After a hectic afternoon in Arthur’s Pass setting up an Indiegogo campaign to (fingers crossed!) garner some further donations to fill the I-need-to-eat-more fund, I beetled my way past Klondyke Corner to Bealey, arriving at the ever-so-cute Bealey Hut in the dark. It started raining minutes after I arrived.
The next morning was calm, with low cloud casting mysterious shadows on the mountains and down into the Waimakariri Valley. My day ended at Hamilton Hut, which rightly deserves it’s nickname of ‘Hamilton Hilton’!
Then came the rain. Walking all morning down Harper River in the pouring rain was tiring. My poor hands couldn’t grip the wrapper on my yummy Jack Link’s beef snack – I had to go hungry until my fingers thawed!
By the time I reached the Ryton campsite on the edge of Lake Coleridge the rain and wind had ceased. It was a surreal scene – water like glass, low clouds just hanging, silence. Beautiful.
I couldn’t reach Lake Coleridge Village the next day without getting wet again. Thankfully Hugh, a friendly local, pointed me in the direction of some trees which ‘officially’ I could camp beneath. In the rain. Brrrr. Looking across the Rakaia River the dark clouds were ominous – that was the direction Te Araroa was taking me next…
Monday meant I had visitors! (That makes it sound like I’ve been in jail – I guess I have been ‘doing time’!) Vicki and Jennifer – two of the original bunch of friends who insisted I embark on this adventure – were coming to transport me safely across the Rakaia since the river is deemed a ‘safety zone’, ie. too dangerous to cross.
However the morning had dawned with a healthy dump of snow on the hills. Heavens – and they were the hills I was planning to walk amongst?!
So we drove to Methven for delicious food and grocery shopping, and to devise (yup, you guessed it) yet another Plan B.
Instead of spending over a week trying to navigate the snowy back-country and survive tentative ‘iffy’ marginal weather forecasts, I’m going to stick to the road/populated bits for a time, hopefully accelerating my journey south.
So Vicki and Jennifer duly returned me to delightful Lake Coleridge Village to dry my tent and pitch it once again beneath the towering trees.
At 5.00pm – just 90 minutes from darkness – a large green Landcruiser pulled up. A lady got out. We spoke. I was being ordered out of town. “No camping is allowed anywhere.” Oh good 😦
So I promptly picked up my tent and plonked it on the spare grassy part of Hugh’s section, as he’d already offered. Easy 🙂
Dawn however had my tent white with frost – brrrrr! But it was fine, and a perfect morning for hiking down the road to the Rakaia Gorge Bridge. Why was my lower back sore, I wonder? And was that the cause of my right shin to once again feel tight and uncomfortable…?
Reaching the gorge, I crossed the formidable river staying nice and dry. Cutting the day short to rest my leg, I pitched on the grass overlooking the river at the gorge campground – a fantastic site. Dennis and Annette from Christchurch made conversation and as we chatted in the warmth of their cosy campervan, the wind started.
Not just a gently zephyr or meandering breeze, a true-blue howling gale down the gorge. I was impressed at how my PacerTent (nice one Aarn Design!) was handling the gusts. My biggest issue was the noise!
So at midnight I threw in the towel, (actually I couldn’t since my towel was hanging to dry and I never found it in the tussock until daylight) dropped the tent and moved everything into the dining shelter. Not a bad few hours sleep, considering!
Today was wet and my shin is hurting like a painful thing. Rats! Drat! Blast! Only on Monday I said to Vicki I was feeling fit and strong and healthy. Today I feel 103 years old with the energy level of a corpse. Did I mention it’s raining?
I shuffled through the dampness (big thumbs up to the Fulton Hogan truck drivers who kept giving me the widest berth of all the vehicles today – thanks guys!) as far as Pudding Hill Lodge. That’s where I’m staying put tonight, leg up and fingers crossed for improvements all round tomorrow.
Bluff seems soooo close and yet there’s still an awful lot of effort to go…