We’re into our fourth week of hiking down the South Island of New Zealand along the Te Araroa Trail. The scenery continues to change surprisingly quickly. We’ve gone from hidden ocean coves to cool green rivers, dense steamy rainforest, and now clear blue alpine lakes surrounded by jagged peaks.
We hiked up and over Travers Saddle with just a touch of rain. It’s been so unusually hot this season and we’re grateful for the cooler weather, even if only for a day.
Even in these hot dry conditions, the forest is still nice and cool. There are so many streams and little waterfalls, keeping everything enchantedly green.
The Richmond Range has lots of cozy little huts but in the Nelsons we found them big and luxurious. Here’s Blue Lake Hut.
Blue Lake is celebrated in New Zealand for its incredibly clear water. A glacial moraine has dammed the flow of water from the mountains above and acts as a big filter, releasing nearly distilled water into Blue Lake. Visibility is up to 80 meters! That’s some of the clearest water in the world.
Our next challenge was Waiau Pass. This is probably the trickiest bit we’ve hiked so far along the whole trail. It’s just beautiful going up, and fairly straightforward, but it takes some skill and attention coming down.
It wouldn’t be hard to lose your way.
I love that New Zealand’s national trail includes sections that require scrambling and are only safe in good weather. I think that says a lot about the strong, independent spirit of the country. Here even the marked descent required hands on the rock.
Once down from Waiau Pass, the scenery changes completely. We passed by an old homestead and I could easily imagine myself falling in love with that place. This must be one of the most beautiful valleys I’ve ever seen.
It was nice to have some easy flat walking after scrambling down craggy mountains and over big slippery roots in the forest.
We made good time and caught a ride to the town of Hamner Springs where we indulged in some very tasty food.
It’s a good thing we made good time because my first pair of shoes has worn out! This seems far too early and I’m hoping my next pair lasts longer. But, if that’s the cost of exploring New Zealand by foot, it’s one well worth paying.