Monday 20th February 2017 2964km – 2997km Invercargill to Bluff Day 113

So this is it; the last day of the Te Araroa and it’s a pretty big one unfortunately due to the little stuff up of the accomodation location.
We walked back into Invercargill down the footpaths of the main drag with all the traffic of the city and made a stop into McDonalds when we finally got there. I left McDonalds a little earlier then the others after to visit an ATM and top up on my cash situation which was rather lacking. On the way to the estuary we passed the sign to the Central City Camping Park where we are booked into tonight and it appears that this one is actually in Invercargill for a pleasant change.

The Te Araroa picked up the Invercargill Estuary Walkway and gave us 11km of walking along a gravelled walking/cycling shared track which made for some pleasant walking. The built up sections of the track with water on most sides were the most pleasant parts, whilst a lot of the other bits were unfortunately not so exciting.

Once the trail dumped up back onto the Bluff Highway, the day became very awful in a real hurry. It was 15.5km of walking down a very busy highway, on the verge of the road dodging lots of light vehicles and trucks. There were lots of Fulton Hogan trucks and even more logging trucks carrying pine logs down to the Bluff port facilities for chipping and shipping overseas. I ended up putting in the earphones and listening to podcasts in order to keep my sanity.

Ray started to fall apart once more and Luke stayed with him while Carl quoted “lets huff and puff” and we both headed off together to primarily get off the highway and secondarily finish the Te Araroa itself. Carl set a fair pace and I just tagged along behind, constantly watching over his shoulder so I could always see the approaching traffic situation. There was a sign board earlier showing the proposed route the Te Araroa will eventually take to Bluff, which if it comes to fruition will remove a lot of the dangerous road walking. Honestly it cannot come too soon. It really was such a shame to end the Te Araroa with such a horrid piece of road walking on the last day.

Once we reached the Foveaux Walkway junction and departed the highway on the outskirts of Bluff it was a very welcome and pleasant change for the better. The track headed across to the ocean side and across the high escarpment above the sea. The views were very refreshing after the horrible road section. After approximately three kilometres we exited the farmland section and entered the reserve and its manicured gravel walkways heading for the finish. There was no more mud, water crossings or grassed sections left on the Te Araroa!

About a kilometre from Stirling Point we could clearly make out the yellow sign post with all the location pointers on it; this is the southern terminus of the Te Araroa and the end point for us. We arrived a bit after this and the place is a real tourist attraction with lots of people driving up to the carpark and taking photos. It felt a little odd finishing and also having so many people making a big thing out of their drive to the spot as well. We took a few photos and Carl threw his shoes and poles on the sign as well.

We sat around the pole, not really sure how we felt and got into some of the food we had brought along; chocolate, cheese and rice biscuits. It felt like a rather large let down as there wasn’t even a sign board or a plaque recognising the Te Araroa that we found. We did have a few people talk to us though as they knew exactly what we had just achieved just by looking at us (yes we stand out from the others).

Ray and Luke appeared in the distance about 45 minutes later and I filmed them coming in. We spent a fair while joking around and took some more photos before finally thinking about hitching back to Invercargill. Unfortunately the tourists had dried up by this time and we had no luck trying to get a lift out, so we started to walk around the two kilometres to Bluff township. A quick refreshment stop at the dairy and moving on to towards the town centre we decided to split into two groups in order to try and get a lift.

Luke and I got a lift with Alistair who works at the bitumen plant and we had a very nice conversation and ride right to the Holiday Park. Alistair was pretty impressed with our walk and now understands why he keeps seeing crazy walkers tramping along the very busy Bluff Highway all the time. We were still in his vehicle out the front of the destination talking when we saw Ray and Carl get dropped off across the road. Splitting up had paid off this time to get a hitch.

The cabin was nice and reasonably priced between four people at $130. We were all pretty shattered and spent a bit of time lying about before realising that we better sort out dinner ASAP as it was nearly 8pm. We ended up at an Indian takeaway just down the road and due to the lack of anything else in the proximity, I decided to have it as well; I hate Indian food.

So we all sat in the cabin and ate our food before having a shower and retiring for the night. No one even went out for a beer and the only one that partied on was Luke as he was nearly finished an addictive book. So the Te Araroa is now over and we are all pretty battered around and tired. I also realised that I had only taken one day off at Methven for the whole 1300km of the South Island!


Sunday 19th February 2017 2932km – 2964km Riverton to Invercargill Day 112

I had a ripper sleep in a really comfortable bed, although I’m still feeling a little tired from yesterday’s waking effort. Everyone was really relaxed this morning as we knew we didn’t have any rush to get moving at all due to our scheduled late start. Luke had sowed a seed in my mind last night about yoghurt and bananas for breakfast and I decided this was a good idea and visited the supermarket to procure the said goods. I called into the Postmaster bakery on the way back and grabbed a take away coffee as well and spotted the full breakfast on the menu; I probably would’ve grabbed that if I had thought of it earlier.

Back at the hostel I prepared the breakfast of muesli, bananas, yoghurt and milk and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. It’s a bit strange sitting in the lounge room and bar of Monkey’s as it’s a former pub still complete with the old bar and beer taps still in place.

Poor Ray returned from the Postmaster Bakery Cafe with only a Banana cake portion and a bit annoyed. He had ordered a full breakfast and some other goods, but went to pay on the credit card as he is out of cash, hard to believe in this day and age they don’t accept credit but will take eftpos. I also realised I wouldn’t have been able to pay for a full breakfast either as I was low on cash as well.

About 9:30am we started to actually pack up the bags and get ready to leave in a really slow manner. Luke was dragging the chain a little as he was trying to finish some taxation affairs on the wifi before departure.

We backtracked to the river and followed it till the mouth and the beach that was to be today’s journey. It was quickly apparent that the beach would be one of the good journeys of the Te Araroa as the conditions were darn near perfect; not too hot, slight wind behind us or to the side and a very nice flat and hard beach at low tide. We still had 22km of beach to walk though, which is still a fair amount to cover.

I was finding the day really pleasant and the beach wasn’t bothering me at all really. Ray seemed to be suffering the effects of yesterday’s effort unfortunately and seemed to be suffering a little. Ray was the only one that hadn’t walked the 90 mile beach as well and hadn’t experienced the true suffering like the rest of us up north (Ray started the TA in the Tararuas).

We struggled to get accomodation booked yesterday for Invercargill for tonight as everything seemed to be full and ended up taking a cabin at the Top 10 Holliday Park in Invercargill. Unfortunately as we figured out during the day, it was more like Top 10 Holiday Park South Christchurch! The place was 6km north of the city and a major problem to get to. The others started to look at the maps and decided to exit the beach early and pick up a Ferry Rd/Bay Rd to make the journey a fair bit shorter. I mentally tossed this up and thought of going ahead all the way into Invercargill on the beach and trying to hitch north or something,  but ended up going the other way. It turned into being a bit of a mistake as the road walking was pretty unpleasant and horribly boring.

Poor Ray drifted away at some stage and ended up coming by us with a hitch all the way to the destination. The rest of us plodded on to find the destination was totally out in the boon docks when we finally arrived. The caravan park was very nice though and we arrived to find a pretty shattered Ray sound asleep in the bed. Dinner was a total pain as well as we had an extra 4km round trip just to go to the Chinese restaurant and Countdown supermarket. Our last day of the Te Araroa is tomorrow and we have an extra 6km added to it just to get back to Invercargill!

Saturday 18th February 2017 2890km – 2932km Martins Hut to Riverton Day 111

Martins Hut only has one small window and is so dark inside as a result. About 6:30am we started to rise and opening the door let’s a little light into the hut, not that’s there’s much though as it’s buried in the forest.

The boys have decided it’s a good idea to push onto Riverton today rather than do this section over two days in order to beat the incoming forecasted rain to Bluff. I would’ve been more than happy to camp at Colac Bay and break it into two days and have half a day off in Riverton looking around, eating and lazing about though.

The track had a tiniest bit of mud down to a road just below the hut where Simon’s vehicle was parked. From this point we started the Water Race Track. This track follows a small channel dug into the hillside following the contour level around amazingly the channel kept going for around 20 kilometres! The topographic maps show the water race falls about 20m or one contour interval over all that distance. We were all pretty sick of the track after a few kilometres as it was pretty well all the same and you couldn’t really see anything apart from the surrounding forest. Later we had a few glimpses of Lake George and Colac Bay which just gave me hope that the track would finally end. I decided I was going to keep walking on until it was finished before I stopped for lunch. It turns out the water race was constructed for gold sluice mining activities further around the hillside. The water race was capturing all of the streams it encountered and directing them around to the sluice mining sites. The few photos on the information board shows the wastelands that it created.

We had a nice break at he carpark before pressing onto Colac Bay which had a 4km bit on the highway which was not so nice. Leaving Colac Bay there’s a few kilometres of road before you’re forced down onto the sand/gravel beach. The Tihaka Beach Track then starts which takes you all they way to the outskirts of Riverton, it’s a combination or scrub bashing, beach walking, paddock walking and some nice paths. The track exits right up near a high headland overlooking Riverton.

Ray was getting prettying tired by this point and Carl and I had gone ahead. We finally got into town proper and followed the water edge around and crossed the bridge. We had a quick stop for some snacks and drink at the supermarket before checking into the Monkey Backpackers which have a great deal of $40 for a private twin room. It was 6pm by this stage and we were all pretty tired unfortunately. Carl and I tucked into an average meal at the Carriers Arms with an ice cream from the dairy on the return.

We sat around chatting for a fair while and had a pretty late night. Since Doug, Oleri and Ned are also here we have a group of seven which will finish the Te Araroa together at Bluff in two more days!

Tomorrow we’ll head off late around ten am as the high tide is around 2pm and we have 22km of beach to walk to get to Invercargill ; it sounds like hell to me.

Friday 17th February 2017 2861km – 2890km Otautau to Martins Hut Day 110

Up and into it as usual this morning, but we have a kitchen available which is so much more comfortable for a change. We walked into the town centre and Carl and Luke headed north to the Otautau – Tuatapere Rd intersection while Ray and I held back to give them a chance to get a lift first. We followed up a bit later and found they were still on the side of the road. Things were not looking good as now there were four of us. No fear though, Dr Bob turns up again this time heading out of town kayaking for the day and stops and we all fit in somehow, packs and all. The funny bit was the kayak was strapped down to the car with no roof racks of anything.

The track headed up Merrivale Road and into Longwood forest on a gravel track for many kilometres before striking out onto a tramping track for 4km to the Bald Hill summit. The track was through the forest and then out onto marshy clear sections and there was one bit with some pretty deep mud, I lost a leg up to the upper thigh in one foul step.

On top of Bald Hill, we had some pretty amazing views of the ocean and could also see the hill marking Bluff and the end of the Te Araroa. A bit more road walking and then back into thd forest and heading for the next peak of Longwood Trig at 765m. I came across Oleri in this section and then Doug and Ned at the Trig itself. At this point we can clearly see Bluff, Inbercargill, Riverton and Stewart Island. This is the last decent hill in the whole Te Araroa and the significance was definitely not lost on us.

I walked with them the final few kilometres down to Martins Hut and we experienced the ‘bad’ mud of Longwood Forest. To be clear it was muddy, but no where near as bad as the Northlands or as long. Arriving at Martins Hut we found a Kiwi gentleman in residence already (only four bunks) so we sat around waiting for the others to turn up. Simon “Chappo” from Riverton turned up as he was out hunting as well and we chatted for quite a while. Simon is a fellow Australian from NSW and even offered us all camping spots in Riverton which we may take him up on. Ned, Doug and Oleri pushed on to the next hopeful campsite location, while Simon headed off up the hill. Poor Carl arrived last and ended up on the floor for the night which was easier then a tent.

 Another walker turned up at 9:15pm and is setting tent up outside for the night.

Thursday 16th February 2017 2846km – 2861km Woodlaw Forest to Otautau Day 109

It was pretty cold this morning and knowing I only had a short walk for the day I wasn’t too worried about staying in bed while it warmed up a little. I made it till 8am and finally got out of the sleeping bag and started the normal morning process, even this was slow though and I started walking at 9am.

The track through the old growth section of Woodlaw was pretty dry Beech forest and easy going. It exited down lower into a pine forest plantation and then across a farm laneway and onto the Otautau – Tuatapere Rd where I sought a lift into Otautau. It took about 10 minutes and I was picked up by an interesting Canadian gentleman who is very familiar with the Te Araroa. I was a little confused, but it turns out Dr Bob is doing a long stint working as a resident doctor in Otautau. I was dropped right in the centre of town outside a Chinese/fish and chop store and decided to go inside since it was midday. I got the $5 chicken and fried rice and it wasn’t bad at all. Next it was over to the supermarket and it was a chocolate milk, chips and a bottle of soft drink.

Carl had confirmed the place I was after was called Holt Park and I set out on the short walk there. Carl, Luke and Ray were on there way back into town to have a second go at the food offerings. Holt Park is just a sports field complex where you can camp on, it has a small building with toilet, shower, basic kitchen, washing machine and dryer. After setting up my tent a French couple gave me some washing powder to enable me to get the load going.

The afternoon was filled in with banter, playing around and charging everything up in the kitchen with the limited power outlets. Around 4pm I walked back over and got supplies to get me through to Riverton. I also found out the library had great wifi accessibility from the street and made full use of it to do some updating and uploads.
Banter around a dinner venue was started closer to 6pm and the steak night at the local pub settled the issue pretty quickly; 500gm rump, chips and coleslaw for $18.50. The only poor sole that struggled a little with the steak was Ray, Carl helped him out though and ate the fat for him.

Luke and I popped down the the supermarket again and came back with 2 x 2lt ice cream containers and we departed for Holt Park to get stuck into them. Ray didn’t come so it was 4lt of ice cream between 3 people. We tried hard but unfortunately there was about a litre left and we were all done! We passed on the leftovers to a French family of four that are cycle touring and staying here as well; they dispatched it pretty quickly.

Not much else happened for the rest of the night and we retired for the evening nice and full.

Wednesday 15th February 2017 2807.5km – 2846km Lower Wairaki Hut to Woodlaw Forest Day 108

I set the two plastic mouse traps last night with a little bit of fresh peanut butter on them and thought I would see what I would catch. It was near 10pm when I ceased reading and no more then 5 minutes later I could hear some movement and off went the trap. I got up and cleared that one and went off to sleep. In the middle of the night I went to the toilet and found another victim, so I cleared that one as well. In the morning I found that I had a third which was pretty impressive as they were all caught on the same trap.

I lingered in bed a little longer this morning as it was pretty cool and I got away from the hut at 8:20am. The track didn’t leave me cool for very long though as it wandered through the forest and had a few small ups and downs before taking on a 450 odd metre climb. I was pretty toasty and sweating a fair bit by the time I reached the top which was tree covered. Luckily only a few more metres on I popped out of the forest onto the Telford Tops which was rocky and covered in short vegetation and grass. The views along this ridge are pretty spectacular and I could could also see the ocean to the south for the first time. The track descended along the ridge for a fair while before spearing off to the right and down to the Telford Campsite. There is just a toilet here, grassy area and access to the Telford Burn for water. It’s just outside the boundary of Mt Linton Station where no camping is allowed for the next section. Carl, Luke and Ray camped here last night.

The track across Mt Linton started out nice and then crossed the Burn shortly thereafter and became a gravel grind for all but a few kilometres to the far property boundary. It was easy walking, pretty boring but interspersed with some good views at times.

Once on the Straun Flat Road I kept going towards the Twinlaw Mast and Woodlaw forest with the changed plans to grab food tomorrow in Otautau instead of Nightcaps. I was low on water though due to not filling up on the go as I normally would due to the cow and sheep poo infested streams. I figured I could grab water high on the slopes towards the peak at Twinlaw Mast. Unfortunately they were poo infested as well so my plans started to come a little unstuck as I was running out of water and couldn’t camp for the night like this. The TA app shows plenty of campsites across the high grounds of Woodlaw Forest, but no water supplies for about 10km past the summit. I was hesitant to push on through the Woodlaw Forest Conservation Area at this hour without water though so kept an eye out for sources. I found a dam soon enough and set about filtering some water for dinner and breakfast tomorrow. I went to one of the potential campsites indicated on the app hard up against the conservation area; it’s nothing special but it’ll do for the night. I’m very happy that there are only a few sandflies here for a change!

Tuesday 14th February 2017 2778km – 2807.5km Lower Princhester Hut to Lower Wairaki Hut Day 107

It rained pretty well all night and it was still going this morning. It is pretty good knowing that the only effect that it will have on me is some muddy parts of the track as there are no river crossings that will be an issue today.

The others were not early risers and were still in bed when I left at 7:20am. I had donned the rain jacket and pants, but it quickly became apparent that it was too warm for both of these garments. I removed the pants and hoped the shorts didn’t get too wet as I get a bit of chafing with my undies and shorts combination.

The track quickly climbed away from Bog Burn and headed for a saddle about 3km along by sidling the higher hills. After the saddle the track dropped down following water courses until it exited onto a large open tussock grass section. The going was very pleasant across these plains and it was pretty wet underfoot on marshy sort of terrain. The open sections had been very well marked with DOC markers (star dropper with 30cm section of orange PVC pipe wired to it) and I was very grateful as the track couldn’t been seen under the tussock grass for a lot of the time. The track kept alternating between open grassy sections and Beech forest sections for quite a while and it had you guessing where the track was actually headed. Eventually it came to a saddle right up against the Aparima River and a bit more walking up and over a hill and I was at the Aparima Huts. It had taken about 4hr 45min to get to this point for the day.

I took the opportunity to remove my shoes and inners to rinse out the mud. I also removed and rinsed the mud out of the socks at the same time. In the hut I met Red, a New Zealander lady who is taking it real easy for the final legs of the Te Araroa as she has time up her sleeve and needs to finish on a certain date to do with a charity she is walking for. Red got a bit cold and wet and even took an unintentional swim the day before and was looking nice and cosy in the hut with the pot belly going. The other chap present was a German lad heading north on the TA, he had traveled from Lower Wairaki Hut and was planning on pushing onto Princhester Hut for the night. It was quite funny as Red and I were asking about his plans for the upcoming food drops and he had no idea that they were even required as he hadn’t read that far forward; I think it was a bit of a surprise to him the sections could be so isolated.

I headed onto Lower Wairaki Hut and noted the sign stated 16 or 17km and about 6 hours and I thought that can’t be correct. It wasn’t as the distance is about 12km and in 3hr 40min I was there. I was getting a little tired towards the end of the day mainly due to the walking pole situation.

I took a bit of a fall before reaching Lower Wairaki Hut mainly due to the Leki Microvario Carbon pole falling apart again right when I had a foot slip out. So now the pole has an internal metal part broken and is next to useless. Interestingly the carbon itself is not broken at all though. I had to walk the rest of the day with only one pole and I find it pretty hard going especially in slippery of steep sections of the trail as it requires a lot more care to traverse these sections and not fall over. It will be interesting to see how the warranty claim goes with this one.

Just before getting to the hut I had to Ford the Wairaki River which was a simple and straightforward crossing. I took the chance to clean up my legs from the mud and stood in the water for a while to help rinse the mud from the shoes. It was just a few hundred metres from here and I was at the hut itself. This hut is the second last  hut on the Te Araroa and the last remaining one is an old historic one that the notes don’t paint in a good picture. So this may be in fact the last hut I stay in on the Te Araroa!

I spent the rest of the afternoon reading and relaxing which is one of the things that I most enjoy about the Te Araroa and hiking in general. No one else had turned up by 9pm, so it looks like I’ll have the place to myself tonight (and maybe some mice?)

Tomorrow I’ll head to Birchwood and out to Nightcaps to grab the last real food resupply that will get me through to Riverton. I’m not sure where I’ll end up staying tomorrow night as there are options on Birchwood Station and in Ohai which you must pass through to get to Nightcaps.
It’s pretty amazing going through the notes and maps with under 200km to go and the resupply situation all figured out; I’ll be finished in around one week!