Saturday, 7 February 2015

Day 98. Ahariri River to Top Timaru Hut.

Today 26 km. Total 2520 km. 9 hours 40 minutes (0745-1725).

Last night it got really windy and I was glad I had pushed on to the trees. Even though I was sheltered the wind was strong enough to regularly give my tent a vigorous shake. I did think of Graham who was camping in the open.

The wind was a southerly and was really cold. I had to wear my rain jacket to block the wind. The first 1.5 km was in the open and looked easy walking from a distance but was actually really rough and hard to walk on.

Walking to the river over the bimpy ground

At the end of this flat bit was a sharp drop to the river.  I took some time here looking at the river to spot the best crossing point.  I was a little concerned with the cloudy colour of the river which usually indicates that it ia being affected by the rain. Talking to all of the northbounders they all said the crossing was wet undie deep and on people as vertically challenged as me hip deep, and that is before the rain.

I made my way down and was resigned to walking an extra 10 km to get to the nearest bridge and back.  The river looked to be in the early stage of being rain effected. The water was cloudy, flowing fast and high and the crossing point I spotted from higher was a no go.  I decided to walk down the river a bit to scout out other options and came up with a plan that would have me crossing to a gravel island then walk up the island to the top where I could cross the second bit. Decision made I prepared by moving everything from my side and hip Pockets to the main waterproof compartment of my pack. I put my Personal Locator Beacon around my neck and as it was so cold I decided to take my clothes off and put them in my pack as well so they stayed dry.  I was just hoping that a farmer or other trampers didn't come along as I had no warning signs deployed about the brilliant whiteness of my body which could cause eye damage without sunglasses for protection.  Not to mention one look at my protuding ribs would have them forcing food into me.

So clad in my shoes and a PLB I started the crossing. The current was fast but managable without too much effort. My walking poles were not vibrating in the flow which is good. If they vibrate my personal safety standard is no more than knee deep. The water crept I to mid shin, then my knee, above my knee and then maxed out mid thigh before dropping as I reached the island.  Part one done but it was the second part I was more concerned about as I couldn't get a accurate assessment of the depth. I decided to try it but back off if it went past mid thigh.  I felt strange walking up the island starkers, while concentrating on the river I hadn't thought about it.

Part two of the crossing the flow was less than the first crossing.  I angled slightly upstrean for the first few meters then the better downstream angle and the water was just above my knees. It turned out that this was the easier crossing.

So despite the river being up slightly with the rain I managed a dry undie crossing, or would have if I was wearing any.  This goes to show that a little knowledge of river dynamics and taking time picking crossing points pays good dividends.

The Ahariru river crossing. The island is on the left

I rushed to get my clothes back on and rinsed the river gravel out of me shoes before moving off briskly to warm up. The track climbed steeply out of the gully then followed along the top of the escarpment for 500 metres before turning inland and following a fence line to the road. I was relieved to have the river crossing behind me and a little buzzed to have done it and not needed to walk to the Bridge.  I was interested to know what Hannah and Marianne would do as I think they are shorter than me and I don't know their river experience level.

From the road it was over farmland on farm tracks and single track along the valley, mainly on the plateau above the river.  I took photos at the 2500 mark and rather than be happy with the milestone it made me sad that I only have 500 km to go as I am not ready for this adventure to end.

A couple of km later I joined a farm track which undulated along the Avon Burn for 5 km. Not long after joining this I noticed my right shoe was gaping open at the instep. I had noticed it starting to go and had decided to do some repairs at the hut tonight but the river crossing must have been too much. Ifound a nice place to sit and started sewing. Luckily one of the things I had asked my parents to bring was heavy duty thread for leather just for this contingency. It took me nearly 30 minutes as it was hard to pull the needle through the thicker parts of the shoe without pliers.  I also managed to jab the point of the needle 5 mm under my thumb nail somehow.  I can attest to the effectiveness of this as a common method of torture.

Heading to Avis Burn

Hello boys

There is a faint track

2500 km

Repair job

With repaired shoes I continued on lethargically. I had already made the decision that I was only going as far as Top Timaru Hut and was a little sad about the 500km to go and seemed to be going really slowly.  I saw a hill ahead so stopped for a leisurely lunch hoping a full stomach would pick me up.
As I sat there I was watching the Merino Sheep walking. They have a funny walk and it looks like they have arthritis in their rear legs. I first thought it was just a lame sheep but then noticed all of them wete like that. Maybe it is an adaptation for living on steep hills.

Following the farm track

Lunch time. Tortilla with cheese,  salami and hummus

Move along girls

Nearly at the hut

Not long after I arrived at the private hut, though open for anyone to use it. It was a musterer hut with cloth mattresses and a great looking fireplace.  I signed into the hut visitor notebook and continued.  Now the climbing really started.  It was on vehicle tracks and I was amazed that a bulldozer had managed to make the track.  It would be a challenge to drive the track and I wondered what the reason was for the track. It was a grunt getting up but as I neared the saddle I got the normal excitement I get everytime I near a summit, saddle or ridgeline even after all this time on the trail.  It is the excitement of wondering what is on the other side and I am seldom disappointed given the

Starting to climb

Into the valley,  saddle is to the left

Finally got a photo of a Skink

The track winding up to Marthas Saddle

At this saddle the view was down a valley and the track winding down the scree to get to the valley.  The track was still wide but due to slips would not be usable to any vehicle except a quad bike.

Heading down from the saddle

There was a trail to follow which is a luxury at the moment.  The side streams were easy to cross. One of the side streams was milky white which I gathered was due to some minerals up higher. Still not knowing the cause of the colour I decided to fill up my camping water at the next side stream.  30 minutes later I could see the hut toilet and not until I was right above it the hut. I was surprised that it was a modern hut as it used to be a musterers hut that was refurbished by DOC. I am not sure what of the hut is original as the inside and outside looks new. I relaxed happy to have the hut to myself.

1 hour later Anna McNuff arrived. I had been hoping to meet here as she is running the trail unsupported.  I had seen a photo and her pack looked a similar size to mine. It turns out her pack is heavier than mine so my respect for her managing to run increased.  She is not running to set records, just because she wanted to see if she could and to raise money for Outdoor Pursuits Centres. She is also tslking at schools to encourage kids to get outdoors. I can imagine she is a big hit with the kids with her bubbly personality. Unfortunately she told me there were another 5 Northbounders on their way so the hut would be full tonight.

Next to arrive were Fiona and Anthony who are two kiwis walking for the endangered Whio (blue duck). Also for something different Anthony walks in a Kilt. As for what is under the kilt I didn't ask. Next was Ron from Canada who is walking with his guitar and helping to improve the trail by doing some trail maintenance sometimes.  Finally quite late Andrew and Peter from USA turned up.  It was a lively night which finished with Ron playing his guitar and us singing to old songs. I was hoping this would force 'Young Guns' out of my head.

Top Timaru Hut

Night 98

Full Hut

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