Day 110: Friday February 22nd, 21.9mi/35.2km
Te Anau YHA Hostel/Princhester Road (2762.7/211m) to Lower Wairaki Hut (2797.9/482m)
I get up at 6am, and quietly leave to go get breakfast across town. I quickly eat a mini apple pie, carrot cake, and hot chocolate, and return to the hostel to pack up. I meet the bus at 6:55am, and it drops us off at 7:45am at Princhester Road. The “us” is because there are two other Southbound hikers! We walk together for the 6km road section, and I take a quick break with them at the Lower Princhester Hut.
I say good-bye and take off, going up and back down the saddle at a pretty quick pace, despite the mud. It’s a nice trail when it’s in the forest, but the tussock sections are slow and wet.
I have a lunch break at a rocky outcropping, but it’s kinda cold and windy so I only stay for 30 minutes.
I get to the Aparima hut at 3pm and have a snack indoors….there are sooo many sandflies outside! After another 3 hours/13km of mostly pleasant forest walking, I arrive at Lower Wairaki Hut at 6pm.
Apparently, I’m the only person here! I spread out and dry out my gear, and make dinner. I spend a couple hours reading a book, and the always-entertaining Hut logbook!
I was awake so early, so it’s easy to fall asleep by 9pm.
Day 111: Saturday February 23rd, 21.6mi/34.7km
Lower Wairaki Hut (2797.9/482m) to Birchwood Station Cabin (2832.6/110m)
I get up at 6:45am, and pack up with my headlamp on – it stays dark so late these days! It’s cold, and I hike with my vest and beanie on for the big climb (up to 1000m elevation). The trail markers have encouraging messages!
It’s pretty windy up top, so I don’t linger for the views, and hurry down the hill.
It’s an easy jog down the hill, adn I arrive at the Telford campsite at 9:45am. No one is there, so I continue onto the Mt. Linton Station farm. It’s nice walking on farm roads and 4wd tracks all morning, with pleasant weather.
I stop for a couple quick snacks, but the sandflies are terrible!
At noon I have a half-lunch, and I get some cellphone service – Kuba and Kacka are only 1km ahead of me! Right after lunch, I pass a Northbound girl who confirms this. The farm roads are easy walking and surprisingly scenic.
Eventually I catch up to Kuba and Kacka at 3pm, we walk an hour to the road. A few hundred meters off the main road is Birchwood cabin, which is privately owned by a local resident. It’s $20 which seems like a fantastic bargain since it’s warm, dry, and spacious. We arrive pretty early at 4:30pm, which is perfect because it starts raining a few minutes later. We enjoy some beers around the fireplace, and listen to the hard rain outside. We swap stories over dinner, and also get to know the other hut guests. After all that socialization, and shopping for gear for the AT, I’m finally in bed at 11:30pm.
Day 112: Sunday February 24th, 16.9mi/27.2km
Birchwood Station Cabin (2832.6/110m) to Merriview Hut (2859.8/87m)
We purposely get a late start, since we know we have a short hiking day. I wake up at 7am, lounge around, shower, and we leave at 8:45am. The first 5km is on country roads, and it’s a quiet Sunday morning.
It’s still cold, and we move quickly up the hill. It’s only a 300m climb, but it warms us up nicely! Then we join a nice dirt road, and this sign makes me smile.
The three of us pass the older Kiwi couple, who are stopped and looking at birds. We continue onwards, and it’s a nice easy walk down the hill, and we have lunch just before the paved road. It’s cold and windy out, but we find a sheltered spot in the sun. It’s a fast lunch, since the clouds start to sprinkle a little bit. We walk a road, then a nice forest road for 4km.
We arrive to the Merriview Cabin at 3:15pm, and Achille is there! Yay! We hang out and chat all afternoon, and the Kiwi couple and a Northbound hiker show up too, but they camp outside. There are a bunch of hikers staying here, it feels like a small party!
We all have dinner together at 7pm, and I’m in bed much earlier tonight at 9pm.
Day 113: Monday February 25th, 22.1mi/35.5km
Merriview Hut (2859.8/87m) to Campsite by Old Machinery (2895.3/168m)
All 5 of us in the cabin are awake at 6:45am, and are hiking at 7:15am.
It’s a nice sunny day, but very cold, only 5°C! And all of us (except Achille) are stubbornly wearing shorts, ha!
We warm up a little on the roadwalk, and even more so after the sun rises. The trail enters the forest, and it’s on and old 4wd track, and not muddy, so it’s pretty nice walking. We get to the top of a tussock hill, and we can see Bluff (the TA’s finish) in the distance! Cool.
The four of us (Achille, K, K, and me) have a snack break at the radio tower, but as usual it’s windy and cold, so we continue down the nice dirt road, and have an early lunch at the bottom of the descent in a sunny warm gravel quarry. After lunch, the hike starts with an easy 200m climb up a hill, which is in a dense forest.
At the top of the climb, we leave the forest and have a warm enjoyable ridgewalk with views.
Bluff is in the distance, on the peninsula behind the ocean bay:
The four of us are talking all afternoon, and we stop at the final hut on the TA, Martin’s Hut.
To our great surprise, it’s filled with trail magic!
Sodas, beers, candy, fruit! After 30 minutes of indulgence, we hike another 7km to a camp spot by some old mining machinery.
Happy Baby and Pegleg are there too! (Hikers from the USA that we met earlier). With 4 tents its a crowded little space, but we make it work. We have dinner at 7pm, and we think this will be our last dinner in the forest, since the next couple of days finish at hostels/holiday parks. I fall asleep easily at 9pm.
Day 114: Tuesday February 26th, 21.4mi/34.4km
Campsite by Old Machinery (2895.3/168m) to Riverton Holiday Park (2929.7/29m)
The four of us pack up quietly in the dark, for a 7:30am start. Happy Baby and Pegleg are still sleeping. It’s a nice walk in the Longwood Forest, along the Ports Water Race, an old mining ditch.
The weather starts off sprinkling for 15 minutes, then it gets dry and even sunny! Kuba and Kacka fall behind, so Ach and I chat for an hour, and the time flies by.
There are a couple options to exit the Water Race track, but we hike it to the end, and have a snack at 11:45am. K/K arrive 15 minutes later, and we all walk together the 5km roadwalk to a cafe in Colac Bay for lunch. We have burgers, salad, beer, ice cream – what a great meal! There is a short 2km of roadwalking after lunch, which has all sorts of interesting things. A smiley house:
And a Simpsons bus mural:
The beach walk after lunch is on soft gravel, which really sucks.
Soon enough, the trail leaves the terrible gravel, for the grassy bluffs above the beach.
It gets interesting when there is a fence to cross, with no gate. Climb on, Kacka!
We climb up to a lookout point, which is a surprisingly steep climb. It’s a little tourist lookout point on a 168m tall hill, with a view of Riverton Village:
On our way down to the carpark, Achille runs into his dad! He was planning on meeting his dad tomorrow to hike the last two days with him, but his dad’s flight arrived early! There were many hugs and excited words (mostly in French, so I couldn’t understand, but they sounded excited).
We all walk to the holiday park together, and Happy Baby and Pegleg are there too! There is a group dinner and beer hour, and I think we are all savoring these last few days on the Te Araroa. We keep talking excitedly about the finish, and all the memories on this trail for the past four months. I can tell no one wants it to end, but eventually we get to bed at 11pm.