Had a slightly more leisurely start today, although still arise at 0645 - plenty of time for hot drinks and a BCC cooked breakfast instead of muesli for a nice change!. It was slightly warmer this morning as it had clouded over during the night, but still a little cool (at 1070m asl). Jakob and Nicholas left separately (both heading in the opposite direction to us) followed not long after by Jeremey and Constance and ourselves, southbound, at about 0900. We reached the junction with SH73 after about 3h40 walking, and then the Bealey Hotel at about 1420 after covering 17.2 km (it takes longer to get down the Bealey and across the Waimakariri than one thinks!). A 5h20 day, pretty much all of which was walking, including quite a few stops to change clothing - warm then cooler, wet then not quite so wet! GPS data for the day is here.
By the time we left at 0900, it had started to drizzle so we were into wet weather gear to start the day. It was a funny sort of track today with an initial slightly steeper downhill stretch that included stony underfoot as well as some marshy bits, with some covered by boardwalk sections! This is still the Coast to Coast route so I guess some of these areas could turn into an absolute mudbath with so many feet tramping them, without putting bits of boardwalk in.
Following the Mingha River down, we came to Mingha bivvy after about 2.5km. The downhill eventually leveled out a bit, although there was still a little bit of up and down through bush where the river narrowed into a difficult gorge - most noticeable being the climb up Dudley's Knob (another couple of kms after Mingha bivvy). Having left Goat Pass Hut in misty drizzle, with rain gear on, we only had a brief stretch where I took mine off before it got too wet again. The wet weather also affects photography a bit - with me leaving my phone in its waterproof case much of the day. So it was mainly up to the Panasonic rugged camera (FT6), carried by Belinda - hence a lot of photos of me today and less of B!!
Eventually we got into the stony river flats as the Mingha valley widened somewhat. This was a mix of raised bush/grass bits and walking on stony river bed. Not always easy on the legs especially as we had done a lot of it over the last several days. My ankle had felt OK overnight but was sore again by mid-morning. Eventually we came to the confluence with the Bealey River beside SH73, crossing this with no issues - a random guy was wandering around here and came over to chat with us. Turns out he had turned up to meet Jeremey and Constance (they didn’t know he was coming) - so we told him that we figured they were no more than maybe 15 minutes behind us, depending on how long they had stopped for. So they won’t have to hitch back into Chch!! From here we followed a gravel road and then a bit of SH73 (busy with narrow road margins - not nice!) before getting back onto riverbed alongside the Bealey for about 3km to Klondike corner. We did miss any sign that should have taken us off SH73 back onto the riverbed but eventually realised we had passed it and found an alternative spot to bash our way through to the riverbed (others seem to have had the same problem)!
Soon after Klondike Corner, the track petered out and we could see no markers at all. The next 3km was across a wide expanse of river and riverbed - some open bouldery dry beds and some scrub and grass - where the Bealey flows into the Waimakariri. This was all guesswork and following the GPS, but it wasn't pleasant going, taking somewhat longer than we had anticipated - about an hour to get from Klondike Corner to SH73 atop the grassy hill near The Bealey! We crossed the Waimakariri in three braids so nothing was over knee height - the persistent drizzle was not enough to cause any significant increased flow! The hardest part was that the stones on the riverbed we covered in brown algae which made it a bit like crossing an ice rink in places - still, all safely across! Once across we had to find how to get out of the riverbed and up to the road again(we could see it just above us). This was a minor mission in itself - although we saw what looked like a small grassy hill between the trees that looked like a possible exit spot. We did see some evidence of others going up there but we had to wade through long grass, scrub and blackberry to get up there - not so much fun! We didn't know exactly where the Bealey Hotel was but were very pleasantly surprised to find it was only 100m down the road from where we emerged, wet and bedraggled!
A quick walk saw us there - we dropped off all the wet gear in the entrance and went up to check that they had a unit available tonight as we had originally booked tentatively for tomorrow night (obviously no cellphone coverage since we left Boyle - and none here either!). All good. We're thinking that, for a number of reasons, not least the crappy weather coming up in the next week or so, and a few aches in the legs that have developed over the last few days, that this might be a good time to stop for this season. After checking weather etc via the local wifi, we decided that is what we would do, so over dinner (wifi doesn't reach out unit which is a bit of a pain) we settled on a plan. Stay another night (Wed) to wind down, dry out and organise transport and then head for home on Thursday.
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"!!