We weren’t thrilled when we got to Havelock and realized we would have to carry 9 days of food on our backs for the next stretch. The next 7-9 day stretch would take us from Havelock to St. Arnaud. It was a notorious section of the trail: the Richmond Ranges. Every soon to be T.A. Hiker is usually only able to tell you about a couple of sections of the trail that they’ve heard about. On the North Island, it’s 90 mile beach or the Northland forests. On the South Island, its the Richmond Ranges, the longest stretch out of towns and one of the first major mountain ranges on the trail, with peaks consistently over 1400m. I was definitely nervous, but more excited! So after a big resupply in Havelock, we set off on our 9 day (ended up being 7.5 day) stretch.
The first day was spent walking on a hot dirt road on which Jess and Francis almost got ran over by a dink of a truck driver. Then we got back to the good old North Island days of dodging cow pies through farmers fields and eventually back to another hot dirt road before finally reaching the start of the Pelorus River Track. We spent two days on the Pelorus River before entering the Richmond Ranges on the Richmond Alpine Track. The colour and clarity of the Pelorus River was stunning and the two days along it were lovely. The swingbridges have also become a fun addition to most of our days.
Once we got into the hills though, well, you can’t beat those ridgelines. Five and a half days later and all full of unreal views from ridgelines and peaks and we were in St Arnaud.
In the last few days of the ranges, we entered “Red Hills” country, a landscape completely different from the start of the ranges. At times, it felt almost like Arizona (not that I could say because I’ve never been) but what I imagine it to be. Dried tussock grasses, red rocks, boulders everywhere!
Highlights of this stretch
Stopping at Pelorus Bridge halfway through our first day and jumping off the rocks into the emerald pools. I wasn’t going to jump in but then Matt called me a 60 year old lady and I had to prove him wrong.
River crossing before Rocks Hut. A day in the forest on the Pelorus River Track with constant rain ended at Rocks Hut but not before we had to cross a swollen river.
Hills full of tussock. Oh, I’m in love with tussocks.
This patch of moss.
Little Rintoul and Mt Rintoul. Mt Rintoul is the highest on the Richmond Alpine Track at 1761m, Little Rintoul is at 1643m. Coming from the North, we first had to summit Little Rintoul before dropping down a crazy scree and boulder slope only to climb back up sketchy scree to the top of Mt. Rintoul. It was a lot of fun. Super sketchy but a lot of fun. At the top of Rintoul, we had a quick view before the clouds crowded around us. We then scree skied down to Rintoul hut.
The life in the alpines. I loved this flower, and the weird green knobs are called Vegetable Sheep.
Secret Santa with the squad. In Wellington, we picked names for Secret Santa. All throughout the Ranges I received Lindor Truffles- in my backpack, in my shoes, in my socks- it was the best treat wver. Christmas morning I woke up to a wrapped present and opened it up to find a Japanese mini doughnut kit. Sort of like an easy bake oven thing. Such a fun interactive Christmas morning as I whipped up some “doughnuts” and everyone else snacked on their treats and sipped on their Christmas coffee.
Descents through mossy beech forests.
Hearing our echoes throughout the mountains as Brad and I yelled on top of Purple Top.
Acapella Christmas carolling with Brad down the mountains. Well, started as Christmas carolling, turned into Johnny Cash singalong and then The Beatles.
Seeing all the cute backcountry huts. I’m a big fan of the bright orange ones!
Wood fires in the hut.
Where we slept
A farmer’s lawn
Rintoul Hut (Christmas morning 🎁)
Mid Wairoa Hut (Christmas night 🎄)
Red Hills Hut