Day 128 (Sat 27 March) and day 129 (Sun 28 March): Boyle River Outdoor Education Centre
After consulting three different weather forecasts, we concluded that the best days to get over Waiau Pass and Travers Saddle, the two main obstacles in the section ahead, were Thursday and Saturday. We adjusted our itinerary accordingly, checked our food rations and booked in another two nights at Boyle, as there was no accommodation available at Hanmer Springs, the nearest township (apparently there was a festival on) and reckoning it would be nicer to stay at the outdoor centre than sit out an extra day at a hut. We could do washing, charge the battery pack, use flushing toilets and become acquainted with the bean bags.
We also had some more unexpected food bonuses. We got to raid an abandoned TA food box, which supplied us with noodles, flavoured couscous, nuts, peanut butter and oats. I did some creative cooking, making a kind of banana fritter pudding from the remaining very ripe bananas, flapjacks from the oats and satay noodles for dinner.
There was also a group of adventurous women staying for the weekend, climbing high ropes, jumping off a waterfall, camping out and abseiling. One of them generously shared her delicious baking with us and another left us salad, avocado, cheese and a corn cob for lunch. We ate very well, taking our role as reducers of food waste and consumers of anything unwanted very seriously.
Before our Wi-Fi allowance expired, I found a photo of us on Instagram. I’m pretty sure this is the only such photo in existence, not being an Instagram aficionado. Check it out here:
Trauma of the night: We were just getting ready for bed when we heard a series of bangs from the direction of SH7 outside. Peering out the windows into the rain, and seeing the traffic slow to a standstill, there was clearly some kind of incident. Tony used the emergency phone in the kitchen to call 111 given there was no cell phone service around this area. I have to confess that I then fell so deeply asleep that I didn’t hear the rescue helicopter come and go, nor someone come knocking to find a place for people to shelter, nor anyone leaving before we got up. In the morning, we could see an incapacitated car on the side of the road in the distance, dented on the side and roof as if it had rolled.
Day 130 (Mon 29 March): Boyle Village to Boyle Flat hut (St James Walkway)
Started 8.30am, finished 1.20pm, 15k plus 2k detour.
Pain in the head status: No head pain.
Word of the day: Flocculent, having or resembling tufts of wool.
I woke up in the night with some bad stomach cramps and in the morning felt achy all over like I had a virus. But I had no fever and although was nauseated, I didn’t feel like vomiting so we carried on along the St James Walkway, for an easy wander along the Boyle river to Boyle Flat hut. We had previously walked the St James, although from the other direction, so I knew the next two days would be straightforward.
The walkway predated Te Araroa so had swingbridges instead of dropping us in the river which was delightful. We took a short side trip to visit Magdalen hut, which was a compact but sweet hut with great views up the valley.
The beech forest was in noticeably better condition than the forest around Lake Sumner, which was denuded and devastated by deer browsing. This forest had a healthy undergrowth of young saplings, moss on the ground and flocculent lichen on tree branches.
To distract myself from feeling sick, I undertook a photographic documentation of fungi on the track. Most of them looked very unappetizing but then I was not at all interested in food. It was the first day I had to force myself to eat, knowing that I had to, rather than counting down to the next meal break.
It was a relief to reach Boyle Flat hut where I had a nap until another TA hiker turned up – Jana from the Czech republic. We had met her briefly on the Deception river, doing the Goat Pass as a day walk. She brought news of Duncan, the hiker from Auckland we had left behind at Hope Kiwi Lodge. He had booked a bus from Hanmer Springs to Christchurch and had ended his TA journey (for now). We had tried to persuade him to keep going but maybe after taking our advice to walk 29k in a day, he no longer trusted our judgement.
I had another nap before dinner and was settling into a final post-dinner/pre-bedtime nap when a couple of DOC workers turned up. One of them was in the DOC group that left food in Hamilton hut so she was very pleased to know we had devoured it with gratitude. We were also able to express our approval of the new comfy blue mattresses in Boyle Flat hut, by far the best mattresses ever found in a backcountry hut, and in a fair number of urban dwellings I’ve stayed at.
Day 131 (Tues 30 March): Boyle Flat hut to Anne hut (St James Walkway)
Started 8.10am, finished 1.50pm, 15k.
Pain in the head status: No head pain.
Word of the day: Borborgymi, stomach rumblings.
I was still not feeling well in the morning but a little better, although I continued to produce long, resonant burps that sounded like elephant borborgymi. I checked my bodily fat stores – I’ve lost quite a lot of weight but still have special reserves on the upper arms and thighs. I figured these could get me to St Arnaud even if my digestive system failed to function effectively.
It was a cold morning but turned fine and sunny, the forecast afternoon rain never manifesting. After spying a stag from the hut window last night, it was no surprise to find deer poos on the track, but also an enormous amount of geese poo; with a fair share of pig, possum and horse (from horse trekking). It was like being in some kind of open air zoo, almost as bad as walking through farm paddocks.
After trekking through grassy flats, a bit of beech forest, over a small saddle and across some bridges, I was happy to reach Anne hut and relax in the sun. This was a large, newish hut, built in 2011 to replace the previous hut that had burnt down due to someone’s careless placement of wood ash from the fire. Some hikers we know have told us about how they arrived at the old Anne hut to find a smouldering ruin and were forced to shelter in the woodshed. There was no need for a fire tonight – it was ridiculously cosy inside.