Day 96 – Upper Travers Hut to Blue Lake Hut

Date: 17 January
Trail covered: 15.4km (kms 1973.6 to 1989.0)
Weather: hot again

I don’t usually have to go and pee during the night but this time I did. While I was outside I thought I’d test out the night mode in my camera. It didn’t turn out too bad, I must say.

Taken at 3:55am

This morning I noticed everyone was packing up but nobody was rushing to leave. It seems that one group were all leaving together.

Ready-ish to go

I thought I’d join them – Dave and Baxter, Sabine, and Greg and Stacey.

Yes we are prepared, thanks very much
Off we go

We first went over the Travers Saddle.

I got to see what my pack looks like from behind

I wasn’t feeling so well today. Yesterday my nose was running a bit and today I’m feeling a bit stuffed up. It’s probably a good thing that they walk a bit slower than me, so I can take my time a bit more today.

We met a guy coming in the other direction quite early on. He said he had left his campsite at 3:30am, although I can’t remember which one he stayed at. It is hard to imagine that when I was up just before 4am going to pee that somebody was already out there walking. He said the huts we are going towards might be busy tonight as there are a lot of people on day trips.

That looks like the top of the saddle, but I bet it’s not.
The others following up behind

It was a bit of a climb up the saddle, but there have definitely been harder climbs, and there was not a bad view from the top of the saddle.

The view from one way
The view from the other way

When nobody was talking, it was completely silent up here. For a change, there were no flies here and there was no wind either.

We had a fairly long stop for food, even though it only took us a couple of hours to get here and we were here not long after 10am. It was just a great spot to be at.

Everyone taking a rest break

Despite being a relatively steep uphill, because the hut was already halfway up the mountain last night, it didn’t take long to get up. Getting down on the other hand took forever. It was just as steep but we had to go down in elevation nearly one kilometer. My 11am picture is just starting the descent.

11am descent

It was quite steep all the way down. It wasn’t quite as frustrating as descending the Tararua Ranges though – it was steep but not as annoying as that was. Maybe we were just fresher this time.

This bit brought back memories of the Tararuas though, with its steepness and its roots

There was no phone coverage at the top of the hill but sometime during the descent I must have got coverage because at one point I looked at my phone and a lot of emails had come through. And because my new phone has very weak vibration, I didn’t even feel it vibrating in my pocket so by the time I noticed I was out of the coverage area again.

Dave and Baxter were cool to walk with. Baxter is 14 and doesn’t ever seem to complain. He likes to tell us all his jokes that he knows. He had a lot of cheese jokes (did you hear about the explosion at the cheese factory? There was nothing left but de-brie) and also a few slightly less tasteful jokes that his Dad Dave seemed to get embarrassed when they were told.

Despite walking what I considered to be quite slowly, and having a big snack break, we got to West Sabine Hut in just over six hours, when the trail notes say 6-8 hours.

I didn’t photograph the hut but this view was nearby

The hut wasn’t busy, in fact there was only one other person there. It was a bit of a sauna inside though. Normally I always find huts empty on my lunch breaks but there are a lot of day-trippers to Blue Lake apparently and some of them will be staying here.

Baxter had a lot of fun pointing out many times that Sabine had the same name as the hut. I think she might have been tiring of hearing it after a while.

The fact we were making good time meant that after lunch #2, Sabine and I had plenty of time to press on to the next hut which was Blue Lake Hut. It was apparently only three hours from here, but there was a sign on the hut wall about a damaged track and that hikers should allow “significant extra time” (and it was also mentioned on a sign from yesterday at St Arnaud). Hmm, how bad can it be. The same notice was up about the bit between St Arnaud and Lakehead Hut and that wasn’t bad at all. We left the other four behind and set off on our own.

Turns out it was quite hard. Big sections of the track from here had been completely washed away and to get through here required some serious bush-bashing and clambering over rockslides.

Rockslides to scramble over
Forcing our way through trees and branches

I was glad Sabine and I were walking together so that we could decide together how to get through some of the hard bits. Luckily we encountered a lot of day-trippers coming the other way and they told us the best ways to go to avoid some of the harder bits. And luckily people were building cairns to show some ways of getting through.

Maybe best not to always blindly follow the orange triangles. This one is in the middle of the tree in the middle of the river.

Its quite weird walking when you know there aren’t any markers – most of them had been washed away. You had no idea if you were going the right way or not. At least we knew that we had to follow the river so that was a big clue to the general direction to go.

Climbing rocks
Along the river

The hut yesterday was halfway up the mountain we would be crossing today, and Blue Lake Hut was the same – halfway up the mountain we will be crossing tomorrow. I thought the walk up to the hut today would be a bit like yesterday – a flat well groomed path with a gradual incline up to the hut. No, it was actually quite steep in places and a rocky path instead of a flat path. And today my pack just seemed really heavy, I’m not sure why.

Another nice waterfall coming down the side of the mountain

One thing that made me feel better is that I will be passing the 2,000km mark tomorrow as I come down the Waiau Pass.

With the washouts and the fact we were both quite tired, it took us over three and a half hours to get there, instead of the estimated three hours.

Blue Lake Hut

I had to take a two minute detour from the hut to go and see Blue Lake itself.

Blue Lake from near the hut
Taco Terry at Blue Lake

It’s supposed to have the clearest freshwater in the world. It was a nice lake, and you definitely can clearly see the reflection of the mountain, it’s just a shame there was no lookout point down here. I bet we will have a better view of it tomorrow when we start going up.

Inside the hut

Including me, there were 14 people at this 16-bed hut tonight. Joshua and Nina were here who I shared Te Matawai Hut with in the Tararua Ranges, which was a nice surprise, as well as a couple of people I recognised from earlier huts but didn’t talk to.

We all got a visit from the volunteer hut wardens, which was the first time I’ve encountered any (except at Waitomo which was a privately run hut). They gave us a standard talk about leaving the hut clean and clearing all food away so mice don’t get it. They then checked everyone’s hut passes. I didn’t stick around to see if everyone had a hut pass or not, as I needed to finish my dinner.

They also said you’re not allowed to swim in the Blue Lake (or wash your dishes in it). According to them, the Maori used to use it to wash the bones of their dead ancestors in it and so it’s sacred to them.

They also did a quick survey to establish why people are using the hut. Turns out all 14 people are doing Te Araroa, which surprised both me and the hut wardens. This was opposed to the last few days where hardly anyone was doing the TA. I guess I caught up to the big group I’d been seeing in the previous intentions books.

The door of the hut wouldn’t close, and we kept needing to close the door with somebody’s shoe. What do these volunteer hut wardens do exactly, other than give safety briefings? And it’s supposed to be a serviced hut, as opposed to a “standard” hut – these huts cost three times as much to stay in (if you don’t have a hut pass). I feel like DOC should be fixing these kinds of things.

The next hut has only 6 beds, so unless I rush I might be camping tomorrow.

Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):

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