April 4th 2017
Te Anau / SH94 – Aparima hut
Total distance: 1750.2 miles
After a great, warm, quiet night we packed up our stuff and went out to pick up some things for breakfast. I had a weird craving for banana and yoghurt, which I never have a craving for, but that’s what I got along with a pain au chocolat and took it back to the hostel. I got a text from Sandy and Colin saying they were thinking about changing the plan a bit and proposed a 6 day plan instead of 4 days.
Now I had no real desire to carry 6 days of food and I am feeling really ready to be done now. I’ve been walking for 9 months, I’m tired, it’s getting colder and I can just feel the end. So I said I would like to stick to the 4 day plan, and Crusher wants to do that too so they agreed and said they would make it to the second hut today which was the original plan.
We left the warmth of the hostel and walked across town to find a place to hitch a ride back to the trail. The weather was strange and although the sun was warm the air was really cold. We stood on the side of the road with our thumbs out for about half an hour, no one stopped but lots of people acknowledged us, gesturing that they were turning up ahead or they were only going a short distance. Neither of us have the patience for hitching it turns out and we were soon disparity over our misfortune. I was burning up on my right side with the sun beating down and the wind was freezing my left side making me quite uncomfortable. My left arm, having not really used my arms at all for months, was really sore from holding it up in the air.
We decided to move up the road a bit and stand just after the petrol station in the hope that people would stop as they would already be going slow. That didn’t happen and we mostly got jeered at by young German tourists. But eventually, after about an hour a man pulled over and asked us where we were going. He wound down the window and I ended up putting my entire upper body through the window as I was trying to explain to him where we wanted to go, which wasn’t easy as he was Russian with limited English. But we established that we were going in the same direction and he gave us a ride back to the trail. Vladimir pulled over at one point to show us a video of his recent helicopter ride! He was a nice man but I’m glad I wasn’t hitching alone.
We were back on trail and walking at 11:30am which was a little later than I would have liked but we could still manage the day we had planned. The first 3.5 miles to the first hut was a nice easy walk on a gravel road through farm land. We passed fields of sheep, hundreds of sheep, and fields of ugly man cows before the road turned into a 4wd track and we began walking through the fields of sheep. The wind really picked up and it was cold and blowing straight through us. We could see there were trees up ahead and we walked as quickly as we could to get to the shelter of the trees and out of the wind. It was 12:30pm and the trail notes said 5-6 hours to the next hut and the DOC sign said 8 hours! After a quick lunch break, hidden away from the sand flies in the hut we decided to carry on.
There was a tough 5.5 hours ahead for me, longer for Crusher. The trail started off reasonably through forest, with a bit of a climb which was mostly gentle until the top where it got a bit steeper. The rest of the trail then alternated between open tussock, boggy marsh and muddy forest several times over. The tussock was so high it was impossible to see the poles so it was just a case of hoping for the best most of the time, then you had to move as quickly as possible through the marsh to avoid sinking. It was a relief to be back in the forest at times, until the mud arrived and I started slipping and sliding and moving more slowly than I would have liked.
About half way through I came across the French guy and the Belgian girl, who I think are called Quentin and Anna, they we sat by a stream taking a break. I couldn’t afford such a luxury and I continued on, wanting to make it to the hut before it got dark at a very early 6:30pm. Crusher was behind me and said she would try to make it to the hut but would camp before if it got dark and difficult to navigate.
At times, well most of the time, the gps was off and the red line was not where the trail was. I got a bit worried at one point because I was walking away from the red line for quite some time but I was following the orange markers on the trees so I just had to keep faith in them. The tussock had many hidden dips and small streams and I did so well to only fall in the tussock once. I nearly fell at every stream crossing as there was a steep muddy bank and every one but I managed to narrowly avoid disaster each time.
By 6pm I was really tired, the sun was beginning to set and I’d had enough of the trail. It was starting to get cold and I was still 1.2 miles away from the hut. Thankfully for me the trail became a little more defined and easier to follow and then it seemed to pick up an old farm track before going through the forest and finishing with 0.2 of smooth trail which I practically ran down. I reached the hut at 6:20ish and there were 3 other people there, Harry and Emma the kiwis and a man heading north. They had a fire going and I started immediately sweating because it was so hot.
I quickly made some noodles, I did two packets as I was so hungry, and managed to eat them just before it got dark. I shovelled in some more snacks, cookies and crisps and took a top bunk. Quentin and Anna arrived and said they hadn’t seen my friend. I wasn’t too worried about her, I thought she would have camped rather than try to night hike so I would wait for her here in the morning. But around 7:30 she arrived! Yeay! I don’t know how she managed to find her way in the dark, the orange markers aren’t even reflective.
We secured all our food from the mice and everything was quiet in the hut very early.
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.