Day 119 (Thurs 18 March): Methven
Pain in the head status: Woke up with a slightly stabbing headache after a long luscious sleep but it came right with breakfast and a dose of ginger and Nurofen. There might be something in these ginger tablets after all.
Word of the day: Edacious, having to do with eating or fond of eating.
Our stay in Methven was primarily taken up with edacious pursuits and checking the weather- all looking good for the next week or so. We ate hot cross buns and Lindt chocolate bunnies so we don’t miss out on Easter treats. Eating a bunny felt both juvenile and vengeful against all the rabbits we’ve seen running riot on conservation land.
Day 120 (Fri 19 March): Methven to Hamilton hut (via Lake Coleridge and Harper Village)
Started 11.15am, finished 4.15pm, 18k.
Pain in the head status: Head feeling good.
Word of the day: Peripeteia, sudden reversal of fortune.
From Methven, we had to find a way over the Rakaia river to Lake Coleridge, where the trail started again. Transport options were limited but the accommodation owner kindly dropped us at the start of the road to Lake Coleridge, besides a fancy golf course. Here we stood and waited for an hour or so, trying to hitch a ride, getting despondent as the cars rolled past us.
Our peripeteia came in the form of Andrea, who was on a mission to detoxify from electromagnetic energy by spending the day at Lake Coleridge. She checked us out, decided we looked trustworthy, and offered us a lift to the far end of the lake, at Harper Village, which meant we could skip a day of walking on gravel dusty road and hop straight onto the Harper river track. This was an unexpected and delightful bonus. We told Andrea stories about Te Araroa and she shared her knowledge of the area and maybe the satisfaction of helping out a couple of strangers will have enhanced her detox experience.
To add to our good fortune, it was a stunning cloudless day, just the weather to be walking up a valley with a multitude of river crossings. The trail was mostly following a 4WD track so was pretty easy although my legs grumbled as they always seem to do after a day off. It was a pleasant change to see some different vegetation- toi toi, mountain beech, ferns – alongside the ubiquitous briar rose and matagouri. And see more birds- black shag, fantail, robin, grey warbler, tomtit.
Our hut for the night was Hamilton hut, which was palatial and luxurious compared to the musterer’s huts we’d been staying at. A new wide deck, wood panel floor, sandfly-proof door, an inside water tap and sink, 20 bunks. And only one other person to share it with – blue-haired TA walker Tasha.
Joy of the day: Some DOC workers had been doing hut maintenance (they passed us going out in two 4WD vehicles early afternoon) and wrote in the hut book that hungry TA walkers could help themselves to the food they’d left behind. We definitely qualified so immediately consumed the half loaf of Burgen bread with blackcurrant jam, transformed our dinner with the fresh tomatoes, added the muesli to tomorrow’s breakfast ration and squirrelled away the box of crackers. I feel sure there will be a day in our near future where these will be exactly what is needed.
Day 121 (Sat 20 March): Hamilton hut to Arthur’s pass (Klondyke corner)
Started 8.20am, finished 5pm, 23k.
Pain in the head status: Migraine remission continues.
Word of the day: Montane, of inhabiting or growing in mountain areas.
The morning was misty and a little drizzly but we were mostly walking in montane beech forest so protected from the damp. We were on the Cass Lagoon circuit today (although only doing the Lagoon half of it), quite a popular weekend tramp with locals so it was fortuitous we missed being at Hamilton hut on this Saturday night.
It was an excellent day of hut bagging, if we ever wanted to make a goal of visiting all 900 or so backcountry huts in NZ. On our way up to Lagoon Saddle, we had morning tea at West Harper hut, with canvas bunks and canvas looped over the ceiling, suggesting a leaky roof; we had lunch at Lagoon Saddle shelter, another A-frame hut but not as warm as the one in Hakatere conservation park; then checked out the unnamed hut over the creek, that DOC recommended staying at, but it was even colder and not as attractive as the A-frame one.
There wasn’t a great view from Lagoon Saddle, with the clouds drooping over Arthur’s pass, but we bagged one more hut on the way down to the road (Bealey hut). Then, by the time we got to Bealey hotel (a few kilometres from the track end on SH73) the sun was finally making an appearance. We had a food parcel at the hotel, which filled our packs to capacity, but there was no room at the inn (except overpriced backpacker rooms that had a 2 night minimum charge – utter rort) so we elected to keep walking SH73 to Klondyke corner campsite.
Sprinting across the Bealey bridge with a full pack was a jarring experience but meant I could take a nice photo of the Waimakariri river at the passing bay in the middle of the bridge, where we stopped for a breather.
Unique road side trash of Arthur’s pass: Wet wipes, scattered generously over the kerbside vegetation. Strangest trash was the leg of a Barbie doll and a large grey faux mink blanket.