February 26, 2018
START: Klondyke TH @ 1345
FINISH: Hamilton Hilton @ 1955
DISTANCE: 25.5 km
CUMULATIVE: 709 km
Definitely wasn’t in any kind of hurry getting out of town today. Weather is supposed to be nice the next few days, so I’m planning to cruise out to Methven before the next round of rain hits. Of course, the weather projections are extremely unreliable here and generally change significantly every five minutes, so take ‘em with a grain of salt.
Headed over to check out Punchbowl Falls quickly before grabbing lunch. I was ready to hit the road when I bumped into four Keas hopping around in front of the general store. I’d been hoping I’d see some, so I pulled out my camera and snapped away like a typical tourist. Musta been there over a half hour. They were still trying to steal lunch when I forced myself to walk away. They’re so pretty. I could’ve easily wasted the day away watching them, but I was planning to cover 25 k’s and meet the girls, FAFBAB and The Man, at Hamilton Hut, aka The Hamilton Hilton. Supposed to be a sweet spot. Of course, they got out of town a few hours ahead of me and cut about 10 k’s out of their day by hitching. I was tempted to follow suit, but I’m trying to walk a continuous footpath across the whole island. Sticking with that plan for the moment. Anyways, it was lunch time when I was ready to leave, so I stopped in at the cafe and spent a few more dollars before finally throwing out my thumb around 1300. I figured I’d arrive a little late, but not like crazy late.
At first, I tried to follow the Klondyke Trail to avoid the road, but it wasn’t well-marked or well-travelled, so I ditched it in favor of the road, which I cruised. Arrived at the Casa Lagoon Trailhead around 1600. As I made my way up the trail, I considered cutting my day a little short. I’d gotten in late at Goat Pass Hut the other night, and I didn’t wanna disturb anyone. As I was considering my options, I found a note from the girls: “Sochi- hurry up! We brought wine!” Haha, I was sold. I started crushing. Figured if I could make the West Harper Bivvy by 1900, then I could make “The Hilton” by 2000, which would be fine. I was hopping and skipping the downhills, and practically jogging the flats. I was a little surprised that I made it; over 25 k’s in 6h10m. I can move when I’m properly motivated. I’m so tired right now, and it was so worth it. Can’t beat good company. Hoping to get an early start for a potentially looooong day tomorrow. I’m feeling doubtful in this moment, but we’ll see how it goes.
February 27, 2018
START: Hamilton Hilton @ 0740
FINISH: Rakaia Gorge @ 0025
DISTANCE: 0.5 + 47 + 30.5 km
CUMULATIVE: 787 km
Today was long. And I did not start early. Instead, I hit snooze and waited for someone else to make the first move. McKenzie got up a little before 0700, so I willed myself upright and got going. There were many unnecessary ice cold river crossings as I made my way down the valley, so I was glad that I hadn’t been out there an hour earlier. Although to be fair, the sun was - and would remain all day long - hidden behind a thick layer of dark clouds. Even worse than the foot-numbing water was the fact that each swift water crossing left my shoes filled with tiny pebbles that would rub my feet raw. Since there were so many crossings, I’d hike along until I couldn’t take it anymore before finally turning my shoes and socks inside out. It was an annoying process, one that might have been relieved by some sunshine and a few sweet views, neither of which were anywhere to be found. Just clouds and rivers, clouds and rivers.
The saving grace this morning was that I saw what may have been a Blue Duck fly away from a stream as I approached. She was too far away to be sure, and what’s more likely is that they were just on my mind because Rob mentioned how rare and skittish they are when we were walking together the other day. I’m just gonna day it was a Blue Duck, and it was cool.
I was so happy when the graded gravel road walk started. Suddenly the k’s came and went almost effortlessly. I walked with Alex for a bit before he caught a ride, which came quickly after I saw the girls cruise by in their ride. Again, I was tempted to hitch. But I stuck with it. That was about 11 hours ago; it’s now half passed midnight. I reached Lake Coleridge Lodge at 1810, which yielded an average 4.5 k/hr up to that point. I was pretty psyched seeing that, and I began bounding down the paved road toward SH-77. Just 34 k to go, then I could hitch into Methven.
I briefly considered walking out to the marked “possible crossing point” to see if I could ford the Rakaia, but it was a further 8.5 k’s in the other direction just to scout it. Honestly, it didn’t look so bad from the descent into Lake Coleridge, but I wasn’t excited to ford it in the dark and decided to stick to my original game plan of walking the road. Man, I was tempted to try it. But I’ve read a lot about folks trying to ford and ending up either (1) in trouble or (2) on private land. I figured they’re just a few extra k’s. Not like I can’t use the workout, so off I went.
Got to message with the girls for a bit while I had service at the start of the pavement walk. They’ve been in town since this afternoon, lucky duckies. Depending on how easy it is to hitch tomorrow, I may catch them for breakfast, but it sounds like they have an early ride out, so maybe not. Guess we’ll see.
I came across three hedgehogs on the road walk. Never seen one before, so that was cool. Harassed each of them for a bit trying to capture photos in the light of my headlamp. Very little luck.
I’ve finally arrived at Rakaia Gorge. It’s after midnight and the rain has just started, so I‘m taking shelter here. Bummed that I’m not gonna make the full 81.5 k. I’ve definitely got enough umph left to make it, but I hate camping in the rain. Gonna take advantage of this awning, get some sleep, and start early tomorrow to cover the last few kilometres to the start of the Blackford Road, which will take me up the other side of the Rakaia River and back to Te Araroa. But not before I hitch into Methven for some town food and a resupply. This unbroken path stuff is quite the hassle, but I like it. I’m walking the full breadth of New Zealand’s South Island.
February 28, 2018
START: Rakaia Gorge @ 0650
FINISH: Blackford Rd @ 0725
DISTANCE: 3.5 km
CUMULATIVE: 790.5 km
It rained a bit last night, so I was happy with my decision to stop short yesterday. Nice to wake up with all of my gear totally dry. That’ll further simplify the quick day in Methven that I’d planned.
The Rakaia was impressive as I crossed it on a roadway bridge this morning. All of the braids had merged through the narrow gorge below. I quickly walked the last 3.5 k’s to the Blackford Road turnoff, then immediately started hitching the last fifteen k’s into town. Unfortunately not much action going my way at 0725. Didn’t see a single car for about 20 minutes, but I got the first available ride. Jodie scooped me up on her way to Methven, so that worked out. Got in before 0800. Never did catch up with Elizabeth and McKenzie, but I’ll see them down the trail.
I’ve spent longer than I intended here, but I’m nearly done. Just gonna pick up some groceries, grab lunch, and hit the road. With 34 k to walk before I even reach the trail, it could be another late one. Really hoping I can safely ford the Rangitata tomorrow night or the next afternoon, because that’ll save me a 135 k road walk around it. Wish me luck, y’all!