Left Blue Lake Hut 0750 and stopped at Caroline Creek around 1645 after covering just over 13km. Just under 9 hours in total, with around 8 hours of walking - gives you some idea of the terrain!!! The GPS track for today is here. As well as the stops shown on the graph, we had two more 10 minute breaks (forgot to stop the watch for those!) - one near the head of Lake Constance and another at the top of Waiau Pass.
After leaving Blue Lake, we initially climbed about 300m above Lake Constance which was clearly visible below. We of course then dropped right down about 150m to the lake shore! We walked around the lake to the head and stopped shortly after for a break as the sun had just appeared in this part of the valley (about 0930), and it's much nicer stopping in the sun :-)! Markus and Nana were a little ahead of us but on the way, prior to our stop, we could also see a bright yellow fluoro top of someone part way up the first ascent, with another person as well - approaching the steep shale section - so we were wondering who that might be, as they were not at the hut last night!
Another 10 min walk up the flat saw us at the base of the very imposing steep climb up towards Waiau Pass. Long and slow! It's a bit of a two-stage climb - it flattened out a little (relatively speaking!!) for a short while after the first substantial climb and then there is a shorter final steep ascent to the pass itself. We arrived at the top at midday, stopping for a break to rest, eat and take in the spectacular views. Markus and Nana were there and the mystery of the other couple was also solved. Judy and Peter, an older couple from Hawkes Bay (I think in their late 60’s) were the ones ahead of us - having camped last night on the flats at the head of Lake Constance. They are doing chunks of the TA, although not sticking to it religiously, being prepared to depart the track (e.g. they ended up crossing the Waiau further down and connecting with the St James cycleway to take them directly into Hanmer) when it suits. Keeps reinforcing that age is no barrier per se!!
What followed was an equally steep descent down to the Waiaua River West Branch (although I have also see it referred to as the Thompson River), including one gnarly pinch down a rock chute that required rock climbing skills, and took a while to negotiate!! But, overall, not as challenging as a couple of spots in the Richmond Ranges, from our perspective.
We all stopped for lunch once we had got down to the river. Peter and Judy headed off first, followed by us and then Markus and Nana - it turns out that Markus and Nana camped at Waiau Forks so we didn’t see them again until Anne Hut.
Then it was on down the Waiau River valley. We met a couple of hunters heading up just before Waiau Forks - they were planning to head up to Lake Thompson, opposite Waiau Pass and camp up there in search of deer. It was still quite “lumpy” terrain but eventually we reached the flatter valley - although this was still not easy going, with a number of rock slides to traverse alongside the river. Sometimes we were in the bush margins and sometimes right along the river edge. A couple of km from Caroline Creek bivvy it widened out and flattened even more, with some faster progress made. We had decided to tent near the bivvy so stopped there about 1645. Should have probably gone further in hindsight! Sandflies are pretty bad here and there is no real reason to camp close to the bivvy (no toilet)! A lesson for us to tuck away. We found out later that DoC are apparently looking at upgrading the facilities here - mention of a full hut going in to replace what is essentially a two-bunk emergency shelter.
A very cheeky little robin was entertaining Belinda and, as is often the case in the bush, would come right up to us. Sitting in the tent, he came right up to perch on my pack, presumably interested in all the sandflies as well. Such cute little birds :-)
Belinda and Anthony (aka Tony) Hadfield made a decision, in their late 50's, to do something a "bit different" and walk New Zealand's 3000km Te Araroa Trail over summer 2015/16 - although updates will now tell you that this plan will take longer now!!. As the old saying goes - "don't leave home 'til you've seen the country"!!