January 30, 2017
km traveled today: hitch back to trail + 8 walked
total TA km: 2079
Today we finally got moving, and were quite excited to do so. We left the hostel after a pretty relaxed morning (including a reunion with Hamish from way back on the North Island! We thought he was weeks ahead but apparently just a couple days behind), eventually starting our hitch at around 10:30. Team Jack and I were successful very quickly, getting a ride down to the highway junction in under 10 minutes, and getting a ride from there to our trailhead in probably under 5, and we arrived at 11:30. That leg was the longer car ride; about 40 km and 30 minutes up to Windy Point where we could cross the flooded Boyle River on a swingbridge.
We ended up waiting at the entrance off the highway for two and half hours, though, as Shep and Jasper were having a terrible time getting a ride.
They arrived at about 2, tired and exasperated, and we walked down the driveway a little bit to the carpark and ate lunch in the shade of the bus shelter, both parties having baked in the sun for three hours.
After about a half hour we were ready to hit the trail, and as soon as we did we became acutely aware of the 8 days of food we packed for possible weather delays, as this section through to Arthur’s Pass crosses a lot of rivers that are likely to be pretty high given the rainy summer so far and will get more swollen with any future rain. We planned to go 15 km to Hope-Kiwi Lodge, a new and apparently very nice hut, which the sign at the road-end told us was five hours walking, but we noted that there was a hut only three hours along the trail as well.
The track passed by a little combination school and outdoor recreation center right before approaching the river and bridge.
Over the bridge and we were on our way up the rocky dry track through brushy manuka shrubs, ascending a tiny bit to a large yellow flat, the floor of the Hope River valley. I think we’re about to be doing a lot of this kind of walking, which we were introduced to right after Waiau Pass – following wide braided rivers up their huge flat valleys with sparsely vegetated peaks lining either side, the kind of landscape in which you wouldn’t be surprised to see a dinosaur or mammoth.
Anyway, we crossed some of the tussocked flat for a kilometer or two before entering some beech forest, which actually here extends right up to the river bank itself.
We stayed in softly undulating forest for about five km, stopping at a couple streams originating in the peaks right above us to drink and fill water. We could see across the river at one point, from a break in the trees on our left out over to the flat on the other side, where some cows were grazing and there was a small basic-looking hut. We soon got a taste of our own cattle flats on this side, a couple kilometers before the Hope Halfway Shelter (the three-hour hut), and for the last bit we were in and out of clearings dodging piles of cow surprise.
We came upon the clearing where the shelter stood at about 5:30 and as Jasper’s knee was paining him and it was a beautiful evening and we are in no rush, we called it a day.
The hut is a “basic” shelter, meaning all that’s guaranteed are bunks and shelter, so we had to walk a couple minutes to a nice cow-free stream to get water for the night. We made spaghetti and as we devoured it Hamish showed up at 7:30 or 8, and actually chose to keep trucking to Hope-Kiwi! So it’s just us tonight in this six bunk palace. We’re getting to sleep pretty early and hope to get a nice day in tomorrow before it’s supposed to start raining pretty heavy in the afternoon. Maybe a weather day the next day!