Got away about 0710 this morning after a 0600 rise. The day’s journey took us 21.7km in almost 7.5 hours walking time. The GPS data is here.
I looked out at 0615 and noted that the sky looked clear - great - then about 15 minutes later it started to rain - not so great! We couldn't see to the south because of trees behind the hut and that was where the weather had sneaked up from. So we started with wet weather gear and had showers on and off until after lunch when it started to clear a bit.
Today was mostly about walking in beech forest on tramping standard tracks - i.e. unformed, with lots of roots and quite a bit of up and down. It was also wet due to the rain and very muddy in spots so you had to be careful as it was definitely slippery.
The first part to Lower Wairaki Hut was a bit confusing in terms of expected times and distances - there was a mismatch between DoC and the TA notes, although both suggested 6 hours! Anyway, it ended up being 13.6km (closer to the TA distance but not the 16km on the DoC sign!) and we made it in 4h15. We ran into an American couple from Oregon, not long before the hut, who were heading nobo. The woman was a bit cold as some kind soul had told her that NZ was warm at this time of the year so she had sent some of her stuff home (they had been hiking in Mongolia) - who needs friends with advice like that?!! Javed had overtaken us earlier so was at Lower Wairaki hut as well, having lunch.
After having a good lunch break in the relative warmth of the hut (it was wet with a very cold southerly wind) we set off for a 500m climb, over about 4km, up through beech forest. This next section through to Telford Burn camp was supposed to be 9km/6hr (DoC) or 8km/4hr (TA). According to the Suunto it was 8km and we did it in 3h15, so I think TA notes win that round!
The going up from the hut through the forest was not too bad - certainly better than some other 500m climbs we have done! Climbing up from 500m to 750m was reasonably steady; from 750m to 900m it got a little steeper; and the final climb to just over 1000m was steeper still. We reached an initial peak of about 1000m and then rolled along at about that height for a short while. Along this bit we met a kiwi couple heading nobo to Wanaka, as well as their daughter who had joined them for this section.
Emerging from the bush soon after that initial peak (after 18km and 6 hours of walking time) we got a spectacular view of Southland and the coastline, albeit a bit hazy in the distance, looking out over a very rocky ridge! We had certainly not been expecting that! The photos hopefully give an idea of the view - would be even more impressive on a finer day. It was still a bitterly cold southerly so we rugged up for the descent to Telford Burn, all pretty much in the open through some pretty rough farmland (after we got off the rocks). It wasn't too bad going but was around 4km of downhill so we took it slowly for the sake of our ancient joints (especially the knees)!! Bits of the descent were through fern-like plants that hid rocks and uneven ground underneath, so extra caution was required on those bits.
Javed had set up on the upper level of the camp but we decided to drop down to a lower level closer to the stream to try and get out of the wind. Around 1900 the other two arrived as well and set up with us on the lower level. The sun was more or less trying to shine, but it was still cold so we had a feed and hot drink early and were in the sleeping bags by 1930 to get warm!
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"!!