago I would never have written such a sentence. 😉
We arrived in Wanaka before the post office was open. With the bounce box I received my third pair of shoes. High time, because soon I would have walked in sandals. That big were the holes in my old pair.
Now we’re waiting until the cabin is ready that we rented with Mary Kate and James. A bit of luxury for our presumably last Zero Day tomorrow.

2 Comments

  • Patrice says:

    Awesome updates!!! Keep on trekking strong! Almost there!

    • nadinefreuler says:

      Hey Patrice, yes we’re close! Already in Te Anau, actually. The next update will come after we’ve crossed the finish line 😉
      We heard (read) that you had a great time in NZ too.
      Cheers, Nadine & Philippe

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