Day 61: St. Arnaud to 1978.7 (35km) After the challenging Richmond mountains I had planned for a rather easy day. I left St. Arnaud after breakfast at the Alpine Lodge, where I also picked up a resupply box I had sent from Wellington. Well...as a matter of fact I'm not really made for easy days and so I quickly threw my plans over board. The hike started with a nice stroll around Lake Rototiti to Lakehead Hut and followed the Valley or Meadow for another few kilometers until it slowly started to ascent towards Traverse Saddle.
The 600m climb to Upper Travers Hut was easy and so I decided to move on and tackle the saddle on the same day. With 250m/km the climb over Travers Saddle was more demanding, but beautiful. It took 45mins to manage those 2.1km to the top, which was followed by a 900m descent over some 3km.
(Upper Travers Hut)
After 35-36km I pitched my tent in the forest, close to the river. Day 62: 1978.7 to 2008.0 (29km) Today I would tackle Waiau Pass with an elevation of 1867m, the 2nd highest point on the Te Araroa and known for a very steep ascent. The weather conditions were fantastic and so I wasn't concerned at all. The past had shown that most concerns posted on the guthooks app were quite exaggerated and so I happily started my day, looking forward to yet another amazing day. I passed West Sabine Hut early on and had to manage a slightly more demanding trail than expected as avalanches had demolished most of the trail infrastructure. Much of the initial trail and many trail markers were gone and I often had to rely on man made rock formations for orientation.
I made it to Blue Lake just before 11am and had a small break to prepare myself for the next section. The trail than led up to Constance Lake and the dreaded ascent over Waiau Pass. The scenery was fantastic and the lakes crystal clear.
At 12:30pm I reached the start of the ascent to the pass. From here on it was some 600m straight up.
It was a fun and tough climb, but overall very doable and not nearly as dangerous or sketchy as some of the comments on the guthooks app suggested.
At the summit I met Alex and a few other hikers again. From the top of Waiau Pass we had to manage the steepest descent so far. The trail quickly dropped 1,000m and required some concentration and a little bit of rock climbing. I quickly passed some of the hikers from the top and helped 3 girls to find a safe way down.
In the afternoon I continued just past Waiau Hut and pitched my tent close to a nearby stream.
Unfortunately the area was infested with sandflies and within minutes I had probably some 100 sandflies on the outside of my tent.
Day 63: 2008 to Boyle Village (50km) Leaving the mountains behind promised yet another big day. All day long we followed the Waiau river and crossed several smaller streams, while hiking through a gorgeous valley with just one minor climb to Anne Saddle.
Just before that I met Lena (Ger) and Zac aka Captain Hook (Aus) at Anne Hut. I had followed them for several hours already and it was nice to meet some people with a similar pace. After lunch I hiked on to Boyle Flat Hut for dinner and as I was just on the swing bridge to the Hut a fast and low flying helicopter passed me. It looked like an SAR helicopter, so I hope there wasn't a serious accident on trail.
From Boyle Flat I pushed on to the Boyle Village Campground and the State Highway 7. I already had to leave the trail again for a resupply in Hanmer Springs and slightly hoped to get a hitch that night. Upon arriving at the Highway I met to guys who had been waiting for 3 hrs already. So I decided to spent the night at the Campsite and hitch out in the morning. About an hour later, Alex, Lena and Zac also showed up at the campsite, completing a 50km day.
Day 64: Boyle Village to Hanmer Springs I got up early as several hikers had stayed at the campsite and I wanted the best place on the road for a hitch into Hanmer Springs, 55km off trail. From 6:30 to 7:15 I didn't see a single car going towards Hanmer Springs, but than the 2nd car I saw stopped and picked me up. A 20 year old American on a working holiday visa drove me to the junction to Hanmer Springs where jumped off and started hiking for another 7km to town. 2-3km before town, two nice girls from the Philippines offered me yet another ride and so I arrived in town quite early.
I spent the rest of the day eating. Big breakfast with bacon, eggs, mushrooms, sausages, grilled tomatoes and toast, this was followed up with two scoops of white chocolate and raspberry ice cream, a banana and a berry muffin. In the early afternoon I had a nice and big Caesars Salad with bacon and a 250g Schnitzel topped with Salad, bacon and eggs for dinner. In my motel room I than quickly finished half a block of chocolate before I went to bed.