We again planned an early start today. I had been in contact with our nephew Sam who had kindly agreed to come from Gore again to pick us up at Merrivale Rd (as he did when we finished there nobo on 2 Jan 2017). We had tentatively set 1530 as the pickup time but said we might be in touch along the way, if we had reception, if it looked as though the timetable could change. We ended up doing 26km in around 6h20 - noting that I had a glitch and missed 1.7km over 25 minutes as we left the forestry block and started up the climb on Birchwood, only 45 minutes into the day. The data for the day is here.
We we ready to go at 0645 and stepped out of the accommodation. Dean was at the workshop next door organising the start of the day with staff and, while chatting, offered to ferry our packs up to the top of the farm on the Twinlaw Forest boundary - as he was heading up there mustering lambs anyway! He offered to take us up as well, but we declined as usual :-) This was a great start to our last South Island day as the hardest bit of the day was this initial climb up through Birchwood Station to the Twinlaw Forest - much nicer without packs!
We set off down the farm track to join Birchwood-Wairio Rd for about 1.5 km before re-entering Birchwood Station by a eucalyptus plantation. We tracked straight along this, and then a pine plantation, for a kilometre before heading up through hilly pasture towards the top, and the boundary into Twinlaw Forest (it was this point, departing the pine forest, where I left the Suunto paused for 25min!) . We reached the top after 6.9km and 1h50, having climbed to a point 420m above the starting point at the station - definitely faster without packs! Sure enough, the packs were waiting for us, propped up against the fence by the stile - Belinda sent a text to Dean to thank him again and we were off into Twinlaw.
Twinlaw was very easy walking on forestry tracks - even good enough that we had a chat with our daughter in London as we were walking along :-) We didn’t really have to concentrate much on where we were putting our feet as the going was so good. We had already decided we were well ahead of our initial targets for Merrivale Rd so had texted Sam to readjust to 1430 pickup, which was OK with him.
Twinlaw morphed into Woodlaw Forest, which was about 5 km of native forest so not quite as easy underfoot as Twinlaw, but still not a difficult walk We descended about 400m to come out of the forest (having got back into a little bit of exotic forestry near the end) onto farmland.
A brief stint on a gravelled 4wd track saw us at Scotts Gap-Feldwick Rd, whereupon it was then gravel roads for about 3.6km until we entered Island Bush at the top of Hewitt Rd. This was about a 3 km stretch that involved a gentle climb, ascending about 130m to the top before descending, eventually out onto Otautau-Tuatapere Rd. We stopped for lunch in a more open glade amongst the trees just before leaving the 4wd track to start the descent.
Then it was a short 2.5km stroll down the asphalt road to the junction with Merrivale Rd, which represents the completion of the South Island portion of TA for us!! Maybe a slight anticlimax finishing where we did (and also considering that we only have 48km of the Tararuas to walk in order to complete the WHOLE TA) but still a major achievement for a couple of “oldies”. So we were happy :-)
We arrived at Merrivale Rd junction about 1415 and about 5 minutes later Sam turned up to pick us up - so fantastic timing :-) We set off for the almost 1.5 hour journey to Gore, stopping at Winton for food and drinks for all of us to top up the reserves!! Sam dropped us at our motel (Esplanade Motels) where we have enjoyed staying before - nice establishment with very helpful hosts, and not too far from Sam’s place so we can walk to visit the family.
Had kebabs for dinner with the family tonight before heading back to the motel for a good night’s sleep. The promise of Sam cooking us bacon and eggs in the morning, before taking us down to Invercargill airport, awaits :-)
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"!!