Day 126. Te Anau – Princhester Road – Aparima Hut. 22km. Total 2794km.
A beautiful day without any clouds is waiting for us this morning. At 7am we are back at the road, with more hitchhiking luck hopefully. But it takes time. After half an hour a woman in a campervan stops and tells us she is going all the way to Milford Sound??? After telling her she needs to turn around, we are continuing to smile, pretty frozen now, and putting our thumbs up. Finally a handsome guy picks us up, he is driving to Invercargill and even knows where our trailhead is. 25km further at 8.30am we can finally start to hike. The first 6km are on an easy gravel road to Princhester Hut, we are still cold and hiking fast to warm us up.
Then it’s back into bush and mud! We tramp through beech forest up to a saddle. Now I am sweating and really warm! It’s up and down and around some mud and into the mud and under the tree and back into the mud! Not as bad as some tracks of the North Island but soon my feet are very muddy. The trees are beautiful though and once we are over the saddle it’s at least easier to hike downhill.
After a while we get out of the forest and into the tussock. But don’t think it’s getting any better now! You don’t see where you walk, it’s muddy in between with some small creeks which are hiding from sight. We walk back into the forest and back into the tussock.
Lunch is a dirty affair, sitting muddy in the tussock. To change from the mud we now walk on some kind of moss that looks perfectly fine and dry until you walk on it and get sucked into the water. I just love the tussock though as you get to see so much more than in the forest! And the views are beautiful and the mountains, limestone and tussock are so full of harmony with the blue sky and sunshine.
When I slip down a hill on my butt I cannot stop laughing. It’s warm and dry and everything will be fine. I have decided this morning that I will enjoy my last days on the trail. I won’t care about my cold or other parts of my body hurting, my knees are getting much better at least…I don’t want to have bad mood anylonger, I want to finish the trail with my inner balance and happiness. So at least today its working, no matter what the trail throws at me today I cannot stop being happy, singing along the trail and laughing in the mud! Such a beautiful day and great views!
Around 4.30pm we arrive at the hut and meet a few other hikers. Time for a big wash in the river, relaxing and dinner. So good to see Jellybean and Carbo again when they arrive a little later. I didn’t see them since the Queen Charlotte Track…
Day 127. Aparima Hut – Telford Campsite. 21km. Total 2815km.
I had a good night of sleep, Jellybean’s Blistex helped a little too be able to breath with my cold. We have quite a tough day ahead of us and start around 7.30am, as always it’s still cold. The temperature extremes are hard to bear sometimes, freezing at night and if the sun is out, really hot in the afternoon. The sky is blue again as we start into the tussock and wet moss once more, before heading into the forest. The Takitimu forest is nice. So nice that we have to constantly climb up and hike down again, cross another little stream, climb up again. For 4h30. And of course there is some more mud. But somehow my body likes to be challenged again. I am now at a point where I enjoy more even such a tough climbing and sweating for 20km than an easy, flat 40km day. It’s better for my feet and it also occupies my mind.
I listen to the birds and already start thinking how much I will miss their songs. I remember how enchanted I was by how melodious the birds were singing back on my first trail days in Herekino and Ratea (despite the mud). German birds are so different. Maybe I need to try and record the birds so I can hear it back home. And I must admit that I still have no clue which bird makes which sound (and I can’t even name them). I am very bad!!!
Nevertheless, I am happy to reach Lower Wairaki hut, a small 4 bunk hut. I am so Hut that I need shelter and shade, trying to cool down and dry my shirt. Plus there’s a real chair, meaning for once I can sit very relaxed with my back against the chair! (I am not sure anyone who hasn’t been outdoors for 4 months can feel my joy!). Peggy seems to have no problem with the heat, she just stays outside in the sun!
We still have more challenges to overcome today, so after 40minutes we continue to hike. And now, uphill. Uphill. Uphill. To 1000m altitude! It’s getting steeper and steeper and I am again soaking wet. I am so hot now and my sweat is just dripping down. It’s quite a fight but with some music everything seems easier.
Closer to the summit, some trailmarkers feature encouragements. Although I know the person who did it apologised later and paid for new markers when she learned you shouldn’t put anything on them, I must admit that some of them made me smile and my going a bit easier. When my GPS shows that I am at the top of the hill, I stop and sit on a rock, waiting for Peggy and trying to cool down and avoid a heatstroke. After a rest we continue, just to realise 10 minutes later that actually, there is a view! Suddenly we are out of the forest and get this amazing view, to the ocean and possibly Bluff! So close! Wow.
We walk to the ridge for some more pictures when Jellybean and Carbo catch up. We take a break together and then hike down a few more kilometers to the Telford Campsite. While Jellybean and Carbo continue to look for a better sheltered site, we rather stay at the official campsite which is settled quite nicely under the mountains. After a swim in the river I am finally reliefed from the heat (just some annoying sandflies remain)…
Summer seems to have arrived finally (keeping fingers crossed!), a beautiful sunrise and another blue sky day is waiting for us (as are the sandflies out of my tent). And I learned a lesson, sandflies won’t come through my flysheet but they can actually bite me through it! Don’t lean your knee against the flysheet unless you wanna have 10 sandfly bites on the same spot and blood on your flysheet….
We have to pack our tents on the run, the sandflies are everywhere. Once we get going it’s fine though, sandflies gone. We walk along a fence to a river and cross that nice little river. Well, trying to avoid the deeper water and completely soaked feet, I jump as usually from stone to stone. These are slippery though and soon I find myself on my butt in the water. Luckily this morning it’s not as cold as usually! So I just keep on going, ignoring some pain and wet clothes.
Hiking gets now easier on a farm track for some kilometers until we get to a bridge to (safely!) cross that river again. Then it’s very easy on a gravel road for the next 15km or so. Just uphill in the beginning, making me sweat although it’s just the morning! There are sheep everywhere and with the hilly landscape, it reminds me of some North Island sections.
On the final 2.5km to the end of the Takitimu track we meet Jellybean and Carbo again and we have to hike over farmland again, up hills, down hills, through spiky plants, until we are almost at the road. Peggy and I take our lunch in the shadow of some trees, trying to dry our wet tents (too much dew!).
A few more kilometers on the road take us to the next trail, the Woodlaw track. We hesitated if we should start it as we shouldn’t camp and it’s too long to do everything today. But it’s only 1pm and we decide to go and camp at the end of the forest if possible. After a nice but too short bit in the shade of some eucalyptus trees, we have to hike up another hill of 550m altitude. I don’t want to complain about the sun, but it’s so hot now that a steep uphill hike is getting very tough. My whole body is wet from sweating and my head too hot. Eventually we reach the top and the shade of some trees where we try to cool down and relax.
Then an easy walk on a forest track in between nice pine trees before we veer back into beech forest and more difficult trail, up to another peak before climbing back down. At a very small creek we decide to have dinner there and filter some more water before continuing another half hour, looking for a camping spot and finding a nice little sheltered spot under the Pine Trees. After setting up everything a German couple comes by (finally I get to meet Jan with whom I was already in contact before). They have done a long day, walking from the hut before our campsite.