February 27th 2017
Blue Lake Hut – middle of nowhere
Total distance: 1263.8 miles
It was a surprisingly quiet night for a hut full of people and rumoured resident mice and possums. I slept really well, in fact it was probably me that woke people up. Julia said I was whimpering in my sleep, I do remember having some really weird dreams. People didn’t really start rustling until about 7:30 which was great, but Julia and I had planned a relaxed start.
We had a climb first thing over Waiau pass and we didn’t want a repeat of yesterday morning where we got to the top in a cloud, so we decided to start a bit later and let the cloud burn off. Well, it wasn’t really that cloudy in the morning but we had a lie in anyway. By the time we got up we had been lying in our bunks for about 15 hours!! It was really cold in the hut which made it a struggle to get out of our sleeping bags but outside it was boiling hot already. We packed up and left around 10:15, first climbing high above Blue Lake, which looked much more amazing in real life than I could capture in the photos. The first 1000ft climb wasn’t too bad, it was gentle and the views were distracting, they gave us an excuse to stop often and take photos.
We saw Lake Constance which we climbed up above before descending back down to the shore. The climb was on loose rock and the descent was steep and rocky, but the views of the lake were spectacular from every angle. It was hard not to stop every 3 steps to take a picture. Of course what you can’t capture is the shimmering and glimmering of the lake and the vastness of your surroundings. On the way down we caught up to two girls, an Americans and an Australian who are doing sections of the trail. We walked with them for a little bit along the rocky shore of the lake before having a little rehydration and snack break before the big climb we could see ahead of us.
There is a nice little flat section through the valley before you get to the section most suited to goats. 1700ft over 0.7 miles. That’s really steep. It’s starts off near vertical jumping from loose rock to islands of dirt and shrubs which are a bit easier to climb up. The middle section gets a bit tricky as you are walking on slippery shale and taking two steps forward and one step backward with all the slipping. A lovely relaxed little flat bit gives you a chance to appreciate your surroundings before pushing up the final climb. By the time you get here you can see the saddle at the top and you can see all the poles marking the way. Only 5 more poles to go we said, and we checked off our progress by counting down the number of poles. With only one more pole to go we saw Robin, Colin and Sandy were at the top and we made it to a chorus of whoops and cheers. The views from the top were great and it was warm enough to hangout up there for a while and eat lunch. The other 2 girls made it up and we all sat there for a while taking it all in. Then we all started to move on in the order we had arrived.
Robin headed off first, followed by Sandy and Colin, then we followed. What goes up must come down of course and it was time for the big descent. It was nice and gentle to start with but it soon turned into a rock scramble which involved abandoning the poles and using hands or bums to move down the very steep rocky sections. It’s quite scary but really fun, I love scrambling. Having the pack on makes things quite precarious in places. The descents always seem to go on forever and by the time you are nearing to bottom your knees are beginning to scream for a break. We had a lot of trips and stumbles and near misses but we managed to get down in one piece without falling.
We followed the river down and saw some great waterfall swimming holes but the water was a bit too cold for swimming. But when we came to a small river crossing we saw the others taking a break and Sandy had been in for a dip, now she was sat on a rock shivering! We didn’t go in the river but we filled our water bottles with lovely clear cold water. We moved on because we still had quite a long way to go, especially now we had changed our plans slightly to get to town a day earlier.
The steep descent levelled out a bit but the trail was still difficult to negotiate with lots of spikey, bushy plants and hidden rocks. Of course now we were out of the dangerous stuff and on the flat I began to fall over. I fell a few times over not much. The trail then took us along the river and across big expanses of rock slides where we were hopping from boulder to boulder which was really fun. We would dip in and out of the forest and then back through the boulders, then down to then shores of the river, hopping over side streams and managing to keep our feet dry all day.
We then hit the 2000km mark, which means we are two thirds of the way through the trail. Stop the ride, it’s going too fast!!
We continued on through the rocks and forest until the trail opened out into a plain and became very flat and nice a cruisy, although I still managed to fall over a couple of times. Eventually we had to cross the big river we had been following, which we weren’t really expecting! We hadn’t looked much at what was ahead, and although we knew there were river crossings in this area from reading about other people’s experiences we had just kind of forgotten. So right at he end of the day we had to get our feet wet. The river was shallow, no more than knee height but it was still flowing strong and I would have liked to have crossed it if it had been any faster.
We came to Caroline Creek bivvy which is an emergency 2 bunk shelter. We saw on Instagram that a couple of people we had met before – Everett and Jeff – camped here but woke in the early hours to flooded tents because of heavy rain. In the morning they tried to hike out but the river was raging so they couldn’t cross, they even tried 4 people linking together to cross but that didn’t work. So they spent the day in Caroline Creek Bivvy, 5 of them, waiting for the water levels to drop. Thankfully we had a much easier time of it and we had no problems crossing the river about 4 more times. There was no way to avoid wet feet, and our feet were already wet anyway so we ploughed on through.
We continued walking, we wanted to get about 3 miles further than the bivvy to put us in a good place for tomorrow. The trail was nice and flat now and looking behind us we could see we were leaving the mountains behind. We saw two fighter jets soar really low through the valley, one rolling onto its side which was pretty cool. They were so loud. Then later on we saw another military craft, possibly and aircraft carrier or something.
We walked until 7:30 and decided to camp in the meadow. We knew we would wake up to loads of condensation, we could feel it in the cooling air, but we follow the river for a while yet so there was no other choice. Sandy and Colin join us as we are trying to pitch our tents as quickly as possible to get away from the sand flies. There are hundreds of them. I eat dinner, which is a tortilla wrap with nothing inside it. I think I’ve reached my limit with tuna. I forced one down for lunch but I just couldn’t face it this evening.
There are so many sand flies around my tent it sounds like it’s raining. I’m not looking forward to packing up in the morning.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Please donate here, every little bit helps.