It was a beautiful starry night in Otago last night. There aren’t many parts of the world where you get a night sky like this. If only I had my glasses and not just my contacts I’d get the full benefit, but I could still make out the milky way which is pretty good.
I had a great sleep but I was woken up by 2 possums prowling around the tent and hissing at each other around 4am. I got up at 5.30am and out by 6.15am. Today was going to be a big day of climbing on the Motatapu track, so I wanted to get the first peak done before the sun came over the mountains. The cold breakfast experiment worked really well and I’ll definitely repeat it. Instead of a cup of tea I had my daily ‘Boost’ (an effervescent fruity vitamin drink).
The day was shaping up like this over 16kms: 500m up, then 400m down to Highland hut. Then 400 up/down PLUS another 400m up/500m down to Roses hut.
I got a good pace on as I walked in the shade, and I made it up to Jack Halls Saddle 1275m at 8am. There had been a DOC warning about the tricky nature of this track, which was interesting. I found it very much easier than some Te Araroa trails. For example it mentioned ‘sidling’. On the average TA path ‘sidling’ means having next to no trail – the width of one of your feet, on an extremely steep slope (ankle killer) with a precipitous drop on one side. This trail was a lovely path on the side of the mountains or on a wide ridge, which you could walk along comfortably i.e space for both feet on the path, and feet at a regular angle to legs.
I reached Highland hut at 9.30am where I met Erica and Gabriel (USA) going NOBO who I hope I bump into again when I do the Richmond and Nelson Lakes stretch at the end of my trip. Max (Canada) joined us from Fern Burn shortly after. I ate 2 mini OSM bars (which I now can’t get enough of) and left at 10.15am.
The next stretch up/down the two ridges was in full sunshine and I’d estimate a 30 degree temperature! There was a lovely breeze though. The views were absolutely amazing! Mountains as far as I could see, and Lake Wanaka still visible in the very distance. I reached the top of the first ridge at midday, and got down to the valley at 12.45pm, where I had another long break. Max caught up and we got chatting to a 70 year old German lady who we’d overtaken earlier. She is section hiking TA and is in her 7th year on trail!!
I started the next climb again at 1.30pm and finished at 4pm. Much of this part was up and down along a fence line. I thought about the poor people who’d lugged the huge metal stakes and wires up there all those years ago – which must have been a huge feat! The trail ended by crossing the Motatapu river, where I had a lovely swim. Roses hut was another 1km away – another really nice 12 bunk hut.
Max arrived and we had dinner. Some time later we were joined by Curly, a Kiwi ultra marathon runner/ironman from Cambridge, who’s running the trail (as much of it as he can actually ‘run’ that is – some bits he’d have to walk) unsupported. It was fascinating to hear about the trail from his side of things. We talked about food, gear, his training etc..
Today was probably my favourite day on the trail in terms of great trail, amazing views, perfect weather and a huge workout!! Topped off by meeting some amazing characters.