Te Araroa: Mt Linton Station

Days on Trail: 11 | Date of Adventure: 16 Jan 2022

After a rest day at the lovely Birchwood cabin, we continued on to a section described online as ‘horrible’, ‘awful’ and ‘not that bad’. Mount Linton Station is the largest private stock farm in New Zealand, and the land owners have a stringent deal with Te Araroa walkers: stay on trail, or else!

Originally an easy 19km direct walk through the property, at some point they had trouble with TA walkers who broke into a shed and stole some stuff; since then, they’ve rerouted it to be a 27km path far from any outbuildings.

The bridge into the property

We had heard rumors of the land owner flying his private helicopter over walkers just to double check they were staying on the trail–I thought they were rediculous rumors, until we heard the helicopter flying overhead.

$1000 fine or 3 months in jail

If they wanted us to stay on trail, they should mark the trail better! In the first kilometer alone, the trail markers diverged from the GPS coordinates, which diverged from the map. At one point we had to hop over an electrified fence to get onto the correct side of it!

Mildly lost

The farm is so large, they have their own private lake-Loch McGregor-with views of the Takitimu Mountains, our target for the day.

“The Loch”

After an hour of zig-zagging along farm service roads, we started ascending through farmland, skirting the barbed fence line between fields. Best we could tell it was lettuce or kale.

Up through the farmland

We eventually settled into a pattern of rising and falling hills as we passed through livestock pastures. Each field was separated by a stile over the barbed wire, requiring two very steep steps each.

The sun was oppressive, and we took water breaks in any scant shade we could find. Speaking of water, any stream or basin would be heavily polluted by stock effluent, meaning we had to bring all our water with us from the start for the whole 27km section.

This particular time of year the thistles were happy and thriving, meaning our lower legs got plenty of new scratches throughout the journey!

After a day of ups and downs, we crested the last hill before the mountains began in earnest. We had to ford a decently sized river, but the cool water was a welcome relief to our aching feet.

If you look close, you can see hundreds of sheep in this photo
Poison! Don’t eat the fluorescent pellets, even if they look like Skittles

Even though we were finally out of the endless fields of sheep or cows, we weren’t out of the farm’s property yet, and we still had three separate hills to climb before the campsite.

Three last hills 😦

By now, the heat of the day had gone and we soon found ourselves donning our fleece jackets. Venturing into the mountains also meant that the sandflies were ready to attack any time we stopped, so we put our leggings on to protect ourselves.

At the crest of the third rise, we could see the Telford campsite! Down the hill and up the valley we spotted the unmistakable beige cylinder of a DOC long-drop (pit toilet). It was all downhill from here!

As if the end being in sight wasn’t enough, the setting sun gave us a magnificent display as it set, lighting up the mountains behind our camp as we descended the last hill!

We had one final river crossing before the campsite opened up to us, signalling the end of Mt Linton Station! We heard then saw a helicopter in the distance one last time before we crossed the fence.

Grabby grasses

We finally reached our destination after dark, setting the tent up by head-lamp. One advantage of arriving late is that the sandflies aren’t a problem, since they can’t see (and therefore aren’t around) in the dark!

Gross feet, sorry

We made a hasty dinner and got into bed as soon as we could, both glad to be done with our longest day yet on the trail!

We were ready and excited to be out of the farmland, about to head up through the first mountain range of the trip, the Takitimu Mountains!

Thanks for reading!

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