CURRENT WHEREABOUTS: TWIZEL
MILEAGE HIKED IN LAST SEGMENT: 6 DAYS, 120K approximatelySECTIONS: Clent Hills Track, Rangiatata River, Stag Saddle along the Two Thumbs Track
The last week has been pretty awesome. Despite that its getting later in NZ’s season and the deciduous trees are turning golden tones, the weather is superb. By day it’s warm and sunny(and sometimes HOT and sunny) and by evening the temperature drops, but still not enough to to be described as cold. It’s the perfect hiking weather in my opinion.
So let’s start back at the beginning of the week, although to be honest, most of the time I don’t even know what day it is. But a week’s time ago, I was hitching out of the town of Methven, and on that particular morning, I was not having the greatest weather, nor luck in hitching. Dyan (my Texan friend whom I’ve teamed up with and have only lost once…story to come) spent 2 hours trying to get out of town. Finally, after my thumb was frozen and my legs covered in goose-bumbps, we caught a lift back up towards the trail. This man, whom is from Czech and over here on a 1-year working holiday, was driving WAY past the speed limit and passed the turnoff to the trail. So, once again we were on the side of the road, readying ourselves to throw our thumbs out, when a couple w who was sightseeing offered to drive us the 5K’s back up the main road to our turnoff. This was rumored to be a tough-hitch, in fact a tougher-that-tough as we were lucky to see one car. ALL DAY. Well, luck was on our side, as that one car came pulling off the main road and onto the gravel tread no more than two minutes. A frowny, dismal start turned optimistic and hopeful when they scooped us up and drove us 35K’s up the road.
We started the next section through farmland that wound it’s way up into the mountains. We were sweating furiously when it came for a lunch-break, but no sooner than we sat down (and after Dylan jumped in the creek), did a storm barrel over the ridge. We were now pressing farther into the mountains, up onto a gently rolling landscape, donning rain gear and quick paces. It is during these times, that I will often run. Seems crazy, I know, especially when you consider I have a pack on and trekking poles, but in all actuality it is quite enjoyable and there’s been at least a dozen times I’ve done it. A sort of non-competition adventure race if you will. That night led us down to Comyns hut, which my first impression was PO-DUNK! It was derelict, to say the least, but in the misty, wet weather, it was a welcoming sight. And in addition to the hut, we were greeted by 5 other thru-hikers! Four Americans and one man originally from France, but who now resides in NZ. The Americans were a group I’ve met before, a fun, social crew who are very fun to be around. We all huddled together for the night (I pitched my tent fearing there would be a few too many mouths a snoring) and by morning we were all hiking upstream together. Two dozen river crossings were to be had, and by the time the sun kissed our faces, we were rejuvenated with warmth and energy for the next bit.
The trail then passed over Clent Hills Saddle, with sweeping vistas and steep, scree slopes to traverse over. It then descended back into the valley, bobbing through tussock and speargrass country. The Americas pushed on to town, leaving Dylan and I to soak up the late afternoon hours are one of my favorite huts. Manuka sits below an absolutely stellar view of Mt Taylor, a beautiful peak that reminds me of Mt Shasta. In fact, I felt so at home in the terrain as it has a high-desert-meets-mountain feel. Each day felt as if I was channeling the energy of my friends back home and instead of feeling homesick, I fell right in tune with the rhythm of the trail.
Afterward, the trail returned to another one of NZ’s renown braided Rivers, the Rangiatata. The ford came easy enough, maybe thigh-deep at most, and the cold waters were a welcoming treat on the hot, sunny and cloudless afternoon. The track from there headed into the Two Thumbs Track, another mountainous track with exceptional views and a staggering amount of elevation gained and lost. Past hanging valleys, scree slopes and mountains that are literally crumbling away, I flowed from marker to marker through tussock. I spent much of this section sans-Dylan and fortunately, after an unexpected zero day at one of the huts while waiting for him, a weekend hiker informed me that he had seen him (with the Americans), but that still didn’t explain why they never came to the hut. As it turned out he was trying to catch me after not making it over the saddle the night before (it was a big push over two passes and 30K and he had slept in). But in the end, we found each other in Lake Tekapo, and were now in the town of Twizel, two zero-days for Mary later….
As you can gather, I’m fully embracing a non-purist approach to the hike. So us two Americans wander the trail, sticking to the mountains and big river valleys and sticking our thumbs out when the going takes to roads or other unfavorable sections. Today were going to detour from the hike and go explore Mt Cook, as the trail doesn’t go up to the NZ highlight and well, I didn’t come to NZ to miss out on such places. After we’ll hop back to the Te Araroa to hike the Ahuriri and Breast Hills Tracks towards Wanaka and beyond.
Well, thats all for now. Like usual, no time to proof-read.