Day 86 to 92 – Two passes, two days, type two fun
Thursday 10 January – Wednesday 16 January
St Arnaud to Hanmer Springs
Day: 86 – 92
Cumulative Km’s: 2,051km / 3,000km
After a short break in St Arnaud we set back out into the wilderness with rested legs and full bellies. Entering the Nelson Lakes National Park, we tackled two of the highest passes on the trail, Travers Saddle at 1,787m and the infamously steep Waiau Pass at 1,870m. In two consecutive days we would climb and descend over 1,000m each day. The tramping was tough and the line between hiking and mountaineering became somewhat blurred at times but the scenery was magical. It was one of our favorite sections of trail to date and we can’t wait to share it with you.
Day 86 – Thursday 10 January, 30km
St Arnaud to Upper Travers Hut
Last night ended up being a late one, catching up on Instagram posts before we were once again into the wilderness and away from the wifi. It meant I really didn’t want to get up when the alarm went off at 5am. It was super tempting to sleep in and have a lazy morning at the lodge breakfast buffet but we had a trail to walk so we got up and walking is what we did.
Conveniently, the trail started around the corner from the Alpine lodge where we were staying. It was a pretty trail running along a stream, delivering us at Kerr Bay on the banks of Lake Rotoiti. The low hanging clouds and fog on the lake gave it a mystical feel. We stopped briefly at the jetty to take in the beauty. I only realised, when I got up that the jetty was covered in duck poop. Being the first day into a week long stretch I would be carrying that duck poop with me for a while. The insta worthy photo was more than worth it though.
The legs are always stiff to get moving after a full rest day. Despite the nearly flat gradient it felt like a sluggish start on the trail this morning.
We took the lakehead track around Rotoiti. It is a pretty beech tree lined trail hugging the lakes edge. We had glimpses of the lake as the foliage opened up every now and again.
It was forecast to rain so I had packed my rain gear on the top of my pack. It was only a couple of hours into the morning before I needed to put it on.
After Adam was stung by a wasp in the Richmond Ranges he has developed what you might call an extreme cautiousness to wasps. They were buzzing over head as we made our way along the trail so he was a little on edge. At one point I found him frozen mid step on the track. I couldn’t work out what was wrong. ‘Wasp’ he said, and waited for it to move before continuing.
Not long before we reached Lakehead Hut we passed the Lakehead jetty. Many black swan were swimming about the jetty. I stopped and had a moment to admire them. Amongst the magnificent swan was one plain duck. I had to give the duck props. It was cruising about the swans, chilled as could be as if it had no concept of feeling out of place. It made me think that most humans could do with a little bit of this ducks attitude to life.
We arrived at Lakehead Hut and I headed straight for the toilet. Unbeknownst to me, the cubicle I selected was occupied and it’s occupant had not locked the door. As I flung open the door we both got a great shock. I closed the door as quickly as I had opened it. It was a little awkward when we walked into the hut for our lunch break and the guy who I’d sprung on the loo was sitting at the table. There were a bunch of people in the hut who had stayed the night prior and due to the rain, hadn’t moved on yet. They weren’t very welcoming when we joined them at the table for lunch. Adam suspected old mate had told his friends about my springing him on the toilet.
After a solid lunch break we hesitantly put our rain gear back on and headed out on the trail. On account of the weather we hadn’t yet decided whether we would be spending the night at John Tait Hut or moving further up the mountain to Upper Travers Hut. We were hoping to make it to Upper Travers so we could tackle the saddle crossing tomorrow on fresh legs but there was a thunderstorm forecast for the afternoon so we decided to play it by ear.
The walk to John Tait Hut was the most enjoyable walking of the day. We walked along the valley floor with high mountains flanking us on either side, low cloud covering their tops.
The valley was thick with long golden grass. It was a stunning setting. The track took us in and out of the tree line, the forest as beautiful as the valley. It looked like the home of elves and fairies, everything dripping in green moss.
We walked along the Travers River for most of the afternoon, I’m not sure whether it was a result of the rain but the river was flowing fast. The sound of the river coupled with the sound of bird song throughout the forest reminded me of one of those therapeutic nature sound CDs you buy from holistic living stores. It was serene.
As with all kiwi trails there was plenty of roots underfoot and whilst distracted by a beautiful little finch I tripped and fell hard on my right knee, directly onto some rocks. I was super hungry at the time which didn’t help concentration levels. I needed a little breather on the forest floor before assessing that everything felt intact and I could get up and continue walking. With a couple of big climbs ahead of us over the next couple of days I hoped I hadn’t done any damage.
We crossed a stream via a bridge before arriving at John Tait Hut. It was beautiful, I felt like I was in an edition of National Geographic, a stunning moss covered waterfall fed into a stream running under the bridge.
We arrived at John Tait Hut at around 4pm. The weather had eased somewhat and it didn’t look like there was a thunderstorm on the horizon so we decided to have an early dinner at the hut before moving on. I was starving and don’t think I could have walked before eating. The same thing happened to me on the last section through the Richmond Ranges. After a few days on town food with a full stomach it takes me a couple of days to get used to eating trail food again without feeling hungry. The calories are there, I am definitely eating enough, it is simply just different food that doesn’t fill the stomach as well as wholefoods do.
On full tummies we started the walk to Upper Travers Hut. I didn’t want to arrive at the hut too late because, as we discovered during the day it is a busy track with many route options so I expected the hut to be near capacity. Ontop of this, high winds had been forecast for the day so there was a chance that a backlog of people who started their hike yesterday would have held over a day.
I felt good after the meal, put my headphones in and we made good timing. The legs were well and truly warmed up afer the walking we had done earlier that day. The trail to Upper Travers Hut again followed the river under a spectacular canopy of beech trees.
We took a short side track down to Upper Travers falls. The climb down to the falls was steep but once we made it down there I was happy we had put in the effort. The falls were pumping, a tremendous amount of water was gushing into a sparkling blue pool at the bottom.
From the falls we started to climb. We had about 500m to climb to the hut but it was gradual and didn’t feel like a hard slog.
It was enjoyable walking by the river. As we grew higher in elevation we began to pop out above the tree line with glimpses of the spectacular mountains surrounding us. It was picturesque. Some of the mountains were still decorated with snow, the final remnants of winter.
The final climb to the hut was the steepest part of the day. It was an incredible scene ahead of us as we climbed up into the valley. The hut sat at the back of the valley, in the foreground was a spectacular golden grass medow with a stream running through this middle. The sream was flanked with apline flowers and the valley was encircled by grand mountains. It was breathtaking. It couldn’t be more beautiful.
It was 7.30pm by the time we made it to the hut. As suspected it was quite busy. It was meant to be a 28 bunk hut and while there may have been 28 mattress in the hut there was not room in the bunks for that many mats. The hut was split into 3 rooms, 2 sleeping areas with 1 combined eating and cooking area. Adam and I managed to each squeeze a space in separate rooms. I was lucky enough to get a matress next to a man with sleep apnea whose snoring could not be drowned out, even with my “snoarbuster” ear plugs. Adam got a space in the room with the majority of the other TA hikers. He had to blow up his air mat and squeeze it inbetween two people, the bunk mattress being too big for the space. I’m not quite certain which of us had it worse.
Day 87 – Friday 11 January, 16km
Upper Travers Hut to Blue Lake Hut
As predicted, Mr Sleep Apnea snored all night. During the night I was hoping he would eventually choke himself out but he was still snoring as loud as ever come first light.
All of the TA hikers (including Adam) were sleeping in the other room but I could hear them moving around at 5am. I gave up sleeping at 5.30am and packed up my gear. I was the first one up in my room and did not feel the least bit guilty of waking up Mr. Sleep Apnea sleeping next to me. He huffed and stirred as I stuffed my sleeping bag back into it’s dry sac.
We were off at 7am for the big climb up to Travers Saddle. It was beautiful hiking through golden grasses to the valley.
The views from the valley were so spectacular it felt like we were hiking through a painting. After taking in the views we started the steep climb to the saddle.
The trail took us over a crystal clear alpine waterfall where we topped up water bottles and refreshed ourselves, drinking straight from the stream with mountains in the background. We had a snack break before continuing on.
We made the final push up to the saddle. The winds picked up the higher we climbed and as we moved closer to the top of the saddle the temperature dropped. We put on our rain jackets to cut the wind and I put my buff over my ears to stop them aching from the chill.
We finally made it to the top of the saddle, the climb up not as challenging as expected. The views were magnificent. It was a good place to be at 8am on a Friday morning. I felt grateful to be out here on the trail, enjoying the experience.
Having made it to the saddle we now had to tackle the descent. It is the most challenging part of climbing any mountain for me.
It was a slow, steep and slightly painful 3km descent to the valley floor. I had several pep talks with my legs and knees along the way. With some encouragement my body and I made it down in one piece.
It was another few kms of pretty riverside walking before we made it to the hut. I was so hungry by the time we got there I thought I was going to feint. I ended up eating half of my spare lunch portion as well as that days lunch portion because I was so hungry. I had a spare day’s lunch after we commited to walking this section in 5 days rather than 6. There would be no turning back on our renewed time frame now.
We had a good break for lunch, chatting to one of our fellow hikers, Yves. With full stomachs we hit the trail with 7km and 3 hours ahead of us to Blue lake Hut.
Immediately after leaving the hut we crossed the river via a long swing bridge.
It was a steady uphill climb to Blue Lake, tiring but pretty walking. We stayed along the river for most of the afternoon, enjoying its roaring sound and the ability to stop for a drink any time we felt like it.
The bird life of trail has been spectacular. Some species are shy, others not so much. At one point on the track a little grey bird bounded up to me expectantly. Im not sure if it was after food or it was simply inquisitive but it surely was sweet.
The higher we climbed the more spectacular our views became until we popped out from the trees with full views of the mountains ahead of us.
We had a little bit of rock scrambling and scree sidling to do before we were once again on a formed track. We had a break by the river on this rocky section. Just as we were about to get up and start walking again a HUGE dragonfly landed on the brim of Adam’s hat. It let me take a quick snap before promptly flying off again.
With all of the rock and scree underfoot it was easy lose your footing. At one point I slid on a small rock perched ontop a larger rock, falling down a small ledge and landing clean on my bum on yet again another rock. It was painful and I’m pretty sure its going to bruise but as Adam said, better the butt than the knee!
We even had the luxury of boardwalk in some sections, it led us over some spectacularly clear swamplands. The clearest and prettiest I have ever seen.
After one final short but steep push the hut came into view. Our home for the night would be Blue Lake Hut. I was worried it was going to be as busy as the previous night but there ended up being only 12 people in the end. I was glad to not have to squish in for a bed or deal with 28 people chatting away all night. Blue lake even had 2 volunteer hut wardens. They briefed us on Blue Lake (more to come on that tomorrow) and checked our hut passes. They were very patient when we all asked them lots of questions about being a hut warden. How they get their food, whether they get choppered in or walk in, how long they are volunteering for…
Tomorrow we have ahead of us another infamous section of the TA, Waiau Pass. Just looking at the elevation profile is enough to scare me with a 45 degree decline on the descent it looks like the profile of a witches hat. A very tall witches hat.
Day 88 – Saturday 12 January, 16km
Blue Lake Hut to Waiau Hut
After thinking I’d escaped him, the sleep apnea clinic patient from Upper Travers Hut, along with a group of about 6 others turned up at around 9pm last night. They were up late cooking and talking, completely inconsiderate to everyone trying to sleep. As luck would have it, the heavy snorer chose the bunk adjacent to mine. I couldn’t believe it. He had followed me here and now I was stuck sleeping right by him again. The only saving grace, there was a thin wall separating our heads this time.
I had to get up in the night to pee. The stars were brilliant and without a cloud in the sky I could see milkyway. It was worth braving the cold for.
Needless to say it was a restless nights sleep. The small group of TA hikers we had been moving along with over the last few days were all up at 5.30am. It wasn’t until 6am when their eating breakfast and moving around woke me that I woke up for the final time. We reluctantly got up, packed and ate breakfast.
First up for the morning was a short side trip to the Blue Lake. It holds the clearest known water in the world with 70 to 80 meters visibility! We were too lazy to walk down to see it last night and I think this was a disservice to ourselves and the lake because it was in shade when we set out eyes on it this morning, the sun still hiding behind the mountains.
As we started our climb and got a view of the lake from above it its colour and clarity became more apparent.
We were about 500m from the hut when a fellow TA hiker, Yves came hurtling through the grass, along the track towards us. He had left something at the hut. We wished him luck and kept moving forward. I mentioned to Adam that it was a hazard of staying in a crowded hut, there is so much stuff everywhere that you are liable to leave something behind. At that moment I began running through a mental checklist of my gear. I had too left something behind! My empty peanut butter jar that I use for cold soaking my morning oats, my silicone coffee mug and my beloved bamboo spoon! I had taken them outside to wash them amd then left them on the sink thinking I would pick them up on my way back from the toilet. I completely forgot to pick them up on my way back from the toilet! If we were further along the trail I probably would have sacrificed them but we were close enough for me to throw off my pack and run back to the hut to pick them up. I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice so I quickly went into the hut to check nothing else had been left behind. Everyone else (all of the non TA hikers) were still as we had left them, in bed.
Back on track the Waiau Pass Route took us through some forest, climbing gently as we trekked. Before we knew it we were out of the tree line on traversing a scree slope.
Our hut wardens from the night prior had told us there were 2 routes to take here. The bottom route would take you down towards the lake and involve some scrambling over a rocky outcrop. The top route, which we were suggested to take, saw us climbing a scree slope. We could see Yves in the distance tackling the rocky outcrop and I was sure he had picked the wrong route so I led us up the scree slope.
The route was good as far as scree is concerned, thick and worn in, just like climbing a big staircase. I turned around to Adam to tell him this thought but he disagreed with me.
We toped out the scree slope and sidled around the mountain where the two routes converged. From here we would work our way into the valley for the most spectacular views of lake constance.
The trail dropped down into the valley and as the views opened up below us I was moved with emotion at how beautiful everything around me was. The golden grass field filled with wildflowers we were standing in, the incredibly blue Lake Constance below us and the grand mountains surrounding the entire valley with their light dusting of snow, the last remaining touches of winter sitting on their peaks.
Last night, whilst chatting to the hut wardens they asked what our favorite part of the TA was. I found it hard to answer at the time but thought about it again whilst walking through that valley and around Lake constance. I had the realization that emotion is my marker.
When natural beauty can move you to tears of pure joy it is a clear sign that it must be a special place. I still can not say that I have one favorite section of trail so far, that would be impossible to answer, like choosing a favorite book. How do you choose only one when they are all so beautifully individual and meaningful to you in different ways? I will say that so far on the trail there have been 3 sections which have brought me to tears – The Tararua Ranges, Walking the Mangetapopo Track before first light and watching the sun rise over Ngauruhoe before walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and now here, the Waiau Pass Route over Lake Constance.
With a few moments of reflection I regained control of all of the emotion and we descended onto Lake Constance, walking around the perimeter to its head.
From our vantage point back up on the trail we had seen a few people walking around the head of the lake. I had assumed it was the group of TA hikers who we had been moving along with us over the previous few days but when we got closer it was a different group entirely. An American family with their 3 kids. It looked like they had been camping down by the lake and were in the final throws of packing up camp. It was around 10am by the time we got there. We had a chat with the father of the family. They had made the decision not to go any further on the Waiau Pass Route dute to their own capabilities and in the interest of safety. The father was clearly working through this decision, almost justifying it to us through our conversation. He was very adamant that they must connect all of their steps on the South Island and sounded unsure as to how they would do that now, asking if we knew any alternative routes.
I understand why they made the decision not to walk the pass, a safety call. It would be good if more people were honest about their abilities like this guy, it would probably result in fewer search and rescue missions. What did upset me though was his negative comments about the trail, blaming DOC for not having chosen an easier route or having graded the trail better, not made it easier for hikers. I was keen to get started on tackling the pass myself and didn’t care to get into a long winded discussion with the guy so I made comment about DOC being under resourced. What I actually thought was if this path was easy, a boardwalk like gradient easily accessable to the masses then there would be hoardes of tourists moving through here every day. It would be Tongariro reborn. These mountains would loose their magic, Blue Lake and Lake Constance would be spoiled. These mountains are special. They deserve to retain their magic, to only share it with those prepared to push themselves, those prepared to put in the sweat, perserverance and love that those mountains deserve in return.
After escaping a potentially lengthy discussion with American Dad we pushed forward to begin our climb up the pass. It was short lived before a minor disagreement about the location of our final water source before we started the climb. Per the map it looked like we had passed the last available water source before the climb and we were standing in a dry river bed so we made the decision to back track 500m to the last stream. There is nothing I dislike more than backtracking unnecessarily and I had now done it twice in one day. I wasn’t happy because I wanted to keep walking further ahead. I could see water coming off the mountain up ahead and thought there must be water up there. Crankily we went back, got water and restarted our walk. Not more than 100m ahead there was a flowing stream that we needed to cross. I had a short burst of anger before working through it all resolving to stick to my guns and back myself in the future. I also came to the conclusion that if that was the worst decision we had made the trail, one of safety, then we aren’t doing too badly.
My flurry of anger put to bed, we began our climb up the infamous Waiau Pass. It appeared a ridiculous route standing at the valley floor looking up but as we got closer my mood changed from fear to excitement of the challenge as we moved closer to the start of the ascent.
Many people speak of having life changing transformations as a result of thru hiking. I can’t say that has happened to me but the TA has taught me to love the challenge of climbing a high mountain, to not fear it but embrace the panting and sweating and hard work.
We are all capable of so much more than we think we are. The TA has made me realise this of myself. There was a quote hanging in the ladies bathrooms at the St Arnaud Alpine Lodge that was quite fitting, “if we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” Thomas A. Edison.
The climb up the pass was long and slow but this simply gave us more time to take in the spectacular views over the valley and Lake Constance.
Back in the Richmond Ranges I had met a couple hiking the TA North bound (the opppsite direction to us). They felt Waiau Pass not worth effort required to go over it. Saying all you got were views of bald mountains. They did mention that they ‘weren’t mountain people’ but having walked this section of trail I was flabbergasted as to how they drew this conclusion. I guess you could look at the mountains and say that, they are infact bald but being here, among them there is truly something magical about these ‘bald mountains’. One of the most beautiful views I have seen.
When the climb leveled out we had a little break. I took some time to enjoy the view and write down my thoughts for the mornings so they didn’t slip my mind when I sat down to write in the evening.
We pushed on upwards, a final 500m to climb. Adam was ahead of me, he had dropped out of sight when he went over the top. I went over the top after him but still couldn’t see him. I was confused because I didn’t think he could have walked out of view in that short amount of time. All of a sudden Adam popped up from behind a rock with a snowball! There were small patches of snow still on top of the mountain. A novelty for us Aussies rarely seeing snow.
After mucking around in the snow we began to make our way down. It was the part of the pass I was least looking forward to. To our surprise the way down did not involve any scree. It was so much better than what I was anticipating. As enjoyable as the climb up, we had some down climbing over superbly grippy rock which was much more friendly than the scree coming down Mount Rintoul. It felt like a fun climbing adventure. Unlike Rintoul I didn’t feel fearful of loosing my life.
We held off having lunch until we reached flat ground once again. It was worth the wait. My words can not do the beauty of the place justice. A flat rock along a fresh mountain water stream. It felt like we were in a painting or a heavily photo stopped nat geo image.
The water was icy cold, fresh snow melt straight from the mountains. Submerging our feet felt like an ice bath. We said unheard apologies to hikers downstream who may have been questioning why the water had a slight hint of wet dog and fungal infection.
We didn’t want to leave our blissful lunch spot. I could have spent days camped by the river.
Every time I looked up into the mountains I noticed something new, another waterfall of glacial snow melt, a hanging lake, new colours in the rock as the sun moved across the valley.
We reluctantly moved on from our blissful campsite to take on the second leg of our journey for today.
The trail continued along the river, crossing back and forth dropping down along the valley. We gave up filtering water after entering the mountains of the South Island. The water is so clear it feels like it must be cleaner than tap water, if that is possible.
As we left the valley the river dropped steeply through the most clear and spectacular waterfall I have seen. The water was so clear it looked blue. There was so much beauty in such a small space of time I had to say ‘stop it New Zealand!’
For the rest of the afternoon we walked along the river. It was mostly easy walking with some sidling over scree and rock. It was somewhat a relief after the steep walking of the morning.
As we made our way to the hut we grossed a golden grassed medow. The hut looked so quaint as we moved towards it.
Unfortunately, when we arrived the hut was full. It was a 6 bed hut with 5 people already in it. Already knowing the majority of the people in there Adam and I shared a bunk. Smaller than a single bed it is needles to say that it was a restless nights sleep.
Day 89 – Sunday 13 January, 26km
Waiau Hut to Anne Hut
It was an easy walk to Anne’s Hut, 26km of flat riverbank trail through the valley. The views were spectacular, flanked by mountains in all directions, golden grass and wildflowers underfoot. The valley was so serene that when I stopped for a mid morning wee break I didn’t think to scan around for other people. I checked infront and behind me for other hikers and dropped my pants. It wasn’t until I was startled by the sound of a closing car door that I though to look across the river to my left. On the opposite side of the bank was a group of people car camping out of a 4wd. I was shocked and mortified all at the same time. hoping the distance across the river was great enough for them not to have seen me, I whipped my pants back up, threw my pack on and legged it down the trail to find a more appropriate location.
The day was somewhat of a milestone, we passed the 2,00km mark of our journey. Given the trail is a little less than 3,000km this year due to the Northland forest closures it means we are more than 1/3 of our way through the trail. The last 3 month’s have flown past, with so much beautiful hiking ahead of us on the South Island I can only imagine that we will be in Bluff in no time.
We stopped for lunch in the middle of the valley on the outskirts of a private homestead. It was something out of a movie set with horses roaming in open paddocks and snow capped mountains framing the backdrop. I imagined how fantastic a life out on this ranch would be, coming through those gates amd seeing that incredible scene infront of you.
Our hut for the evening was Anne Hut, with a setting not too dissimilar from the homestead, we crossed the river on a rusty old footbridge to reach it. Located at the end of an expansive paddock it was a welcome sight to walk towards.
We felt fortunate to have this hut available to us, it opened in 2017, large with 20 bunks split in 2 separate sleeping areas and a large kitchen with 2 long bench tables so tonight, everyone would have a seat for dinner.
Day 90 – Monday 14 January, 16km
Anne Hut to Boyle Flat Hut
Today was an unexpectedly short day. We were planning to walk all the way to Boyle River and potentially try to hitch into Hanmer Springs where we were planning on staying a few nights to relax.
After being woken at 5am by our regular band of alarm clocks we started the day walking in rain. It was only a light sprinkle, I didn’t even bother with rain pants. I probably should have put them on though, the wet grass ended up soaking me to my knees. The walking was again easy, like yesterday, fairly flat and ambling along the river.
We had one small climb, up and over Anne Saddle. The route took us back into the forest and through the trees for the climb. It was a few hundred meters but with all the climbing we have been doing over the past few days it felt easy.
We were then directed back out along the river where we made our way to Boyle Flat Hut. Along the way we met 2 DOC workers who were building boardwalks in the area. I was very appreciative of the work they had been doing. We had a good chat, I left them after not too long and Adam I continued to the hut.
When we arrived at Boyle Flat Hut, the group we hutted with last night, along with a slightly sketchy kiwi guy were inside. The others had left an hour or so before us that morning so we expected them to be long gone. They must have been taking their time on account of the rain. There was a fire going which presumably was a remnant of the night prior. We enjoyed the warmth of the fire as the rain started to fall even heavier. On first appearances we thought the ‘something not quite right with that guy’ Kiwi was staying the night again so we didn’t question packing up and moving on after lunch. Just as I had tied my boots and slipped on my gloves, ready to embrace the rain the kiwi guy headed out on the trail, following along after a pretty young french girl. Well in that case we thought, why not stay the night. The hut should be quiet, most people wouldn’t have such a short trail day and stay here and inexplicably, the sketchy kiwi guy had left the fire burning (with the door open). It was a great idea! I stoked the fire, took off my freezing wet socks and was just changing out of my wet pants into my thermals when Adam said, “there are 2 people coming”.
An older German couple made their way inside, boots on trailing grass and dripping water on the floor. People’s lack of respect for huts is really starting to bug me. The ones that make a mess and wear their boots inside are never the ones to sweep, flip up their mats or wipe down the benches. But rest assured they would be the first ones to complain about mouldy mats or pests or filth. After the German couple settled into their third helping of lunch, Mr Sleep Apnea, came bumbling up to the hut, dripping wet. I couldn’t believe it. He put his pack down by a bunk, making himself at home for the night.
Despite the crowd we decided to stay on. It was a beautiful relaxing afternoon sitting on the window seat looking out over the valley whilst the rain filled the water tanks, polishing off our spare snacks. The German couple left after lunch and Mr Sleep Apnea remained unexpectedly quiet throughout the evening so we had a good nights sleep in the end.
Day 91 – Tuesday 15 January, 13km
Boyle Flat Hut to Boyle River
After a relaxing afternoon it was back on trail this morning to continue our journey into Boyle Village. The rain had slowed and eventually halted overnight so we thankfully had a dry walk into Boyle Village.
After breakfast and a morning coffee we crossed the swing bridge to rejoin the trail. We followed the river over mostly flat trail to Boyle Village where we arrived just prior to lunch.
We had both posted ourselves food parcels from Wellington before we decided to have a day off trail in Hanmer Springs so when we arrived at Boyle River Outdoor Education Centre I opted to collect mine. I knew I have a whole block of rum and raisin chocolate waiting in there for me. It was a smart move because we had over an hour wait time ahead of us before we landed a hitch into Hanmer Springs. Needless to say the rum and raisin did not make it into town.
The couple who picked us up were local dairy farmers on their way into Christchurch. They had initially driven past but then doubled back to get us. There was some rearranging to do to fit us into the car. They were ferrying around an industrial sized roll of black contact film which I was not game enough to ask about. When Chris, the driver asked us whether we had any problems hitchhiking in Northland I felt a little worried, he had asked us whether anyone had tried to drive off with our bags in the boot of their car before. Seeing as my pack was currently in the boot of their car I got a little nervous but they were lovely people who went out of their way to driver us directly into Hanmer Springs. They even gave Adam a fresh chicken sandwich!
After a brief visit to the Isite we got some info on the town and booked a hotel on a whim. There was nothing more to do than enjoy a relaxing evening eating burgers at the local pub.
Day 92 – Wednesday 16 January, 0km
A visit to Hanmer Springs wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the thermal pools so today was a day reserved for relaxing.
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before hit the grocery store to top up on food items. After lunch we easily slipped into the role of tourists, taking the Concial Hill walk for views over the town and surrounding farm land.
We had been clued in that the best time to visit the thermal pools would be in the evening once all of the kids were sufficiently dehydrated and safety home in bed. The complex was much like any large aquatic complex, we passed through large glass doors which led us past large signs warning us not to put our head under water and informing us that we must be wearing appropriate swim wear to enter. As we are travelling light on clothing, ‘appropriate swimwear’ for me consisted of my undies sports bra and for Adam, his hiking shorts. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my thermal pool experience, when we got inside all of the pools were labelled with their temperature and what minerals they contained. We started in the cooler pool at 37 degrees before working our way up to the panic enducing 42 degree sulphur pools. Our favorite pools were the aquatherapy pools which contained various bubbles and jets. It was all very therapeutic, the warm, mineral infused water very incredibly soothing for our overused legs. It was a great way to end our rest day. Tomorrow we plan to hitch back to Boyle Village, picking up the trail where we left it and head towards Arthur’s Pass.
Wow! You really have an eye for a beautiful photographic image! It’s amazing how many people are doing this trek. I would expect to have exclusive use of the huts. I’m amazed that you are sharing every night. Those orange markers must be very reassuring for you on those isolated mountain passes. You are doing a wonderful life changing journey – fantastic! Love Aunty Carole xx
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