Date: 8 January
Trail covered: 22.2km (kms 1803.5 to 1825.7)
This morning, the first thing to do was to try and shift my flight to Blenheim to an earlier flight. Currently my flight to Blenheim leaves from Auckland at 11:40am, it’s scheduled to land in Blenheim at 1:10pm and the bus from Blenheim to Pelorus Bridge leaves from the airport at 1:35pm. That leaves only a twenty-five minute connection to land on the flight and get on the bus. And past experience has shown that Air New Zealand flights are always late, and the Intercity bus from Pelorus Bridge in December arrived 15 minutes early. Because that means I’m likely to miss my bus, I need to try and to switch my flight to one that’s at 9:30am.
I got to Auckland Airport at 8am and tried to change my flight… but no, it’s full. I waited until right up until 9am and kept checking but no seat became available. So I stayed on the 11:40am flight, and I’ll just have to accept that if the flight is late or the bus is early, then I’m going to be hitchhiking to Pelorus Bridge instead.
While I was having breakfast at the airport, the lady from aviation security came over to me and pointed out that my credit card had fallen out of my shorts pocket and was just sitting on the ground. That’s not a good start to the day… Lucky I didn’t lose it at least!
11am came and went without me taking my 11am photo. I disabled the alarm on my phone over the Christmas break and so I completely forgot. That’s the first time I’ve forgotten the 11am picture! If I had’ve remembered to take it, it would have been looking at the departures area from the cafe where I was sitting. I’ve re-enabled the alarm so I should remember from now on!
We boarded the plane on time and it appeared that the plane wouldn’t actually be late, which was nice. There was a lady sitting in my seat on the plane, which normally would annoy me a bit, but that allowed me to have her aisle seat so actually that would save me a few seconds when disembarking. Besides she was 90 years old and I would’ve felt bad asking her to move.
For the last two days I’ve had a really sore back, which has been really disappointing because I’ve had a sore back while I’ve been walking and two weeks off is supposed to have healed it. Although the back pain I’ve had in the last two days has been a real different type of pain. The back pain while walking has been a sore muscle on the side of my back, whereas this time it’s hurting right down the middle. It wasn’t hurting this morning but after a while sitting on the plane seat it started to hurt again. I really hope this doesn’t hinder me walking in the Richmond Ranges – that would suck.
Yesterday I went and got a massage in Auckland in the hope that would help with the pain. I think it did. I figured that the Chinese lady giving me the massage would be gentle and it would be relaxing, but no she was pushing as hard as she could and I think she was trying to pull my spine right out. But it definitely helped at the time.
The plane landed right on schedule, and the bags came out of the plane really fast. I was at the bus stop just outside of the airport by 1:15pm. Excellent – surely the bus can’t be twenty minutes early given that the stop is only 30 minutes from the start of the route.
I waited for the bus and by 1:50pm when it hadn’t arrived I tried to use Intercity’s bus tracking app but it didn’t work – “sorry, tracking for this service is currently unavailable”. A very unhelpful error message – why exactly is it unavailable? So I called up the call centre to ask where the bus was. The hardest part was trying to describe to the call centre guy what I was asking with the roar of the cars and trucks on State Highway 6 right beside me. But after a bit of back and forth he looked on his computer and told me that the bus was five minutes away, which turned out to be exactly right. It’s a shame I had to go to the effort of calling the call centre given they have written an app especially to answer my exact question… but at least the call centre was able to answer my question when I did call.
One on the bus it started raining. When we went through Havelock I saw three other people who looked like TA hikers – well, they definitely had walking poles and big green packs. I wonder if I’ll meet them – although they’ll be a day or so behind me.
There was also this guy with a Lochmara Lodge hat in front of me on the bus. He and a girl got off at the same stop as me.
I first waited out a bit of rain at the Pelorus Bridge Cafe. The rain gave me a chance to try out the new pack cover I got from Kathmandu during the break. It’s heavier and thicker so hopefully it does a better job at keeping out the water – the old hi-viz one I had from Torpedo7 kept out no water at all despite apparently being “waterproof”. This new pack cover has two tighteners instead of just one, which means it takes a few seconds longer to put it on but it fits better.
While waiting I talked to the guy running the campsite and he said that the last two weeks have been nothing but glorious weather. Of course I missed it all! I left from this exact point on 20 December in the rain and now here I am back in it again.
When the rain did stop, I started walking – back across the bridge that brought me here two and a half weeks ago.
Surprisingly, the nine days of food that I have in my pack doesn’t feel heavy. And everything fits in the pack easily too. Have i forgotten something, perhaps? Or am I just properly rested now?
I knew that the cellphone coverage would disappear very soon so I had a quick look at the ten day weather forecast for Pelorus Bridge. No rain at all in the ten day forecast except for the rain right now. I hope that turns out to be true! The Richmond Ranges are apparently a lot like the Tararua Ranges and good weather apparently helps.
I do miss the other four though – Peter and Charlie, and Alex and Ethan. When I’m walking by myself I have a lot more things racing through my mind and I can’t shut it off – things like the insurance claim for the car being stolen, Christmas and New Year’s, and all sorts of other things. In saying that though, once the phone coverage ran out, all my worries suddenly just melted away.
It wasn’t long until I saw two other people walking down the road.
They turned out to be Tina and Matthew who are just walking this section. It turned out they were the two people who got off the bus at the same stop as me and it was a bit embarrassing when I didn’t realise that. I guess Matthew took off his Lochmara hat. Apparently he used to work there.
The two of them walked quite slowly so we just talked for a few minutes and I continued ahead. It was 21km from Pelorus Bridge to the first hut and given it was already about 3:30pm, they will really need to increase their pace to get there by dark. Hell, I’m not even sure I will get there by dark and I’m walking fast.
It’s 13km of road walking and then 8km of “river track”, which could be anything.
5km in and the rain jacket went on because it started raining again. It rained for about 20 minutes. I guess my first day in the South Island is going to finish up with me being sweaty and gross from the humidity and the rain – how delightful!
One thing that could be seen from the road was just how green the water in the river was. It was so beautiful.
Earlier on Tina and Matthew had said that they hoped the huts wouldn’t be too busy. Most of the huts around here are 6 bed huts and so they could fill up fairly easily, especially at this time of year. I said to them that given the number of people who I’d seen on Facebook that are in this area, the chance of the huts having space are quite slim.
Who will be in the huts? It’s hard to know. Back in the Tararua Ranges it was easy to know, because our group was the first group through after an extended period of bad weather so we knew the huts would be empty. But today I’d started late in the day, the weather has been mostly good and I have no idea who’s in front of me. This should be interesting. Because it was raining I kinda hoped for a space in the hut but given that I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night I was actually looking forward to a night in my tent so that I can sleep in in the morning.
Here’s the end of the road walking.
Here’s the first orange triangle of 2020.
And here’s the first swingbridge.
When I bend over to get something out of my pack or to duck under trees, I can definitely feel the extra weight with all the food in the pack. I’m still surprised that everything fits in the pack though. I must have bought less chocolate this time.
Another thing that I got yesterday was a new pair of sunglasses, because at some point over New Year’s I seem to have misplaced the free sunnies I got from near Auckland Airport. When I went to find a cheap pair of sunglasses yesterday, I picked the only pair that weren’t truly, truly hideous. But the problem with them is that they are small. They might even be kids ones. They do their job of keeping the light out of my eyes okay, but what they don’t do is keep my hair out of my face which is really annoying. I think these sunglasses will be replaced as soon as I get to St. Arnaud.
The river walk was fairly easy with a fairly well-defined path, although there were a few slippery sections over rocks.
The path got a lot closer to the river than the road did, and you could see just how beautiful it actually was.
Even though it wasn’t raining any more, because the trees were all wet water kept falling on me as I was walking any time I touched a tree. I ended up quite wet. Lucky I’d put my rain jacket back on when I first noticed this happening.
After some walking I looked to my left and saw some tents. I knew exactly what that meant – the hut was nearby and full which meant I’d be sleeping in my tent after all. I walked to the hut entrance and poked my head inside, and somebody in there immediately said “there’s floor space”. But when I had a proper look, there were already seven people in this small six bed hut and so I declined their offer and went and set up my tent outside next to the other four tents that were already there.
My pack cover had a done quite a good job at keeping the rain off my bag – it was much drier than I expected. Excellent!
I had a little bit of time to make some dinner in the hut before it got dark and so I talked to the new people briefly. It was hard to see people’s faces and I couldn’t see who was resting and who was wide awake, so I didn’t try and find out everybody’s names. But it was nice to meet a bunch of new people. No doubt I would see some of them again over the next few days.
Apparently there were also eight people in the intentions book from today who visited the hut but didn’t stay. That’s a lot of people passing through. The area is definitely very busy!
The intentions book also showed Rhydian was through here four days ago. I wonder how long it’ll take me to catch him, or if I manage to catch him at all.
I went into my tent and soon realised that I need to do a better job of keeping the sandflies out of my tent. They’re really bad here. It’s impossible to keep all sandflies out of the tent because you need to unzip the tent to get in it. I just need to keep the door open for as short a time as possible.
One thing I did notice though is that my silk sleeping bag liner smells nice because I washed it during the Christmas break. Normally when I pull out the silk liner I immediately smell a sweaty smell. This time it smelled like laundry detergent.
Tina and Matthew who I met earlier on on the road surely won’t make it here tonight. I hope they camped while they could. The last 4km or so of the river track was quite steep and had no good camping spots.
I realised that I had no water and so I had to get out of my tent and go and get water. When I looked at the river while I was waiting for the water to filter, I just sat there admiring the view and I thought to myself “man it feels good to be back”.
Now I’m back in the tent I have a bit of stuff to work out. I have another wedding to attend which is on the 25th of January in Napier. I am one of the groomsmen so I have to attend the rehearsal on the 24th. That means I have to get to Christchurch (the closest airport to where I’ll be around then) by the end of the 23rd and that means I probably have to start hitchhiking from somewhere on the 22nd of January. That means I have thirteen full days between now and then.
Because the South Island has such long stretches between towns, I need to investigate the possible options to get a ride to Christchurch from. These seem to be St. Arnaud, Boyle Village or Arthur’s Pass.
St Arnaud is 113km from here, and Boyle Village is 233km from here. There’s an access to State Highway 73 at 322km and Bealey near Arthur’s Pass is 353km. Given how mountainous the upcoming terrain is supposed to be, I think my best bet is Boyle Village. Although it will be a hitchhike from there to Christchurch because I don’t think Boyle Village has any kind of bus or other public transportation. Given that’s on State Highway 7 which from my understanding is a relatively major state highway, hopefully it won’t be too hard to get a lift.
Also I have to sort all my stuff out in my pack. Because I had to take my pack on the plane, everything is in a different place to where it normally is. Meh, I’ll do it in the morning. Right now I just want to sleep on my air mattress. Ooh I forgot how comfortable it is. And it’s a nice night outside despite the earlier rain and it’s a really nice temperature.
Everything feels really good right now and I’m happy to be back on the trail. Oh wait I forgot to bring a pee bottle…..
Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):