12. Te Araroa, Harper Pass Track

Thanks to our rest day in Hamner Springs the next section of trail was relatively short. This is utter madness. When did 4 consecutive days of walking and camping become what we consider short?!

On the Te Araroa trail again
On the Te Araroa trail again
Through the deer fence
Through the deer fence

The Harper Pass has been a well traveled route throughout New Zealand’s short history, connecting Christchurch with the West Coast during the gold rush. As far as we can see however, there is one fundamental flaw with the Te Araroa’s approach to making this a modern day route; there is a bridge at the trail start and no bridge at the trail end. This meant we spent 4 days hiking in to uncertainty, with the thought of being unable to cross the unbridged river looming over us.

Days 1, 2 & 3
We set out with Mike (from the Uncles) in the rain. The Boyle River was in full flow and raging so we were glad with our decision to start from Windy Point over the swing bridge. The track follows the Hope River, through beech forest and out across grassy flats with cows grazing happily.

Lake Sumner in the background
Lake Sumner in the background

The next couple of days followed a similar pattern of open flats then back in to the bush, then some more open flats. Compared to the previous three sections on the South Island the scenery was slightly less dramatic as we were mainly walking on the valley floor.

The infamous kiwi "3 wire bridge"
The infamous kiwi “3 wire bridge”

The huts we stayed at (Hope Kiwi, Hurunui No. 3 and Locke Stream) were all splendid and pretty big. This was lucky as on our first night we met a whole host of other TA hikers, including a couple of “NOBOs” – the endearing term given to Te Araroa Northbound walkers. And yes, that makes us “SOBOs”.

Hut life at Hurunui No. 3
Hut life at Hurunui No. 3

The highlight of the first 3 days of hiking was reaching the natural hot pools after Hurunui Hut. It was great to take an afternoon break to soak in the thermal pool, followed by a refreshing dunk in the cold river!

Hurunui hot pools
Hurunui hot pools

Day 4
The weather had been a pretty touchy subject for the first few days and we felt very lucky to be able to see an updated forecast thanks to our delorme tracker (and wonderful parents!) The forecast confirmed that whilst the rain had no intention of stopping any time soon, the damage would be less than 8mm that day, so the rivers should be crossable.

Crossing rivers in New Zealand
Crossing rivers in New Zealand

With that in mind we set off with Nicki and Mat to tackle the treacherous New Zealand rivers. It turned out to be one of our most random and entertaining days on the trail! The landscape was much more varied this side of the Harper Pass with the strange red rocks and storm strewn trees to scramble over. We crossed the Taramakau river and Otehake river high up the valley, putting our newly learnt river crossing skills to the test. In all honesty this was the upper limit of our comfort level. The water was almost up to our waist, pretty fast flowing and just a bit too scary.

Nicki and Mat tackle the Taramakau
Nicki and Mat tackle the Taramakau
Happy to make it to the other side!
Happy to make it to the other side!

All that stood between us and civilisation now were: an unmarked trail, a lot of bush whacking, a couple of fields of cows, a never ending electric fence, yet another braided river crossing and a locked gate. Obstacles overcome, we succeeded with the worlds fastest hitch hike with the wonderful Clea and in to Arthur’s Pass for a rest day.

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