Day 113. Top Timaru Hut – Pakituhi Hut. 24km. Total 2549.
Another night of not sleeping as my knees hurt. I promise myself to go and see a doctor in Wanaka…. The wind was blowing the whole night and I was happy to be in the hut well sheltered. All 7 of us in the hut are up at 6am and today we even start hiking at 6.45am. The first trail leads us along and through the Timaru river. But first we leave that windy mountain and hike into the forest. It’s hard sidling and hard on my knees. Close to tears I have to take painkillers to keep on going. Going downhill on steep parts is the worst. It didn’t bother me at all before I fell on my knees in the river so I still hope the knees will recover from the bruises…
Luckily the river section starts just after an hour, when it’s already warm enough so I don’t mind that much getting wet feet. And then the story of this morning begins. Hike up, hike down, cross the river. Repeat. We have to avoid gorges so that’s where we often have to climb up steeply uphill just to walk back down to the river again afterwards. The river and the steep gorges are beautiful though and the trail well maintained so it’s actually not too bad 😉
We take our lunch break at an intersection – after it we will have to walk steep up the mountain to the next hut. This is really steep now for 90 minutes! At least the views are great. We reach Stordys hut just before 2pm. It’s an old hut and we heard that there are mice. Not actually where we want to spend a night….
So we continue on the Breast Hill Track. Now it’s nice and easy to walk on a 4wd track – but again uphill. The goal is Breast Hill at 1580m while the hut was at 1100m. Of course we have to walk up a few other hills in between (we are on the TA!) but it’s still easy to walk and the views become ever so much better.
And then finally we get to the summit! Wow. This is awesome, views of Lake Hawea, in the distance Lake Wanaka and so many mountains around us. It’s a steep drop down to the lake and the rocks are giving it such a dramatic atmosphere. Hard to capture on camera, especially on my smartphone only one, but graved in my memory!
After enjoying our time at the summit we walk the final kilometers down to Pakituhi Hut. One mattress is left and I want to leave it to Peggy. But if I don’t sleep in the hut, she doesn’t want to either. And she needs to get up at night so doesn’t like the upper bunk. It’s decided, she will sleep on the bench and me on the mattress. After our dinner though, the weekend hikers are just getting started with cooking etc so Peggy ends up setting up her tent while I am too tired now to change plans. I just lay on my mattress and think how fast time passes by. Tomorrow is already my birthday – it felt so far away and now it’s so close! As we made it quite far today, we only have to walk about 4h to Lake Hawea where I plan to have a good lunch, cake and coffee before continuing a few further kilometers. The day after we want to be early in Wanaka, so much to do there as well (new camera,…).
Day 114. Pakituhi Hut – Alberton Town Campsite. 23km. Total 2572km. The perfect (birth)day!
I had a good night and get up early, taking my sleeping bag and cooking gear outside. I sit on the bench, cuddled up in my sleeping bag all nice and warm, cooking oats and coffee for breakfast and admiring the wonderful red sunrise. Today is my birthday and I couldn’t be happier. This is a perfect start into a day for me, being outside in the mountains and enjoying a sunrise.
Unfortunately Peggy’s night wasn’t good, it was too windy to sleep well in the tent. But in good mood we start into the day, we admire again the view down the stunning hills and bluffs to Lake Hawea before actually hiking down there. 950m altitude difference on maybe just some 3km. It’s steep and tough and knee breaking. But it’s also beautiful.
And eventually everything comes to an end and we arrive down at the lake. Another 7km and hundreds of stunning views of the lake and mountains later we reach Lake Hawea village and our goal: the Sailz cafe/restaurant/general store.
It’s perfect timing, we arrive at noon and sit upstairs with view of the Lake. My birthday treat starts with champagne and a delicious Seafood chowder. Some time later we move down to the cafe and while I have a berry smoothy and an apple, Peggy chooses a pie. But I am not done yet, an hour later I go for a Moccachino and a raspberry – chocolate muffin. Hiker hunger on a birthday where I can actually buy good food is perfect! I am glad the timing worked out so perfectly (as we are one day earlier than planned).
After 3pm we leave for the final 13km, easy along the river to a swingbridge. On the other side the Alberton Town Campsite, a big site at the river with just toilets but nothing else for 7$. Just a pain as we cannot find a spot to pitch our tents, too much gravel. Finally we manage to find a spot, not well protected so hopefully no more bad weather tonight. We finish some tortillas for dinner and go sleeping. I just love my birthday, a relaxed hiking day with good food!
Day 116. Albert town Campsite – Wanaka. 13km. Total 2583km.
The campsite was busy until very late with people coming and going in their cars. I couldn’t sleep at all until 2pm, waking up at 4am and then again as my alarm wakes me up at 6am. It’s only 13km left into Wanaka though, just a short hike for us this morning. We continue along the river, eventually arriving at Lake Wanaka where it’s another 8km along the lake to the village. The wind picked up again and the clouds hide the mountains and the view.
At 11am we arrive in town, leave our packs in the YHA where we booked the two last beds yesterday from Lake Hawea. I enquire about the doctor but I just learn that today is a public holiday and I would need to wait till tomorrow if it’s not an emergency. It’s not, so I decide to wait another 4 days to Queenstown for having my knees checked. Then we are off for shopping. Blister tape and a knee bandage for Peggy. We check all outdoor stores for hiking poles but they are either not what I want or too expensive. We have one of the best pies I ate so far in New Zealand. We check out the camera store which has an overwhelming choice of 15 cameras for sale and I decide against that outdoor camera Tough by Olympus and for the Sony camera which got awards (and promise myself to be more careful) – but it’s very expensive and when checking in the Internet I can buy it much cheaper in Queenstown, so I decide to wait a few more days. We walk to Patagonia Chocolates for their world famous ice cream – Peggy’s birthday present for me is 2 enormous scoops of Dulce de Leche & Dark Chocolate Macadamia – the best ice cream ever. So happy we will be able to have more in 3 days in Arrowtown and in 4 days in Queenstown. Then we walk to the DOC to check on the trail and consider more side trips like the Routeburn. Hut costs 56$ for one person so that’s not going to happen. The hike up Roy’s Peak for sunset is also cancelled, the weather is bad and our knees hurt. We do our shopping of 4 days of food though for the next stretch to Queenstown. We organise from the YHA our stay in Queenstown in 4 days and Te Anau in 8 days, booking also a tour to the Milford Sound. After such an efficient day we finally get to relax and have dinner, followed by a movie in the Paradiso Cinema (Lalaland). Late it’s finally bed time!