Day 111. Twizel – Sawyers Creek Bridge. 35km. Total 2478km.
Yesterday evening we had a nice dinner in a pub with Mark and Pall, eating homemade smoked salmon as burger, so yummy! Maybe it was the cider, but I finally slept well, mainly because I managed to sleep on my back so my knees wouldn’t hurt. As we are in a 4 bed dorm with the guys who also get up at 6am, no need to be silent in the morning. While the guys still have breakfast, we already leave at 7am towards the highway we have to follow for a few kilometers before reaching another salmon farm and the intersection to our trail.
We will now follow the river for 15km to Lake Ohau. After the rain last night, the sun is back and luckily not too much wind. The trail is easy again as it’s a cycle track and we can walk rather quickly, enjoying the view of the river and mountains.
We meet a northbound hiker who tells us that everyone is walking to the bridge and doesn’t cross that Ahuiri riverby foot. That was our intention anyway, good! Apparently you can even hitchhike the 6km back to the trail, but I cannot imagine their being many cars. We’ll see. At 11am we reach another turquoise coloured glacier lake, Lake Ohau.
At noon we find a nice spot at the rocky beach in the shadow of a tree. When the sun is out now in summer it’s burning hot and you need to put a very good sunscreen on. But once you are in the shadow you almost have to put on your fleece as it’s cold. Quite extreme the UV rays in New Zealand!
Then all the way along the lake to tiny Ohau Alpine Village, passing on the way a huge property with big lions at the gate, a tennis court, a pool,…. and we cannot even see the actual house where those rich people are living!
At 3pm another break and a short nap in my case and then we walk the final kilometers to the intersection of the trail and then up another 2km to the Sawyers Creek where we set up our tents. Well sheltered this time behind the bridge and trees, but today everything seems very calm (but you never know!). Our blisters are hurting but it’s another great day and another perfect spot for camping! I have a feast for dinner with a quite heavy tuna mix and glassnoodles, but I am still hungry. It feels now as if I can never feel full again (just sick once I eat far too much in town). I am tired very soon and try to sleep already at 7pm when some bikers still pass by….
Day 112. Sawyers Creek – Ireland road bridge. 27km. Total 2502. (a few kilometers off-trail to bridge).
I seemed to have needed sleep, I slept around 11h in my tent, just waking up occasionally. Start is again at 7am, the first few kilometers easy along the bike trail, then up into the forest along a river (which we crossed on a bridge!). At the informal campsite we stumble again on the two American hikers we already crossed every now and then the last few days. Then we get out of the tree line and continue straight up to a saddle at 1400m.
It’s hard to tell where the highest point is, we just walk up there for a while, occasionally through a swamp. The trail leads us down to the Eastern Ahuiri river which we will follow the rest of the day.
According to the trail notes it’s poorly marked, but so many trampers already passed by that the trail is rather easy to follow. It’s also easy to walk for me. We need to cross the river a few times, but it’s just a creek really so no big deal. The trail veers of to a hill to avoid two gorges and then we get some beautiful views of the valley below. From there the valley opens up and it’s even easier to walk now.
We now meet a few Nobos (northbounded hikers) every day, feels like a highway! Many are doing just the South Island. It’s a good opportunity to check on the trail that’s coming now. We learn that everyone is walking around the Ahuiri river, it’s just too high up. We also get tips on where to start the detour as we shouldn’t walk all the way to the river bed but already before jump over a fence. OK, that’s what we do, after some time we already find a 4wd track which we can now follow for 7km to the bridge.
Peggy has very painful blisters and hiking is tough, but she continues nevertheless. When seeing the river I am reliefed that there is a bridge going over it. Even though a 12km detour (but avoiding about trail 4km), it’s worth it.
It was a slow going day so we reach the bridge only at 5.30pm. We heard that some people got a ride so we just sit down at the gravel road. Two cars pass but in the opposite direction. It’s windy and cold here but Peggy cannot continue today with her blisters. I check out the campsite suggested by a Nobo. It’s down by the river and provides slightly more shelter from the wind. After one hour we decide to set up camp there. As Peggy is sleeping colder she gets the best spot, well hidden just behind that bridge wall. Not more space for me though. I camp at the next best spot. But when I want to move a stone to put more weight on the stakes, there’s poo underneath. It’s disgusting and I can smell it in my tent. There’s no other possibility though other than just staying there anyway, the wind is picking up and it’s drizzling now. We have dinner in Peggy’s tent and then I hide in mine. It’s already 7.30pm. I have to readjust again my inner schedule to slower hiking and not ask too much of a day. Easy for me is not easy for others and I just hope that Peggy’s bad blisters will heal soon so she can enjoy hiking again.
Day 113. Ireland road bridge – Top Timaru Hut. 23km. Total 2525.
A horrible night of not sleeping in the very windy conditions. I felt cold although it wasn’t that bad. I am worried also a bit if my tent will work for Patagonia, my next destination, as it might be colder and even windier there in March and April. At least the sky was beautiful at night and I am also treated to a nice sunrise from my tent.
We are all ready at 7am and just after 10 minutes or so hiking on the road we are picked up by two builders. They are building a huge fishing hut, a luxury one for rich people (we saw a picture!). Great that we don’t have to walk the whole 5km to get back to the trail. The builders even know where to drop us off as they already took a number of other hikers.
We then start to hike our way up the hill, stumbling upon a couple camping at a stream. They actually crossed the river yesterday, but it took them an hour and the water was higher than hip height and it was scary. Glad again we didn’t even try!
The trail today is super easy, a 4wd track all the time. However, it’s a 800m climb up to Martha’s saddle and it’s hard on our breath.
At 11am I have to take a break and eat something. It’s horrible, but I am ALWAYS hungry now. I will have to buy more food for the next sections I am afraid… At noon we are finally at the saddle!
Only 1.5-2h to the hut according to the sign, a nice surprise, we have been fast! On the first part downhill we are almost blown away by the wind though. It’s so cold, my face feels frozen and it’s hard to breath. So just focusing on getting down quickly and out of the wind. 40 minutes later we can finally take a rest at the river and have lunch.
Just an hour later we are at the hut. Top Timaru Hut is a nice 6 bunk hut and there are 3 spaces left – so nice to finally have a night out of the wind. A wash in the river is so nice although cold. It’s good to have some time to do my stretching and relax. What a surprise to see Pall coming – without Mark! Mark couldn’t make it through the river so he is walking around as we did while Pall came through easily.