4. Hot hot hot: Tui Track. 14km (250km)
Day 19 - Wednesday 13 January
Boyle Village to Windy Point
14km, 350m, 5hrs
Having said my goodbyes to John, Mary & Andy, I set off at 8am into the sun on the Tui Track, which, at Windy Point, connects with the Harper Pass Track - a historic crossing of the Southern Alps at Harper Pass (962m).
Māori used the route to access pounamu (greenstone) on the West Coast and European settlers used it for access and supply purposes during the gold rush of the 1860s.
My plan was to get through to Hope Kiwi Hut for the night, some 28kms & 8.5hrs distant so I knew it was going to be a solid day. The trail notes indicated a lot of self-navigation required on a not-so-well marked trail ahead. I had been warned! My first challenge was to ford the Boyle River, which I did at the marked point, with the aid of a perfect river stick I found. There had been no rain for a number of days and the water was calf deep. It was then that the trail became a blur... There was an almost indescenerable foot trail that led nowhere in particular. From my GPS, I seemed to be on the marked track, so I ploughed on, through increasingly long grass, thickets of flesh-tearing matagouri & hidden swamps! Sensing no trail, or way forward, I decided to back-track & head out to the riverbank & follow that instead. And then I saw it - the guiding light of the orange-topped pole! Frustration gave way to gratitude (& a touch of smugness that I had made a good decision to head for the river) & I was back on track! The poles were really not easy to see from one to the next and after a few more “where are you orange pole?” I arrived at the Doubtful River - my next obstacle. I scouted up and down to find the safest crossing point, & again with the aid of a decent stick, crossed in 3 braids of the river. It had taken me 3 hours to cover what should have taken 1.5hrs!
Not to be deterred I soldiered on. But I knew my water was getting low. I decided to stop for lunch once I met the Harper Pass track junction as I could get water from the Hope River if there were no other suitable sources in the meantime. Any side streams I did pass were marginal at best, even with filtering. I reached the junction just after midday, out of water. Thankfully I’d rehydrated my lunch before leaving Boyle, but coffee was out of the question. I sat in the only shaded spot I could find, doused my hanky from a trickle in a nearby stream and draped it over my head while I ate and thought...
The landscape of the morning was again big, blue expansive river valley and absolutely stunning. And what really struck me in that moment was the realization that Te Araroa is a hike of such epic proportions that it needs to be shared. It’s just too much awesomeness for me on my own and I want to share the experience with special people. That may sound ridiculous as I know many people do hike it on their own, but that’s how I feel. It was never something I thought would be a factor when embarking on this challenge as I am totally comfortable hiking and being on my own, but I almost feel selfish having this all to myself.
Two other thoughts were also running circles in my head... Adam & Stacy’s engagement party is this weekend and if this trail has reinforced anything for me, it’s that people are the most important thing in this world. I really want to be there to share that happy & special occasion with them, & would have regretted it forever if I wasn’t there.
And the BLOODY HEAT!! It was 30 deg and walking in that heat is tough! This was not something I planned or trained for (impossible in Wgtn :)) and with the next 5-6 days forecast for the same, it was going to be a slog. While I’m up for a challenge, dehydration & heat-exhaustion are not something I need to put myself through. At least not in remote places. So I made the decision there and then to put a pause on my thru-hike and head out to Hanmer, and home. Te Araroa for me now will be a section hike over the coming months & years, which I’m excited to plan with Rich & others - anyone?? :) All in all I am amazed at how my body has performed day after day. I’ve had no issues, aches or pains, apart from one blister & a toenail that I’ll lose, otherwise feel great after 250kms! The walking is the easy part :)
And as has been par for the course on this adventure, another serendipitous moment in the timely appearance of Rhonda & Phillip (Orewa) in their car at the Windy Point trailhead. They’d been canyoning all morning and their curiosity had led them down the gravel road where I now sat, en route to Hanmer. They shoved things aside to make room for me, and off we went. It will be great to be home and reset - with a few other exciting things in the wings too!!