Date: 18 March
Trail covered: 14.4km (kms 2533.6 to 2548.0)
Weather: fine all day
It’s not every day you can say that you slept in a tent which had a view like this from the door.
The river was really loud overnight being right by my tent, but it was actually nice and soothing. It didn’t affect my sleep.
I had packed up and left by 8:20. I stayed in my crocs because there were still a few more river crossings. Surprisingly, the Timaru River wasn’t ice cold like I expected it to be at that time of the morning.
Just around the first corner I saw a big tent. It was occupied by Dave from Cambridge, England.
He’d only just started having his breakfast and so we didn’t talk for long. He set up camp at 6:30pm last night so he didn’t pass my tent as I set up at 7:30pm.
At this point I proceeded to go up a steep hill on the true right of the river bank. It was really steep in my crocs and when I got to the top the path didn’t go anywhere. Damn, looks like I’ve taken a wrong turn. I had to slide down on my butt to get back down.
Then, just down the river a bit more, I saw a group of people who looked like they were about to set off. However, they were off the trail a bit.
I went down to talk to them. They were a group of six retired people all hiking this section of trail. One of them pointed out that my pants are ripped at the back. Grrr, I bet that just happened now coming down the hill after the wrong turn. That’s frustrating because I only just bought these pants when I restarted the trail a week and a half ago. At least I was wearing underwear today!
As I had to change into my shoes to go up the next steep hill, the group of six trampers got past. It was then hard to get back past them because the paths are really narrow.
Two in this group in particular were going really slow and looked quite unsteady. Apparently one of them is 71.
I was reminded again that the trail maintenance people had been through yesterday.
This is the turnoff up to Stodys Hut.
I had read that it is steep up to the hut from here. An estimate of 1.5-2hrs for 2.2km seems to confirm that. Alright, time to go!
Yes it is indeed steep. And it didn’t let up at all.
I was worried for the two slow trampers. If they struggled on a narrow ledge which was flat, how on earth will they be able to pull themselves up here? And then I told myself off for being quick to judge.
Being up so high though meant that the views started to show again.
It was hard going the entire way to the hut. It was the sort of thing where I took 20 or 30 steps and then stopped to catch my breath, and thus went on for over an hour.
I knew that the hut was just past the treeline. So when I saw this, I was optimistic.
But no, you’ve got to go sideways a bit first, and then back into the trees.
Eventually I saw the hut peeking through the trees.
I don’t entirely know why, but the only photo I took of the outside of the hut was this one on a weird angle. But it’s the only one I have, so here it is.
At 11am I was inside the hut.
It was a dark and dingy hut, with a concrete floor which had a tarpaulin over top of it. The tiny little window hardly let in any sun and the hut was shaded in the trees anyway. I reckon instead of Stodys Hut it should have been called Scody Hut. I had my lunch outside the hut and up the hill where it was actually sunny and warm.
I noticed that the intentions book was completely full, but I managed to scrawl my name on a loose sheet of paper. It’s always annoying when the book is full because you don’t know who else is around.
Someone had written “steepest section since the Richmond Ranges” in the book. I’m inclined to agree.
I saw there was some quite brown newspaper plugging up gaps in the window.
I was really curious to know how old this newspaper was – would it be from the 1400s when this hut was probably built? No… When I took the paper out and read the edges it was just the Sunday Star Times from 2011. And since it was the sports section I didn’t even bother reading any of the news that happened that day.
The three fastest members of the group of six turned up at the hut about half an hour after me, after I’d had lunch and was preparing to go. We saw a helicopter in the distance.
But then it started getting really close, and landed right by us.
We thought maybe something had happened. Had one of the other hikers hurt themselves? Was there some big problem that would mean we’re all stuck here? Nope… turns out the guy was swapping out the full intentions book for a new one – that’s all.
I don’t know how much it costs to run a helicopter but I bet it’s a lot. I wonder how many minutes that helicopter could stay in the air with the $92 I gave DOC for my hut pass.
At least I got to be first to write in the new book, other than the DOC guy!
After that excitement I continued on. I could see the hut in the distance.
The mountains were in full view now. As well as seeing the mountains, I could see the path running up the hill in the left side of this picture.
It was many kilometers of again featureless landscape but with a great view. The only thing that happened along here was that I met up with a guy going north. He was so engrossed in his music that he almost walked right past me. But he said hello at the last second, and told me that he saw 5 people at the next hut, that it’s already quite full. That was a surprise to me, they can’t be TA hikers surely, they must be day hikers.
I’d decided earlier that I don’t really want to walk past the next hut tonight. The distance between here and Wanaka means that there’s no point in doing another long day today because it would just be a short day tomorrow. So I might as well have a shorter day today and a longer day tomorrow when the terrain is flat. But this conversation with the NOBO made me wonder if I’d get a bed in the next hut tonight.
At the point in the next photo there’s a decision to make, well for most people, not for purists like me.
The trail to the right (as you approach) and up the hill goes to the next hut via Breast Hill and is the official TA route. It’s a fair bit steeper than the other route which goes to the hut via an easier 4WD track but doesn’t have any kind of view. The alternate route is also the poor weather route. Of course I went up Breast Hill.
Of course then I thought like Beavis and Butthead would. Heh heh heh, you said breast. Hehehehehe. I felt very childish that the word breast was making me giggle.
Anyway, this path was also fairly steep. Nothing compared to the track up to Stodys Hut, but enough to leave me out of breath at times.
Hmm, is that there the “nipple” of the breast? Is that why it’s called Breast Hill?
Whatever the reason for the name, there sure was a stunning view of Lake Hawea at the top.
I spent a bit of time up here admiring the view and also admiring how quiet it was. There was no wind most of the time, so it was really still. But when the wind did blow it was cold. The temperature at the moment over the last few days has been nice. When you’re up quite high, even when there are no clouds and the sun is shining brightly, it’s not too hot.
There was also cellphone reception up here, and other than a heap more companies emailing me about Coronavirus (no, Intercity bus company, I don’t need you telling me to wash my hands), there were no urgent emails to deal with.
I’d been thinking that since the section between Wanaka and Queenstown is apparently quite strenuous (the Motatapu Track) and I’ve been doing quite a lot of reasonably challenging sections since I restarted the trail, I really ought to take a rest day in Wanaka, so while I was up on the hill I booked myself into a motel in Wanaka for two nights from tomorrow. Time for a bit of luxury I think, even though it was the cheapest room at the cheapest motel, it’s more luxurious than another holiday park or backpackers. It might be the last bit of luxury on the trail.
So now I have to walk the 35 or so kilometers into Wanaka tomorrow, but other than a big downhill from the hut to Lake Hawea, it will be completely flat. That’s okay, today is only going to be a 14km day and I’ll have an early start after a night in the hut.
I started walking down to the hut.
I saw two people walking very closely to the edge of a big rock. It looked dangerous to me!
As I walked past they came down and introduced themselves. They said they were doing a day walk to the top and I’d see them at the hut.
I knew that the walk tomorrow to Wanaka went past Lake Hawea and so I wondered how I would actually be getting down to the lake from way up here. When I reached the junction to the hut, it appeared I’d simply be going straight down the side of a steep hill. Can’t wait.
I made it to Pakituhi Hut. It looks quite new.
Turns out it is, it was built in 2011. Much nicer than Scody Hut.
Despite reports of five people already in the hut, there were the two beds reserved by the couple I ran into up the hill and that was it. I reserved my bed and then spent some time relaxing enjoying the time to myself. I knew the hut would get full later.
I spent some time looking at this sign.
First, I noticed that the descent to the road tomorrow is estimated at 2 to 3 hours for a 4km walk. That’s seriously slow – it must be one hell of a descent.
Second, there is a hut on the map called Moonlight & Roses Hut. That’s an awesome name, but it’s up high in the mountains and seemingly has no track to it. I wonder what it’s like and who stays there?
The third thing I noticed is that Little Breast Hill is taller than Breast Hill. How odd.
While I was enjoying time alone, a Dutch couple turned up and reserved beds but then did the walk up to Breast Hill, and also Dave who I met this morning turned up but decided to keep walking to Hawea. Dave and I talked a bit first and he said when he started out he had a 34kg pack. I remembered back when I started hearing about a guy called Dave who had a 34kg pack. It was nice to finally meet him! He was infamous back in September!
Dave said he got lost walking up the big hill to Stodys Hut. He wasn’t paying attention and must’ve taken a wrong turn. He said it left him exhausted and sore – must’ve been one hell of a wrong turn.
The group of six took a while to turn up, but they did eventually. So there were 11 people in an 8 bed hut, but all of the group of six decided to sleep in tents outside the hut, or in one case on a mattress directly on the balcony. Apparently most of them are snorers and they don’t want to bother people. That’s really nice of them.
As you can see, 11 people in a small place is quite crowded so once I had my dinner and hot drink I went up to my bunk and wrote my blog entry. I don’t have any chocolate or anything sweet left in my food pack so I’m really looking forward to finding a café in Hawea in the morning. I hope to leave early but since I’m the only TA hiker here in this group, I have a feeling this group is going to be up late making a lot of noise.
They all ultimately were up till quite late, not being really loud but they were playing some kind of dice game and it smelled like they were making some kind of chocolate fondue which was excruciating because it smelled incredible. But I didn’t want to go and join them because the two exclusive subjects being discussed were translations of words in various European languages, and coronavirus.
I know I’ve been complaining a lot about the amount that people have been talking about coronavirus and I’m getting sick of it, however listening to these guys talk about it tonight was the first time I realised how much of an impact it has on foreigners here. They didn’t know if they would even be able to get back to their various countries and sounded quite worried. I felt bad for them.
Once the others were in bed I realised how annoying it is to be in a hut with couples. Not just couples, but young couples. Not just young couples, but new young couples. Every minute or so for half an hour I kept hearing “whisper whisper whisper whisper hehehehehehehe kiss kiss kiss” then they’d be silent for half a minute and then I’d hear “whisper whisper whisper whisper hehehehehehehe smoooooch”. Ick. I think the hut was finally quiet about 11:30pm and I could finally get some sleep.
Today is Day 150 over. On Day 100 I remember thinking that I hoped I wouldn’t be walking in another 50 days since then. Well, look what happened. I really hope I’m not still walking on Day 200! That would be May!
Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):