Day 109 (Mon 8 March): Lake Tekapo
We spent the morning planning how and when to get across the Rangitata and Rakaia rivers, both large braided river systems that Te Araroa does not cross, designating them as ‘hazard zones’ and leaving hikers with the quandary of how bespoke get around them, as the nearest bridges are miles and miles and miles away. Many people do ford the Rangitata, but there was a lot of rain forecast in the headwaters so we decided not to bother trying. We’ll support the local transport operator instead.
We also found an outdoor store in Lake Tekapo, only three weeks old and so new it wasn’t even listed on Google. They had a lovely long sleeved icebreaker to replace the one I left at Lake Ohau – a little heavier and warmer than my old one, which might be a blessing in a few days if the weather forecast is accurate.
Chores done, we enjoyed the almost tourist-free ambience and managed to photograph the Church of the Good Shepherd and the sheepdog statue without any other bodies present. This is definitely the time for a quiet tour of Aotearoa.
Another parting: My feet and my orthotics are no longer able to cohabit within my boots without conflict. My feet swell so much that the orthotics squash my toes and wedge up painfully against my instep. Since my feet are essential, the orthotics were posted back home where hopefully they can still be used in other footwear, when I’m not walking hours each day and getting foot spread.
Day 110 (Tues 9 March): Lake Tekapo to camp near Roundhill ski area
Started 7.55am, finished 3.20pm, 27k.
Pain in the head status: Still no headache. Tried some hiker’s wool under the balls of my feet to try and cushion them against the pounding on the road- it seemed to help. A useful tip from a tramper we met on the Motatapu track.
Word of the day: Sussuration, the indistinct sound of whispering/rustling.
We had a spot of road walking to contend with today, which was quite a novelty. For about three hours we skirted around the eastern side of Lake Tekapo on a walking track, then a tarsealed road, then a gravel road, and got to do some roadkill inspections. We spotted rabbit, hare, hawk and wallaby. It was much more interesting to road walk when there were majestic mountains to look at, rather than craven cows.
The next three hours or so we were back on a proper tramping track, through a desert-like landscape where tiny streams revealed themselves by the clustering of reeds and greenery around their banks. The track was laid out like a farmer puts in a fence – sight a line and cut it straight, regardless of terrain. The sudden transition to vertical uphills was a shock to the legs, which had had three days without being weighted down by a backpack, and this one was heavy with food. It took a while for the tramping legs to kick back into life and get used to the slower pace of walking.
We decided to camp out and leave a few kilometres to walk on to a hut tomorrow, where we were planning to spend the day and wait out some rain and freezing weather. The clouds over the alps layered into pancakes and then coalesced into milky blankness. It was strangely quiet except for the sussuration of the wind through the tent fly. No birdsong, and the softest of watersong (our water source was a small water channel through a piece of wetland) – even the flies that had pestered us during the heat of the day had disappeared.
But we knew other people were out there. A couple we’d met in Auckland were camping only a kilometre or so downstream (I didn’t recognise them – he’d got so hairy and she’d got so skinny). We’d passed two other SOBOs – both of them generic young men with beards. So many of these have passed us, and they all look the same to me- it could actually be the same person walking rings around us and I doubt I’d notice.
Wildlife encounters: Lots of bumblebees today. They would circle, hum around my head, sniff at my arms, decide I did not smell like a flower, and bumble away.
Luxury lunch: For lunch today we had a wrap with cheese (Tekapo Four Square had no peanut butter slugs), boiled egg and cherry tomatoes (we eat these like lollies whenever we’re in a town and had some left over). It was almost like a cafe lunch. Minus the muffin and cappuccino.