What an amazing five day tramping opportunity encompassing parts of the Te Araroa trail and offering diverse landscapes with physically and emotionally stretching terrain. The fearless four – well mostly fearless headed off seeking fun and adventure.
Day one Queenstown to Princhester Hut
Our pick up from Queenstown was a highly interesting one with driver Martin holding nothing back. He was very generous with the use of his horn particularly when he wanted rental car drivers to pull over and give way. Oh and there was the time he decided to wake the sleeping policeman manning the speed camera. Martin mentioned that on his days off he would help stack rocks in the fields and pointed out to us some stacks of rocks. Yeah right!
Martin and his family had spent many hours on local roads and together had accumulated many stories of misfortune leading to death. Martin recalled one day when watching sky divers descend. They seemed to be blown off course missing their landing point. Unfortunately the sky divers landed in the lake and were never seen again.
We said goodbye to Martin and his stories at the start of Princhester road and headed for the hut. What a gentle start- only a couple of hours of easy walking and mostly by road. We met two young men; one from Canada and one from Japan enjoying the Te Araroa trail, and later a young German man.
The Princhester hut was vacant with bunks for all of us and located near a fresh water stream for drinking and washing. Perfect!
Day two Princhester Hut to Apirama Hut
What a beautiful day- with warm weather and no rain in sight. We had amicably agreed that we would set off at 8am, but with four early risers we were all ready to leave just after 7.30am. “Don’t forget to flip up your mattresses before you leave the hut” Some hut etiquette ....we were learning all the time.
We couldn’t have asked for more amazing contrasts as we tramped for some eight hours across undulating sheltered beech forests and barren granite hills. We also bounced off mossy carpets, and navigated tussock grassed areas full of obstacles such as ditches, holes, and boggy bits. Cramp momentarily claimed our gallant team leader, but with some rapid first aid including magnesium he was back on his feet leading us on.
Arriving at Apirama Hut we were welcomed by a couple of bellowing bulls and persistent mosquitoes in large numbers requiring some very heavy duty deet.
Day three Apirama Hut to Lower Wairaki Hut
Another stunning day weatherwise which we spent mostly in the shade of the beech forest. That presented its own challenges as we climbed up and over and around fallen trees and sometimes hugged a tree to help manoeuvre ourselves and keep on track. This resulted in all sorts of skin scrapes, grazes and splinters. Three needles were produced from a sewing kit as necessary surgical instruments to remove large splinters in our fingers. Nasty!
Our hut for the night had the basic amenities including a selection of mousetraps and deer hunters’ momentos. It didn’t look like it had been used for some time with no box to collect hut tickets. The hut book told a few tales and advised us not to believe the walking times recorded on the sign posts. Interestingly, we had found some of the signs confusing.
This hut had a river close by providing a chance to wash yes, its nice to wash and very refreshing. For those on the top bunks, they had a physical agility test in the absence of a ladder.
Day four Lower Wairaki Hut to Telford Burn Campsite
We headed off early considering the potential challenges of the day but encouraged that it was likely to take us just six hours. The steep climb to amazing vistas and rocky ledges was breathtaking. Did I mention the sign recommending that experienced trampers only use this track and proceed with care? We came across a young French couple also on the track and wished them well.
The further we climbed the more the landscape changed to reflect the higher altitude. We saw amazing alpine plants and even alpine daisies blooming. Then there was the loose rocky shingle towards the top of the ridge and over the other side demanding a rocky scramble. A slip, a fall, and blown over by the wind- there was blood from a few skin abrasions but no broken bones. Those strong winds were so keen to pick you up and send you tumbling.
We checked our position referring to our maps keen to locate our campsite. Our eagle eyes spotted a lonely green DOC toilet sitting in the middle of a field. This must be it.
It was the first opportunity to use our tents on this trip and this provided a surprise for one of us. A newly purchased tent base was the wrong size. The team rallied around and he soon had protective secure cover for the night.
We were joined by a young Canadian struggling with allergies due to grasses and pollens. He pitched his tent nearby.
Bugs, bugs and more bugs! Sandflies were beyond your imagination- and covering whatever they could. Retreating to our tents the heat of the sun created sauna like conditions. So we escaped to the riverside with more deet till sundown.
At 2am it rained.
Day five Telford Burn Campsite to Forest Road
Wearing our raincoats we packed up our tents amidst light drizzle. We were so looking forward to what had been promised -– a gentle meander downwards along the riverside to the forest and cattle yards to await pick up. But that wasn’t to be. A menacing sign threatened prosecution and exorbitant fines if we continued on our way along the riverside. So up the hill it was and a big loop round avoiding parts of Mt Linton Station private property until descending to cross a river and onwards to Forest Road. It would seem that recently rules had changed for Te Araroa Trail trampers.
We made it to the pick up point and my goodness it was good to see Neil with the van.
Our Tramping Trip mates were very generous with their Macgyver tips and tricks:
- Wind shields created from empty gas canisters
- Recycled milk cartons to protect food products
- Reinforced cardboard to protect cracker biscuits
- Multi-purpose items- its not just a cloth!
- One pot wonder meals
What would you consider a great outcome for such a tramping trip like Takitimu Mountains? It was suggested that it could be measured: all fingers and toes accounted for and still talking. We had a great outcome! 100% achieved!
Ralph, Kas, Chris & Roz