Days on Trail: 12-15 | Date of Adventure: 17-20 Jan 2022
Waking up, we could hear the ever-present plinking on the tent walls; we soon realized it wasn’t rain anymore, but the sandflies trapped in the peak of our tent trying endlessly to escape. Though the inner tent is probably our heaviest single piece of gear, it’s times like these that make it worth the weight.
After a late night, we decided to sleep in to wait out some rain in the morning. The aforementioned sandflies greeted us eagerly, so we packed up camp as quickly as we could and got going!
Today’s plan was simple: go up, then go down! It was anything but easy, though, as the hill required navigation through tall grass and shrubs while it rose steeply.
We eventually took the ridgeline, and the morning clouds broke to give us an incredible view all around! We could see all the way to Bluff hill, and each of the places we had hiked before!
Brunel mountain dominated the skyline to our left as we continued along the ridge. The sun was too hot, and we had to shed layers. Luckily the sandflies aren’t so keen about wind, so we were safe!
The path rose and vegetation thinned out a bit. It felt very reminiscent of the top bit of a Colorado 14er, with steep, gravelly sections requiring use of our hands.
As we summited our great peak of the day, we were surprised to see what was just on the other side…
Dense forest! I thought the shrinking vegetation on one side meant that we were rising above the treeline. I was quickly corrected, as we next descended into the beech woods.
These ones were (thankfully) much drier than the Longwoods, but the old trees deposited twisted, poky branches all over the trail that kept tripping us up and scratching our legs! Since I walk a bit faster than Kadi, I walked a bit ahead and took up the task of flinging the peskiest branches as far off trail as I could with my trekking poles.
The first hut of the section appeared before long: the Lower Wairaki hut. Though we had planned to continue to the next hut, it was so inviting after the frustrating 3km of tripping and scratching sticks that we decided to stay!
We were the only ones there that night, so we played cards, dice, and enjoyed a movie on Kadi’s phone before heading to bed.
The next day was a series of steep creek beds (some wet, some dry) that we descended, then trudged up out of. Though the day looked flat on the elevation profile, the constant elevation change meant it was slow going.
We spotted some native NZ mistletoe flowering in the canopy! You could tell it was above the trail when you were suddenly walking on your very own red carpet of dropped petals. We would stop for a quick smooch each time we saw it, but soon realized that it happened far too often. In the end we blew each other a kiss whenever we noticed it 😉
It was a hot and sunny day, so we were thankful for the shade of the woods. Still plenty sweaty though!
Near the end of the day, the trail makes its way across a marshland. Since it hadn’t really rained in a couple weeks here, it was generally just soft moss for us. Very gentle on the feet!
Rain was in the forecast for the afternoon though, and we could see it starting to let loose on the mountains we had just come from!
Of course, as soon as it seemed close enough for us to pull out our rain jackets, the sun came out and the rain stayed at bay. I guess that’s why you bring them??
We had one last river crossing before our planned hut for the night, but this one had a swing bridge for us! My tent string got caught in the chain link part as I crossed, that was fun to try to figure out on a swing bridge!
We were once again the only ones as the Aparima hut, allowing us to stretch out a bit and relax.
Every hut has an intentions book, also called a hut log, that you’re meant to sign in to as you pass through. Primarily meant as a way to find hikers who may have gone missing (so they know where they’ve passed through), these books can also provide reading and entertainment if you look back at all the comments people have made!
Rain was the name of the game for our next day. Though they were just low clouds when we started hiking, they soon started to mist on us before opening up and soaking everything.
This particular day was spent mainly walking through waist to shoulder high tussocks (clumps of tall, stout grasses). The rain held on to the grass, meaning we got wet from both the pouring rain and the path we had to bash through. Fun!
Because of the rain my camera got put away early on, and we don’t have pictures of the scenic cliffs we passed on the way. I would love to come back on a better weather day!
After a large, steep hill over princhester saddle, we descended to the lower Princhester hut, where one girl was already staying. It turned out that she was American as well, from Washington state! We were the first Americans she had seen (and vice versa), so we had a great time talking freely with her.
There was a little rain the next morning, but we had an easy walk over gravel roads to get to HWY6, so we took our time.
Our next step was a 20km hitch-hike into Te Anau for our next resupply! Neither of us had ever hitched before (other than to each other), so it was a little nerve-wracking and a bit demoralizing at times.
Eventually, a couple brothers in a rented campervan pulled over, threw a bunch of stuff in the boot, and beckoned for us to come on over! We had a great time chatting with them as they headed for their trip to the Milford Sound.
Next post we will talk about our rest day in Te Anau, one of our favorite little towns! Thanks for reading!