Day 145 – Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki

Date: 13 March
Trail covered: 31.8km (kms 2387.8 to 2419.6)
Weather: clear

Coronavirus. That seems to be the theme of today in the real world. It’s every news story. It’s every email in my inbox from companies I haven’t dealt with in years. It’s every post on my Facebook feed. I wish I could hear about something else.

Tents. Mine is third from the left
View from the tent sites – not bad

This morning I talked to the guy who was camped next to me. He said he didn’t hear me setting up last night, which was good. He was hiking Te Araroa northbound but because of a family emergency he has to stop here and go back to Australia. That’s a shame for him because he was just getting to the good bits (well, I don’t know how the good bits compare to the bits he’s already done, obviously).

A lot of ducks hang around the tents here. They’re definitely not shy.

Ducky McDuckFace

I got all my laundry done and had a shower and a shave, everything smells so nice now. It feels great. And my leg hardly hurts at all after yesterday – a very nice surprise. I packed up my tent and headed the 2km back into town.

Since my leg is not hurting I’m going to stick to my plan of walking the 54km to Twizel overnight tonight. This is because there’s nowhere to camp between Tekapo and Twizel if you believe the trail notes, and also because I’ve always thought a night walk would be nice. And this is apparently one of the safest sections to do at night – first along a canal and then along a cycle path. And there was a full moon only two or three days ago so the moon should be big and bright in the sky.

This meant I had to fill in my day somehow. I sat myself down in Doughboys Bakery. I spent a lot of the day here. Far too long. Long enough to hear the whole music playlist on repeat twice.

Doughboys Bakery & Cafe

My 11am picture is the first round of food I got.

11am – very average food. You’re also not able to charge devices, as they’ve taped over the outlets

I caught up on blog posts, and once that was over I went for a walk around the town to see the sights (mostly the same sights I saw yesterday but in the daytime) and to look for some geocaches.

Animals and birds
Church of the Good Shepherd
A nice tree of some kind

By the time I did all that it was 5pm. I saw Christie at one point, she came over to say hi. She reminded me to book something in Twizel so I booked in at the holiday park online. She said the other day that there is a rowing regatta on in Twizel this weekend so I didn’t bother looking at any other options first.

Christie cycled from Boundary Stream to here today, and tomorrow she will be cycling to Twizel. Sounds like we will both be at the holiday park. Then Michael came over to say hi too. He said he didn’t follow the ridge track yesterday, and instead followed the TA official path down the valley.

Here’s a travel tip for Tekapo. Don’t pay $1.50 for the public toilets by the bridge. The ones down by 4 Square are free.

I had to make a quick stop to 4 Square to buy food – food only for the walk tonight. I don’t want to carry any more than is necessary to Twizel and there’s a 4 Square there where I can resupply for the coming sections.

My purchases this evening

The chicken legs and peanut slab ice cream were my dinner tonight. The rest is for the walk.

Eventually I left on my night walk at 5:45pm. I was cold right from the beginning so I put on my jacket. I hope it doesn’t get too cold tonight overnight.

Leaving early felt weird. I kept feeling like I left something behind for some reason. Maybe it’s because I didn’t walk with my poles because it was completely flat and I was trying to take my time. Walking without poles felt weird too. I had to keep reminding myself that they were in my pack and I didn’t leave them behind.

I haven’t seen these TA signs for quite a while now
The last sight when leaving Tekapo – this new subdivision

I’ve gotta walk slowly, I keep telling myself. Partly so that I don’t injure myself but also I don’t want to arrive really early in the morning. Right now I’m feeling excited but also nervous.

I had to decide how much water to take. I already had 600ml or so – not much. But I shouldn’t need much. I stopped at the river at the beginning of the path twice, but both times it didn’t smell nice so I continued on without getting more water. 600ml will have to do, and that’s okay anyway, surely I won’t need too much water overnight and not carrying unnecessary water for this long section is important.

The first 20 or 25km of the walk are along the Tekapo Canal.

Water from the lake – half of it seems to end up here and then into the canal
While the other half becomes the Tekapo River
Starting down the path, with the river on the left and the canal on the right

At first the path beside the canal was a private road, but it soon turned into an actual public road with a 60km/h speed limit. I bet cars that drive down here want to do more than 60km/h. It’s a dead straight road with nobody around.

It was tempting to walk at my usual fast road walking speed, but I need to slow myself down. How do I stop myself walking too fast? One way I guess is just to relax. But it seems the best way is to use the phone while I’m walking. I don’t have the ability to walk and type fast at the same time so that forces me to slow down. I’ll just have to be careful of the cars on the road. At least I’m not listening to music.

It does look like you’re allowed to camp down there, so that’s weird
The road takes a big turn to the right and you start heading west

I wondered if I would see Daniel, who I briefly met yesterday and who told me he was considering the night walk as well. I haven’t seen anyone else walking yet, actually one other person cycling at the start of the canal is the only other person I’ve seen who isn’t driving.

An Irish girl offered me a lift in her campervan at 7.30pm, which I declined. Interestingly, every car coming down this road is some kind of tourist campervan. I wonder where they’re all going.

Suddenly, something unexpected happened. The road ended. Weird. So why were so many people coming this way? It doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

End of the line, for cars at least
These two forms of transport are alright though. I like the smiley face on the person

So suddenly I was on the road on my own, with no other cars around. I was on some kind of private road. I could take up the entire road and walk all over the place and nothing would happen. I could even put in my music… Although I didn’t yet.

The sun is really starting to go down.

Really loooong shadow

And it was feeling cold. Let’s have a look at the temperature, I thought.

21 degrees now? No way. It’s already very cold. Since the sun will be gone behind the hills in the very near future I think it’s best to change into all my warm clothes now. Plus I also put my headlamp on.

The works
A terrible attempt at a self timer

I don’t wear the gloves often, but tonight I’m certain I’ll be wearing them all night. Back at the start I made sure I bought gloves that work with a smartphone screen. They do… however I obviously can’t use my fingerprint to unlock the phone like I normally do. That’s a pain. I had a look through the settings and activated something called “smart lock”. That apparently means that as long as the phone detects I’m holding it, it won’t lock. If it detects it is put down, it will lock. That’s a really handy feature that I didn’t know about.

Earlier, the canal took a big turn to the right, so now I was walking west. That means right into the sunset. It was absolutely beautiful. I tried to take a photo of it, but I couldn’t capture what I was seeing. What I was seeing is a whole sky lit up yellow. But what ended up on camera was this.

Attempt 1
Attempt 2

Still nice photos, but not what I was seeing in real life. I tried to take one with my backup phone.

Attempt 3

Still not what I was seeing. I even quickly looked up online how to take a sunset photo but didn’t really understand it. Most of the articles seemed to talk about how to find a good sunset, rather than how to actually take the photo. I wished I was walking with someone who knew photography. Anka from last week would have known. She carried a big, expensive-looking camera with her.

Suddenly I felt a lot of rumbling. Geez, what is that? An earthquake? Nope… it turned out to be a large number of sheep who all decided to run from me at the same time. I was too busy on my phone I didn’t even notice them.

Sheep all running for it

I felt like I was going slow and taking my time. That was good. It was a good feeling. Lucky I was going slow too, or else I might not have noticed this in the fading light:

2400km down!

Like usual it was just over 1km from where Guthook says the 2400km mark is, but I didn’t mind.

Attempt 4

Ok well the inevitable moment has come. The sun has completely gone, and it’s dark. I’m going to try and walk without a light on, so that I don’t attract bugs. I remember when the guys on the Whanganui River paddled at night and they said they could only have their headlights on for seconds at a time so that they didn’t get swamped by bugs. Besides, the full moon should mean I can see.

Wait a minute. Where is the moon. It’s nowhere to be seen. Weird. I swear to God I saw it the other day at Royal Hut and it was full. So it should still be relatively full now. I don’t understand why I can’t see it. I mean, I’m no scientitian, but the moon comes out every night, right?

Confused, I kept walking. I switched my phone’s camera to night mode, and started trying it out.

Tekapo Canal trees

The canal path crosses State Highway 8 after 13km. I tried out the night mode setting there too. I was in no hurry of course so I spent some time messing around with the camera.

Crossing the highway wasn’t too hard at what was now 9:30pm.

I stopped every now and again for a bit of food. I had to keep telling myself – don’t drop anything. And don’t lose anything. It’s too dark since there’s no moon out. Whatever I drop I’ll never notice and I’ll never find it again.

It really was pitch black. Despite being a private road that barely had a corner at all, I was still worried about walking straight into a fence or some other obstacle that I couldn’t see. I do actually have to pay attention. I also took this time to realise that I’m glad there are no bears or dangerous animals in New Zealand because I wouldn’t see them either.

There was a very faint white line down the road that I could follow in the darkness. When the road was gravel I could hear my footsteps but when it changed to tarmac I couldn’t really hear anything at all. It was eerie. Although every now and again I could hear things moving in the canal. Could it be salmon? I know there are salmon farms coming up later on.

My thoughts turned back to the moon. Why can’t I see it. I looked on the Internet. Apparently tonight the moon is waning gibbous. I even know what that means. So where is it? There’s a small glow behind the hills behind me. Is that the moon? I don’t think there is a town there.

For those that don’t know, gibbous (as opposed to crescent) means the visible portion of the moon is bigger than a half moon but smaller than a full moon, and waning (as opposed to waxing) means the visible moon is getting smaller each day.

I kept seeing lights on the opposite side of the canal. At first I got nervous because I thought they were people with torches. But it turned out they were just static lights. Nothing to worry about.

I got a message from my friend Nick at 10:30pm and so I took a break to exchange a few text messages. While I was doing that, what should rise up behind the hills behind me, but the moon. It seems the moon rises and sets like the sun. Who would’ve known. Probably you, the reader of this blog, but I didn’t know. You learn something every day.

I looked on the Internet and when the moon is waning, it rises after the sun sets and is still in the sky in the morning. When it is waxing, it rises before the sun sets but has set before sunrise. There you have it.

I can see the face of the moon. It’s watching me walk. It looks sad. Also it seems to have set off the cows – cows everywhere started mooing when the moon appeared.

That’s actually a picture of the moon rising. This photo makes it look like the sun.
Stars on night mode
A loooong shadow, the night version

Whatever the moon is doing, it is definitely helping me to walk. Everything is so much lighter now. I can see clearly despite it being night. Hell, I don’t even need to pay attention anymore!

One thing I can see is the saucepan constellation. Is that Orion? I’m not sure!

At this point of the walk I was still enjoying the night walk concept. I started thinking about the “100k challenge” which is where hikers walk the last 100km of the trail without stopping. This obviously means some kind of night walk. I’m still not sure I could do that yet. I mean, 100km is in a totally different league to 50km.

But it would tie in well with something else I’ve wanted to do, which is get my phone to show 100,000 steps in one day – which requires about 85km or 90km of walking. Maybe that could tie in with the 100k challenge. The thing with that is it has to be one calendar day, because the phone resets the step count each day at midnight. That would mean arriving at Bluff in the middle of the night, which is definitely not what I want, I want to get to Bluff in daylight hours. Hmm, maybe this 100k challenge isn’t gonna happen. And also around that time the moon would be a new moon, so I wouldn’t have the benefit of the moonlight.

While doing all this thinking and looking on the Internet I wasn’t paying attention and at one point I did walk off the side of the road into the ditch. Lucky it was that side of the road and not the other side of the road where the canal is. I guess I have to pay some attention at least!

At 1am I reached a bit where the private road ends and the road becomes public again. Not much further down here is the Mt. Cook Salmon Farm. This place reeks. You can smell it a mile away, and it kind of smells like cat biscuits.

Salmon farm
They had comfy-looking sofas that part of me just wanted to go and sleep on by this point
Salmon nets

And interestingly, after that just down the road I saw some Russian guys outside by the canal beside a van. It was weird to see others in such a remote place so early in the morning. I wonder what was happening. “What’s going on?” I asked, and “nothing” was the reply. I didn’t ask any more.

But one of the guys did comment on the fact that I was walking so late and then proceeded to tell me a story about some crazy Russian girls that he knows that we’re hiking on Lewis Pass and had to get a lift out to get back to Christchurch. I didn’t pay too much attention and got away as soon as I could. It all felt dodgy.

By now it was 2am. I was scrolling Instagram for something to do when one of Henry’s photos popped up. It was him doing this exact same section a week or two ago, also at night, and in the post he says that he took a nap by Lake Pukaki, coming up soon. You know what, I’m gonna do the same. There’s no point getting into Twizel really early and his post said that after a nap he was able to see the sunrise and Mt. Cook. That would be cool.

It seems my plan to only bring minimum water was good. I hardly felt thirsty at all during the night.

After the canal ended, there was one more chance to try the camera’s night mode, as Lake Pukaki is now in view. Here is a picture without night mode:

Non-night mode

And here’s the same shot with night mode:

Night mode

I couldn’t believe the difference. The camera was seeing things I couldn’t even see. This picture looks like it was taken during the early evening, not at 2 o’clock in the morning.

Here’s another night mode picture of some campervans. All along Lake Pukaki it is “camping for self-contained vehicles only”. That means little old me with just a tent isn’t allowed to camp anywhere along the lake.

Self-contained camping only, even though there’s a toilet there. This probably also applies to the campervans I saw back at the start of the canal. $200 fine for non-compliance.

But it’s not camping if I don’t set up my tent. I’m just going to have a short nap anyway. I found a spot that looked over the lake. Away from trees, so that there would hopefully be no possums. Away from campers and a bit off the road. I made sure that the grass isn’t wet. It isn’t – perfect. I lay down in the grass beside my pack and closed my eyes.

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

4 thoughts on “Day 145 – Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki

  • Great post! We had a few laughs. The night mode on your phone is amazing too. The Russians sounded VERY dodgy, so glad you managed to escape intact. As for the moon…you now have a better understanding of celestial mechanics :-). Watch out for the rabbits at Lake Pukaki when you wake: the ground around that camping area is littered with burrows and it looks like the hillside is moving as they dart around.

  • Amazing night photos. Scary thing to do, night walking. I’m glad you didn’t fall into the Canal. Great post.

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