Te Araroa Trail Hamilton Hut to Lake Coleridge
I had probably the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in a hut last night! Even though there were about 15 people, there were no snorers and no mice!! Everyone got up around 6.45 am and Mike, Phil and I left around 8 am.
Harper River Track
Today was another day of beech forest and walking down the Harper river valley. We took things pretty slowly as we only had about 15 km to go to the Trustpower Campsite at the top of Lake Coleridge. The trail notes mentioned that we could stay on the true left of the river for most of the way, only crossing at the end – but somehow we lost it within 30 mins of us starting. This meant we were back to numerous river crossings, which it feels like we’ve spent months doing!!
As we made our way down the Harper River, we vaguely followed a 4 wheel drive track, with a whole lot of ‘winging it’. The river became more wide and swift, and it got to the point where although we could see the 4 wheel drive track on the left of the river we stayed on the right, as a.) we didn’t fancy another crossing due to the fast flow and b.) we needed to be on the right side in 1.5kms anyway.
In hindsight, we probably should have retraced our steps and carefully crossed the river earlier to save ourselves an hour of bush-bash. We remained on the right and found a little track going up into the bush. It didn’t go far so we bush bashed our way through the forest, down and up a side river gully, and around the odd slip or two before heading back to the river.
We had a pretty steep descent to the river including an overhang where I had to make use of both the boys. This involved taking my pack off and lowering it (and my poles) to Phil (who was below). I went down backward whilst being unable to see any foot placings, but hanging onto several useful tree branches. The final hand was from Mike (who was above) to actually slide me down the overhang. Excellent fun! This little gnarly part ended in a 30-metre upstream river walk and a view of the ‘Pinnacles’.
If you’d have told me 6 months ago about some of the things I’d be doing on the trail, I wouldn’t have thought I’d had it in me, but on this section especially, every day brings new decisions and new challenges – all good learning experiences. It’s great to be with the boys – I’m taking a few more risks than I usually would, but with these two lovelies to back me up I feel safe doing so.
Harper River Pinnacles
The Pinnacles were pretty cool – an area with many shards of pointy rock sticking up vertically. I’m trying to think of the geological reason for them – presumably, something to do with a harder rock seam in a soft rock area.. something to Google later. After all the excitement we had a quick break and reflected on the past hour. We’d lost time, and Ti and Kirsten had overtaken us on the left-hand side of the river.
Shortly after, we ended up at the confluence with the braided Avoca river. We chose our route carefully and crossed fairly easily. From there the valley floor widened into river terraces and farmland. The trail stuck to the river, and we ambled along and chatted.
The scenery in the Harper valley was amazing. Again we were surrounded by mountains on all sides, including the Craigieburn range to the East, and Mount Gargus and Mount Oakden ahead. Again some peaks had a light dusting of snow.
Towards Lake Coleridge
As we neared the road towards Lake Coleridge, a huge wind blew up. We could see dust being blown high into the air ahead of us. It was difficult to walk for being buffeted around! We knew rain was coming in from the recent forecasts in Arthur’s Pass and saw it appear from the West.
We hurried into the very exposed and cold Trustpower Campsite near the Harper Road junction and set up our tents as we needed some kind of shelter. This was a tricky part of the trail. We were about to reach the Rakaia river (which is too big to cross, and in the middle of nowhere). TA’ers have to do an 85 km road walk to the start of the next section or arrange transport.
Trail Angel and a lift to Methven
Mike had been offered a lift from his friend Chris, and amazingly there was a little window of Vodafone signal near the campsite (by the green farm buildings if any SOBOs are reading this). We contacted Chris and long story short, he was able to come and pick us up and drove us to Methven! Chris, you’re now officially a trail angel – thanks sooo much!!
We all enjoyed a huge burger in the Blue Pub, the boys did a bit of resupply shopping and we called our loved ones. We’ve got an early start in the morning, as we get a bus around the Rakaia river. It’s hard to believe the next time I post (in about a week or so’s time from Lake Tekapo) I will have finished my TA – Yikes!! The great news is I’ve now raised nearly $1,300 for my local community centre! Thanks so much to everyone who’s donated your kindness is much appreciated!