Day 35, Christchurch, 0km
We spent the day in Christchurch waiting out the typhoon. It rained and rained. We found a different hostel that was the same price, but we could have a room with a double bed and a twin bed, so John and I shared it with Ruth. It was called Foley Towers. I highly recommend it. We also went to an outdoor store for new socks, and we also each got a new shirt.
We then met up with Jeremy and Sam for crepes au Nutella followed by card games. It was nice to have some down time just socializing with fellow hikers.
We went to bed early and the bed was so comfortable.
Day 36: Christchurch, 0km
Another day of waiting out the storm. We got up and checked out of the hostel and bought some food on the way to the Canterbury Museum and Botanical Garden. John really wanted to see the Botanical Garden, but I didn’t feel like getting rained on for hours while looking at plants, so I headed for the museum.
We arranged to meet Ruth at the entrance of the museum so that we could get a ride with her to the edge of town so we could hitchhike from there back to Arthur’s Pass. Ruth has been such a great trail angel for these last couple of days since she has a car and we have been able to get into and out of Christchurch with her help along with a ride to the outdoor store. Hopefully our paths will cross again. She’s not a TA hiker, but she’s hiking various trails all over New Zealand and visiting with friends.
She dropped us off somewhere along route 73, and after three rides, we made it to the DOC Visitors center before they closed to pick up our resupply box. While we were hitchhiking, each person that picked us up would drop us off right in front of a cafe or takeaway place, and each time we were tempted to buy more food. We got a gigantic pile of fish and chips and then later a delicious venison pie.
While we were in the DOC office, Sam walked in. She had just hitched back from Christchurch as well. After unloading our box, we realized we had way too much food. But there’s a chance we’ll have to hang out here a bit longer to wait out the flooded rivers up ahead, so who knows.
We got a ride back to a campsite next to the trail from a very generous hostel owner who invited us in for a cup of tea even though we decided not to pay to stay there. I almost felt guilty that he was doing us such big favors and there wasn’t anything we could really do in return.
It’s still raining and we’re sitting in our tent munching on our stash of food before bed.
Unfortunately this campsite that we are staying at is a free campsite by the road, and people kept coming in later and later. By about midnight we decided to get up and go for a walk in search of kiwis (which live around these areas, and are nocturnal). We walked about half an hour on a nature trail which unfortunately went close to the road. We didn’t see any kiwis and by 1am people were still making noise at the campground. Eventually we were able to fall asleep, but we were pretty annoyed.
Day 37: Greyneys Shelter campsite to Upper Deception Hut 11.5km
We slept in to make up for the lack of sleep at night. We only had to walk down the road a short distance before we hit the trail. We saw two people walking the road towards us, and quickly figured out that they were the German couple.
We walked together towards our first stream crossing, the Bealey River.
Today was a day of walking through one river after another. Each river was a bit swollen from the cyclone, so I was glad that there were four of us walking together.
It didn’t take long before we passed a tiny Hut big enough for only 2 people, which was basically smaller than John.
There was snow in the higher mountains which made for awesome views and waterfalls were running especially big. It was beautiful but hard walking.
The trail was either through forest or in a stream. We passed Goat Pass Hut, which was a beautiful Hut with a radio and 20 bunks but it was only a few km into our day and we wanted to make it to Upper Deception Hut so that we could get the difficult and time consuming section of the Deception river out of the way during the warm and sunny hours of the afternoon rather than first thing in the morning.
The next section was only about 2km long, but it was harder and slower going than any 2km section we’ve done so far. We were walking through the Deception river down stream. The river was full of large boulders and waterfalls and we had to go down whatever it presented. Many times we had to cross the river in really tricky parts with water almost at hip level and fast current. We often spent a lot of time planning out how we could make it across. As a group of four it was great to be able to do these boys together and discuss options.
As we went we became concerned that we wouldn’t make it to the next Hut because we would come across a section we couldn’t cross, and we would be stuck going back, which after a while seemed like a really daunting prospect. But we pushed on.
John and I were a bit faster than the German couple in this section- probably mostly because we have newer shoes with better tread, so we were less shy about stepping on slippery rocks as well as having lighter backpacks. John of course could always barge ahead quite quickly but I was actually quite pleased that I wasn’t the slowest, as it is annoying to be the weakest link. We always waited for the other two at any tricky spots to make sure we all made it safely. It was only 2km but it took us about two or two and a half hours to reach the Hut. I’ve never been so excited to see a Hut.
Let me quote the trail notes regarding this section: “Then it is down the notorious Deception River. This will be an impossible route after heavy rain, so it is a good idea to get a weather forecast at Arthur’s Pass […]. The upper section is effectively a clamber over boulders down the stream bed, making for very slow progress.”
At the Hut we were surprised to see Sam and another girl named Martha who had arrived earlier. We didn’t know if anyone was ahead of us the whole time.
There were exactly 6 bunks and 6 of us, so that worked out perfectly. No one else showed up, but apparently three others are slightly ahead of us somewhere – also having started today from Arthur’s Pass.
We had a fun trading stories and making dinner before getting into our sleeping bags around 8pm
Day 38: Upper Deception hut to Campsite 5km before Kiwi Hut, 20km
Today has been a long day. We spent the whole day hiking with the Germans. We started by continuing down the Deception River, which got deeper and deeper, and some crossings were a bit tricky.
At one point we had to go straight up a cliff straight out of the river using a rope, which we were surprised someone put there for us.
It took a long time to get down Deception River to the Otira River, but we did pass a few southbounders who all took the “flood track” instead of crossing the Otira River.
Let me quote the trail notes on this section:
“From here you have a choice of clambering up and down bluffs over a muddy and very poorly maintained Flood Track (though it is mostly well marked) or walking over boulders down the Otira River, which is equally time consuming. The Flood Track is notorious amongst TA hikers as the worst on the South Island TA, so you have been warned.”
We passed a man hiking south and asked him about the larger river up ahead. He told us that the river was too swollen and he took the flood route, but it wasn’t too bad and only took him two hours. We looked at each other in disbelief and then I asked:
“Are you a kiwi?”
He answered: “yes..?”
“Damn!” We all said practically in unison. He looked confused.
“We basically have to ignore everything you tell us.” I explained. “Kiwis are invincible and completely out of their minds.”
He did tell us that a girl up ahead fell in one of the rivers but she was ok. We speculated whether that was Sam or Martha.
Earlier we all agreed that kiwis were strangely immortal after learning that this track is actually part of a race which people (kiwis) do what we plan to take two days to accomplish in about 3 or 4 hours.
Finally we got down from the Deception River, and we had basically vowed not to take the flood route since it sounded like the high water route we took way long ago, only worse. We decided we would be better off swimming (drowning) in the river.
Between the southbounders we met and the trail notes, it seemed like the flood route was just for stupid people, but by the time we got there, there seemed to be no other option. We laughed that in fact we’re basically told that you would have to be stupid to do this route, but nobody suggested an alternative.
The route was a bit stupid, but actually not as bad as several previous sections, including the high water route around Macetown. The section was up and down and over many huge fallen trees, and hard to follow etc, but never actually dangerous. It was more just super slow going and a bit like a jungle gym.
We came out along the Taramakau River where we had to follow the river, sometime climbing up into the bush and sometimes walking along the bank.
In the bush we had our first encounter with a weka, a large flightless bird that looks slightly like a kiwi, but with a shorter beak. It waddled away from us, although we have been warned that these birds have the tendency to be kleptomaniacs – even more so than our friends the Keas (the alpine parrots).
Time passed quickly and we eventually found a place to camp instead of trying to push on further to Kiwi Hut. Plus, there was one more sketchy river crossing which we would need to contend with before the hut, so we decided that instead of attempt it exhausted at the end of the day, we would tackle it tomorrow.
We camped by the side of the river, and there were lot of sandflies. We quickly climbed into our tent to eat.
Day 39, Campsite to Hurunui Hut #3 27.5km
We started our morning waking up to the sound of mysterious and loud bird calls. It might have been our bird friends the wekas. I inspected the campsite and was relieved that they didn’t disturb or steal any of the gear that we had left out of our tent.
We carried on with our travels down the trail and slowly the trail became more and more obvious. We approached our crossing of the Taramakau River and saw that it was very crossable. After we crossed we celebrated because we managed to cross all of the water courses without incident after a major rain event. This we deemed quite the accomplishment.
On our way to Locke Stream Hut we came across some south bounders one of which remembered meeting us on Eagle Creek Trail on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014. The trail world is quite small.
At Locke Stream Hut we had lunch and also admired the work that went into this hut from the 1930s. It was made completely out of native wood with only hand tools. The floors and joists were surprisingly flat given the scenario.
We climbed to a saddle, Harpers Pass, and noticed a dramatic change in vegetation from our previous saddles. There are trees that look more like the epiphytes of Florida attached to the ends of the branches and sort of look like funny palm trees.
As we climbed down from the saddle we parted ways with the Germans (Bastian and Tabia) who we have been chatting with along the way for the past two days. They started to walk a bit faster then usual.
Later we approached someone who we thought must either be a southbounder or one of the Germans. It turned out to be Sam, sitting on the trail eating the entire contents of her food bag (or so she claimed). Confused, we asked her if she had seen the Germans and she hadn’t. We had no idea how we could have past them.
We chatted with Sam and compared notes about yesterdays events. The rope climb, the rumors of a young woman getting washed down stream, and why she wasn’t wearing any trousers. She was wearing her underwear with her rain skirt over top, which was slightly see-through. The solutions people come up with to help with the pain that comes with chaffing…
After a few more km of catching up and finding out that in fact both she android has the fMartha had fallen into the Deception River (but didn’t get swept away), we got to a three wire bridge. This is basically tightrope line with two more wires to hold on to as you cross. Not for someone with bad balance or a fear or heights. I watched John and Sam cross, and I opted to ford the river. With my frozen shoulder, I wouldn’t have been able to reach one of the wires anyway.
Finally we arrived at a full Hurunui Hut. It was Saturday so locals were out for the weekend. We set up our tent nearby with swarms of sandflies to help us out during the process.
An hour later a person walked by our tent- it was Billy, a north bounder we met ages ago. He told us that he thought he saw the Germans camping just a few km back.
We went to sleep feeling better that we hadn’t just abandoned them. They probably just made a wrong turn somewhere and we overtook them before they decided to camp. Hopefully we’ll run into them tomorrow for the full story.
Day 40: Hurunui Hut #3 to Kiwi Hope Hut, 19km
We slept somewhat poorly due to wind. In the morning we heard what sounded like very light rain on the tent, and we argued over whether it was actually rain or whether it was just the sound of sandflies against our tent (they tend to sound like rain, and there were lots of them)
Then, since there were so many people in the hut last night, there was a long line for the toilet in the morning. I decided to let John wait in the line while I hiked ahead.
It was flat and along a valley where I managed to scare up a herd of cows, the first we’ve seen in a while. It kind of startled me, so I took my pack off to take off a layer in the hopes that John would catch up. I heard voices in the distance, and it turned out to be Martha and Sam hiking towards me. They told me John was still in line when they left, but I was not to worry. I hiked on with them.
We crossed a stream and then the trail went up to the right leaving the valley behind to enter the forest. You could still see the valley down below along with the river, and I stopped again to take off another layer and let Sam and Martha go ahead. I then saw John’s bright orange hat down in the valley and ran down to a clearing in the trees to shout down to him. He reminded me that some southbounders warned us about a section covered in downed trees, and this was probably it, so we should just follow the valley instead of heading into the woods. I bushwhacked down to him, and we carried on in the valley.
The valley was cold, windy and there were bursts of light rain. The valley was also home to many herds of cows, and we carefully navigated past four herds, taking note of the bulls and the cows with young. We gave them lots of space.
We crossed the river in the valley many times, as it had many braids, and we were sometimes forced to do so.
Eventually we intersected the trail and headed into the woods again. We were very sluggish. We felt like we were sleep walking, we were so tired. We tried stopping to eat, but the sandflies were so bad that I could barely take a bite of food without having a mouthful of sandflies with it. So we kept walking. When we stopped for another break, two robins came straight up to us and watched us eat. They were so cute the way they looked at us and almost landed on us.
The forest was also buzzing with yellow jackets. We couldn’t figure out why they were out since it was kind of a cold, slightly rainy day. Besides the buzzing, we also heard beautiful calls from birds echoing each other, which we finally figured out were bell birds. They’re somewhat shy compared to robins or fan tails, but we were able to spot one to identify it.
Finally we came to another valley where it was again very windy, and our tired, slow brains enjoyed watching the thistle seeds fly by. They look basically like dandelion seeds.
We got to Kiwi Hope hut around 4pm and promptly took a nap. The hut is large with two bunk rooms and a common area. Around 5:30 a few people showed up, waking us up, and we got up to eat dinner. In the common area we found the Germans, and found out that they did take a wrong turn yesterday, and wound up camping just 30 minutes before the hut next to the three wire bridge last night. We were glad they caught up.
We are going to be making it into Boyle Village tomorrow, so we allowed ourselves two dinners and several extra snacks along with many spoonfuls of peanut butter. After eating all that we started to wonder if our next resupply box will have enough food in it. We may need to hitchhike out to Hanmer Springs in order to get extra food. Plus this next section is supposed to be really hard, so it may take us more days that we expect.