There we were at last, on the edge of the long awaited New Zealand South Island wilderness. Over the next 8 days we tackled the Pelorus River Track and Richmond Range Alpine Crossing. Here’s how it went…
Perilous River Track
We started the 13km road walk to the trail head in sweltering heat, we walked three quarters of the way before kindly being offered a ride in the back of a ute! Once on the track we enjoyed the well formed trail and shade of the beech forest. The Pelorus River is a stunning clear stretch of water that cuts through the valley creating numerous swimming pools. The first of which is at Emerald Pools. Within seconds of arriving we were in the water and it was AMAZING! We followed the track and river to Middy Hut, taking two more dips along the way and settling in for NewYears Eve. What a great day to end the year on!
The first day of the year dawned and we were off early, with a big climb to Rocks Hut. We then followed a long ridge line which had a colossal amount of storm damage. Off the ridge we made our way to Hackett Hut. We spent the night in the tent to avoid the vast amounts of sandflies. We awoke during the night to the sound of pitter-pattering rain drops on the tent. Not the best sound when the next section contained several river crossings…
Richmond Range Alpine Crossing
Again, the morning started early and with a climb, however this time there was wet weather and river crossings to contend with! Luckily we did the river crossing without any issue (one day later they were waist deep!) and followed the track through lush forest to Starveall Hut, after a quick lunch break we pushed on in the rain to reach the next hut (Slaty) where we found Garth (a Kiwi TA hiker and all round good guy) had a fire on waiting for us, what legend!
The rain continued into the next day and we made the decision to reach the next hut (Old Man) then wait out the weather before crossing over Mt Rintoul (the highest point on route 1761m). We spent a long day in the hut and were able to repay Garth’s favour by having a fire awaiting him this time! The rain intensified over the evening and we prepared for the worst.
However, the following day dawned bright and clear. We grabbed our chance and headed up the mountain! It was amazing to be out in the alpine with spectacular views. There was a cold southerly blowing so we had to wrap up, but nothing could stop us bounding up and over what was the best section of the Te Araroa to date! We took the afternoon at a leisurely pace and meandered over Purple Top (1532m) and arrived early into Tarn Hut for a relaxing afternoon in the sun.
The next day we headed down towards Mid Wairoa Hut at the bottom of a valley. The descent was steep and slippery (it had us thinking back to the Tararaus). Once over what is now becoming the standard ‘chicken wire’ swing bridge we took a break at the hut and then headed up the valley. Which was described in the notes by the following:
‘Some trampers will find this section challenging’
So obviously we had no idea what to expect really. It actually turned out to be lots of sidling, lots of short scrambles and narrow, rooted tracks along the river valley. Not the best section, but we stuck at it and made it to Top Wairoa Hut after crossing the river 8 times.
The next section took us into the Red Hills, an area of geological importance, which for us meant red rocks (actually we know the significance but it’s too long winded to write!). We spent the morning on red boulder fields, ascending Mt Ellis and wandering through more beech forests. We walked with Queenstown local Mark, who is section walking the TA and was ace company along the way. The afternoon was spent in a whole host of landscapes; picture the moon, Arizona, the Andes and a desert and I think that will come close to it. Anyway, an awesome day! We tented that evening next to Porters Hut.
Our final day on the track was a long one so we made an early start. The section between Porters and Red Hills huts had again a mixture of terrain this time with marshy grasslands and some river crossing thrown into the mix. After a lunch stop at Red Hills Hut we followed the 4wd track down to meet SH63 for a casual 10km road walk into St Arnaud. I wanted to walk as fast as we could, Harriet wanted to play games. We played games. With Harriet, Mark and I playing 21 questions, struggling to hear over the passing traffic we managed to grab a ride for the last 2km. We had made it to civilisation; beer, pies, cake, pizza, bed, showers, washing machines, crisps etc. you get the point! Two well earned rest days and it’s on to Aurthers Pass.