I had probably the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in a hut last night! Even though we had about 15 people, there were no snorers and no mice!! Everyone got up around 6.45am and Mike, Phil and I left around 8am.
Today was another day of beech forest and walking down the Harper river valley. 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 the path ended on the left within 30 mins of us starting. This meant we were back to numerous river crossings, which it feels like we’ve spent months doing!!
We took things pretty slowly today, as we only had about 15kms to go to the Trustpower Campsite at the top of Lake Coleridge. As we made our way down the Harper river, we vaguely followed a 4 wheel drive track, with a whole lot of ‘winging it’ too. 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 discoloured water and b.) we needed to be on the right side in 1.5kms anyway.
In hindsight we probably could/should have carefully crossed and saved ourselves an hour of what followed. We remained on the right & found a little hunter’s path 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 one drop/overhang where I had to make use of both the boys. First I had to take my pack off, lose the walking poles & lower them to Phil (below), then going down backwards and being unable to see any foot placings, hang onto several overhanging tree branches with a final hand from Mike (above) to actually slide down the overhang. Excellent fun! This little gnarly part ended in a 30m slippery walk in the river itself (which was pretty fast flowing) to get around an area called ‘the Pinnacles’ and the landslip beneath it.
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. 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.
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 – so they must have found a good place to cross further upstream.
Shortly after, we ended up at the confluence with the Avoca river which we crossed via several braids. 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 Craigeburn range to the East, and Mount Gargus and Mount Oakden ahead. Again some peaks had a light dusting of snow.
As we neared the road, 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 exposed Trustpower Campsite near the Harper rd junction and set up our tents. We were now at a tricky part of the trail. We’d hit the Rakaia river (which is too big to cross, and in the middle of nowhere). TA’ers have to do an 85km road walk to the start of the next section, or arrange transport.
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 & pick us up and drove us all the way to Methven! Chris you’re now officially a trail angel?? – thanks sooo much!!
We all enjoyed a huge burger in the Blue Pub, did a bit of resupply shopping and then 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!