Arthur’s Pass to Boyle Village; 114 km (71 miles); 5 days

When I got to Arthur’s Pass I decided to take a rest day at the YHA and work out how I was going to tackle the next section of the trail.  It starts with two days of crossing the Minga and the Deception rivers.  Just a week ago, a woman died trying to cross the Deception River. I
was feeling apprehensive about even doing the rivers. I was debating
all day whether I should just hitch around the two completely and start further up the trail.  A gut feeling in my stomach told me I should. 

Here’s when Jessica walked into my life.  She is a smart, sweet Swedish woman also walking the Te Araroa Northbound.  She caught up to me in Arthur’s Pass.  When she walked into the hostel, she asked for a room for 3 days.  The man at the desk said he only had a room available for that night.  She took it and said she would figure out where to stay tomorrow later.  I knew she was a Te Araroa walker from the moment I looked at her legs: scratches and scrapes from the ankles up to her thighs. I said, “are you hiking the Te Araroa?” she replied, “yes, are you Therese?” We chatted and she explained she had been following my progress and knew I would be there from my notes in the hut books.

I had gone into DOC (Department of Conservation) information center the day before and asked about the trail.  They said the next 2 days were good to do the rivers, but then heavy rain was expected for the next 5 days after that.  I told Jessica about this, the woman who died, and my apprehension of doing the two river crossings alone.  She really wanted to take a full rest day because she had been walking for over 11 days straight, but she also did not want to get stuck in Arthur’s Pass for a week, waiting for the rain to clear.  So, we decided that we would team up and do the river crossings together.  We spent 2 days together, and they were wonderful. 

The track, especially through the woods around the Deception River was absolutely breathtaking.  The water in the river was gorgeous, clear, and powerful.  I couldn’t help exclaiming out loud, “How beautiful! This is so amazing, I’m so happy we didn’t skip this section!”  We also found ourselves scrambling up, down, and around huge boulders the size of cars.  At one point I had to push my backpack over a huge boulder and crawl through a hole between two smaller boulders next to it in the river to get through.  Jessica wanted to stay out of the water, so she went up into the woods, trying to go up and over.  On the other side where she was supposed to come down was a steep slope.  She took off her backpack and passed it down to me, then I half caught her while she jumped down from the cliff.  In times like these, we were screaming at each other, “THIS IS CRAZY!! THIS IS NOT A TRAIL!”  But, through all the craziness, we made it!  We worked our asses off and pushed through two really long, hard days.  

On the third day, we walked the first 3 hours together.  At this point, we came to Locke Stream Hut, and Jessica decided it was best for her to have a short day and rest.  I was still feeling good, so I decided to continue on for 6 more hours to the next hut.  It was misting, but not too bad as I climbed up to Harper’s Pass.  It was a steep climb up, but a much easier descent down past Hurunui Hut, along to Hurunui Hut #3 where I spent the night alone.

The 4th day I walked 29 km from #3 Hut to Hope Kiwi Lodge.  Two hours into my walk I found a hot pool! I had a soak, and the sandflies had a bite, or 20, of my bare backside when I got out.  The rest of the day’s walking was pretty easy and uneventful.  I spent it avoiding horse poo and dreaming about getting to Hanmer Springs and having a coffee.  I arrived at Hope Kiwi Lodge, which was huge and luxurious.  I was so tired, I fell asleep as soon as I got there.  I was woken by a hunter coming in.  Later, two others on horses joined us.  I had to fight the urge to ask them if I could go for a ride.  I’ve been wanting to go horseback riding since I got to New Zealand.  I am hoping it happens soon!

I woke up to the threat of rain on the horizon.  I packed quickly and said my goodbyes.  The hunter replied with, “alright I’ll see you up the trail.”  I wanted to say, “oh no you won’t.”  But alas, as I was trying to find my way across a pile of mixed rock next to a river, he caught up to me.  He came up behind me and greeted me with a loud, “how’s it going?” Of course my reaction was a big, “AAAAHHHHH!”  I get spooked easily.  He offered me a ride from the carpark to Hamner Springs; I quickly accepted.  Less offended that he caught up to me after that.  He took the lead, and I followed him to Hope Shelter where he decided to take a break.  I told him I’d keep walking, sure that he would catch up to me again.  I booked it.  I didn’t want him to catch up to me.  I wanted to be faster!

I ended up stopping, taking a break, and talking to some SOBOs about the next few sections ahead.  It’s funny seeing their reactions when I tell them I am a NOBO.  First it’s shock, then huge smiles spread across their faces and excitement fills them.  “OH! You are the first I’ve met so far!!!” It’s always a nice reaction to receive.  They tell me I am coming up to the best parts of the trail.  The most challenging, yet rewarding.  All of them informing me that I am almost done.  Hearing this makes me excited, yet sad at the same time.  I don’t want it to be over! I feel I have only just started!  I decided I am going to pace myself in the next few sections.  Take all of the days slowly and enjoy them.  The Waiau Pass is next! 116km in 5-8 days.  I think I will lean towards 8 days for this trip.  Rain is in the forecast, but I am hoping it clears, and I get some beautiful weather to enjoy the views!

Also, I ended beating the hunter to the carpark.  A whole half hour ahead of him.  A win for me and a great end to this section 🙂

Finished the last leg of the TA in 5 days rather than the 8 I thought it was going to take me💪🏼 So excited for the next couple of sections coming up! I’ve heard from all the SOBOs I’ve met that they’re going to be the hardest but most rewarding. Waiau Pass, I’m coming for ya! #teararoa #tramping #newzealand #adventure #wanderlust #backpacking

Te Anau to Queenstown

I have to say, getting back on the trail alone was liberating. I felt free again. I set off from Te Anau to hitch back to the trail head on Mavora Lakes Road on a gloomy, cloudy morning. As the rain began to fall, I hesitated; thinking I should go back to the warm bed I had left that morning. That hesitation was strongly washed over by my desire to get back on the trail. A nice woman and her daughter picked me up within minutes and I was off!

40km along a gravel road to get to the campsite. I was about 10km into my walk when the rain really began to fall. A car pulled up alongside me. Two sweet little Malaysian women asked me if I would like a lift to the lake. Looking ahead at the storm I was about to walk into, I happily accepted. After a long conversation about what I was doing and how careful I promised I would be on my journey, we arrived at the campsite. We snapped some selfies and they loaded me up with two minute noodles and instant coffee. Once again, I found myself blessed by the kindness of strangers. We said our goodbyes and I began my hike for the day.

16km to get to Boundary Hut. The first part of my walk was spent avoiding massive mud puddles and getting splashed by boys on dirt bikes who thought it was funny to ride past me as fast as they could. The second part of my day was spent praying and giving thanks to God for the opportunity I’ve been given to go on this journey. There is so much time for your mind to wanter when you’re out in the middle of nowhere. My mind decided to reflect on my past and the mistakes I’ve made in my life; then came the tears. Something about crying, just letting all of the sadness and emotion flow out of your body, is so therapeutic. All part of the healing process I suppose.

The weather was once again playing games with me. Sunny for 5 minutes, then hailing, on and off. I made it to Boundary hut as it started to get really bad. Hallelujah! I had a quiet, cold night alone in the hut.

The next day I woke up with the sun. Made my usual oatmeal and chia seed breakfast, packed up, and left with my sights set on Greenstone Hut, 22km away. Swampy, wet, muddy, grassy terrain for most of the walk that day. I felt a change in myself this day. I found myself smiling during my tramp. Dare I say this is getting easier?! Could I actually be ENJOYING THIS?! I was! Such a special, wonderful, elating feeling! I made it to Greenstone Hut by late afternoon. There were heaps of people already there. Greenstone Hut sits on a very popular route that many people come for fishing or a weekend hiking trip. In the hut, I met people from all over: a girl from Wisconsin, on holiday after finishing studying abroad; two outdoor adventure seekers from Australia; four Israeli guys; and a couple from Seattle who quit their jobs to travel the world. I found everyone around me very attractive; I felt so out of place. This hut was luxurious in comparison to the ones I had been staying in. They had toilets that actually FLUSHED. Too bad I didn’t realize that until the next morning. Oops. I had a great night sleep, warm and cosy in a room with 6 other people in it.

The next day I was lucky enough to hitch a ride to Queenstown with the couple from Seattle in their campervan. I got dropped downtown and once again felt out of place. Tourists and someone trying to sell you something everywhere you turned. I had to wait until my couchsurfing host got off work at 11pm, so I wandered the streets, trying to avoid spending any money in this overpriced town. I did happen to find a coffee shop, Vudu Café, which had almond milk. Not only did they make the best almond milk latte I’ve ever had, they served it in a BOWL. If you go to Queenstown, go there for coffee. Hands down, best I’ve ever had.

I spent the next day resting. Enjoyed a gorgeous walk along the lake. I can see the draw people have to this city. It’s so picturesque. The water is crystal clear and the mountains in the backdrop are stunning. I was grinning from ear to ear all day. The DOC said the status of the trail from Queenstown to Wanaka is all good, so tomorrow I depart! They said to be mentally prepared because it will be the hardest part of the trail I’ve encountered thus far. With sunshine in the forecast for tomorrow, I am optimistic.

Woke up at 5 am along with the sun, super pleased with myself that I packed up all my things before the rain started. It began as only a light drizzle. Rather than find cover, I decided to walk down to the beach and watch the sunrise. That was my first mistake. The storm clouds came swiftly and the rain began to fall. By the bucket load. I was completely soaked through within minutes. I walked along the main road in Riverton, praying that somewhere would be open and save me from the torrential downpour. The supermarket was the earliest to open, and that was at 7am, so I sat, in the cold, wet rain and waited. My second mistake. When they opened, I wandered the 2 short aisles they had for a half an hour, trying to avoid going back outside. When I couldn’t bear to awkwardly walk by the cashier again, I checked out, and went to face the storm. Sweet relief: across the street, The Postmaster Cafe had opened! It was a very big place; I set myself up on a cozy couch, tucked away in a corner room. I had the place all to myself, so I laid out my wet gear and warmed up with a long black. They didn’t have any vegan friendly food, but I had scored 8 bananas for $1.28 at the supermarket, so I was happy 🙂

Once the rain cleared, I went to the information center just up the road. I told the woman at the desk, Carol, that I was hiking the Te Araroa and needed some maps. She saw that I was alone and looked concerned. After a few calls, I was on the phone with Kevin Hawkes. Little did I know at that moment how important it was that I was to meet this man! He is not only a trail angel, he is actually the chairman of the Te Araroa in Southland. He came to the information center in Riverton, fully equipped with trail notes and maps for me! After sitting and chatting awhile, he seemed to be a bit concerned about my lack of knowledge, plans, and survival methods for my walk, which in turn, made me worry. He took me into Invercargill so I could set up a cellphone plan and laminate my trail maps. He also hosted me at his home, called “Humpty,” a cute little house on 230 acres of land, a hot shower and warm meal included! I strung up my hammock in the yard and slept next to the lambs. In the morning he dropped me at the Long Hilly Track trail head with a promise from me that I would text him when I had arrived safely at Martin’s Hut.

The Long Hilly Track was about 6km and took me about 2 hours, not too bad I thought! Then I continued into the Longwood Forest on my way to Martin’s hut. There’s a reason it’s called the Longwood Forest. The only better name I can think of would be the Never Ending Forest. It took me forever! There were very sketchy parts where I was walking over huge ditches on a very wobbly board. I couldn’t keep myself from thinking, “wow I could fall to my death right now and no one would know!” Not to mention a lot of huge trees had fallen recently and were blocking the path. Me, being an inexperienced tramper, tried to go straight through the obstacle, rather than the logical method of looking for a way around. At one point, I tripped and fell towards a ditch on my right. My backpack got stuck under a fallen tree trunk and prevented me from falling to my death. After lying there for a minute, filled with anger at my stupidity, I tried to get up, but I failed. With my 23 kilo pack, I didn’t have the strength to lift it and myself up. I unbuckled from my pack and slid out of it. I was half temped to leave it there. Once I got control of my emotions, I put on my pack and set off again, determined to do this! Once again, I was racing to get to my destination before dark. By the time I made it to Cascade Road, I thought I was 1km from Martin’s Hut. How wrong I was. It was 1km down that road, then another 10 minutes off that road, then another 30 minutes of tramping before getting there! And this wasn’t any easy tramping. This was up steep hills, in thick mud, with more huge obstacles blocking the pathway. With the daylight fading fast, I had to fight the voice in my head that was telling me to just stop and string up my hammock already. FINALLY! I made it up the hill to the sign that said Martin’s Hut: 100 meters, 1 minute. I almost burst into tears when I saw smoke coming from the chimney. I let out a loud “WOO!” and a boy, Benjamin, opened the door and welcomed me.

Benjamin is French-Canadian, a fellow vegan, and started the Te Araroa on the same day as I did! Funny we never came across each other until now. I could tell just from talking to him for a few minutes that he is a very experienced hiker. He is like me in the sense that he has never done anything like the Te Araroa before, and that his pack is far too heavy (24 kilos!) But he has taken outdoor survival classes and knows a lot about the outdoors. I can honestly say that if he wasn’t there, I would not have continued on in the Longwood Forest. I would have gone back and tried to hitch around them. But he was keen to hike together the next day, and I have to say, it was great to have someone there. I’m learning so much from him! Even the smallest, most basic things he showed me, made a world of difference in my tramping experience. Like to look for a way around an obstacle (mud) rather than trying to go through it. There was a very steep, muddy, overgrown path on our hike out of Martin’s hut to begin the day. We were in the clouds when we made it up to the ridges. Trying to find the next orange pole marking the trail became a game that was quite fun. In between the ridges there was some beautiful, enchanted forestry. Everything was covered in moss; it looked like some gnomes or fairies were going to come out and play with us at any moment. But then the rain came. Once again I was unprepared when it came to rain gear and I paid dearly for it. By the time we made it out of the muddy, steep descent towards the road to Bald Hill, we were cold, wet, and the rain was showing no sign of stopping. About 1km up the road, I couldn’t take it any more. It was another 7km to get to Merrivale Road, and we were freezing. My hands were so cold they weren’t working properly anymore. With 6% battery life on my phone, I decided to call Kevin and see if he would come rescue us. Bless his soul, he said he and his wife, Ann, were waiting for my call, and they would come get us! He picked us up within 2 hours and we were back at Humpty, enjoying another hot shower and warm meal.

With rain in the forecast the next day, (today) we decided to take a rest day. After tramping with Ben, I had a reality check. I could honestly die if I wasn’t smart about this. I needed to get better gear, and I needed it before I took another step on the Te Araroa. So, I made a list: what I absolutely needed to get, and what I needed to get rid of to try and lighten my pack. Kevin and Ann are some of the best people, not only that I’ve met in New Zealand, but in my entire life! They took me back into Invercargill to all of the camping and hunting shops to find proper gear. I dropped a lot of money, but I feel confident going into the mud and rain that is forecast for tomorrow. I bought a good pair of rain pants and raincoat, plus some gators and more dry sacs. The only thing I am still concerned about is my sleeping bag. It is not warm enough for New Zealand weather. I couldn’t afford to buy another one, so I am praying that the nights won’t get too cold. Benjamin and I decided to continue traveling together, at least for awhile. I definitely think I can learn heaps more from him, and I feel better knowing I have someone to face the bad weather with.

I know I am not experienced in this kind of thing, but the good thing about starting from ground zero, is you can only get better. I made a deal with myself that I would give it my all for 2 weeks before I consider throwing in the towel. I am hoping things start getting better with the days to come.

The first face I came across in 22 kilometers of straight beach tramping.
Apparently yesterday was the hottest December day Invercargill’s had in the past 50 years😓 It was hot and my pack was HEAVYYYY. I decided to take as many breaks as I wanted. Because of this, I made it into Riverton late and nothing was open. I found a patch of huge pine trees🌲 with a clearing underneath and decided to camp there for the night. I was too tired to set up my hammock, so I just slept on the ground in my sleeping bag and prayed that the rain would hold off. God must’ve heard me, because the rain didn’t start until after I woke up and packed up my things😁 #teararoa #newzealand #tramping #northbound #travel #adventure #beach