Today was the worst of the entire trail due to the track, or rather lack of track and the 6 different species of prickly plants I was too well aquanted with throughout the day.
The day started great. I left my tent flap up so I could watch the sun come up and it was beautiful. It was another cold morning. I finished my morning routine with only 3 sandfly bites and was on the trail by 0740.
The trail continued to be the beautiful track through the beech trees for a while. It then briefly went into the open where the dew soaked my feet and back for some more bush.
At the Swingbridge there was the primary option to continue in the bush for another 3 km and then ford the river or cross the Swingbridge and walk down the fenceline. While the bush option would be easier walking the river was higher than I was comfortable with and there would be more tributaries making the river even bigger so I went for the chicken route and crossed the Swingbridge.
I was worried when I was straight into tall thick tussock but the track pushed through to shorter grass and there was a track, though faint in places, to follow. There were a few bits of Matagauri to push through and I had to cross the fence a few times where the river had washed away everything on my side of the fence and where the matagouri was too thick to get through. While it was not an easy path it wasn't too bad.
On arriving at the primary option crossing point I was happy I crossed over the swingbridge. I probably could have crossed but I would not have been comfortable doing it.
I expected the trail to get better with more people walking it but it got worse. The next 16 km was hard work for no reward and to say I did not enjoy it would be an understatement. Normally when the trail makes us work hard we get a reward like a view or a hut. Today there wasn't much of a view and there was no reward for the hard slog. Sometimes there was a clear track through short grass but these times were regretfully rare. Most of the time it was long tussock, long grass, dodging matagouri, Kelly Thistle, Scottish Thistle, the rose like thorny plants and spiky Spaniard put in some guest appearances. Mainly it was flat but there were frequent stream crossings and swamp crossings. The track markers were ok.
The trail notes did say that it was slow due to long grass but this would improve as we progressed. After a line of trees on the escarpment the track did improve and I thought it would be good from there but that was only a short repreive before it got worse. Near the end I completely lost my temper swearing (very unusual for me) and hitting the thistle and matagouri with my sticks. It was only the thought of breaking them that made me stop.
Then we were so close to the road when the track disappeared and I was forcing through head high tussock and matagouri. So close but having to fight for every inch of progress. I then forded Wash Creek and coming out tripped on some barbed wire that was strung at mid shin height hidden in the grass. Once again I had a little temper tantrum. Finally I fought my way to the road feeling mentally drained.
Now I could rest with a 3 km road walk that felt good despite the wind now picking up. After a trig and treeline I had a couple of hundred meters before there should be a Te Araroa sign and stile. At that distance there was an angler access sign but no Te Araroa sign so I kept going. When I got to a driveway I knew it was too far so I walked back searching for the sign or stile. There was nothing. I walked to the edge of the escarpment searching for a track or marker thinking I would just cut across but there was nothing. I went back to the angler access but there was no trail or markers so I looked back the direction I had come and a couple of hundred meters away was a marker. This meant the sign and stile were at the start of the tree line which is different from the map. I went to the marker to search for the trail or the next marker but could not see anything. I walked foward a hundred meters in two likely directions but still could not see anything. The trail notes did not say there would be no markers so I assumed there should be some.. I had now wasted 30 minutes and decided to take the road 3 km to where the track crossed it. I was mad at not being able to find the trail and at the lack of markers. The unfunny thing is that there were markers along the road where they were not needed. Someone needs to move them off the road and onto the track.
The road walk went quickly and I found the track where it cut the road. It started on a vehicle track and I was relieved thinking this next 7 km would be better. The river then stopped at the river so I looked around for a marker or track and nothing. More strong words from me shouted into the air.
There were no markers of any type for this whole section. I found a sheep track and followed this, occasionally losing it, thinking this is ok, at least the grass is short.Then the grass got long and the sheep track disappeared. I cut across nearer the river and found another sheep track for a few hundred metres until a stream crossing then it petered out. I headed back to the fence and after a couple of swampy creek crossings found another sheep track that wound through the gorse. I now got to be scratched by the 6th different prickly plant of the day. My legs were quite sore with all the scratches and I regretted sending my long gaiters home in Queenstown.
The track then turned into really long grass that was taller than me. I struggled through for a few hundred meters then there were sheep on the other side of the fence and they had eaten a strip through the fence which was nearly wide enough for me and was a lot easier than walking without the strip. Finally I could see the turnoff but the track made me work all the way to the stile as the sheep eaten strip disappeared 30 meters from the stile. It was such a relief to be finished with that track.
It was now 1 km on a lovely vehicle track to the main road. As I got closer to the road I saw there was another tramper there and I was a little annoyed as it would be harder to get a ride for two people. However when I turned up I saw it was Chelsea who had just been dropped off from Te Anau and was unsure if she was in the right place as the road to the next hut looked private and had sheep penned up on it. She had just decided it was when I turned up.
After a quick chat she disappeared down the road and I stuck my thumb out. Within 5 minutes a car and boat stopped. They were from Te Anau and had spent the day fishing at Mavora Lake. They dropped me off at the YHA Backpackers.
I checked in and rushed out to the camping store as the people who picked me up said the store stays open late but not what time to. For future TA trampers the outdoor shop stays open until 2000. I bought a gas cylinder as though my current one might last I would rather be safe than risk cold dinner.
I headed back to the Backpacker and had a shower that takes the prize for best backpacker shower of the journey. Fantastic pressure and temperature, clean, dry foot towel and lots of hooks. My room was a 3 bed and had heaps of room. My room mates were an Australian in his 50s motorcycling around NZ and a 19 year old doing the Kiwi Experience Bus around the country.
I sorted through my resupply parcel which included new (only worn 300 km) shoes. My current shoes have done 1100 km from the top of the south island through some very ruggard terrain. Not bad for lightweight trail shoes.
I then headed back to the main street and looked at the dinner choices. I ended up at the pub across the road from the 4 Square and had a Fiordland wild Venison Leg steak with fries, fried egg, salad and mushroom red wine sauce. It was fantastic and there was nothing but a clean plate when I finished.
I then went to the supermarket to buy lunches for the next section which is the last section. I also bought some fruit and treats as well.
At the backpackers I packed my food which was a little heavy but will last until Bluff. No more resupplys.
I chatted with my room mates as I ate an ice cream and fruit and lights out at 2230.