Day 100. Lockestream Hut – Morrisons Footbridge – Arthur’s Pass. 22km. Total 2150km. A nightmare.
After some well needed sleep Shelley and I start at 7am, thinking it will take us 6-8h to the Morrisons Footbridge or some more to Upper Deception hut in case we decide to continue. It’s cold and the sky white but doesn’t look like rain is coming.
We start hiking towards the first of many river crossings today, feeling confident as now it didn’t rain for at least 24h and the water level should be back to normal. The river looks still big and we decide to go together, grabbing each others backpacks underneath the back for more stability. But we are not used to walking like this together and even though the river is not coming very high, just to my knees, the current is so strong at one point I cannot lift my leg anylonger and somehow we stumble and fall down. We are out of the current and not in danger and can quickly get up, keeping both very calm. But I am soaking wet now and hurt my knee hitting a rock. It gets swollen very quickly, but I just continue anyway.
According to the trail notes “travelling down the valley is easy” but it’s not at all. It’s hard to find the trail and especially after the weather bomb the trail is washed away in places so we have to bush bash a lot. For the next river crossings we develop a better technique. Only one is moving and tells the other once stable again, then the other moves. It works out fine and I don’t know what I would have done without Shelley! At 11am we are at Kiwi Hut and even though we know we need to get out, we need half an hour rest and food to have enough energy for the next stretch. My knee hurts so badly I now have to take painkillers. We are reliefed to see that Adele and Tim signed in, although Adele seems to have a badly hurt leg.
The next 1km takes us almost 2h. We need to do the two final river crossings. Both rivers are spread out in arms and for each we need to find the best point to cross. The Otehake river is the killing point. We try at the best looking point but when the water is more than 1,20m (hiking poles height) and the current too strong we decide to walk back. We end up crossing much further upstream, having then to bushbash back to the empty river bed and trail. There is no marker so we just try to get ahead as best as we can, eventually back on a nice 4WD track before it ends again in the river, the trail has just been washed out.
An endless time later we arrive at the Morrisons floodtrack. We already heard how bad it is but after what we already went through today, it is hard to endure 4 more kilometers of almost bushbashing! Although there should be a trail, there’s just steep climbs, fallen trees to climb over, it takes us one hour per kilometers. And it started raining again. It’s very cold and the last few hours might have been the worst on the trail so far.
I wasn’t physically exhausted as we walked slowly but the constant worry about the river level, the concentration while crossing, the complete focus on trying to get out of this nightmare was taking its toll. Difficult to endure that the trail markers send you right in the gorse. Finally we can see the footbridge. But also that something seems wrong on the other side. It’s a huge landslide which separated Arthur’s Pass from Greymouth.
We were worried if anyone would give 2 wet hikers a ride at 6.30pm, but now we have to talk to the workers. It’s the best that could have happened. Someone leads us round the slip and tells us they stop at 8pm and can take us to Arthur’s Pass then. But luckily the policeman from Arthur’s Pass just stopped by with the fireman (who also happens to be the owner of the YHA) and takes us. They have to stop on the way back a few times though while we are drenched and shivering.
We already hear that Tim and Adele have arrived safely! At the hostel I can’t even check in properly or open my rain coat, my fingers are to cold. After 20 minutes in a hot shower I am all good again, happy to be alive and in a safe place. We have dinner together and when Adele tells us how she nearly drowned, I can only thank all the guardian angels that we all got out safely. Who would have thought day 100 of my Te Araroa would be that bad!
Day 101. Arthur’s Pass. 0km. Total 2173kmArthur’s (as I will have to skip the Deception – Mingha trail).
It rained the whole night and continues during the day. I need to rest my knee anyway and also recover mentally. Adele’s leg is hurt so badly she needs to go to the hospital in Christchurch (luckily there still are trains going there). Peggy should have been here yesterday but the busses are now diverting over Lewis Pass to Greymouth, so that’s where she ended up yesterday! We all take our time, eating, sleeping, finally the cafe and shop opens to get some fresh food and yoghurt (in my case) or pies and coffee… The opening times are now limited because no one is here at Arthur’s Pass with the road being closed and the bad weather! Peggy suggests that we meet again in Lake Tekapo as she cannot get through to Arthur’s Pass and she wants to see the Fox Glacier etc anyway.
At the DOC office we are advised about the weather forecast (OK tomorrow but rain again afterwards) and while we cannot get back on the Deception – Mingha trail for a while (water level needs to be really low), we can continue towards Lake Colridge. We will have to assess the river level though once we are there, but can always get back without being trapped like we were in that previous section. A guy who lives at Arthur’s Pass already offered to Tim to take us, as the trail is a few kilometers from the hostel. Shelley will come as well and it will be the three of us starting tomorrow, that should provide some safety although we all hike at quite a different pace.