Date: 5 March 2021
Trail covered: 26.9km (kms 2820.3 to 2847.2)
Weather: nightmarish at first
At 1:30am I woke up to the wind hitting the side of my tent. I thought “that’s an inconvenience” but tried to go back to sleep.
At 3am the wind picked up and I started to get concerned. I had flashes back to when I was in Havelock and I thought the tent was going to get ripped apart by the wind. At least it wasn’t quite as bad as that right now.
At 3:30am it got worse than it was at Havelock. The tent poles were bending more than I’ve ever seen them bend, and the tent was flapping on all four sides. I could hear the wind really pick up outside when it started screaming through the trees and each time it did that I knew that a second and a half later it was going to hit the tent at full force. The fly of the tent was flapping around and the front entranceway part of the tent fly seemed to have come off its stakes. It was also raining hard so water was coming in from three sides.
So from 3:30am I went into “emergency mode”. I spend the next 3 hours sitting on the side of the tent that was facing the wind and each time a gust of wind blew I would stretch my arms out trying to brace the tent. In between gusts of wind I tried to hastily pack everything back into my pack to stop it getting wet, although the top half of my sleeping mat was soaked so that and the tent itself (assuming it survives the night) will take some drying out.
I also made sure everything I’d need in an emergency was accessible because I was fully prepared if the tent failed to have to go and hunker down in the toilet.
During two particularly big gusts of wind, I thought to myself “it’s all over this time, the tent can’t withstand this” and also I found myself praying at least once.
It was all a bit scary because in Havelock at least I was in the holiday park, but tonight I’m out in the middle of nowhere 25km from the nearest road. I felt a bit better that my bracing the tent did seem to be making a difference as it seemed to stop the poles bending as much.
It is 5:50am as I write this and the rain is still persistent but the gusts of wind are becoming less frequent. I’ve been sitting with my legs crossed hard up against the side of the tent for nearly two and a half hours and it’s really starting to hurt. At least I managed to put my jacket and thermal pants on so I’m not too cold. I even brought my stinky socks and shoes inside the tent so they didn’t blow away or get saturated and now the tent smells awful.
I just ate all the remaining chocolate in my food pack because I thought to myself “if I’m going to die here, there’s no point dying with chocolate left over”.
Fortunately I didn’t die, and the tent did survive, and at about 6:30am I fell back asleep for about an hour, directly on the ground as I’d packed the wet sleeping mat away. But then I needed the loo. The rain was kind enough to have stopped by this point.
I went to check Nicola was okay. I figured she would fare better than me as her tent is a lot lower. She said she never felt it was going to fall apart but a lot of water did come in for her as well.
Once I was up and ready to go I was a bit annoyed at myself for setting up my tent when I knew that the forecast said gale force winds, but what else can you do? By the time I had phone coverage yesterday to check the forecast it is not like there’s anywhere else to go. I had put rocks on most of the tent stakes (not the front ones) – I don’t know if that helped or not.
As Nicola and I left we saw two people camping at the other end of the campsite that we didn’t even know were there. They said they were doing a similar kind of thing to me to try and stop the tent collapsing. They were TA walkers going northbound.
Starting out we crossed into Mt. Linton Station, and we’re told in many different forms not to stray from the marked path because we don’t want to make the landowner unhappy. The track starts off heading towards this unusually green hill.
There’s a river crossing almost immediately.
I put my jacket on because it was slightly drizzling when we left but like always it came off in less than 2km of walking.
A lot the trail through the farm is 4WD tracks.
And at the beginning they’re steep…
Which means we got some half decent views pretty soon.
Then it kept going up…
And it wasn’t long before you could see the South Coast again.
Looking back it’s easy to see where you’d come from.
I left Nicola after 5km as she said she was feeling surprisingly exhausted and obviously didn’t sleep very well. I spent the rest of the day walking by myself.
At 11am I came across this big paddock full of sheep, and wondered if I’d have to go up the big hill to the right.
Luckily the path went to the left. The smart sheep moved to one side. The stupid sheep just walked in front of me for ages.
Then there was a fair bit of walking through thistle. They cut up my legs a bit – I probably should have out on long trousers. Who’s the stupid one now!
For quite a while you follow this river. I knew based on the map that soon I was going to have to cross it.
It wasn’t too deep either luckily.
After that it was just following miles of farm trails, for example this one:
I have to go right up and over that hill. Guthook says to go to the left and then go diagonally up the hill on a 4WD track past all these cows:
But the red markers lead straight up the steep fenceline, so up the steep fenceline it was.
So the red line was wrong again. And at another point it directs you down this pathway, but you are confronted by this sign:
Definitely a sign that they don’t want you to leave the path. So instead, the markers lead you up another steep fenceline.
At the top of the fenceline the markers became a bit sparse, but I always had cows to tell me the way.
The whole day was just following these pathways with a few fenceline climbs to connect the paths. Towards the end of the day it was all downhill following the fenceline by some pine trees:
Followed by a fenceline between some blue-ish trees and some sort of vegetable patch.
The ground was really rough here and full of holes. It was a great place to twist your ankle, which I did at least twice.
My existing blisters haven’t been giving me any more problems which is great but I’m developing little rashes on the tops of each of my toes. I think that’s happening because since I’ve walked this section of the TA my feet have been constantly wet. I don’t think I’ve ever put on dry shoes or socks in the morning. There’s always a river crossing or mud or wet grass or something so that you don’t stay dry.
Lisa from Lower Princhester Hut said she was going to do some horse riding here today with her friend that works on this farm. I looked out for her but I didn’t see her, and I only saw this one single horse towards the end.
But I suppose on a 12,000 hectare farm, that’s to be expected. I did run into one farm worker in a vehicle at one point, and he gave me a wave, there was no animosity there.
After 24km of walking, a short section of overgrown path led me out of the farm and past this sign:
And this bridge, which I slipped at the end of.
Typical, I made it the whole day without falling on my butt but then I did it right with about 200m to go!
I had a look at this sign nearby, and it was nice to see as it meant I had just finished a big section.
I found it interesting that the sign at the start of the section was measured in days, but this one is measured in hours. The sign at the start of the section said it was 4 days between Lower Princhester and here, but I’d done it in 3. I bet you could even do it in 2 if you do Aparima Hut and Lower Wairaki Hut in one day and then Telford Campsite and Mt Linton Station on day 2. I bet Alex, Peter and Charlie did this section in 2 days. Heck, let’s check Alex’s blog and see. Yes, indeed they did.
From here I emerged onto Struan Flat Road.
The trail continues down a second road but I took a detour to go to the Birchwood Station Hut. It’s a privately run hut on Birchwood Station, and it costs $20 per person per night. I think most people stay here because another big farm is coming up soon, and there’s no other huts and nowhere to camp between the two farms. You could hitchhike to a place called Nightcaps which has a 4 Square supermarket but I hear it’s a really tiny place and also the road was really quiet.
On the way to the hut a local farmer stopped to talk to me and when he heard I was doing Te Araroa he insisted on telling me every place he has been to in the North Island and what he thought of it. I had really sore feet and toes and just wanted to get to the hut!
Once I got away from the farmer it was just a short walk to the hut. What a sight for sore eyes!
It’s quite big, it’s got a few rooms – one kitchen and dining room:
And a bedroom:
And a toilet and shower! And 4G phone coverage! And it even has electricity! I had almost forgotten what this thing was for:
The hut was apparently once the shearers’ quarters for the farm, but now seemed to be exclusively for TA walkers. People send their bounce boxes here, there were quite a few of them lying around. I wanted to see if there was any chocolate inside any of them… But of course I didn’t. I remain chocolateless for now after eating it all early this morning.
I arrived at the hut at 4:30pm and Nicola arrived about two hours later. It was nice to have some time to spare and lounge around. There was a free food box but it was mostly gas canisters and ingredients like salt and spice, but I did take some chicken-flavoured 2-Minute Noodles and have those for afternoon tea.
It was also nice to have a hot shower. I’m now a little bit less stinky, but even after washing myself hard, some of the mud I’ve been walking through the last 6 days still isn’t coming off.
Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):