Total km: 280 (zero day)
It’s always nice to wake up to fat snowflakes, albeit unusual to do so 11 days before summer.
After waking up I had brunch at a cafe, picked up my box of food and repacked ready for the next leg up to Wanaka.
The only problem? The weather.
The forecast for the next few days is fine Wednesday and Thursday and maybe Friday, but then another storm cell hitting on the weekend.
I guess that’s the unpredictability of the TA for you. What that meant though was an afternoon of assessments and planning. I even considered flying to north island. I rang up three DOC offices to see what the condition was at certain points in NZ. It is becoming apparent that nearly all of New Zealand is affected by the weather. Indeed maybe the TA is about making the most of the situation. The problem about gaining altitude and walking in fresh snow is that you gear increases massively - gaiters, boots, crampons, maybe an ice axe and different sleeping bag and tent. These are the pieces of equipment I would need to swap out. Nah ...
So my TA experience includes bussing it to Arrowtown - which has a blanket of snow - and exploring Arrowtown tomorrow. After that ... who knows? The weather is pretty mercurial at the moment!
Total km: 280
I woke up at 5:50am after a good night sleep in the hut. At one end of the valley, snow was falling on the peaks. At the other end, sun and blue sky was hugging the peak. I guess that’s NZ for you!
We also got to see a couple of Fallow Deer eating grass about 75m from the hut.
By 7:15am Kaden and I hit the track to Greenstone Carpark - some 4 hours away. We are hoping the Tracknet bus will meet us at 12pm.
Walking with Kaden was great and made the time fly by. We talked about hunting and fly fishing, well he talked about it and I listened.
Despite having our wet weather gear on there was hardly any rain and the valley sheltered us from the forecasted wind. We could see snow gently falling on the peaks but it was quite temperate and sunny in the valley.
It was beautiful weather for tramping.
Once we got to the Greenstone carpark we only had to wait about 30 minutes to get a ride to Glenorchy. Once there, our hikers appetite settled and Kaden and I ate hamburgers, chips, beer, carrot cake and ginger slice.
We arrived in Queenstown at about 4:00pm and I checked into my room and did laundry while in the shower, drying my hiking pants with a hairdryer. Urban survival skills fast developing.
Dan, another NOBO hiker, and I met up and had a beer at a craft beer place. We also bumped into a group of people from Oregon, one of Dan’s home states, so we had a good time comparing Portlandia to the real city. Is it a documentary?
Total km: 268km
My my what a magnificent walk today.
It started with Martin and Amina from the UK (my homestay neighbours in Te Anau) giving me a lift to The Divide. Thank you to you both for your warm company and car.
By 7:50am I was back on the final leg of the Routeburn Track, this time going in the opposite direction from The Divide up to Howden Hut, then veering south to join the Greenstone Track.
By 8:45am I hit Howden hut and looked onto this beautiful lake, cloud clearing to blue sky.
As you walk along the lake through birch trees you get this kind of view until you then open up to a valley.
By nearly 11:00 I hit McKellar Hut, a new hut in a dramatic location.
Greenstone Track is a sensational walk and underrated. I think it was even better than Kepler and Routeburn because you get great views for a relatively easy tramp.
The huts are also excellent quality.
Today the forecast was mainly fine with isolated showers, but tomorrow the forecast is southerlies, rain and snow to 500m. Because of this I wanted to take advantage of a full good day and I switched the TA leg of Mavora Lakes to doing Greenstone from The Divide (a much easier hitchike from Te Anau than Mavora Lakes anyway). This was the advice from the great DOC office in Te Anau and it paid off.
The weather was at its best today it could have been and showed off the views in walking the valley along Greenstone Track.
Before I hit my destination of Greenstone Hut at 4:50pm you cross over a small wire footbridge, and then an hour later cross a gorge with bejeweled colours.
Once I got to the Hut I met Kaden from Christchurch, another NOBO TA hiker! Yay! I haven’t seen another TA hiker for about five days now and Kaden in NOBO too. Tomorrow we both plan to exit at Greenstone Carpark, hit Queenstown and fergburger! It was so good to talk to Kaden and Polly the hut ranger about TA, gear, food and other contentious tramping issues.
What will the weather tomorrow bring?
And that is my face as I am facing rain and wind trying to hitchhike from Merrivale to Te Anau via the backroads of Southland. And this is the view of the oncoming traffic.
Two hours earlier I woke up at 8am to the sound of Rain on the tin roof of my shed and lambs bleeding.
And the news from the Merriview Hut owners that my food package via NZ Post didn’t arrive from Riverton. As I checked the very hand NZ Post phone app with my tracking number - how I love bureaucracy down well - I learned my parcel got misdirected from Riverton to Christchurch and was sitting in a depot in Invercargill. Yep it did a tour of South Island. Anyway B was very accommodating to call NZ Post on my behalf and they very kindly are redirecting it to Queenstown as I am typing. Fly well and straight little food package.
So I packed up, had breakfast and began my hitchhike to Te Anau.
But 45 min later I was still standing in the rain. This the two photos.
Lucky Nellie was my savior. Despite living in a farm not far from Mossburn, she gave me a lift 1 hour out of her way to Te Anau. Thank you Nellie - you helped me so much today!
Nellie dropped me at the DOC office in Te Anau. There I asked, given the awful weather forecast, what I could do in the next few days. The answer: Greenstone Track!
A huge thank you to the lovely DOC ladies - particularly the middle one who did the TA previously, in getting track and weather goss.
After that I got lunch, met a NZ trailrunner where we mainly talked about shoes and tracks around NZ, did some food shopping and then came “home” to Paul’s homestay - a beacon for thruhikers in Te Anau - where I did my washing and drying. My muddy shoes are less muddy and nearly dry.
And the weather - still drizzling in Te Anau but maybe lessening!?! Fingers crossed for a calm day tomorrow.
Total km: 240
Boy what a day! And I thought yesterday had mud. Oh not thigh deep mud!
the thing is today was just a hard slog. I left Martins hut at 7:15am and got to Merriview hut at 5:00pm. Maybe I had 45 min breaks altogether. The day was essentially climbs and descents between forests and then bare exposed Tussock strewn hills and then back to forest.
these two photos are looking back to Bluff.
Eventually I got to a quarry and started the ascent to Bald hill. What else to say? Can anyone name this bird?
is it a fancy pigeon?
Once a got to Merriview hut I was dead tired. But I was greeted by some lambs - Nora lambs baaa!
It was such a dissapointing 2 days I am going to skip the next section of the TA and rest. In part because of a poor weather forecast, pesticide pellet spraying from airplanes (!) and because I am not into more of the same.
Tomorrow is another day.
Off to bed now
Total km: 211.5
Longwood Forest conjures up a Lord of the Rings feel to it and the reality is not far from imagination. There is an 24.5km repetitive and somewhat claustrophobic dense forest full of mud, dry mud quicksand like mud, fake mud, dense mud, dry mud, soupy mud, stinky mud.
The morning started off well enough. Although a heavy dew made my tent wet. I also used the NZ$1 donated by work colleagues. Thank you, it was used on laundry to dry off clothing :)
I then waited 45 minutes from a hitchhike from the caravan park up 10km on the highway to get to round hill. Then a lovely gent from the caravan park drive me up to the trail head instead. I arrived at 9:25am.
And then it was just 24.5km of forest. I listened to a Harry Potter audio book to cut through the solo walking dread that is still creeping in.
The trail kept cutting into 3 to one meter scrambles into creek beds and out, at times requiring taking off ones pack.
I got to Martins Hut at about 7:00pm.
Nora and I also chatted by phone - there are 2 bars of receptions here! Her knee is still gummy and understandably she is fed up she can’t walk. Baaaa!
At the moment I am at martins hut, a refuge of tank water and a dry space while I contemplate Day 10. I’ll let you know if there is more mud.
Total km: 184
Well blue skies and a wide stretch of hard sand. What more could I want?
A pack that doesn’t weigh 17kg! Mistake of the day was deciding to carry 7 days of food because that made a relatively easy road walk from invercargill to Otaurau unbearable. As soon as I hit the outskirts of the latter place, I looked for a hitch to the Oreti Beach, partly too because I wanted to catch the river crossing at this 21km beach mid-way point at low tide.
So good bye Invercargill and hello sand.
After 3.5 hours I got to the lovely village of Riverton, in the distance, tired from my cold and hungry. Coffee plus sugar plus a toastie did the trick!
Also, a huge shout out to terry that saved 4kg of pack weight when he called me to compare TA notes from Bluff to Invercargill and mentioned there was a possibility of collecting a supply box at Merrivale. So at Riverton I went to the post counter and for $8 my insanity and pain went - well for next couple of days. Happy happy time. Oh happy days with happy clavicles!
I also like looking at community notice boards - it’s like peering into a window of a community’s soul. So here is a photo of Riverton.
The tramp from Riverton to Colac Bay was meandering through paddocks, beach and the odd patch of mud.
Again once I got the outskirts of Colac Bay, I was lucky enough to be offered a ride and a beer by some locals, finishing off with a good pub feed at the local. What a way to end the day!
It was a small start to a big walk. Nora and I arrived in Invercargill at 10am from Te Anau and while I spent a couple of hours planning logistics in my hotel room I was also busting to start the Te Araroa. So why not? I packed some water and a spare top and hitched it to Bluff to start my TA journey.
Sadly Nora’s knee was still swollen so she rested.
First, I went luxury. A celebratory meal st the Oyster cafe and a fabulous view out onto the ocean. Then a relaxing, albeit circuitous start to the TA, around Stirling Point and over bluff hill and hitching back to Invercargill.
i then got to a point where the TA track was closed until the highway. No way was I going to walk 30km on the highway
so that was the day for me. A bit more of a climb back onto bluff hill and a hitch back to Invercargill Sweet eh?
The Kepler Track is a 60km great walk that is certainly great. Nora and I tramped the walk and also bumped into another TA NOBO tramper - Dragon - aka Dan at the first campsite.
We arrived at Brod Bay camp at 6:30pm after a one hour tramp from the Te Anau Kepler trail head. As soon as we got to camp the rain started, and managed to continue for the remainder of the night.
While Nora camped closer to the amenities area, Dan and I camped further on, close to a beach and a fire place. Despite the rain and damp wood, Dragon was true to name:
The walk in is a popular local running spot. I was thinking how wonderful to have the following scenery envelope you on an afternoon run.
That evening, as dusk settled, I was thinking of the day - and climb - ahead of me. You can see the spur line next to the one we took over the next day.
Day 2 - I woke up to NO RAIN, but a poor night sleep made me sleep in to 7am! Nora was already ready to walk as I was coming out of my tent so we said good byes for the rest of the day.
The climb out of the shores of the Fjord was steady for about 600m or so until we go above the tree line and looked back on to the Te Anau bay
The next few kilometers were trampled across ridge line, not dissimilar to the Australian alps, but with more majestic backdrops. It reminded a bit of The sentinel back home. But bigger.
After a log walk over the ridge line - punctuated by curious Keas - the path dropped down to our campsite and sandflies.
That night was another damp and cold one. By the morning, the condensation and rain seeped into the tent and mat. A special thanks to Rob our DOC ranger who was tip top awesome. I don’t know why but I was feeling quite low that night - perhaps it was the 3 hours sleep I had the night before. Maybe. Probably. Definitely.
The next day was a lovely and gentle 16km journey out back to Te Anau. The only downside was that Nora’s knee was inflamed. So she was in increasing pain.
Yet still Nora is smiling! I got back to Te Anau by 3pm and there was much washing and drying to be done. The next early morning Nora and I took a bus to Invercargill.
A huge thanks too to Paul from Paul’s homestay accomodation. Definitely a great help to TA walkers.