Te Araroa: Day 70-73
Day 70: Glenrock to Double Hut (31km) Me and 7 other hikers took the shuttle at noon back to the trail on the now southern shore of the Rakaia river.
We go there by 1:30pm and I quickly climb the first 700m to the top of the first mountain.
I felt great and hiked fast, leaving the other hikers behind. A few hours later I arrived at Comys Hut and hiked upstream through the Hakatere river.
Just before 7pm I enjoyed some views from Client Hill Saddle and started looking for a tentsite.
I didn't get lucky and couldn't find a good spot for another 2hrs. Close to Double Hut I finally stopped and pitched my tent on a very exposed trail junction.
The views were incredible and the wind not too strong, but that should change...At about 1am the wind really picked up and got too strong for my tent. I had to pack up in the middle of the night and move to a more sheltered campsite. Fortunately Double Hut wasn't far and so I quickly moved there. Not willing to disturb the people already sleeping in the Hut I camped next to the hut, but still had a rather rough night.
Day 71: Double Hut to Geraldine (37km)
Last nights wind got stronger and stronger and so I left camp by 6am and planned to reach to northern shore of the Rangitata River in the early afternoon. The terrain remained flat all day, but we now had gusts of 60-70km/h, which were a real nuisance.
For a short second breakfast I stopped close to Emily Lake, where two hunters whom I had met earlier had parked their cars. I used those cars to shelter me from the wind and get some rest.
At 1pm I got the first glimpse of the Rangitata river and really didn't like what I saw. Rain in the backcountry.
All day I had been keen on crossing this 8km wide braided river, but now I was concerned. Braided rivers are known for trapping people, when water levels are rising as streams that you've crossed can quickly become impassable.
I had seen the rain in the backcountry for at least 2hrs and expected that it would take probably not more than 5-6hrs until the water had traveled down to where I had to cross the river. At 2:30pm I finally arrived at Potts Car Park, where the trail officially stops. I went closer to the river and realized that it's water was murky, a clear sign of a river being in flood. At this time i decided to hitch to Geraldine, instead of crossing the river. 2 hitches and some 2 hours later I arrived in town and stayed at the local Holiday Park. Later that day I learned that the river had almost doubled throughout the day, from rather safe 70 cubic meters per second to dangerous and impassable 130 cm/s.
I had made the right decision...
Day 72: Geraldine to Royal Hut (25km)
Geraldine is about 1.5 hrs by car from the southern trailhead of the Rangitata. I had reserved a seat in a shuttle that left the town at 8:30. At 10am I hit the trail along the Bush Stream and crossed it several times on my way to Crocked Spur Hut.
It was less windy than the day before, but exceptional hot. I quickly climbed some 1000m to the first saddle, passed Stone Hut in the early afternoon and hiked on to Royal Hut.
Obviously Prince Charles had stayed here once, that's how it got its name. It was 5pm when I arrived and I was really torn about staying or moving on. In general I don't stop that early, but just ahead was the highest point of the Te Araroa trail and a very exposed mountain range. With the experience of the last stormy night I decided it would be best to stay in a Hut, as it was still quite windy and rain was predicted for the upcoming night and the next day.
At Royal Hut I met Nick (Uk), Rob (Nz) and Roy (Aus), three hunters who were flown in by helicopter with all their gear. They had shot two Tahrs the day before and served their backstrap for dinner. Quite delicious.
As many animals, Tahrs were introduced in the early 1900's for hunting. In the 1970's their population exploded due to the lack of natural predators and now DoC is trying to kill up to 30,000 of these Himalayan Mountain Goats.
Day 73: Royal Hut to Lake Tekapo (48km)
It slightly rained when I woke up at 5:30am. I therefore decided to stay in bed just a little bit longer, even though I had planned a long day.
When I finally got up, it was almost 7am, but the rain had stopped and I quietly left the Hut, as the hunters were still sleeping. The next 4,5km would lead up to Stag Point, the highest point on the Te Araroa. The mix of rain and sunshine provided a beautiful setting for the climb.
(Climbed up through that valley)
The 600m climb wasn't too challenging and the rain gentle. From the top of the saddle it was another 44km to Lake Tekapo.
The weather got worse in the afternoon and when I arrived in Lake Tekapo it was raining like crazy. Unfortunately all backpackers and motels were booked and so I had to take a rather expensive room to get out of the rain.