Friday, 30 January 2015

Day 93. Camp Stream Hut to Lake Tekapo.

Today 34 km. Total 2371 km. 7 hours 30 minutes (0730 - 1500).

Last night I was cold enough to need to zip up my sleeping bag for the first time in ages.  Later in the nigh I had to unzip again as it warmed up. Antoine was off early and as he opened the hut door I could see another heavy mist.

By the time the rest of us got up the mist had lifted but it was overcast.  This was nice as it kept the temperature down.

I was the next away at 0715. It was a short descent then following a track, which is now a luxury,  along a stream.  There were a couple of crossings but dry feet ones. As I was about to join the next valley two ladies came running towards me. They were doing a trail run as training to be support runners for Mal Law who is doing 50 peaks in 50 days to raise money for mental health.  One of the ladies is doing Te Araroa by sections and was interested in my pack. After some discussion I reluctantly (yeah right!) gave them a tour of some of my gear.

Continuing on it was 5 minutes down the new stream until the climb started.  I was really annoyed that at the base of the climb was a swampy bit that meant not only were my shoes wet but they were muddy wet. What made it worse was from just a little bit up the hill I saw the swampy area could be avoided if the track continued just 30 meters more before starting the climb. It was a short but steep climb to the Plateau which I followed the edge for a while before cutting back in to a ski field access road.
Dropping down from the Hut

A track,  though in this part a little prickly with matagouri

Better track

Up on the plateau looking at Lake Tekapo

Right before the road was a stream so I stopped and washed my shoes and socks of the horrible swamp mud. To my surprise Antoine arrived.  He started well before me. He had missed the turnoff up the hill and once he realised he took a very steep route up to the Plateau.  He took a short break before continuing and then Fred and Nev arrived and took a break.

I took off and after the ski field road started following a former vehicle track that had a path caused by sheep that would have been perfect to walk on except it was too narrow.  I felt like I was tightrope walking trying to stay on the track so I ended up with one foot in it and the other beside. I had to alternate as the track was sunken and I felt lopsided. Where possible I walked beside the track.  It was really frustrating to have such a nice track unusable.

I stopped for a break at a spot over looking Lake Tekapo and Fred and Nev caught up and also took a break. The sun had come out now and it was getting hot again.  When we started I made them go in front as they are quicker than me on the flats,  especially when they can almost smell the beer waiting in Tekapo.  I stayed with them for a while and we met two American northbounders. They recognised my name and said they had read my blog, I had answered their questions on Facebook and they were using my maps. When we left them Fred and Nev hassled me about being a celebrity as this is not the first time this has happened.

After another 10 minutes I realised I was walking faster than I was comfortable with given how far I had left to walk so I stopped to put some distance between the guys and me so I wouldn't be tempted to keep up with them.  Now walking a more sensible pace I continued the descent to the lake.

The track was too narrow to walk on

Nice views though

Fred and Nev

Fred and Nev on a mission for beers in Tekapo leaving me in their dust

On my own again

Lake Tekapo slowly getting closer

Nearly there

Once at the lake it was a hot road walk for 13 km to Tekapo. I managed to get into my road walking zone quickly and the walk went quickly until the final straight when I could see Tekapo but still had 4 km to go.

Amazing colour of Lake Tekapo

Tekapo in sight but still a way to go

As I got closer I left the road and joined the lake edge track to the two tourist photo spots in Tekapo; the shepard dog statue and the old church. There were busloads of Asians there so it took some patience to get my photos.  It was then 5 minutes to town where I stopped for a pastry and smoothy at the Bakery before going to the Backpacker.

The Shepherd Dog

The Church of the Good Shepherd

I had booked into the YHA for tomorrow and I saw a no vacancy sign as I approached which did not look good.  I explained that my booking waa for tomorrow and the guy told me he just had one bed become available 10 minutes ago which I could have.  If I hadn't stopped for lunch I would have been spending my rest day in a tent.

I went through my normal priorities of shower, laundry and more food. The 4 Square is well stocked so I got everything I wanted.

I found some books at the backpackers and read while munching on fruit and chips.  By the time I should have been ready for dinner my stomach was not happy and I noisily occupied a toilet stall for a while.  I put this down to the reheated chicken and cheese pastry or smoothy I had for lunch.

I finished the first book and was in bed by 2215.

Night 93 & 94

Day 92. Crooked Spur Hut to Camp Stream Hut.

Today 30 km. Total 2237 km. 10 hours 45 minutes (0730-1745).

This morning there was a heavy mist but by the time I left at 0730 it had cleared around the hut but was still in the valleys below.  Fred and Nev left and after a sightseeing tour of the creek came back and headed in the right direction.  I followed 5 minutes later.

After only 5 minutes I saw an alpine Weta which is a first for me so I was pretty happy.  I was feeling good and enjoyed the steady climb up through the tussock. There was a track so it was easy going.  The mist returned for a short while and it was lucky there was a track as the markers were too far apart to see through the mist.  The last part of the climb was steep and a mixture of tussock and gravel.

Crooked Spur Hut after the mist cleared

Beautiful and clear for a while

Alpine Weta

And the mist is back.

The last bit of the climb to the saddle

Looking back - any excuse for a break

Nearly there

At the top I took a photo with Fred and Nev then started down ahead of them. The steep part of the descent was scree so I was able to bound down which was fun.

Fred and Nev at the saddle

All of us with the view of where we were headed

Going down by fun scree

Fred and Nev descending

Then it was following the very far apart marker poles.  For some reason the picture in my head of this section was very different from the reality.  This meant it was taking me a while to find the markers as I was often looking in the wrong direction to start.  There was no track to follow to see the right direction and I picked my own path between the tussock. This was a fun section that had a lot of up and down and great scenery though occasionally the mist returned.

The track joined an old vehicle track that was largely down to one side due to rockfall and slips. After crossing a strange looking stock bridge I reached Stone Hut where I took a break. It took exactly 3 hours to reach this hut. Just as I was leaving Fred and Nev turned up.

Stock bridge

Stoney Hut

Next was 5.5 km travelling beside a river and there was a trail to follow as well as the marker poles.  This was also a good section and seemed to pass quickly and I arrived at Royal Hut in 1 hour 30 minutes.  I had a long break here to have lunch.  While eating I read the back of the door which had the names of mustering crews going back to 1944. The hut was named Royal Hut after Prince Charles and Princess Anne stayed there.  I also read the Hut Book and saw an entry for H. Clarke. This is Helen Clarke who used to be our Prime Minister and now the head of the United Nations Development Programme,  arguably the second most important position in the United Nations. She is a keen tramper and it looked an interesting and challenging route her party was taking.

Heading up the river

Great track

Royal Hut with Stag Sadle in the distance

Back of the door

This is what the inside of a hut book looks like.  Note entry for H. Clarke

At 1315 I headed up the valley for the big climb of the day to the highest point on the entire Te Araroa trail. It started going up beside a stream crossing frequently before heading steeply up through untracked tussock to a plateau then up steeply,  another smaller plateau and then the final climb to Stag Saddle at 1925 meters above sea level which was the highest point on Te Araroa.  However now the route officially offers the ridge option to the next hut for the first year so the highest point is now on the ridge at 1944 meters. The original route was down the valley in thick tussock but it is marked. The new route is unmarked and from the saddle travel over rocks and then a climb up to the ridge where there was a great track and great views over Lake Tekapo and the Southern Alps. Unfortunately it was a little cloudy but still impressive.  At the high point I climbed above the track to the cairn which I placed another stone on.

Heading up the valley

Looking back down the valley

Nearly at the top

I made it. Stag Saddle

Traversing to the ridge

Climbing to the ridge

On the ridge

Highest point of Te Araroa 1944 meters

Yay highest point

After some photos I continued 3.5 km along the ridge and the track stayed excellent until above Rex Simpson hut. From there it was tussock bashing along the ridge for another 2.5 km. Luckily the tussoch was not too thick and I could weave through the open bits and maintain good speed.

Heading down the ridgeline


Great track

No track - tussock bashing

I dropped off the ridge to a vehicle track which I followed to the hut. As I aproached I saw two people outside.  This was Snir from Israel going north and Antoine from Switzerland going south. Snir offered me a tea and Timtams so was instantly popular with me. Camp Stream Hut was built in 1897 which for New Zealand is ancient. It is the smallest 6 bunk hut I have seen and as a result we hung out outside to cook dinner and talk. It was fantastic seeing the clouds rolling over the ridge behind but was cold enough I had to put on my jacket.  As usual we went to bed around 2115 as it got dark

Camp Stream Hut

Night 92

Outside the hut. Nev, Snir, Antoine, Fred

Clouds spilling over the ridge