Welcome to the final installment (baring some random additional content if I think of anything worth writing about) of my Te Araroa journey, from Te Anau to Bluff. I ended up ahead of schedule again (I think I just walk a lot faster than I think!), so I was content to go slow for this section.
Coming out of Te Anau I did not have the same luck with hitching that I’d had on the way in. After a fair while stood at a good hitching point (a lovely long layby just outside Te Anau with a fair bit of traffic) with not even a sniff at a ride, I started walking the road, which was a good 30km of hard shoulder trudging to get where I wanted to be. After two hours of road walking in which I’d abandoned the thumb-out approach, a lady pulled up and offered me a lift, so I squeezed in with the shopping and was under way again. Turns out it might be easier to hitch when you aren’t hitching than when you are!… or perhaps people don’t like my thumbs for some reason.
Anyway, after 10 minutes of delightful conversation about the area, we arrived at the Princhester road (a little farm road in the middle of nowhere) I hopped out, said thanks, and literally 2 minutes later it started raining heavily. Ace.
It was only a 6km walk to the Princhester hut, but I got drenched, and as ever with these things, on reaching the hut it almost instantly stopped raining. Arriving at the 6 bed hut, I found 5 people, a Czech, a Frenchman, a Swede (Swedish person, not vegetable), and 2 argentinians, who were busy trying to bake a pizza over a fire in the rain (it took about 3 hours, but did look tasty at the end). We had some great conversation (and a lot of Anglo-French mockery… an awful lot… but he started it), but unfortunately I also passively inhaled more nicotine than I’ve even seen in the whole of the rest of my time in New Zealand (on a serious note, broadly speaking I’d forgotten that smoking was a thing over much of this trip, maybe it’s the people I’ve been meeting, or a New Zealand thing or something).
After choking my way through the night, I decided it was time to delight in the fresh New Zealand air, and so instead of heading to the Aparima hut (the next one on the TA trail) I took a little detour and went to Beckett’s hut. This was only a little off piste, but clearly wasn’t regularly visited. There was no real track to the hut, and indeed I spent much of the walk wandering down the middle of a stream, because it was easier going than tripping over tussocks the whole way. On reaching the hut though, it was a delightful clean, well stocked 4 bed hut, and though there has been 2 people there the night before (according to the hut book), I was all alone there, giving me the chance to sew together all of my various items which were falling apart (which was pretty much all my various items…) and do a bit of reading (an activity which I hardly did at all before leaving the UK, and now I’m getting through a book every week or
From Beckett’s hut to Aparima hut was a very casual 2 hour walk, so I took a lot of breaks and just enjoyed the scenery (which this time was heavily grazed, as I inadvertently chased a herd of cattle down the valley). The weather was holding out, and hadn’t rained since I reached the Princhester hut. Indeed if anything it was getting brutally hot with no shelter anywhere along the way. At Aparima hut I was all on my lonesome again, though at about 5pm a pair of Americans turned up, stayed long enough to shovel down literally about 300-400g of crisps, snickers, gummy bears and nuts each, and then got back on their way. They’d Started that day in Te Anau, and were walking nearly 40km over rough terrain with a lot of ascents and descents. Just to put that in context, my longest day has been approx 45km, walking along gently descending roads, and it was knackering. Nutters.
The following day I had a lovely stroll through forest and reasonably well trodden paths, to the Lower Wairaki hut, where the rain set in just as I arrived at the hut. Arriving there I found a French girl and two English girls. These were the first UK TA walkers I’d met on the whole trail! They were all heading northbound, and somewhat ominously were writing a journal entry which they said was entitled “a day of mountain climbing”. This made me a little concerned that the next day, though fairly short, would be pretty tough.
As it panned out, it wasn’t, and if they thought that was ” mountain climbing”, I think they’ll be learning a lot about kiwi trails over the next few months. This did give me my first view of the South coast, and indeed a very distant glimpse of Bluff, the final destination. Then it was down into the farmland valleys, and a night at the FIND THE NAME campsite, which stole the record from Macetown for the “lovely place most ruined by the presence of an infinite number of sandflies”. Arriving at about 3pm I had to seal myself in my tent, and every time I opened the door I then spent about 20 minutes killing sandflies inside. On the plus side, I got the technique down to a fine art.
Leaving the campsite indicated the end of the wilderness. The walk out was just along farm roads, and in absolutely driving rain, with relatively no redeeming features. Indeed the best thing about it was that it wasn’t the road walk which followed. The TA notes suggest to stop at Otautau on the way south to re-supply, but a little further from the trail was a little town called Tuatapere, which I headed to. As a side note, Tuatapere looks like a French word, perhaps “two-a-tap-e-rey”, or “two-a-tap-err”, but no, this is New Zealand, and so after a bit of mocking from the locals on my “European” accent, I was told it’s “Two-ta-pree”. Since that though, I met a Maori person in Invercargill, who tells me that’s wrong, but I can’t even phonetasise the pronunciation she suggested. So long story short, after 5 months in the country, I still can’t even start to pronounce Maori names.
From Tuatapere I should have gone back up to the north of the Longwood range, but the weather was miserable, and I’d heard nothing good about the Longwoods, so instead. I headed round the coast via Orepuki, where I spent a strange evening chatting to a very drunk old bloke who talked endlessly about his work at a meat processing plant, to Riverton, which is a lovely little harbour town. Sadly the end of Te Araroa is a huge anticlimax after the wonders I’d been through, with endless road and farmland. From Riverton to Invercargill is a pleasant enough (but rather long) beach walk, but then the weather really closed in, and the road from the beach to Invercargill was one of the most miserable walks of the whole trail! The advantage of course being that you’re so near the end, there’s not much that can dampen your spirits.
For the final day’s walk from Invercargill (approx 20km of unadulterated road) I was going to wait for a sunny weather window, but in the end I decided just to get it finished. Rain was due in around lunchtime, so I started walking extremely early… for a whole kilometre, before someone pulled up and offered me a lift to Bluff. So I had another great conversation about differences between the UK and New Zealand (long story short, in the UK no one talks to anyone), and then wandered over Bluff hill to the final signpost at the South of Mainland New Zealand, and the end of the trail.
This of course was a time for reflection on the journey, remembering the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, and the skills I’ve learned. The rain even eased off, and I found all of the bad parts of the trail melting away to nothing. Ah, such bliss.
It was whilst lost in this revelry that the (many expletives deleted) sandflies realised I was an easy target, and thus was my final experience of the Te Araroa trail a sandfly biting my knuckle.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures and rambling nonsense of the blog. It may well return at some point down the line, with more content of one form or another, but for the time being I’m going to order a massive cooked breakfast and a coffee the size of my head, and put my feet up.