3. Rejoining the Trail: St James Walkway. 70km (236kms)
I am currently sitting at the Boyle Outdoor Education Centre in Lewis Pass all freshly showered and demolishing a pizza & can of Sprite. I honestly don’t know when the last time was that I drank a can of fizzy, but it went down a treat!
Days 13 & 14 passed by with 2 nights & a rest day at the Top 10 in Hanmer Springs - one in the tent, followed by a night of luxury in fresh sheets in one of their new motel units. Superb! No sooner when I arrived and had pitched my tent, I’d had two invites for drinks from my ‘neighbours’ - Beth & Pete (Tauranga - and the first career train driver I’d ever met ) & Bridget & Aaron (Southland), in their Uber-cool jeep with roof-tent set up. Next day I sorted through my resupply box, and with the left-over food from the previous section I had enough to add on a few make-up km’s and take in the St James Walkway, joining me back to the TA. Plan hatched.
Day 15 - Saturday 9 January
St James to Ada Pass Hut
12.4kms, 478m, 3hr 53mins
I was up and packed for my shuttle pickup at 9:30am. We dropped my resupply package to Boyle Outdoor Education Centre on the way past and I was on the trail by 11am. The track descended into Cannibal Gorge before climbing up through beech forest and avalanche paths along the Maruia River Right Branch. I stopped for lunch by the river, before bypassing the unappealingly named Cannibal Gorge Hut, and onto Ada Pass Hut.
The beech forest gave way to some more open sub-alpine areas, surrounded by towering mountains. There was no one else at the hut which took me some time to get my head around, but I eventually resolved to embrace the solitude, start my first Te Reo lesson courtesy of Scotty Morrison’s ‘Maori Made Easy’ and enjoy a night without earplugs. The benefit of which was hearing kiwi call in the night.
Day 16 - Sunday 10 January
Ada Pass Hut to Anne Hut
25.2km, 479m, 6hr 31min
The morning was clear & cool with some mist hugging the mountain tops. Once over Ada Pass the track left the bush again and meandered through open tussock, passing the historic Christopher (Ada) Cullers Hut before i stopoed for lunch at Christopher Hut.
The immense landscape repeatedly unfolded in front of me and closed in behind me following the Ada River, and keeping me guessing as to how far it still was before I would be officially on TA again. My answer came in the sighting of another walker. We eventually merged before he strided off ahead.
The newly built Anne Hut (2011) - my destination for the day, sits in the most exposed location so not only cops the wind, but takes in immense views from large windows on all sides. I could see a few faces inside as I approached into the headwind and it was lovely to be greeted at the door by Michael (Alpha Hut & Hackett Hut). With no river nearby, washing was a brisk affair at the outside sink after fair warning to all inside to avoid that area! Reading through the intentions book I could see that the 2 Irish girls had been through and were one day/hut ahead, but no sign of Robyn (whom I’d met at West Sabine Hut & was also nervous about the Waiau Pass). Paulie was long-gone. John & Mary (Auckland) were there, walking the St James over 5 days, as were Kerry & Kevin (multi-day hike newbies) and TA walker Malcolm.
Regretfully, I had missed intersecting with the Waiau track where friends Bill & Annie had left me some trail magic days earlier. You guys rock!!
Day 17: Monday 11 January
Anne Hut to Boyle Flat Hut
18.3km, 449m, 5hrs 13mins
With the chilly wind down the valley it was jacket on as I set off in the overcast morning. From today, I will prioritize safety over dry feet after taking a bit of a tumble in a stream! Thankfully knees and shins came out unscathed, but I have a few mighty bruises to show for it, and cleaner pants! :)
Once the cloud broke and with a slight tail wind, it was hot! It was also the first time I’ve really felt like listening to anything, so enjoyed a few chapters of Michael King’s History of New Zealand. With my phone strategically placed with speaker poking out of my hip belt pocket, there is no need for headphones, and George Henare’s melodic voice walked beside me an hour.
I lunched at the historic Rokeby Hut (1965) - complete with canvas bunks, before meeting TA walkers Chris (Builder, Queenstown). we walked and talked for a bit before he shot off, keen to make it out to Boyle today.
Boyle Flay Hut sits across a swing bridge above the river. it’s deep wooden interior reminded me if an old schoolhouse. I was first to arrive, so enjoyed a refreshing wash in the stream behind the hut before being joined by Mary & John again, and Andrew & Rob (Christchurch) - walking north to St Arnaud. Fun evening together solving (almost) the Press general knowledge crossword. Brilliant big stars overhead on my nightly pit stop.
Day 18: Tuesday 12 January
Boyle Flat Hut to Boyle Village
13.65km, 299m, 4 hrs on the button
Jacket on again this morning until I reached the sun - which took some time to penetrate the beech forest. Eventually the track descended alongside the Boyle river into more open flats before running alongside & above the river to a swing bridge about 2kms from Boyle Village.
Just before the swingbridge, I met a hiker in the opposite direction - the lasting impression being the aroma of fresh laundry as he wafted past. I’m embarrassed to think what my lasting aroma was! I arrived at Boyle at midday and to my surprise, Robyn was there! She’d completed the Waiau Pass. In her words, it was ‘terrifying’ but she’s was obviously elated to have done it. She’d camped down the valley with a companion, rather than stay in huts, and he’d written in the Intentions Books using their surnames, which is why I hadn’t clocked them.
So, now at Boyle for the night to restock and ready for the next 7 days to Arthur’s Pass. Weather forecast is looking good, so fingers crossed for straightforward river sections!