11. Te Araroa, Nelson Lakes National Park

Wow, what a section of the Te Araroa! Splendid alpine passes and the Blue Lake being particular highlights. That said it was the most physically demanding and we were very thankful for our impromptu rest day. Here’s how it went…

St Arnaud to Upper Travers Hut

We started out from St Arnaud with a 34km day to Upper Travers Hut. The trail followed along Rotoiti lake shore into the upper valley which was a combination of beech forest and grassy flats. As we ascended up the valley the trail grew steadily steeper which made the last hour or so a bit of a slog. On reaching the hut we met up with several other TA hikers (Rick, Rene, Mike, Luca, Carolina). The ‘Uncles’ are doing a blow-by-blow account of the TA on their blog here.

Heading out of St Arnaud
Heading out of St Arnaud

 

Higher up the valley, towards Upper Travers Hut
Higher up the valley, towards Upper Travers Hut

Upper Travers Hut to Blue Lake Hut

The day started overcast as we headed up to Travers Saddle 1787m. It was a 500m climb from the hut so by the time we made it to the top the sun had burnt away the cloud and we were left with stunning blue skies and views across the Nelson Ranges. We descended down to West Sabine hut for lunch before pushing on to Blue Lake, which apparently has the clearest fresh water in the world!

Alex on Travers Saddle
Alex on Travers Saddle

 

Harriet on Travers Saddle
Harriet on Travers Saddle

 

Blue Lake Hut over Waiau Pass

This was billed as one of the toughest but best days on the trail. Once again we awoke to early cloud, which made navigating in thick fog tricky as we headed up scree to sidle Lake Constance. After some fairly dicey descents and with weather improving we reached the lake head and the climb over the pass. The trail went steeply up a scree field, plateaued out before a final more gentle climb to the summit at 1870m (the second highest on the Te Araroa) Wow, what amazing views from the top! The way down was steep and in places required a bit of scrambling. It was a real killer on the knees! Once in the valley again we walked/boulder hopped another 5km before pitching up in an idillic campsite (before the sandflies arrived!) next to a mountain stream.

 

Blue Lake
Blue Lake

 

 

Clouds clearing over Lake Constance
Clouds clearing over Lake Constance

 

Harriet at the top of Waiau Pass
Harriet at the top of Waiau Pass

 

The start of the knee busting descent
The start of the knee busting descent

 

Camp to Anne’s Hut

Another 30+km day. This was a much longer day than the notes or map suggested. However, it was nice to hiking on the flat(ish). We passed down the ever widening valley which included our biggest river crossing yet at the Ada river. Here the terrain changed into grassland with occasional beech forest. Anne Hut was built in 2011 and was a great reward for a hard days hike.

 

Alex using the 'leap of faith' river crossing technique
Alex using the ‘leap of faith’ river crossing technique

 

Anne Hut to Boyle Village

Our last day in the Nelson Lakes National Park was another 34km day! Whew! It was sweltering hot by mid morning. The trail followed the Boyle River throughout the day over a mixture of grassy planes and beech forest. We were relived to arrive in Boyle Village where we had booked to stay in the outdoors activity centre, however upon arrival the building was locked with noone around. Oh dear. To say this was a disappointment would be an understatement as we were desperate for a shower!

 

Enjoying a well earned mid morning break!
Enjoying a well earned mid morning break!

 

The rest of the TA crew had headed to Hamner Springs for a zero day, so rather than pushing on we decided to join them. We hitched an awesome ride Kathleen (and her husband, sorry we didn’t catch the name!). We couldn’t thank them enough for dropping us right in town! A well deserved rest day before we push on to Arthur’s Pass.

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