Update 18: Lower and Drier

Day 83: Saturday January 26th, 13.3mi/21.4km

The Sanctuary Arthur’s Pass, via Morrison Footbridge (2163.1/751m) to Lagoon Saddle Hut (2178.8/1147m) + 5.7km road

I wake up later at 7am, knowing that the DOC office doesn’t open until 8am, where I need to pick up my food box (that I mailed to myself from Wellington). I walk down there at 8:30 and retrieve it, and also buy an ice cream, soda pop, and cheese on the walk back. I have breakfast back at the Sanctuary cabin, and take a 2nd shower too, ha! I lounge around until noon, finally hiking out at 12:30pm. It’s about an hour of roadwalking before I re-join the official TA route, and I make some phone calls to family as I’m walking.

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The official TA route is another 9km of roadwalking, and I finally reach the start of the hiking trail at 4:30pm. I step onto the trail, and the soft dirt feels nice under my shoes, and it’s a nice switchbacked trail up thru a pine forest.

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I climb 600m up to a ridge, where I have pretty amazing views down the Waimakariri River valley below.

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I arrive to the Lagoon Saddle Hut at 6:15pm, and it’s quite a surprise, this hut is in a cool A-frame shape!

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There are two other hikers at the hut, a Kiwi girl (Lis) and a German guy (?). We chat for several hours, I can tell we have similar personalities and are really enjoying each others’ company. We eat dinner together, and finally get to bed at 10pm.

 

Day 84: Sunday January 27th, 17.1mi/27.6km

Lagoon Saddle Hut (2178.8/1147m) to Harper River Camp (2206.4/530m)

I get up at 6:15am, and quietly pack up to avoid waking the other two people. I whisper goodbye to Lis, and start hiking at 6:40. It’s a surprisingly warm morning, and after 40 minutes, I catch Amanda & Ruben!

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We hike together all day, taking at break at the West Harper Hut, which is gross. The swingbridge across the Harper River is fun!

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We cross and re-cross the river several times.

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Later, we take a lunch break next to the Harper River.

All afternoon we hike along the river, and there is no trees or shade, and it’s quite hot.

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And re-crossing the river again.

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The lack of trees makes for hot hiking, but it also means good views!

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At lunch, we “swim” in the river, by doing river push-ups!

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We continue on  the 4wd road, all the way to camp at the power station, which they’ve named “Harper River Camp”.  There’s also a funny sign near the entrance:

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We get there at 4:15pm, and see two other northbound TA hikers, a French guy and a Kiwi girl. It’s hot and windy, so we walk the 1km down to the lake and go for a swim.

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We have dinner together at 7pm, and talk about our plans for tomorrow for awhile, finally getting to bed at 9:30pm.

 

Day 85: Monday January 28th, 17.8mi/28.6km

Harper River Camp (2206.4/530m) to Lake Coleridge Village (2235.0/375m)

I get up early, since we have 28km to walk by 1pm. (There is a shuttle bus that *might* come then). I’m ready to go at 6:45, but we don’t start walking until 7am.

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The road walk is uneventful, with only a few cars passing us all morning, and at very high speeds. These signs provide entertainment though!

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The skies become clear, and at 9:30am the sun breaks out, and it’s hot again. I take a couple short breaks, but nothing too long.

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At 11:30am we leave the road and do the 3k Lake Hill Track, a confusing mess of old jeep roads and poor trail.

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We hike another road, and of course our bovine friends are watching us.

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We arrive at the pickup spot at 1pm. There is already another hiker there, and we all wait together. The shuttle bus never arrives, and at 2:30pm the three of us head to a hitching spot. We find a map of the area, and decide that the town of Methven is our target.

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A local guy named Stu drives by and offers us a place to stay, and a promise of a ride across the river the next day. We accept his very nice offer, and he shows us the mighty Rakaia River along the way.

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The Rakaia River is a large braided glacial river, and is generally considered uncrossable. It is one of three “hazard zones” on the TA, where hikers have to get a ride around the river or lake. The trail resumes on the opposite riverbank.

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Back at Stu’s house, we enjoy a huge dinner of burgers, salad and cake at 8pm, and then pass out by 10pm.

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