Date: 7 March
Trail covered: 15.5km (kms 2244.7 to 2260.2)
Im back on the trail today after 31 days off!
For those that don’t remember, I finished at Lake Colridge last month but I don’t start up again from there now because there are two breaks in the trail to get around two rivers that are uncrossable on foot – the Rakaia River and the Rangitata River. See the map at the end of the post which makes it clearer. Lake Coleridge is on the north side of the Rakaia River and I’m starting again today on the south side.
Some people, including Rhydian, say that the Rangitata River, which is the river I’ll be shuttling around on Monday, is crossable after several days without rain, but I’m not attempting it.
Last night a very loud group of guys was staying in the campground, all wearing some kind of sports uniform. At 11pm last night when I went to the loo I could see them playing some kind of drinking game in the games room, something like Beer Pong. For the first time I was glad that Cabin 1 was the furtherest cabin from the games room and kitchen so I wasn’t kept awake by all their shenanigans. Anka and Ian (a NOBO who also stayed at the campground in a tent last night) both said they could hear these guys until quite late making a lot of noise.
Since I have piggybacked on Anka’s shuttle that is pre-booked for Monday, we both have the best part of three days to walk the 70km to the Mt Potts car park where the two of us will be picked up and taken to Geraldine. I don’t like walking to a schedule because that means if it rains hard or I start hurting then I have no choice but to walk through it, and in general I won’t be able to relax as much. However here there’s simply no choice, so I will just embrace it. Louise (who I walked with for a few days before Auckland) commented on one of my Facebook posts that the section between the two rivers is a beautiful section. That’s great to hear!
I was looking at some of my previous blog posts last night and I didn’t even realise until now that the pain I got in my leg and foot that caused me to take a week off in Kerikeri in the third week was in my right foot, whereas the month I’ve just taken off was to heal my left foot. I really thought both times it was my left foot that hurt. I’m really getting forgetful. In a way I’m happy about remembering that – I’ve hurt both legs once and they’ve both healed. In theory that’s got to be good, right, better than hurting the same leg twice?
Speaking of being forgetful, after a month off I can’t remember which hut is which anymore. Anka was talking to me in the shuttle yesterday and we were discussing our favourite huts. She mentioned Nicholls Hut and I couldn’t for the life of me remember which hut that was. It took me a while to remember it was the hut on the Richmond Ranges between Dracophyllum Hut and Waitewaewae Hut. A month ago I could have named every hut in order from the very beginning to now. Now it’s like they’ve all gone from my head.
It’s cold this morning again. A few days ago I bought new shorts from The Warehouse to replace my old shorts which were getting holes in the pockets. These new shorts are much shorter as they’re running shorts. Let’s see how long it takes for the tops of my legs to get sunburnt.
Okay that’s enough talking, time for some walking. But first, Darren the campground owner is driving Anka, Ian and me to the start of the trail.
First we took Ian to Lake Colridge as he is going north. That was fairly uneventful, although the strong wind was blowing the van around a lot.
However on the road to Glenrock where Anka and I needed to start from, we encountered a truck stuck in the middle of the road.
We worried that this was going to really delay us from getting to the start of the trail but another truckie arrived in about 5 minutes with a tow rope and pulled the truck out.
Then, to further slow us down, there were sheep all over the road.
Darren just drove right through them and hoped they would all run to the side. He was right.
Then there were more sheep up the road.
Finally we did make it to the start of the trail.
There was a warning about crossing the Rangitata River, saying don’t do it because you can’t do it without crossing private property.
We set off down the path, heading up the valley.
The wind we encountered while driving to the start was notably absent once we started walking, which was a pleasant surprise. The first ascent was over 700m up, from about 460m to at least 1190m, although it was fairly gradual.
The view never really changed that much. There were never really any trees and at first there wasn’t even a river. The air was filled with the sound of crickets.
There was also the odd interesting natural feature.
We passed three people going north. They said that the A Frame Hut (the next one we will be coming to) is where they stayed and that it’s a nice hut. We won’t be able to stay there though, it’s too close to where we left from and we have a lot of ground to cover in three days.
I was keeping my eye out for the 2250km mark. I have been telling people during my break that I’ve done 75% of the trail (2250km) but I was a few kms off – the actual 2250km mark is at the top of this hill.
I liked this hill – other trails would just lead you right up the side of a steep hill like this but the big switchbacks here made it easy. And once at the top, I took a photo of the view.
And a selfie at the 75% mark.
From here on all the way down the hill you can see the toilet for the next hut. It was the only thing on the landscape that wasn’t grass or mountains.
This hut is the A Frame Hut. Not a very original name, but judging by the Guthook comments, people seemed to agree with the NOBOs that it was a nice place to stay.
We spent an hour having lunch here, we certainly didn’t rush. I got to know Anka’s story – she has done the whole trail except she skipped the section between here and Tekapo because of “lack of motivation” apparently. So now she’s just walking to Tekapo.
I was excited to look at the intentions book and see where everybody I knew was, but the book had been replaced on 20 February (2 weeks ago) and so I didn’t really recognise any names. I knew that most people I know have already finished the trail so I don’t know what new information I hoped to get from the book. Mickey and Michelle are five days ahead, so there is a chance I might catch them. I thought I might see Henry’s name because he had been posting Facebook photos from not far ahead but they could have been old photos. His name wasn’t in the book.
After continuing past this big slip,
You have to cross this river four times. I tried to keep my feet dry but ended up with one foot in the water on the last crossing as there wasn’t an easy way across.
Then after this hill,
I had a look back to see where we had been walking.
It wasn’t much longer before arriving at Comyns Hut.
We got here at 3:30pm after being dropped off at 10am. Normally I wouldn’t stop at a hut this early but since it was the first day back after a month off walking, and the fact that our shuttle is at a fixed time on Monday, we stopped here. Plus the next hut (Double Hut) is seven hours ahead. It meant only a 15km walk today but I was happy about it. Tomorrow will be a big day but day 3 should be okay.
There were no sandflies either at this hut which was really surprising. It was very nice to be able to wander around outside just admiring the view and enjoying the peace.
I had some pasta for dinner, and it was at this point that I noticed that the handle is missing from the lid of my cooker. That’s really annoying as it means that once food has been cooking, I can’t take the lid off the pot without it burning my hand. I tried to find the handle but it was nowhere to be found.
The reason I think this happened is that yesterday when I checked my bag in at the airport I had my lighter inside the gas stove, and when I got to Christchurch there was a security note saying that security had opened my pack and removed the lighter from inside the stove and confiscated it. I didn’t realise I couldn’t have that checked in my pack but at the time I didn’t think any more of it. But now I realise that security must have broken the handle off while getting into the stove. Did they do it on purpose as payback for endangering the lives of the people on the plane? They certainly didn’t admit to breaking the handle on the note. How annoying.
So then since it had been a month without using the stove, I had a few problems when cooking my pasta snack, it’s like I’d forgotten how to cook suddenly. Firstly it requires milk powder and whenever I boil water with milk powder in it, it bubbles over the top very quickly and makes a mess unless I keep my eye on it. Of course I didn’t keep my eye on it and it made a mess all over the floor.
Then when the pasta cooked, there was this weird black stuff in the pasta. It didn’t look like food and I wondered what it was.
I could only assume it was mould from not having used the pot in over a month. Grossed out, I threw out this pasta, gave the pot a proper clean and cooked a second lot. The second lot had the same problem, so the only thing I could determine it to be was burnt milk powder from the boiling process. I really should have stirred the milk powder into the water before boiling it. At least it can’t have actually been mould or anything disgusting.
At about 6:30pm three other people turned up going southbound. They were Hannah, Gito (I assume that’s how you spell it!) and Chris. They said that Wayne from Alps 2 Ocean had dropped them off at about 1pm. So it ended up being the five of us in the hut tonight.
Hannah thought the fact that I had my food inside reusable shopping bags was amusing. I’ve always had my food inside reusable shopping bags since Day 1 and she is the first person to point it out. I notice that other people sometimes put their food inside dry bags but I haven’t thought that necessary before.
Anka used her fancy satellite phone to get a weather forecast for the next few days. Tomorrow – 50% chance of rain. That’s about as “wishy washy” as a forecast is possible to get. At least the next day is supposed to be fine.
You can hear the wind inside Comyns Hut very loudly even when it doesn’t actually seem that windy outside. The three new people that showed up were complaining a lot about the hut and how they didn’t like it. I thought they were being a bit negative and it actually wasn’t that bad, especially for a “basic” hut which is free to stay in. Although I did set up my sleeping bag originally next to a hole in the wall where the wind came through, before moving it to somewhere better afterwards.
Since there was only one small window in the hut it was very dark inside and everyone was in bed by 8:30. I only had a small dinner as I wasn’t very hungry – no doubt once the walking is more regular the hunger will come back again.
The South Island has had some big sections so far, so it’s nice that this section is only 3 days and then we will be in Geraldine. Then it’s only a couple of days to Stag Saddle and then Tekapo and Twizel. I’m looking forward to that bit.
Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):