Day 140 – Comyns Hut to Manuka Hut

Date: 8 March
Trail covered: 21.2km (kms 2260.2 to 2281.4)
Weather: wet wet wet

In the morning I woke up and it was still dark, and I groaned because everybody was making noise. But then I looked at my watch and surprisingly it was 7am. I’m going to have to get used to these shorter days I think. Although I guess the hut did only have one tiny window so it was dark all the time.

Just before we left the hut to begin walking Anka realised she didn’t have her tent with her. She said she must have left it in either Methven or Christchurch. She was visibly upset and I felt sad for her. I would notice if mine was missing as it goes inside my pack but she stores hers outside her pack as do a lot of people so I bet in that case it’s much easier to accidentally leave it behind.

Fortunately in two days we will be in Geraldine. The destination today is Manuka Hut 21km or so away. Anka and I will likely be the first there so its unlikely to be full, and so there shouldn’t be too much worry about needing a tent to sleep in tonight. However once in Geraldine she might have to go and get her tent from wherever it is, so I might not have a walking buddy all the way to Tekapo. What a pain to have to go and recover her tent just for three or four more days before she finishes for good.

After breakfast Anka and I left at 8am. We left before the other three. We knew that the first half of today is another big climb, from 850m all the way up to nearly 1500m, and it’s following rivers all the way up. We’re going to get wet feet today.

Sure enough the first crossing was almost immediately after leaving the hut.

Anka crossing the water

There was no point trying to keep dry feet. They were gonna get wet.

About half an hour into the walk the rain started. On went the rain jackets and pack covers.

Crossing the river with rain jackets and pack covers on

The rain didn’t let up for the next six hours. It was to be a very wet day indeed. 50% chance of rain my ass.

Whenever my boots get wet they keep coming untied. The first time this happened this morning I bent down to tie them up, but my sunglasses were in my pocket and one of the lenses popped out of the frames. Very annoying. I forget how many pairs of sunglasses I’ve gone through now, I think it’s 5, although maybe I can get the lens to go back in somehow.


The saddle we are heading towards is the Clent Hills Saddle. Nearer the top we moved away from the river however the track wasn’t obvious and we spent a lot of time finding the right path through tussock.

This kind of view lasted most of the day

If you stood in the wrong place you might end up falling into a hole. You had to be careful.

There were a lot of these spiky things. I think they’re called Wild Spaniard. I don’t know if they’ve been around before now but I really noticed them up here. I didn’t touch the big spiky plant sticking up out of the centre but even the leaves at the bottom are really spiky, and they don’t even look it. They caught me out constantly.

Wild Spaniard

Here’s my 11am picture, almost at the top of the saddle.

11am picture

The view at the top was kind of nice, although it was hard to see much with the rain.

The notes specifically say don’t immediately descend the saddle, instead head off to the right over the scree.

Scree slope

I’m surprised the notes needed to specifically mention that. It’s marked fairly well with orange poles.

Up at the top it was getting really cold, and we were both wet through by now because the rain hadn’t stopped. The wind was blowing and I wished I had my gloves handy so that my hands could get some warmth back in them. I wondered if I had a lot of this sort of cold to look forward to now that it’s March, but we are up quite high up here so hopefully it’s not a regular thing.

Today was simply starting to feel like a longer, harder and wetter version of yesterday. Up, over and down a saddle, and with a quite beautiful but relatively featureless and unchanging landscape. It was harder though because of an unformed path and following a river, and wetter because, well that’s pretty obvious.

The (again largely unchanging) view on the way down

The first hut you come to at the 15km mark is called Double Hut, but to reach it is a detour off-trail of 1km out and 1km back and since we were both so wet and cold we just wanted to keep walking and get to Manuka Hut, 5km further on. That meant that we forewent having lunch, which is possibly the first time ever that I’ve skipped lunch (both lunch #1 and lunch #2).

The next bit is flat, in fact we suspect that it’s now flat all the way to the Mt. Potts car park which is where the shuttle picks us up tomorrow. So we walked the next 5km very fast. It reminded me of the second day of the Timber Trail where it was so wet and cold and all I wanted to do was get to the shelter to change into dry clothes, so I just put my head down and put one foot in front of the other until the hut was in sight. It rained less today than that day but it was colder and after six hours of rain, no matter how heavy, you get pretty wet. No way were my shoes going to dry today even a little bit after the river walk, this rain and walking through the soaking wet tussock.

Manuka Hut

Manuka Hut was very much a sight for sore eyes. It was so nice to be able to go inside, change into warm clothes and light a fire and remain warm for the rest of the day. One thing this hut was missing was a place to hang clothes near the fire to dry them – I’m surprised all huts don’t have that. I’d like to buy 900 clothes horses when I’m done with this walk and put one in every hut in the country.

After an hour Chris turned up, and not long after he showed up the rain stopped. I don’t think he was very happy about that.

When it was clear the rain wasn’t starting up again any time soon I went for a walk up the medium-sized hill beside the hut as there is supposed to be a geocache up there. I wasn’t successful in finding it but I did get a slightly different view.

Another big pointy rock, and Manuka Lake in the background
The view back down to Manuka Hut (and toilet) from the top of the hill

The three of us spent time in the hut talking about all sorts of things. Chris is from Poland and has been travelling and hiking since he was 19, and he is now 34. He is trying to reach Bluff by April 1 as he flies out the next day. That gave me optimism that maybe I can finish by April 1 also but I’m not sure that will be possible. Chris is going to cycle the section beyond Tekapo which a lot of people do but I won’t be doing that, and I think he is planning to hitchhike the road sections.

Chris also said that he started at Cape Reinga in December and in the North Island he only saw 9 other SOBOs the entire time.

A lot of my stuff was wet, this time the pack cover didn’t seem to help that much. My tent and sleeping mat were sitting in a little pool of water at the bottom of my pack so I put them by the fire to try and dry them, along with all my wet clothes and shoes. I don’t think the fire will dry my clothes much though, and certainly not my shoes.

I did use the toilet once while I was at the hut and while I was sitting there doing my business, something fell off the roof and landed between my feet. I got one hell of a fright. Turned out it was a gecko. It stood there motionless on the floor for a second or two but then ran off out the door.

I was surprised to see a gecko, and then I noticed this poster on the wall of the hut:

Geckos wanted! 🦎

There may have been a gecko but like yesterday there were very few sandflies. There were a couple but they weren’t a problem.

Hannah and Gito never showed up at the hut. Chris said they were likely going to camp between here and the car park somewhere, and they can have a shorter day tomorrow and try and hitchhike out into Geraldine. Manuka Hut is also a detour (500m) from the trail so it’s not a surprise that they didn’t stop in.

My water filter bladder got a hole in it today. It’s only a small hole at the top so it still works but it means as I’m filtering water into my bottle a small stream of it comes out the side of the bag. That’s frustrating, the 32oz bladder I had from Cape Reinga to Pelorus Bridge never had any problems, but then I switched to the 64oz bladder and it’s already got a hole in it. It means I can’t filter water inside anymore unless I want water all over the floor.

This last photo is from my bed. I’m not sure how well I’ll sleep as Chris insists on having the fire going as long as possible and it’s making the hut so hot and quite smokey as well. But anyway… goodnight for now! Long day tomorrow – 32.5km to the car park and we have to be there by 5pm!

Goodnight from Manuka Hut top bunk

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

10 thoughts on “Day 140 – Comyns Hut to Manuka Hut

  • I am reading this post at the other end of the country at precisely 7:04am going over the Harbour Bridge and it is quite dark here as well and I’m in a bus with big windows, not a little cabin with one little window and a hole in the wall.

  • hi matt , it is nice to have your blogs to read again, the land you are going through now is vast and
    bleak i bet it can be a cold place. it is good to see that you are meeting up with people still.

    • Do you not use a plastic pack liner inside your pack? We have always used that plus pack cover to try and keep gear dry.
      Though I guess you’ve had a pretty dry summer for most of your walk!

      • No, I didn’t think it was necessary, everything important is inside its own little dry sack and anything not so important is inside rubbish bags. So if something gets wet it doesn’t get too wet.

  • I am so happy for you that you get to keep walking this season! Pain free travels Matt and thank you for continuing your detailed blogs. Stay warm.

  • I think the coldness doesn’t necessarily stem from walking later in the season, that’s just what constitutes “summer” down here, particularly this season! Spaniards…. otherwise known as “Bastard grass”.

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