Day One: 43 km “Start walking again you lazy bums”
After 3 days off in Lake Tekapo, we hit the trail again, this time for a short 54km to Twizel where we would resupply for a 5 day stretch.
We spent the day walking along the Tekapo Canal and then along the shores of Lake Pukati which led us to a freedom camping spot on the lake amongst a forest of pine trees.
Day Two: 11 km “Pools of tears”
In the very early morning, I got a bit of a shove from Matt complaining about his feet being wet. (It had started raining before we fell asleep.) “How are you not soaked?” he asked when I brushed his remark off (I just wanted to keep sleeping!). Sure enough when we officially woke up at 6am, our tent was soaked. Matt wrung out his down sleeping bag and I swear it wrung out buckets. After checking with Brad and Jess, we discovered (along with them) that their tent was literally sitting in two pools of water. Brad hadn’t packed away some of his clothes during the night and everything was soaked.
It was a long (but flat) 11km into Twizel but once we made it, we checked into a lodge where we sprawled out and relaxed the rainy cold day away. The owners of the Colonial Hotel were so kind (probably cause we looked like we were about to become hypothermic). They got us into a unit quickly and threw all of our wet sleeping bags into their commercial dryer for us.
Day Three: 33 km “Hot As”
All day, we had stunning views of the Southern Alps which had been covered with fresh snow. Very un-summer-like but gorgeous nonetheless. Even had views of Mt Cook.
Unlike yesterday, it was scorching hot out. Luckily we were walking along two lakes so we were able to cool off in the afternoon before making it to the local ski club where we set up camp.
Day Four: 36 km “Bad @$$ River Crossers”
Morning climb to a 1400m saddle then down to the river where we continued until our big challenge of the day: the Ahuriri River. We had passed three Northbound hikers along the way who were unable to cross because of the recent bad weather and snowmelt. We were nervous and really hopeful we would be able to cross. Otherwise it would be a 10km road walk detour.
When we arrived at the river, it looked quite manageable from a distance but as we got closer, it looked like it kept moving faster and faster. Looked too deep here, too swift there, etc . We scoped out three different spots and eventually chose one. With our arms wrapped around each other for mutual support, we took one step and that one step made it all too clear that the river was way too strong. Jess and I were ready to embrace the 10km detour when Brad and Matt found one more spot they thought could work. It might be a bit deeper but the current was slower. I’m sure it took less than 45 seconds but that 45 seconds crossing that river, the four of us one wall, seemed much longer. We triumphed across to the other side. I felt as if I could sleep happily right then and there, completely satisfied with our days accomplishments.
12 km after the river, we arrived at a musterer’s (shepherd) hut. It was a good call to push to the hut. Our tents wouldn’t have enjoyed the wind that nearly picked up the whole hut that night! The hut literally shook as if it were at sea. If you still can’t imagine that kind of wind, the toilet door had previously been blown off the hinges by said wind and lay a couple feet away from the toilet.
Day Five: 27km “Race for a mattress”
The morning started off with a climb to the highest point on the Breast Hill track, Martha Saddle at 1680m. The wind on the descent was insane. Within minutes our hands were frozen and we were waving our arms around trying to stay warm. Before New Zealand I couldn’t really imagine ever being thrown around by the wind. Not anymore!
After lunch at a hut along the way (a hut whose toilet door had also blown off)…
… the track took us into beech forest, sidling the river and climbing where necessary to avoid gorged sections. It was a great change of scenery to the barren mountains down here.
We also had to cross the river roughly a dozen times which was a fun twist to our day. We crossed most of the sections in pairs. The river was never deeper than our waists but at times the current was quite strong.
A few hours later we arrived at the junction where we would take a left and head straight UP the mountain where our hut for the night lay just on the tree line at about 1080m. We had seen in the previous Hut book that 9 south-bounders had spent the night and intended to go to Stodys Hut (same hut we were aiming for). We assumed we wouldn’t have a mattress and would have to settle for the floor but as we started the ascent, Brad yelled “two French guys went past the junction, now they’re just behind us!”
And I never saw Matt, Jess and Brad again.
But actually, they booked it up the mountain intent on winning the race to the mattresses. I was definitely not scaling the wall of rock in front of me as a race so I let one of the two French men pass me and wished the best for my trio of Canadians rushing up the hill.
At the top (a long ways up!), I learnt Matt won the race with Jess and Brad close behind. There were 3 beds left and they snatched them! Lucky for little old turtle pace me, they like me so they let me squeeze between them.
Day Six: 32 km “Breast Hill”
From Stodys Hut, we summited the spectacular Breast Hill which overlooks Lake Hawea from a super rocky cliff side. The descent was along the ridge line, up and down, before zig zagging steeply down to the road. We walked through Lake Hawea, got a couple scoops of ice cream at the general store, and continued on to our campground for the night.
Day Seven: 14 km “Ice cream!”
The day we walked into Wanaka: where we would enter our first real grocery store on the South Island: New World! Until now, we had only hit Four Square’s which are just mini grocery stores, halfway between a dairy and a grocery store.
First things first: Matt was starting to look like a bum in the shirt that lasted him 108 days. Time for a fresh look!
In Wanaka, Jess, Brad and I each had 4 scoops of Patagonia ice cream, the best ice cream in the world I’m convinced. Matt had a more reasonable 2 scoops.
This giant puffball mushroom!
Well past the 2500km mark now!
Matt’s beard comb.
This make shift water fountain and mug at a stream on top of a mountain
Fresh fruit and veg on the trail (only on day 1 after a town though. After that it’s tooo heavy so back to couscous) [Also, what better reason for a bug-eyed sunglasses selfie?]
Where we slept [7 nights]
Pines Freedom Campground
The Colonial Motel, Twizel
Glen Mary Ski Club
Lake Wanaka Holiday Park
What we learnt
The South Island of New Zealand is windy as. Have gloves (or in my case extra socks) ready to throw on at saddles and summits above 1500m.
Who we met
Tómas, a traveller from the Czech Republic, who we chatted with and gave advice on tramps around New Zealand. [At the Alberttown campground]
Polly & Lee, two Southbound T.A hikers. Polly’s from Germany and Lee is from New Zealand. [At Stodys Hut]