Date: 17 March
Trail covered: 34.2km (kms 2499.4 to 2533.6)
Today I packed up my tent and had left by 8:30. It was quite cold when I left, although it wasn’t as cold overnight as I feared it would be.
Today I didn’t have a destination in mind. There’s Tin Hut after 11km, Top Timaru Hut after 22km and Stodys Hut after 37km. I was fairly sure I’d be camping somewhere between the last two of those huts, unless the walk over Martha Saddle today went slower than expected.
But I planned to try and find a geocache at the top of Martha Saddle. It hasn’t been found in 8 years, and it’s only been found twice since it was placed there in 2009. To me, that doesn’t bode well, it should have had more finds than that, especially since it’s on the trail. But I’m going to look for it anyway.
I started off listening to music and just daydreaming because it was completely flat. Lucky I saw this. I would have totally forgotten about the milestone otherwise!
Of course it warranted a selfie.
Here’s the flatness I was talking about.
This place is really bustling.
And a truck even went past.
The path eventually went through a farm. That meant the inevitable swampy mud.
And also streams to cross.
This is where I’m heading now. I got excited because I thought I saw people on the 4WD track in the distance… But if you look closely they were only cows.
A helicopter went past. I wonder what it’s doing way out here?
I can see that the 4WD track starts to go up into the mountains here. Is there any chance it goes anywhere near the top, I wonder?
Okay, those are definitely three people on the 4WD track. I wonder if I can catch them.
They got away though when I needed to stop for water, and then at 11am I made it to Tin Hut (imaginative name, right?) so I went in for a snack.
The intentions book is interesting. Henry is only two days ahead (assuming he stayed overnight here) and since he appears to be doing side trails also, I might catch him. That’d be awesome. Also Mickey and Michelle are two days ahead also. I reckon I’ll definitely catch them.
This hut is a private hut, owned by the people whose land it sits on. You have to pay $10 into an honesty box to stay overnight.
If you hadn’t noticed, the weather in all the previous pictures was quite gloomy. When I emerged from the hut after finishing lunch, I was surprised to see clear blue skies.
The path starts going up now. This is where it starts getting really steep, once it goes up and over the hill to tbe right.
Going up this section I started singing to a particularly catchy song and just as that happened two NOBOs came around the corner and I got busted singing. I didn’t mind though. They are the first NOBOs I’ve seen since before Tekapo.
And look, here are the three people that got away from me earlier, stopped for a break.
I only chatted with them briefly before continuing on. They’re three retired guys who are from Dunedin and are just walking the section between Ohau and Lake Hawea.
The walk up to Martha Saddle was indeed up the 4WD track the entire way. However that doesn’t mean it wasn’t steep.
I don’t think I’d be wanting to bring any 4WD vehicle up such a steep, rocky track.
The steepness left me out of breath and stopping quite a lot for a period of about 5km. But, like all good saddles, the top suddenly appeared…
What was the view on the other side going to be like?
Not bad! Now, to find the geocache. I looked and looked. The description gave no hint as to what I was looking for or where I should be looking, which was annoying. I turned over every rock within a large radius, which took a long time. But I never found the geocache, dammit. Oh well, time to continue on.
It was also a well marked 4WD track coming down the other side too.
I met a German girl going northbound who told me she had lost her Sawyer Mini water filter. How annoying for her. She asked if I’d keep a lookout for it, which I said I would, but then getting it to her would be near on impossible.
I knew Top Timaru Hut would be coming along soon, but I couldn’t see it. Suddenly I saw this though:
It was pointing down the hill to where the hut was. I probably would have found it after seeing the toilet which was on the trail, but you never know.
Top Timaru Hut is not named as such because Timaru is such an awesome city. It’s named after the Timaru River which runs right beside it.
I arrived at 3pm. Clothing was hanging outside (surrounded by Bumblebees) so I knew people were in there. Inside were Mark from Hokitika and Hank from Greymouth. They’re also retired and also just doing this section of the trail. They congratulated me on getting here in such good time and then asked me all sorts of questions about the trail. They said they’re giving themselves three days to get to Lake Hawea whereas I’m hoping to be there tomorrow.
They also said they crossed the Ahuriri River where the marker poles pointed to yesterday, and encountered the deeper water towards the end, but kept crossing. They said in hindsight they should have turned back and looked downstream for a better crossing point like I did. They seemed surprised it was only up to my knees.
Originally I was tempted to stay at this hut, but there were still 5 more hours of daylight and it was quite a small hut. Once the other three guys I passed arrived at the hut it would be crowded indeed. So I continued on.
The next section of trail was a totally different beast. It was following the Timaru River through a narrow gorge with steep sides. It would alternate between crossing the river:
To forest sections:
When I encountered this river crossing, the crocs went on.
The crocs went on and off throughout the day as I was determined not to have wet feet and boots at the end of the day.
This section of the trail was quite treacherous. It was steep – steeper than the track up to the saddle – and often on the side of a cliff. It was slow going and exhausting. It reminded me of sections in the North Island or through the forests in the Richmond Ranges.
But one thing I noticed was freshly cut sawdust.
It looked like some trail maintenance had been done recently. That made me feel better about walking the trail knowing that someone actually cares about it.
And then not much later I came across this:
At first I thought they were four TA walkers but then I saw the huge meal they were cooking and the big bucket of food, and the chainsaws. One of the guys said they were doing track maintenance. Aha, that explains the sawdust!
Before I continued on, they offered me a beer, which I declined. Right now I’m not entirely sure why.
There are some points where you could walk down the riverbed, but the trail points you up a massive climb instead. This is the silliest one:
You clamber up this massive rock only to come back down to the riverbed just around the corner.
I knew I wasn’t going to make it to Stodys Hut before dark because of this section, so I started looking for a place to camp at 7pm. There were quite a few nice spots by the river further back but by now I was on a steep section way above the river with no flat areas at all.
I started tripping over rocks and stuff. I was definitely getting sore and tired and was hoping for a flat piece of ground soon.
Sure enough eventually the track went back down by the river and I shoved my tent into a tiny piece of relatively flat ground right by the path.
It was 7:30pm and by the time I set up me tent and had a pasta dinner it was 8:30pm and dark. The days are definitely shorter now. Back before Goat Pass six weeks ago I was still walking at almost 9:30.
The hole in my water filter bag is bigger now and it’s made it essentially unusable. So I’ve done what I said I’d never do, I’ve started drinking water directly from the river without filtering it. I mean, I’d been following this river since the top of the saddle and it doesn’t flow through any farms. The guys in the hut and also the guys at the campsite told me that they never filtered it, and they were okay.
It was weird drinking straight from the river, but I also felt “at one with nature”. In saying that I wished I was able to filter it and I’m definitely going to have to see if I can get some kind of replacement in Wanaka. The last section of the trail passes through some big farms so I definitely want to filter the water, and drinking straight from the filter gives me quite severe hiccups.
Anyway, another day down, and tomorrow’s going to be another day of not knowing exactly how far I’m going to go. I’ll probably be camping again somewhere in Lake Hawea or Albert Town, which is the next place after that. My tent really has been getting a workout the last few days.
Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):