The Te Araroa had me hiking over mountain passes and crossing rivers in this next section of trail.
I hiked over mountains, up and down rivers, across valleys, and it was all very wet.
DAY 64 – Caroline Bivvy to Boyle Flat Hut
I woke up to the sound of rain drops. Not hard rain but a light sprinkle. It was already after 7am so I quickly got up and ready before the rain got harder. It never did get any harder and seemed to stop.
I set off in the cool morning with my rain jacket on. There was a distant haze in the mountains. I hoped the rain would hold off, especially for those attempting the Waiau Pass today.
The journey was uneventful. I was walking in a wide valley following the river. It mattered not that I’d kept my shoes and socks dry the day before; I was constantly crossing streams and the river. The braided and winding river kept going in front of the trail so I had to walk through its frigid waters. At one point it was almost past my knees.
I reached Waiau Hut in short time. Two section hikers were inside getting ready for the day. They were nice to chat with and offered me some of their extra food; I told them how I was having to ration my food to get to the next resupply.
From there I headed off again and the sun actually began to peek out. I shed my rain jacket and enjoyed the easy walk. The trail continued following the river on long, flat grasslands.
The surrounding mountains were beautifully green and it was a nice section, albeit a bit boring. I was trying to push ahead quite a bit as rain was coming the next few days and there would be a lot of river crossings. The rivers can rise and become dangerous and impassable in heavy rains.
I was getting hungry but lunch would have to wait. It began raining and the temperature dropped. The mountains were shrouded in haze once more. Just after 2pm I reached Anne Hut. The wind was gusting and the temperature grew cold. I had lunch in the shelter as I my body temperature dropped. I was wet and cold and still had five more hours of hiking ahead.
Into the storm I went as the rain blew sideways. I was concerned how cold my hands were and debated if I needed to get out my winter gloves. They’d only get soaked, too.
Eventually the hiking warmed my body temperature enough that the hypothermic danger was gone. And even better, the rain and wind stopped after a few hours.
The rest of the day was relatively pleasant as I climbed over the easy Anne Saddle and then followed the Boyle River. I don’t think I’d ever followed rivers to their source before this hike but now I was constantly seeing the birthplace of these rivers and then following them downstream.
At last I reached the Boyle Flat Hut. There were other section hikers here and everyone was nice to talk with. One man I met was the creator of the TA app I was using as a guide and GPS. He wanted my feedback and criticisms so I gave him a lot to work on!
A fire was going in the wood burning stove so it was nice to hang my clothes out to dry. My feet had been soaking wet all day. I had my meager dinner of noodle mash and some KitKats. Someone had left a bunch of granola bars free for the taking…my lucky day I guess!
This Waiau Pass section of the trail has definitely been a highlight. Today was rather dull but still, the two precious days were great and so beautiful. I’m a bit nervous about all the river crossings ahead and hiking solo. The hikers at the hut were surprised I was hiking without a personal locator beacon (PLB) in case I got into trouble; most hikers have them. I was also asked why I’m hiking the trail so quickly, especially now that Tom is gone and I have no reason to rush. I didn’t have a real good answer. I’ll have to think about that as I hike the next few days. I don’t know how to relax and I get so competitive with myself. I just don’t know how to stop pushing myself to go further each day.
Day’s Distance: 45km (28mi)
Total Distance: 2,048 (1,272.8mi)
Distance Remaining: 952km (591.7mi)
DAY 65 – Boyle Flat Hut to Hope Kiwi Lodge
I left as quietly as I could from the Boyle Flat Hut. Everyone was still sleeping inside. The fire had gone out and it was cold as I left the hut. I wore my rain jacket as the weather wasn’t supposed to be great, though I could see blue sky way off in the valley as the clouds rolled in.
The track was very easy, continuing through the grassy valley alongside the river. The rain began to mist but the sun came out at times. It was strange weather. I kept listening to Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” It helped me relax and stop worrying about the weather, the coming river crossings, and whether I’d run out of food.
I continued on through the valley to the Boyle Outdoors Center. I had my lunch at a picnic table and saw the ridiculous prices they charge for services. A shower is $5 and $2 for rubbish removal. They were charging double the grocery store price for all of the resupply food items. Because I’ve been constantly hungry and probably not eating enough, I did buy a few things within reason. I also shelled out $5 to use their WiFi; I hadn’t had any reception since St. Arnaud.
It rained and blustered while I sat on the internet. I was tempted to stay the night in their hostel for $35 and sit online all day. But then I was able to message Tom and we planned to rendezvous in three more days so he could resupply me and maybe I’d get a day off. I was feeling very knackered from the Richmond Range and then Waiau Pass and now I’d be going the distance to make it to Arthur’s Pass National Park in three days! It seemed like a doable plan.
I spent almost two hours at the center, mostly using their WiFi to upload one of these blogs; I was two weeks behind. And so by the time I set off, the rain had stopped! Just as Dolly sang, “everything’s gonna be alright, it’s gonna be okay.”
The trail first took me down to the Boyle River. The guide said that it can rise rapidly from rain and it had been lightly raining yesterday and today. I was anxious: the guide makes everything sound so ominous.
The river was fast but never got my shorts wet as I crossed. I chose a place where the river had split into two, as the separate flows would be lower than when combined. The wind came in huge gusts and pushed me one way while the water pushed me the other! Thanks but no thanks, Mother Nature. I don’t need the extra challenge.
From there it was swampy at times as I followed the river for quite a ways…until I reached Doubtful River. Great, another river crossing. Doubtful was much faster and the rapids were bigger. The guide had more warnings of danger.
I walked upstream a bit to where the river widened and looked shallower than the rapids area. It was somewhat deeper but just the bottom of my shorts got wet.
After the dual river crossings, I climbed higher up the banks and eventually headed off into another valley. I was heading to Harpers Pass, the first route the Europeans found to reach the West Coast of New Zealand. However, it had already been used by the Māori people to reach the coast to collect greenstone. Naturally the Europeans named it after the first of their kind to cross and not the indigenous people who’d done so many times before.
Anyway, the day was easy as the weather miraculously became sunny with some misty rain on and off. I followed the river valley along large grassy flats.
It was a long day and I realized at some point I’d lost a water bottle. Who knows when it fell out. I must have been pushing past some overgrown bushes or something.
I was so hungry and couldn’t wait to feast at the next hut. First I stopped at a small hut around 6pm to find an older hiker sleeping already. There were still three hours of daylight!
Eventually I reached the larger Hope Kiwi Lodge which could bunk 20 people. There were only five others so it was nice to have the space. I had a Thai chicken curry dehydrated meal which I added potatoes and olive oil to followed by KitKats and peanut butter. I inventoried my food to see what I had to eat the next three days.
An Aussie girl made good company as she told me how she’s worked in Antarctica. It’s always been a dream of mine to go there…New Zealand is a lot closer to Antarctica than the states. Could that be next? I also told her how I’ve been hiking so fast and far and trying to figure out why I don’t know how to slow down and relax. I thought perhaps it’s because there’s so much of the world to see and so the sooner I finish the sooner I can get on to the next adventure. Maybe my priorities are askew. But I am looking forward to busting out these next days so I can meet Tom and get some pizza!
Speaking of food, as I went to sleep, the mice scampered around like crazy. Someone forgot to hang their food and I could hear the vermin feasting. I got up to check that my stuff was okay and saw the critters trying to hide in the woodpile. I picked one up by the tail but then it tried to bite me so I threw it against the wall. I’ll have to see in the morning if it recovered. Don’t feel bad for it; all land mammals in New Zealand are invasive. The only native mammals are bats.
Day’s Distance: 38km (23.6mi)
Total Distance: 2,086km (1,296.5mi)
Distance Remaining: 914km (568.1mi)
DAY 66 – Hope Kiwi Lodge to No. 3 Hurunui Hut
In the morning there was a dead mouse on the floor…oops. It was supposed to rain but the sky was blue with white clouds. The other hikers left before me but I soon caught up.
It was another day of walking through the river valley. Very easy tramping except when the grasslands have swampy sections. My feet were getting wet constantly.
The track entered the woods for a while. This was still pretty easy without many hills.
Then the track reemerged at Lake Sumner. It was a pretty view but cattle had grazed the area so the water smelled a bit. Honestly, every beautiful spot in New Zealand has at one point been ruined by farming.
From there the track reentered the woods and became tedious with slight ups and downs with roots and rocks everywhere. It reminded me of the 100-Mile Wilderness on the Appalachian Trail.
Eventually the track returned to following the river. It felt like it would have been easier to just follow the riverbed and grasslands, occasionally getting my feet wet rather than stick to the trail which sidled up the steep banks.
I tried following the trail but I was constantly losing the way as it was poorly marked. I should have just stayed with the river. I passed a hot spring and I was about to disrobe when the sand flies started attacking. Not worth it!
Eventually I reached Hurunui No. 3 Hut (I don’t know why it’s called that) just before it started to rain. The Aussie girl from the previous night was there as well as a Frenchman. He was traveling the other direction and told us to just follow the river because the trail is hard to follow, just like today.
The next hut wasn’t that much further and it was only 4pm but it had finally started to rain. I couldn’t decide if I should relax and have a shorter day or push on. I was going to have a big day in the morrow in order to reach my meeting place with Tom in two days. But the rain kept coming and going and so it seemed best to just have an easy day. I was tired.
And so the three of us relaxed and talked. I had dinner of noodle mash followed by peanut butter and KitKats. I was able to eat larger quantities knowing I’d meet Tom soon.
The rain made me nervous as there are a lot of river crossings ahead. They will rise in heavy rain and become impassible. I don’t know if the guide is overly cautious but I seem to like to worry about things.
Day’s Distance: 27km (16.8mi)
Total Distance: 2,113km (1,313.2mi)
Distance Remaining: 887km (551.3mi)
DAY 67 – No. 3 Hurunui Hut to Goat Pass Hut
I felt rested in the morning. I’m glad I didn’t push on in the rain the day before. I still had a big day ahead but I was confident. The skies were showing some promise for the weather.
I set off down the river valley. I wasn’t excited for today as it was going to be a long slog along the river. And that meant either riverbed stones which are annoying to walk on or sidling in the woods which is usually pointlessly steep and the trail poorly formed.
I started off in the woods and was walking as fast as I could. There was mud everywhere from the night’s rain. It was going to be a day of wet shoes. It didn’t take long before I crossed over Harpers Pass at 962m (3,156ft).
Eventually I had to cross the river which was only knee deep. It helped clean my muddy shoes. Clouds hung low on the mountains.
At a shelter I stopped for lunch. Another hiker and I were talking and I realized my original destination for the night was actually farther than I thought. Today was going to be a 50km day if I could swing it. The farther I hiked today, the less I had to do tomorrow which meant the quicker I could get picked up by Tom and taken to pizza!
Onward I hiked, crossing the river again. The trail wasn’t really marked; it was a choose-your-own-adventure across the riverbed. Sometimes in the grasslands I could really cruise along.
I crossed other tributaries and picked my way across the valley. I wasn’t loving the day. I didn’t enjoy this section. I’d find the trail only to lose it again. I don’t like having to look for the trail.
Eventually I reached a real section of trail, only it was the flood route which meant it took me needlessly up the side of a cliff. The guide said in low water one can follow the riverbed as an alternate so I did just that.
But sometimes the river cut too close to the bank and I was forced to bush bash through the woods. Another time there was a field of thorny gorse I had to walk through. But then I came along a farm track someone mowed through the gorse! And so I speed-walked along that until it too disappeared.
At long last I left the main river and turned down the Deception River. I had already hiked 35km (22mi) and it was after 4pm. The sign said the next 15km (9mi) would take 8-9 hours! My stupidity got the best of me and I set off with vigor.
All the river crossings the guide had warned me about had ended up being fairly easy. Strong currents but low flow. Now it said that hike up Deception into Goat Pass involved many crossings and difficult scrambles. Should I be worried?
I hiked along the valley following the orange markers. They were spaced very far apart so I was lost at times. I just followed the river up and up.
The boulders got bigger and the trail crossed the river many times. I clambered over big rocks and it was very technical. My body was slowing down from the long day.
My shoes were constantly being washed and the water was cold. I pushed on but noticed I was starting to trip and stumble over the rocks as I grew tired.
The river was dangerous but I was careful and it helped I was familiar with hiking up rivers from other hikes in New Zealand. I guess I shouldn’t shortchange myself; I know what I’m doing.
On and on I went up the valley. It was exhausting and tedious. It took me mental and physical energy to pick around the rocks, balancing and hopping, all while quickly assessing foot placement and the best route.
It started to mist as I climbed higher and the temperature was dropping. At long last I reached Goat Pass Hut. It was nearly 9pm but I had made it in less than fivr hours! I scarfed down dinner by candlelight and went to bed in the freezing hut; it was going to be a cold night but at least I was dry now!
Day’s Distance: 50.5km (31.4mi)
Total Distance: 2,163.5km (1,344.6mi)
Distance Remaining: 836.5km (519.9mi)
DAY 68 – Goat Pass Hut to Bealey
It was quite cold in the morning. The hut was very dark and I didn’t realize the time. I put my wet clothes back on despite the cold temperature because more river crossings were ahead. I hadn’t even wrung out my socks so they were still sopping wet.
A heavy fog hung in the mountains as I set out in the cold. It was a quick climb up to the top of Goat Pass at 1,070m (3,510ft). It wasn’t technical like the day before, climbing up Deception River. There were nice boardwalks set up to keep my feet out of the marshy ground. Where had these been for the last three days?
The mountains were almost visible in the fog. Once I crossed over Goat Pass and began to descend the other side, the weather seemed to improve. I could see farther down into the valley.
The descent was very quick and the trail much more formed than the day before. However, it was steep at times. The river crossings were few and easy.
I had a short climb up to Dudley’s Knob where I was treated to stunning views back at the mountains. It was incredible to watch the clouds and fog rolling off the peaks as the sun shone down.
Once in the Mingha River valley, the track was so easy as I followed the river flats toward the highway. I did have a few river crossings but the wide, shallow waters were easy.
From there it was a quick crossing of the Bealey River and more easy hiking along the grassy flats. The highway led up the road through Arthur’s Pass, the main route to the West Coast, or down the road toward Christchurch. I was headed for the latter.
The trail was not formed at this point. The grassy flats were just a poor excuse to keep hikers off the highway. There were hardly any markers and the guide was very vague. It just said to walk to a river, cross it, and then get back on the road.
So I did just that, and crossed the Waimakariri River. The trail could’ve just had me road walk and take the highway bridge. I was a bit irritated at the lack of markings and guidance in this section.
On the road I quickly found myself at the Bealey Hotel where my old hiking mate, Tom, was waiting for me in his rental car. Since he’d quit the trail back at Pelorus Bridge, he’d rented a car and done some exploring and hiking of his own. He even climbed Tapuae-o-Uenuku, just like me!
I had been in the woods for days on end and was ready for a bit of civilization. Tom said I smelled like vinegar or something and I wondered if I wasn’t eating enough food. They say when the body starts burning muscle the sweat smells like ammonia. Does ammonia smell like vinegar?
Tom and I drove into Christchurch and indulged in Sal’s Pizza before staying at my mate’s house. It was so nice to do laundry, shower, resupply, and organize my life. I tried to catch up on blogging, book a flight out of New Zealand, and sew my shorts pocket that had a hole. It seems my night off was just as exhausting as hiking!
Day’s Distance: 15.5km (9.6mi)
Total Distance: 2,179km (1,354.3mi)
Distance Remaining: 821km (510.3mi)
I probably listened to Dolly’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” a dozen times as I hiked this section of trail.
Shop Te Araroa Merchandise
From apparel to prints, grab some awesome trail merch at the A Stray Life Shop!
To follow along with my adventures, sign up via email below or like/follow on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube: