We managed to get underway at 0720 this morning and 30km and 7h30 of walking later we rocked into the old shearers quarters at Birchwood Station around 1600! The day’s GPS track is here.
I mentioned last night that we headed to bed early to warm up - well, this morning we got up to a thin layer of icy frost on the tent!! It had been blimmin’ cold during the night and this discovery confirmed things. The Suunto had it at 3 degC inside the tent at 0600 but obviously a bit chillier outside!! A good morning for a hot cuppa as well as a bit of warm water in the muesli!! Typical kiwi summer??!!
We were first away, with Javed, headed through Mt Linton Station to Birchwood Station - the Invercargill duo were being picked up by a friend at Struan Flat Rd and Javed had thought he could get a ride with them, as they were being taken around the next section and straight to Merrivale Rd (where we expect to finish tomorrow evening).
The day took us through Mt Linton Station. It is very generous of the private owners to make the land available - however, the day was not one we really enjoyed all that much as there was nothing really exciting to see, and a few small annoyances - perhaps we were just having a bad day :-) Despite the notes claiming that the track is well-marked, we found several occasions where it wasn’t entirely obvious (maybe we should have been paying more attention!) and in several instances there was definite disagreement between the TA .gpx file and the marked route. At around the 9.3km mark there is a sharp left off the main track to take you down to cross the Wairaki River - we missed the next marker pole which was down the smaller track a little way, and walked over 250m down the larger track before “spidey sense” suggested we might not be on-trail! So a 500m+ total off-trail excursion!
As we crossed the Wairaki River we did run into one of the Mt Linton farmhands, with one from a neighbouring station, out with their kids on a Sunday morning for a fish and a swim in the river - a good chance to stop and chat! Apart from that, there was not much else other than walking today.
At around 17km on our GPS data we followed the TA GPS track ( a farm track) as we couldn’t see any poles. Heading around the top of a plantation at about 17.8km we discovered a stile and marker that meant we had missed a poled route up the face! As we were doing this little detour, we came across a shepherd trying to muster in a lone calf with his dogs. The dogs were fantastic but it is always a challenge dealing with a lone calf - it was not being cooperative!! We tried to keep out the way and then later tried to block an escape path (at the request of the shepherd) but the calf basically ran B over on the way through - so we headed on, being of no more use!! We met a young couple going nobo and they also had missed the stile at the top coming the other way, so followed our (TA GPS) route here rather than the poled route as well.
Soon after, as we were skirting the eastern end of this plantation (22.6km on our Suunto GPS track), I was very lucky to spot another pole down to the right off the farm track we were following at the time. This took us down a line of young gum trees that could have easily been missed. In fact we later found that Javed had missed this entirely and got off-trail. He had tried to go back and find where he had gone wrong but ran into a local farmer who told him to take the old route to get out onto Struan Flat Rd instead!! So we weren’t the only ones with navigational issues on the new route through Mt Linton!!
Then it was following fencelines around/across paddocks - some empty, some with sheep in, some with crops planted. Nearing the end, we crossed over a main farm track, following a path that took us through a lake / wetland area that had lots of well-established plantings around it, which was nice for a bit of variety! Arriving at Struan Flat Rd, we found Javed waiting there. We hadn’t seen the Invercargill duo so assumed they would be not far behind to pick him up. We didn’t see Javed at Birchwood Station later (which was his alternative if the ride fell through) so the pick up and transfer to Merrivale Rd must have gone OK :-) Belinda and I headed off to Birchwood (about 1.2km off-trail) and settled into the hut (old shearers quarters) along with a German nobo who had arrived before us. Sarah arrived soon after to check up on us and see we had everything, so we had a lovely chat with her about the farm. Sarah offered to cook us dinner but we had already got ourselves sorted so we declined :-( It was great to have a nice hot shower and a (squeaky) bunk bed to lie in.
We had hung our food bags up in case of rodents before bed but during the night could hear definite chewing activity that had all three of us up. Couldn’t find it initially but eventually, after it started again, Belinda found the source. An old plastic oil bottle had been dragged to the fireplace and a rodent had been chewing through the top to get at the remnant oil. B put it in the sink (the oil bottle, that is!) which seemed to fix the issue :-) - allowing for a bit more sleep.
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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"!!