Day 104. Methven – Trailhead Rakaia south – Manuka Hut. 38km. Total 2283km. Finally a great day!
There was a big storm last night but no rain! The sun is out and it’s still very windy. As the ride to the Trailhead is only at 9am, I take the time for a good breakfast and call my family. Tim is now also joining our ride, for 25$ each the German guy working at the hostel brings us all the way on the gravel road and (surprise) fording rivers to the trailhead where we start at 10am. The wind is blowing but the sky is blue and I am happy – just a little bit scared of the river crossings. Tim is too fast for me but I try to be faster as the other 2 guys, even though it’s uphill, just so I know there’s someone behind if I cannot cross the river on my own.
I walk up to the saddle in zig tags and am rewarded with a magnificent view of the Rakaia River and the mountains. Then it’s easy and gently going downhill and a few times through the river (easy!).
After 2h I am already at A Frame hut, pushing further on. At 1.30pm I arrive at Comyn hut where Tim is still having lunch and I join him. My sandwiches are quickly eaten and before Tim I already continue. It’s such a beautiful day I want to benefit and walk over the saddle. But first, let’s get down to some more real Te Araroa trail! This time the trail is mainly in the river or on the side through gorse. The river looks a bit scary but looking carefully where to cross I realise it’s not too bad. And as I am going upstream it will become easier. It’s still quite a fight though, taking care where to walk in the cold water. But it’s worth the effort, the river is shining blueish and the surrounding mountains and boulders are stunning. It’s also the best therapy for me to get rid of my fear of rivers!
It takes a long time though and after 2h or so I am finally walking uphill through tussock towards the saddle. Tim catches up and is soon out of sight. I am now fighting hard to walk all the way up to the saddle through the tussock. It’s hard to see where you walk and in between some holes or water. I can’t breath and all I want is to be finally at the saddle which all the time when I think I am almost there adds another turn. But up there I immediately forget all the pain it costed me to get up, the view is stunning. Such a shame I can only take pictures with my phone, it’s not as good as my camera. It’s late afternoon and the sun is just perfectly illuminating the red/brown mountains.
Tim waited for me but we can’t stay long, we are almost blown away. We keep to the right on a scree slope, more tussock, more scree, more great views!
The descent into the valley feels endless, it’s up and down all the time through tussock. Finally down and at the intersection to Double hut I have the choice, hike up to the Double hut 1km (and back tomorrow morning) or continue 5 more km to Manuka Hut. It’s already 7.15pm and I feel exhausted from trying to keep up with Tim. Tim continues and runs all the way in 30minutes to the next hut. After first thinking about stopping, I finally decide to push on, making it to the hut in 1h.
Liz and 2 Kiwis are already there, so good to see her again. I quickly get water without filtering to drink and cook, I am too tired for filtering everything now. I cook dinner and we exchange all the news from the last weeks. It’s late so after my couscous with tuna, I just change, hang up my food and go in my sleeping bag. The 2 Kiwis are just 15 and 16 but out hunting on their own! It’s so impressive, I don’t think any German of their age would be able or interested in outdoors.
As the others sleep I write my blog. I am very happy. This day was just what I needed. Difficult parts but doable, a long day of hiking and the most stunning views under a clear blue sky and sunshine. Now I remember why I am doing this trail. For all the beauty I saw today!
Day 105. Manuka Hut – Rangitata – Peel Forest Campsite. 32km. Total 2315km.
The night was bad, I sleep on my stomach but then the bruises on my knees hurt so much I had to turn around – but then couldn’t sleep either. Liz gets up very early and after trying to convince myself to sleep a bit longer I also get up and start hiking at 7am. I am a bit stiff, yesterday was a very long hiking day. Luckily today is easy hiking. Up a small hill to Lake Emily and then almost flat to a gravel road.
11km further Tim waits for Liz and me, I catched up on Liz in the meantime. Tim wants to continue rather off trail towards the next town.
I leave Liz behind as she doesn’t plan on hitchhiking today around Rangitata and start into the next tussock section. It’s still nice and easy, just very small streams to cross and an easy trail through the tussock, slightly up and downhill.
The long hiking days and gravel road got my feet again with some blisters. Suddenly I am at a view point, looking down to Lake Clearwater and the Rangitata. The trail would go all the way to the Rangitata and then either getting a hitch there or walking the highway into the next village, next to the Lake.
I decide to take the trail leading directly to and around Lake Clearwater to the highway, skipping 10km of the trail but still doing some 6km to the highway.
Once I am down I am lucky, a German -Australian couple picks me up after a few minutes, driving me to Mayfield. Just shortly after a Canadian picks me up and drives me to Peel Forest intersection, giving me an apricot and chocolate to eat in the meantime! After some 10 minutes with few cars, a woman with her 3 children takes me although she lives just next door. Her children wanted to take a hitchhiker and she brings me to the Peel Forest station cafe. I arrive at 3pm. So far it’s been going great. At the station I enquire about that postman option but he leaves only at 11am tomorrow morning. I buy some ice-cream (it’s very hot today!) and decide to try my luck. There aren’t any tourists going up to the trail head, you have to be lucky that one of the few farmers up there are passing by. And so I wait and wait. My option is still to camp here and take the post option tomorrow so I am not too worried. The café closes but the bar opens at 6pm and can book it for me. However the camping ground is 4km away from the bar/cafe and I have to go there and back tonight / tomorrow morning.
It’s past 6pm when I decide that it’s getting too late and that I will book the mail run and a campsite. The guy at the bar is also the one who runs the mail, perfect! Tim appears suddenly, he didn’t even try to hitchhike so he enjoyed the campsite. We walk together to the campsite and have dinner, then I enjoy a nice hot shower and talk to Peggy to organise our reunion. I look forward to seeing her again and continuing finally with her, it’s been strange to be on my own again. Tomorrow I can sleep in!
[ Questions to the Kiwis: where can you buy a good (maybe waterproof ;-)) camera in New Zealand? Would I be able to find one in Wanaka or do I have to wait to Queenstown? Which shop should I look for? Or order online? I thought I can live with the smartphone pictures but seeing all the beauty around me and having just the very limited phone pics is hard. ]