Big rivers blog | January/February 2023
I crossed the Ahuriri River on my trip north on the Te Araroa Trail.
Not without incident, I turned back from near the middle of the fast-flowing river as it started to get deeper, to wrap all my electronic gear, just in case. Ultimately, that was not required, but it’s a decent-sized river.
Perfect for exploring as a practice run for the Rangitata River, although I scarcely needed practice at this stage of the summer/my life.
Last summer, I looked at the Avoca and Wilberforce Rivers and moved on to the Hopkins and Huxley. I didn’t mind that they were reasonably flat and involved long days of rock hopping.
I could cope with more of that because the headwaters of these big rivers are spectacular.
I just had to deal with crossing these big steep rivers. Hopefully, the weather would be in my favour.
I ran into some Swiss fishers, “Hey, I want to see your fishing licenses!” Then had to explain it was a joke.
I could have done the whole tramp as a day walk.
I passed a family with Dad, Mum, an 11-year-old girl, and a five-year-old boy. The kid had been looking at the volcanoes, and I asked him if he had seen any dinosaurs. “Yes, but they are over the back”.
A couple of nights in well peopled Aoraki should be sufficient before my brain cries out for solitude and sanity.
The day turned out more energetic than anticipated.
I was surprised to find I climbed over a low saddle on my way, with wind channelling along at a terrific rate, just about blowing me over on occasion.
I was heading for Dog Kennel Bivvy, but up at the start of the gorge, I suddenly thought why not just camp and walk up without my pack in the morning?
After a while, it became apparent the main Rangitata River was hard against the old moraine wall, and with the braided river looking swift, deep, and pretty milky, I decided to climb up to the high track.
An amazingly colourful sunrise, but the showers in the mountains looked ominous.
Ten big years since I arrived back in the country, and a bit has happened.
Once across, now all I needed to do was to find the hut.
I had all my warm clothes on and looked at my almost packed backpack and the wet shirt, pants, socks, boots and raincoat I was about to wear.
I crossed back over the Havelock River immediately in front of the hut, and, halfway across, came to the conclusion that this was a particularly bad decision. It had a metre or two where the flow was swift, footing uncertain due to the bouldery bottom, and I retreated to the shelter of a rock. I tried to continue back, but that didn’t look great either.
I spotted a young stag about 100 m from the hut, just up on a grassy fan. He stayed for a while as if to ask what had happened to his young girlfriend that the hunters had shot. Then he sadly wheeled around and quickly disappeared over the ridge.
He clearly had plenty of experience in driving up these big bouldery rivers and had a muscular four-wheel drive that could deal with some rough stuff. It helped the tire pressures were way down, but it was like being in a washing machine.