It rained again on and off last night but had stopped by the time I woke up and the ground was dry. I snoozed a bit to give my tent more time to dry and by the time I packed it up it was dry.
I emerged from the trees at 0815 and had a 6 km road walk to start the day. I was amazed at how many rabbits there were. At one stage I could see 13 all at once and the longest I went without seeing one was 40 seconds.
At the head of the lake the track rejoined the Alps to Ocean Cycke trail on a purpose built 1.5 meter wide gravel path around the edge of Lake Ohau. Just as I finished this it started to rain. It stopped raining 15 minutes later. I followed the road past another little lake and the Lake Ohau Alpine Village then I had lunch overlooking the lake.
It was hot again so off came my rain gear. Now the trail notes said to take the track at the beech trees but this was too overgrown to follow so I went back to the road for a bit then found the track was better and followed it to the end. There was a couple of hundred meters of road walking then onto a farm track. At the start of the track an older man was starting his daily walk with his German Shepherd. As I approached the dog came running up to me and I was surprised the man made no attempt to call it. While I am fine with dogs I can imagine that would be very scary to someone not used to dogs. The man knew about the Te Araroa but I get the feeling he wasn't a supporter. He made some comments about little packs and unprepared trampers. I explained I was carrying everything a normal tramper would, just lighter and more compact. I took a break to let him get ahead and as the rain started again I put my rain gear back on. 5 minutes later the rain was gone and it was hot so rain gear off -again!
I started heading uphill gently on a lovely grass vehicle track which then joined a MTB track that I think must be the Alps to Ocean again. The views back over Lake Ohau were great.
The track entered some bush and I took a break to have my last nectarine. I had my map out and put it in my mouth to get the nectarine out and when I grabbed the map I gave myself a pair cut on the inside of my upper lip which as you can imagine hurt and bleed a bit. It also made it painful to easy my nectarine but I had already taken a bite so I couldn't put it away fot later and there was no way I was not going to eat it regardless of the pain and blood.
I continued walking and was nearly run off the path. Two NOBO were walking towards me and the one on my side was starting at his feet. I thought he would look up occasionally but no so I waa just about to say something when the other person pulled him over. I paused ready to talk and they just kept going. That is the first time hikers on the trail have not wanted to talk and was strange. I could understand if there were heaps of trampers and they were sick of stopping but as far as I am aware there would not have been anyone ahead of me today.
After crossing a bridge I left the mountain bike trail and was on a nice track heading up through bush by a stream. It was great to be back in the bush again and I was greedily sucking in the many shades of vibrant green after spending the last weeks surrounded by browns and greys. I even realised I had missed the orange triangles. The track was in good condition and interesting with plenty of rocky bits to keep me concentrating. I stopped for a break and to refil my water at the informal campsite near the bush line and it started to rain again but heavily this time.
I had a decision to make here. I could camp in the shelter of the bush though it was still early and have risk of mist the next morning. The other option was to continue on and risk having to camp in an exposed place. There were some trees but they were 17 km away over untracked tussock after already having walked 26 km that day. I decided to keep going and take the risk of finding a decent campsite. I figured I still haven't really tested my tent yet so it would be interesting to see how it performed in terrible conditions.
I put my rain gear back on and left the shelter of the bush. The first km was tracked but at the junction it was following poles and picking my own route between tussock and spiky Spaniard. I found the poles easy to follow but did need to search hard to spot some. This route would be tricky in low visibility so I am glad I did not risk a misty low visibility start tomorrow. The rain stopped after 20 minutes and rain gear off again. The climb was short and then it was a wide saddly that was swampy to cross before starting the descent to the valley below.
During this section I got a song in my head that I had heard in the cafe in Tekapo just before I left. The song was 'Young Gun' which I really liked when it came out I think in the early 90s. I had it on casette. As I walked along more and more of the song came back to me but after 4 hours I started to get really sick of the song.
Once down it was following the stream down with ample marker poles indicating which side of the stream was best. It started raining again once I hit the valley floor and this time was sustained rain for 3 hours.
I was pleasantly surprised by how wide the valley was and that the travel was much easier than I expected. There was a trail for some bits and a lot of open bits.
As I was trudging in the rain I saw what looked like a person ahead just standing still. I couldn't see a pack and they were just standing in the rain. It took me 10 minutes to reach them and I was concerned that they might be in trouble or have hyperthermia. This got me running through different options to respond to the scenarios. I was relieved when I reached them to see the pack on the ground and that they looked fine. This person was Graham who was doing the trail northbound. He was deciding whether to pitch his tent there and was waiting for me to learn if there was a better spot ahead. I told him apart from the bush camp there was nothing special ahead. We talk for a while and I got the impression he was hoping I would also camp there. However I now thought the tree shelter belt was a feasible option now as I had been moving much quicker than expected and wanting some shelter from the rain. I was starting to get cold and looking up at him was letting water trickle into my rain jacket so after a couple of attempts to break away I left. If the weather was better I would have stopped and had a longer chat as he seemed an interesting guy.
I continued on and the rain started easing up finally. After more travel by the river the markers took me up high above the river and I sidled for a while. Once more I had to search hard for the next marker before heading to it. I saw a hut down on the other side of the river but the trail notes said it was derelict so I kept going. Just before we descend I could see the going was getting better. Once back down the poles indicated staying on a plateau just above the river and the surface was good enough for me to crank up the speed. The rain had stopped bit it was still cold.
I rounded the corner and gave a yell as I spotted the pine trees, though they were still 3 km away. I was happy I would be sleeping on a thick bed of pine needles sheltered by trees tonight.
First I had to get through some small hills that reminded me of a golf course on dunes. Then some flat farmland and finally the welcoming embrace of pine forest. While the ground wasn't fully dry it was barely wet. I set up near the edge looking out at what I had just travelled over and poitioned for the morning sun. I was surprised at how far I had come when I worked it out and had a good appetite for dinner not surprisingly.