We had a very nice break from hiking with our visit to Milford Sound. Mind and body refreshed, it was time to get back on the trail. We began with a nice farm track heading into the mountains.
I’d loaded up on a ton of food, enough to get us all the way to Colac Bay, some eight days away. We got to Lower Princhester Hut around noon and seeing the sign saying the next hut is eight hours further, we decided to stop early.
Having all afternoon free, I cooked up a delicious meal. Shallots, garlic, couscous, tofu, miso, tumeric, paprika, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
It’s a good thing we made it a short day. The next day was a big one, but one of my favourites. We passed through dense beech forest, complex and impenetrable if it weren’t for the trail.
Then out into fields of tussock grass, where you’d be equally lost if it weren’t for a footpath, sometimes even with it.
The trail jumped back and forth between forest and tussocks. Deep, dark and moody, then golden, glimmering and bright. A dozen times more, the trail kept surprising me. So much variety. Eventually we arrived at Aparima Hut where we actually had a choice of two huts, old and new.
The following morning started out sunny but quickly turned dark and threatening. Before long it was raining.
We entered the forest and began to encounter deep mud as the rain fell.
We arrived at Lower Wairaki Hut chilled but quickly warmed up with a crackling fire.
Our final big climb of the entire Te Araroa is exposed and known for its high winds. Despite some fog and mist, we were exceptionally lucky. Barely a light breeze drifted past as we gazed southward, imagining where the sea might be on a clear day.
Descending down the ridge, we found a nice place to camp just above Telford Burn.
The next day we made our way across Mt Linton Station, the largest farm in New Zealand. We passed by countless cows, sheep, and turnips.
Finally, we arrived at the lovely Birchwood Station Hut. With electric lighting, a hot shower, and a home cooked supper, it felt more like someone’s house. So relaxing.
By this point, we decided that pushing all the way to Colac Bay would be a bit much and, to be honest, I enjoyed eating eight days of food rations over five days. So, it’s time to head back into town, have another quick break, and refill our food bags.
We’re staying at the historic Otautau Hotel (what a great name for a town). It’s full of character, the kind of place where you meet good people and hear stories of years gone by.