Te Araroa 8: Tekapo to Wanaka

Morning all,

Welcome back. I had a fantastic time doing some extra curricular walking with my brother (there might be a post on that occurring in the future at some point), but right now I’m back on the Te Araroa, having skipped a bit (…quite a large bit). As I have to fly out in a month or so I’ve ended up starting again at Tekapo (see the map below). Ideally I would’ve started further north as Tekapo to Bluff won’t fill my remaining time, however a couple of huge rivers mean that I would just have walked a few days and then need to arrange a bus round the rivers anyway. Instead, I should have time to head out to Fjordland (the south west of the South island) and do a week or so’s walking there (Fjordland being a region which the Te Araroa spectacularly misses).

Anyway, this section of the walk is in an area called the Canterbury Highlands, which is a wonderful land of mountains and lakes (essentially a higher, wider, larger, more remote, and dare I say it (yes) more picturesque version of the Lake District… with less rain and more sandflies). Arriving in Tekapo I found it full to the brim with bus loads of tourists looking at the church of the good shepherd, and a statue of a sheepdog. These are the two landmarks for which Tekapo is famed, but its situation at the South end of Lake Tekapo is why I wanted to head there. Unfortunately, low cloud and rain totally blocked the view of Mt Cook (which my book tells me “effortlessly dominates the view”) and made the lake look a bit mediocre. This, combined with the fact that the entire village of Tekapo is just one huge tourist land meant that I stayed long enough to eat a quiche and drink the obligatory coffee, and then it was back to the trail.

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From Tekapo to Twizel is essentially a 2 day road walk, however I saw around 5 cars on the road once I was off the state highways, and it’s one of the most picturesque road walks I’ve done, so I really didn’t mind too much (indeed it was nice to have a simple walk to ease me back into the flow of things. Also, despite having spent nearly a month messing about doing other things, I found that mere hours after setting off from Tekapo, I met Luke again (who I’d previously met heading out of Whanganui and heading into the Tararuas!). He tends to be pretty fast, but that means the rest of the folks I’ve met along the way can’t be too far behind.

Twizel was a fairly generic rural town, but heading out of Twizel, it was clear that I was back on the trail proper. Walking to Ohau takes you round the shores of some fantastically pure lakes (who am I kidding, all of the lakes here are stupidly pure) surrounded by heathy hills and cliffy mountains. I saw very few people here (a joy after the super busy Abel Tasman track and Wellington and Christchurch) and with cool but dry weather it was great to be out in the wilds again. From Ohau though, it was up and over a hilltop which was inside a cloud, and this brought about the problem of losing the trail for a while (with no obvious track and markers spread out further than I could see). Fortunately it turns out I’m not a moron and can navigate with a map and compass easily enough, so when I rediscovered the trail it turned out I’d been travelling parallel and about 50m west of the trail the whole way. Indeed speaking to Luke later on, he reckoned the trail just wasn’t marked for a while in the middle, so maybe I didn’t lose it at all.

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Beyond that, with the exception of a waist deep river crossing and a valley which should be called “the crucible of sandflies”, the journey from Ohau through to Wanaka is fantastic mountainous landscape, which is tough to traverse, but the feeling of being in the wild and the views are just magnificent. The track peaks (pun intended) at breast hill (a summit only beaten in the amusement stakes by “Richard’s knob” in the Tararuas) which provides fantastic views over lake Hawea, and back over the track I’d just traversed.

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Candidate for most picturesque toilet on the planet?

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Wanaka it turns out, is a very busy little tourist town, with not much going on for the skint individual, however sketchy weather has kept me here a few days, as the next section (through to Queenstown) involves a few river crossings which become dangerous in wet weather. Nonetheless, at some point boredom will overcome safety and I’ll head off anyway. At least there are plenty of coffee shops…

Until next time

Dave

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