Te Araroa Trail Forest Creek Track (off trail)
We spent a wonderful night in the excellent accommodation at Mesopotamia Station. I spent the first couple of hours after lights out, sleeping on the sofa in front of the beautiful open fire in the lounge – which was lovely. I carted myself to bed around midnight. In the morning we woke around 6.45 am. We all had spare food, so we ate big breakfasts including another Mochatella (mocha coffee with a spoonful of Nutella in it) yum!
To Bush Stream
We started our walk at 8 am. We had 2kms to walk to the road end where we’d start Te Araroa again, to the South side of the Rangitata River. This part of New Zealand is for me, by far the most spectacular and breathtaking. Even though it was a bit cloudy we took loads of photos chatted joyfully and marvelled at the views.
It was all very ‘Lord of the Rings’. We thanked our lucky stars for the millionth time this trip, that we are so fortunate to be here. I almost shed a tear… this is my third to last day on trail. Talk about saving the best for last!
Bush Stream Track
We were heading to the Bush Stream Track at the bottom of the Two Thumbs mountain range and started off walking into the river valley. We walked along the riverside, then headed in towards the river itself as the mountains closed in around us.
About 3kms in came the first river crossing of the day. The river split from one channel into several braids. We crossed one braid of the river, which was fine – but then came the rest of it. It was fast and deep with large rocks and boulders. All of us knew we couldn’t cross solo, so we grouped up, with me in the middle of the boys. We got almost half way across and the water level came up and over my shorts before I got completely spooked and couldn’t go any further. We backed out.
While the boys looked for a better option I got thinking about the route yet to come. It was going to be at least 3 more Kms of us criss-crossing this same river, but as we’d be travelling upstream the valley became gorged. I figured the crossing we’d just attempted was probably going to be the easiest of them, and I knew I couldn’t carry on. With a heavy heart, I broke the news to the boys that I’d have to turn back and call this the end of my journey with them. I urged them to carry on and I’d find my way (by road) to Tekapo to say my goodbyes. I was so angry with myself for not being able to do these crossings but knew it wouldn’t be safe for me to attempt it.
The boys were wonderful about it. They weren’t having any of me walking out alone, “because we’re a team”. I could have cried.
Finding an alternative
Phil had seen a route on the DOC map/board earlier, and the boys had heard Sue at Mesopotamia Station mention another route over the mountains from another river valley, approx 12kms away, that would link back to TA and the Stag Saddle (the highest point on TA). We decided we’d give it a go, and plodded back out the way we’d come.
Our lucky streak hadn’t run out completely! When Phil got to the start of the track before us, there was a ute parked there. In the ute was Steve, a hunter from the Coromandel having a little sleep. He drove us the 12kms to the start of the ‘Forest Creek’ track, saving us around 2.5 hours of walking – brilliant!
The new trail started off next to farmland up the wide ‘Forest Creek’ river valley. We lunched at midday and continued closer to the river.
Phil and I navigated using the Backcountry Navigator topo map apps on our phones. It was a long afternoon over the slow terrain of the rocky river valley. Mike was nursing an injury today – a mystery sore foot, which we think was bad bruising or chilblains from walking over the sharp rocks and boulders yesterday with frozen feet in the rivers.
Up towards Bullock Bow Saddle
We reached the junction to start the climb up the Forest Creek track towards Bullock Bow Saddle at 4 pm, and we were really pleased to see the track was marked. After a quick break, we started the ridiculously steep climb of around 500m elevation, through beech forest.
We reached Felt hut by 5.30 pm. (A private hut, owned by the family who hosted us last night at Mesopotamia Station). The hut was very old, rustic and lovely, with the names of groups who’d stayed here, etched onto the walls. The boys camped outside and I stayed in the hut.
We had dinner and chatted and worked out our day for tomorrow, over two high saddles (Bullock Bow and Stag) – we’re hoping for good weather!