The kids mucked about eating their two minute noodles, or cans of baked beans for breakfast, but I procrastinated longer. They wanted to do some more rumbling around in the shrubbery today, trackless, training for some organised event coming up, I left them to it and went down to this pristine river, has to be one of the cleanest around, you can see each pebble on the bottom of the big pools, a short walk down the river is a decent pool, somewhat cool to get me swimming but it sure looked good.

Then the long trudge up to Totara Saddle, is that what I’ve been trying to avoid this morning? It starts steep for a 200 m grunt then just slowly sidles its way along, some bits almost overgrown, a few big trees, windfalls, to get around, DOC seems to have only made a minimal effort on track maintenance here.

Near the saddle I take a break and hear a strange noise, a stray goat perhaps, but it was just Adam, a NOBO as they say, northbound on the Te Araroa Trail, kinda sad that it looks like he won’t catch Janine. We talk, no surprise there, reckons the Alpine Route where I’m headed has been the highlight of the trip, closely followed by Waiau Pass. He started on 19 December, it’s now late March, but after consecutive exuberant 40 km days from Bluff he had such bad feet he had to take a break for 2.5 weeks in Riverton. Since then he’s been pretty consistent, coming out four times for food and doing the odd touristy things along the way.

I’ve discussed Lake Constance in great detail with both Janine, yesterday, and Adam today to get the feeling about what happened to Andy Wyatt who fell 100 m near Blue Lake hut just before Christmas. They had both come of the official track and had some dodgy moments, neither really wanting to climb another 150 m after having climbed Waiau Pass earlier in the day.

I haven’t been inspired to date to walk TA as its enthusiasts term it, I once contemplated being a SOBO but the thought of making my way on the roads and through the farmland in the North Island didn’t really catch my imagination. Since then I’ve walked some of the South Island segments, Harper Pass/Lake Sumner/St James walkway to Caroline Creek bivvy is all part of that, as is Blue Lake/Travers Pass/St Arnaud. Now I’m doing the Captain Creek/Starveall/St Arnaud section so that’s a fair swathe of the top third.

My thoughts have swung around to forgetting about the North Island part, at least for a few years, and doing the NOBO, starting in Bluff, even if that first section through Southland is at the not-quite-tramping-perfection level. I haven’t spent all that much time in the hills south of Arthurs Pass, maybe that will give me a way to fill in a couple of months sometime next summer.

Eventually we got going, it was a different experience this time, compared with last year’s trip down from Totara Saddle to Hackett hut, this time my boots didn’t disintegrate, then both soles falling off and me walking in slippery moccasins, nor is there a huge Richmond flood storm, today the creek was way down and I didn’t need to get my feet wet.

It’s early days but this cute hut still has only the solitary occupant. I wouldn’t mind it staying that way in getting a good night’s sleep in preparation for my long slog up to Starveall and probably on to Slaty.

← Day 3 | Roebuck hut, and plenty of company Day 5 | Slaty hut, just above the bushline →