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!