Day 98. Hanmer Springs – Windy Point – Hope Kiwi lodge. 25km (about 8km not hiked). Total 2086km.
Yesterday was actually a nice day off. I met a wonderful Austrian girl, Inge, who is biking along NZ and I also met again Mark and Pal as expected. I ate a LOT! Bread with a dip, bananas, fish and chips, a big plate of vegetables, yoghurt, mango,… The storm started in the late afternoon and kept on going the whole night with torrential rain. Good to be safe.
Nevertheless I just want to continue in the morning so I am outside ready to hitchhike at 7.30am. Just no cars around! Peggy writes that Arthur’s Pass is blocked so I check and it turns out the highway further down the road to Lewis Pass is also closed due to flooding and rocks. The pictures look terrible and I am now trapped here. Back in the hostel I talk to everyone and walk later with Inge and another German girl to the iSite. They confirm the road is closed but an update should come at 10am. Hallelujah, it shows open again so I decide to try my luck when we run into a couple who just turned round because the road was still closed and cars lining up. At 11am I am deciding to at least try and see how far I can get. After 10minutes a very nice old man picks me up and brings me to the highway junction. He lives here since 1950 and has never seen the river level that high! Should I really risk going? Well, usually it’s getting down fast as well and the weather should improve now. At the junction it takes only 5 more minutes and I am off to Windy Point. Due to the river level I have to use the swingbridge instead of crossing after Boyle and it doesn’t make sense to be dropped off at Boyle just to walk back the 8km on the highway.
It’s already 1pm when I finally can start to hike in the rain. At least not a bad rain and in between the sun comes out! The trail is pretty much under water though. The swingbridge is scary with the roaring Boyle River underneath.
The trail would be rather easy to walk but it’s so wet that it takes me quite long. I can cross the first streams easily but a bigger one makes me hesitate. I can see how much bigger it must have been last night. In the end I decide to cross and it’s not too bad.
As I arrive at a small hut I can see that Shelley passed by yesterday. As I continue I get worried about her, the trail is now directl at the river and just about possible to be hiked now, it must have been completely flooded yesterday (as the grass/marks show).
I don’t have a good feeling. I am anxious and uncertain about what’s ahead as I know I can only do the river crossings after Harpers Pass in good conditions without rain. The river is so huge and scary right now. As it rains again I get very cold and even more worried (really rain, you have to stop now!). I walk amidst cows and on grass which sometimes is more a stream than grass.
Finally I can see the Hope Kiwi lodge, but there’s one more bad river to cross just before! I manage somehow but the current is really strong. It’s now 5pm and I have to stay here. The next hut is 6h away and in these uncertain conditions I don’t want to set up my tent. There’s no one and although there’s dry firewood I am incapable to light a fire. I really need someone to show me how to do it. The hut is amazing and big with a great view. Shelley arrived yesterday as the intention book tells me, a relief! I spread out all my stuff and enjoy having the hut to myself. There are two separate bunk rooms but also 3 beds in the main room. As one of them is close to the window with a great view I decide to sleep there. It starts raining again… At 7.30pm another hiker is coming in! He isn’t very talkative, just prepares dinner and is off into one of the bunk rooms.
Day 99. Hope Kiwi lodge – Lockestream Hut. 41km. Total 2127km.
I had a very good night, sleeping tight. I get up early and start hiking at 6am in the white mist outside. It’s cold, just about 5 degrees Celsius and my feet are frozen and wet. The trail is first along flat area and then climbs through bush to Lake Sumner. I can still see how high the river has been and walk through lots of water.
The lake has also extended to the trail and I have to fight my way through the trees to not go swimming.
There are still clouds but you can feel it’s getting better and the sun will be out today. I hurry up because I know the good weather is not going to last – and I want to do at least a few of the river crossings today.
What a surprise to see Alison and Lindsey coming opposite direction suddenly! They are walking back after having stayed 3 nights in very bad weather in Cameron Hut and more bad weather coming tomorrow afternoon they decided to rather be safe and back track. Oh gosh, what should I do? I can continue as far as I get today and hope the weather is still OK tomorrow. Otherwise I have enough food to wait three days (hoping that Peggy wouldn’t be too worried in that case). Despite the bad news it’s so good to see them again! We each continue pretty soon though as we still have to hike a lot.
As I walk out of the forest into a beautiful valley I can see the snow covered mountains. Over a swingbridge and at 11am I am at Hurunui Hut but I just pass it.
Then it’s about 90 minutes to the Hot Pools where warm thermal water is coming out. The pool has a lot of dirt/mud but I still go in there to sooth my muscles.
It’s not a good idea, I am bitten by sandflies and dirtier than before. So I walk on and on until I am too hungry and have lunch. I pass Hurunui #3 hut and then have to cross for the first time a river on a 3 wire emergency bridge. Not as bad as I thought.
More water, dort, fallen trees and fight. I pass Cameron Hut, a pretty old one and keep on hiking uphill. There are many river crossings and all manageable now – but seeing how high the water was before is shocking. About 700m before the Bivvy there was a landslide and the trail is gone! I have to get over the bit anyway but it’s very scary, just rocks and water below. I almost fall with some of the scree but can manage to grab a branch of a tree. That was really scary!!!
Finally I am at the Bivvy, from here it should be just 30 minutes to Harpers Pass. I am tired already and it’s quite a rough hike. Another landslide, difficulties to find the trail but eventually I arrive at Harpers Pass!
Shelley is still there and waited for me as she saw me coming up. I am exhausted but the battle is not over. We continue fighting our way down. Wow, it’s beautiful! But way, that’s the river I will have to cross several times?!
It’s very, very steep and there are more landslides. For one river crossing we have to go together.
Then another swingbridge and one hour later at 7.30pm I reach finally Lockestream Hut. I am completely done, having walked 13h almost without break, 40km in difficult terrain. I am reliefed to see that both Adele and Tim.have signed in, they were also ahead in much worse conditions. Shelley arrives shortly after me and we filter water, have dinner and sleep! Crossing fingers for good weather tomorrow!