Te Araroa Trail Timaru River, Stodys hut (that climb..!) and Lake Hawea
My most memorable day on TA
If you’re researching Te Araroa Trail and you’re soon to embark on this incredible journey, you can look forward to a day like this. Most people have one – where the sheer gravity of your accomplishments hits you like a ton of bricks. It was my most memorable day on TA for so many reasons:
- The tedious but beautiful sidling along the Timaru river
- The river crossings
- THAT climb to Stodys – worst climb of TA
- The heat
- The incredible tops walking to Breast Hill
- That moment when you see Lake Hawea
I earned my TA stripes today. I felt every single kilometre, crossed what felt like 100 rivers, climbed that b*itch of a mountain, basked in the sunshine on the tops and broke down in floods of tears when I saw THAT view. But back to the story…
For anyone who hasn’t visited a small New Zealand backcountry hut they are usually one room with between 2-10 wooden bunks, mattresses and often a small metal kitchen bench. They generally don’t have electricity, given the very remote locations. Sometimes in the nicer ones, there might be water and a sink (but often you just help yourself from a nearby stream). There will be a separate drop toilet about 50m away… byo toilet paper. Sometimes there’s a table and seating in the larger ones.
Those on the ‘great walks’ are like palaces in comparison to the others, but we don’t get to stay in those. There are hundreds of these huts in the NZ mountains, which over time have offered refuge to trampers, hunters, mountaineers shepherds etc. in bad weather, or as an overnight shelter.
Huts are first come first served (apart from on great walks when you have to book). You can buy a night in a hut for around $8, which is done on an ‘honesty’ basis, or buy a hut pass for I think $90 for 6 months, which is what I did. This gives you access to all huts (except those on the Great Walks). Quite honestly I’d have paid $500 for it.. And I think DOC should be charging at least that for TA walkers and enforcing it – but that’s another story…
Top Timaru hut and along the Timaru River
I woke at 5.30am after a terrible night’s sleep. My itchy, blistered feet are awful at night (strangely they don’t itch in the day at all), the hut was really hot, and there were lots of sandflies around.
I headed off at 6.30am. The first part of the day was along the Timaru River valley to Stodys hut, through beech forest.
The trail consisted of approx 5hrs of sidling along a tiny narrow path along the very steep left bank of the river, with very many ups and downs, scree crossings, boulder hopping, river crossings and some climbing/scrambling. But it was generally a pretty section, and I enjoyed walking in the river.
THAT climb to Stodys hut
At 11.30am I got to the junction that took a left up to Stodys hut. It was a steep, and difficult climb from 600m to 1000m in 2kms on loose rocky stuff.
During this stretch I put some music on to get me going. It was HARD!!!!
Miraculously I found a second wind, felt pretty amazing and was up at Stodys by 1.15pm.
We’d heard horror stories about Stodys hut. It’s a very rustic hut, made of corrugated iron with a dirt floor.
The stories were mainly around the nocturnal visitors (rats and mice) who pop out to steal anything they can that isn’t hung up e.g food, toiletries, any other bits & pieces.
The reason we’d left at a decent time this morning was so that we could decide whether to stay here or perhaps have time to push on 5 hours to the next hut.
As I was feeling great after the climb, I was happy to go on and avoid a night with the mice. Also when I last checked a few days ago, the weather looked rainy for the next day, and the next section was hailed as a Te Araroa trail highlight in the trail notes, so I didn’t want to miss it!
Stodys hut to Breast Hill along the glorious tops
So off I went to Pakituhi hut. This was another long climb, out above the tree line, but this time on a rather lovely 4-wheel drive track. This went up to a ridgeline approx 1480m with incredible views of the surrounding mountains in all directions.
About 6kms ahead was the goal, Breast Hill summit 1580m.
Te Araroa Trail Highlight – Breast Hill and Lake Hawea
This was without a doubt my favourite section of Te Araroa trail so far.
It helped that it was beautifully sunny and warm, but with quite a strong wind on the exposed ridge to keep things just cool enough. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to miss these views.
TA peeps, when you get to this section, it’s definitely worth waiting for clear weather! But the best was yet to come.
I slogged up the last part to the Breast Hill summit to witness a spectacular view of Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka in the distance. I could see distant snow capped peaks to the North and mountains in all other directions.
That TA Moment…
It was so amazing, that I had a surprise emotional moment and promptly burst into tears upon witnessing the beauty before me.
In this moment everything about TA came together… it was all for this. I can’t even begin to explain how difficult it was for me to spend two years doing the sensible thing of waiting, working, saving, researching, buying the gear, downsizing my life, getting fitter… it was all for this moment.
Of course it was sooooo worth the hard work, and the wait.
I stayed at the summit for about 30 minutes, but saw there were showers to the North coming my way.
I practically ran down the goat track to Pakituhi hut – which wasn’t too far away (and was really nice). Rox and Tim were already at the hut with a couple from Mexico. Shortly after a German couple joined us. We ate dinner and all got ready for bed.
How NOT to behave in a backcountry hut
Just as we got into bed at 9am around 8 guys turned up. They popped up from the Hawea side, at the end of the day to have some fun in the hut.
They were the kind of group who hadn’t bothered to get a hut pass (and weren’t going to pay), used the water from the tank as a shower, and who either hadn’t been versed in ‘hut etiquette’ i.e. keep it down when others are trying to sleep. ‘Noisy’ steadily rose into guitar playing and singing on the veranda.
Camp mother (me) got up to ask nicely if they’d please stop playing as there were 8 knackered hikers who’d walked since 6.30am, trying to sleep. They started up again 3 minutes later and got a somewhat more irate tiny tramper. One of them asked why I didn’t ask nicely (I almost exploded!!! what…. are we 7?). He got a few choice words thrown his way.
Thankfully they stopped. At midnight they all came into the hut and woke everyone up as they got their bedding out and moved the benches nd table to sleep on the floor… Grrrr.
My feet itched like crazy all night.