March 12th 2017
camping – Rangitata river / Methven
Total distance: 1454.3 miles
After falling asleep really early I woke several times in the night to hear the rain steadily falling on the tent. And it was still falling when it was time to get up and get going. The rain always sounds worse on the tent than it is when you get outside but there was no doubt it was raining.
We didn’t have far to go to reach the border of the Rangitata river. We had been discussing for a few days the upcoming crossing but we had a few factors to add into our decision making and put off making a final decision until we got to the river.
It was an easy walk, obviously wet and a bit tussocky, with no views at all of what I’m sure is a really beautiful area. It was also very cold, I walked with my puffy vest and hat on all morning, it feels like summer is over, or it never really came.
So here’s the thing about the river. It’s not an official part of the trail, just like the cook straight between the islands and the Rakaia river in the last section. They are declared hazard zones and you are advised to find an alternative way around to continue the trail. Logistically it’s a bit of a nightmare. We have heard from the northbounders that they have managed to cross the Rangitata and it’s been taking about 2.5 hours, but this was before all the rain. It had been raining for about 36 hours now and the rivers can rise rapidly so that was a concern. We considered attempting a crossing with the intention of turning back if we felt unsafe, but the other thing we had to take into account was Colin’s foot. He is having a lot of trouble with it and I think he is in more pain than he is letting on, plus he has said the ibuprofen was no longer helping at all. I made the mistake of suggesting it could be a stress fracture, which sent his mind into overdrive and had him thinking he basically had to quit the trail right there and then. I would have tried to cross the river if we had all gone for it, but they were keen to get to town to rest his foot and get it looked at properly, so there was no way I wanted to attempt it by myself. The rain is forecast for another two days, so we made the sensible decision to go around the river rather than through it. Rivers aren’t a thing to be messed with, they are the biggest killer of people in New Zealand with hundreds of people being swept away every year, there really is no need to put yourself in unnecessary danger.
So decision made we looked up and down the deserted road and thought about how we were going to get back to civilisation. Luckily for us there were a few mad people out here because they wanted to come and see Mt Sunday which was used in LOTR, we owe a lot to that film! Three cars stopped near us thinking it was the Mt Sunday car park before carrying on north to see the mountain. We asked them if they could pick us up on their way back and take us to the highway if we hadn’t managed to find a ride. They all agreed, and it took two hours of us standing in the intensifying rain and increasing cold before a French couple came back from the mountain and took us all the way to Methven. It was great because Sandy and Colin did all the hard work and chatted away to them in French while I stared out of the window.
Back in Methven we headed straight to a cafe for a hot drink and food. After standing around for so long I couldn’t feel my feet and having eating next to nothing all day, a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel at 2pm was much needed treat. We stayed in the cafe (it had free wifi) until 5pm when the takeaway next door opened and we could get more food. We chose fish and chips having heard such good things about it from Sian and Colin last time we were in town. The lady was super nice and brought a table in from outside so we could sit in the warm and dry to eat, she even gave us a bottle of red sauce which is uncharacteristic for New Zealand. I think they were the best fish and chips on the trail so far. Wallace appears and we catch up with him for a bit having last seen him in Bealey hut. He made it to Lake Coleridge but is taking a break from the trail because he has foot pain.
After we finished eating we stopped by the supermarket for supplies and then finally headed over to the camp ground where we could take off our shoes. We had no intention of pitching our already wet tents in the rain and settled into the common area. It was all change at the campground as the owner is preparing to set up a show here so all the seats and games tables had been moved into the smaller room at the back, which surprised me a bit as it looked as though nothing had been moved for the last 20 years.
Rory was there, the British guy and he had a nice fire going and heartbeat on the TV. It was like coming home after a wet Sunday walk in England, just missing the roast dinner. But Rory had made (actually made the dough and everything) pizza that he was willing to share and after a quick trip to the shops to get beer and wine, we settled in, along with a lovely couple from Liverpool, to watch a movie on the big tv.
I had three beers and a glass of wine which was quite out of recent character. But I’m not going anywhere tomorrow, I’m staying here to wait out the rain. Hiking in the rain for days on end is no fun at all.
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.