The second half of the Richmond Range is quite the contrast with its desert-feels and red landscape.
From red rocks to high ridges, this was another amazing section of trail!
DAY 60 – Mid Wairoa Hut to Porters Creek Hut
I chatted with Nicole in the hut before setting off ahead of her. She was fun to talk with and it’s a shame I probably won’t see her again. The day began with lots of sidling along the river. Sidling is basically walking along the steep sides of the river, usually high above it. This was not the most fun but not the worst.
It was easy for the most part with some difficult areas. Then there were numerous river crossings as well. My feet got very wet but the river was never even knee deep.
Though it was morning, it was very hot and humid. I was soaked in sweat. I continued on until finally crossing the river one last time before a hut.
The hut was in full sun and there was a nice breeze. Every piece of clothing on me was soaked with sweat. I stripped down to my skivvies and let everything dry out. I sat there nearly naked eating lunch, enjoying the weather.
From the hut it was a nonstop climb up to a saddle at 1,374m (4,507ft). The climb was steady and not as exhausting as I expected. I was now in the Red Hills area and the landscape was all reddish-orange rocks.
The wind picked up and kept me from sweating too much. The views were phenomenal.
It was fun to see the exposed trail running across the ridge. I could see where I came from and where I was headed.
This was one of my favorite moments on the trail, being high up with amazing views walking along an easy, exposed track. I was in heaven.
It was a fairly easy descent back to Earth. The mineral-rich soil made for more desert plant life.
I crossed numerous streams the rest of the day. The sun was in a haze and didn’t feel as hot as it should have.
The track had a few steep climbs and then descents as I went over a few ridges. I was beginning to get tired near the end.
At last I reached Porters Creek Hut. There were five other hikers there and six bunks; it would be a full hut! I conversed with my fellow hikers while eating dinner. The sun grew very dim, like an eclipse. The skies were covered in a smoky haze, a result of the bushfires in Australia. The smoke had blown over the Tasman Sea to irritate New Zealand.
I discovered that a mouse had chewed through my food bag the previous night and ate a few KitKats and wraps. This never happened to me on the Appalachian Trail. I guess I should stick to tenting!
Overall this was perhaps my favorite day on the trail. The track wasn’t too challenging and the views were incredible. However, the Richmond Range is exhausting and my pace is slowing down day by day.
Day’s Distance: 24km (14.9mi)
Total Distance: 1,913km (1,188.9mi)
Distance Remaining: 1,087km (675.6mi)
DAY 61 – Porters Creek Hut to St. Arnaud
I was one of the last to leave the hut. Everyone else set off when it was still dark but I saw no point in that. Once light, I set off around 7am. It was a sunny morning and the smoke from the Australian bushfires had cleared.
The day began with some beautiful views of a river valley. The orange soil made it feel like such a desert.
There were some descents down to cross the rivers and the ascents back up. I managed to keep my feet dry on each crossing.
The climbing was never too hard but I did have to go up fairly high. The views were great, though the past few days have spoiled me and they were losing their novelty. I was eager to get to town for a rest.
I stopped for lunch at Red Hills Hut. By now I’d passed all the early-risers from the morning and they eventually caught up to me while I ate. The hut logbook showed that heaps of hikers had stayed there the night before and were all heading into town. I was now worried that the hostel would be full.
I left the hut and began the final climb in the Richmond Range. I was sweating a lot as I followed a mountain biking track up through the forest. Near the top I tried to get cell reception and was in luck. I called up the hostel and was able to reserve a space.
It was a beautiful beech forest. The biking trail had way too many switchbacks for hiking and there were lots of shortcuts hikers had made.
Every now and again the trees would part and there would be stunning views of the surrounding mountains. It was quite something to see. I could even see the mighty Wairau River flowing all the way towards Cloudy Bay into the Tasman Sea. I used to swim in that river when I lived in Blenheim.
Eventually the track became an old four-wheel drive road and was a steep but easy descent. My knees hurt from the downhill and basically from the last four days in the mountains.
At the bottom I reached the state highway and it was a dull 8km into the town of St. Arnaud. Some menacing dogs did bark at me and looked as if they would have tore me up had the fence not been there. There even was a gap in the fence but they hadn’t figured that out yet.
In St. Arnaud I checked into the hostel which was attached to the Alpine Lodge. There was only one power outlet in the four-bed room so I snatched it up before anyone else arrived and started charging my devices.
I was pretty gross and starving but I thought that could wait. I walked across the street to the convenience store to resupply. I’d heard the town does not have a great resupply and many hikers mail food here. Inside I grabbed whatever food I could find. They were almost out of wraps and peanut butter and ramen noodles. They only had a few small blocks of cheese so I took those as well. All in all it was a $108 resupply for barely a week of food. The store had a cheeky sign (see photo below) that it did not live up to.
I was glad I got my resupply finished because other hikers were pouring into the town. The town was a popular tourist spot as it is right next to Nelson Lakes National Park. That store was going to be out of everything soon.
At last I showered but did not do any laundry. The machines were all full so I couldn’t be bothered. My shirt had salt marks all over it from sweat. I had a late lunch at a diner nearby of pizza and a toasted sandwich. Later I had dinner at the lodge restaurant of a burger that was horrible.
The rest of the evening I struggled to get anything done. I hadn’t had reception for days and was two weeks behind on my blog. The WiFi at the hostel was pathetic and the cell service just as slow. I ended up only able to upload one video and blog post. The video took all night to upload. But I was glad I called ahead at least as other hikers ended up having to tent on the lawn. I had completed the Richmond Range in four days (5-7 days recommended by my guide)!
Day’s Distance: 24km (14.9mi)
Total Distance: 1,945km (1,208.8mi)
Distance Remaining: 1,055km (655.7mi)
The sounds from the Tone Ranger complimented the desolate, southwest feel of the Red Hills area in the Richmond Range.
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