Day 89 – Saddle Up

Another early morning today. We woke at 5am to catch the school bus out of Methven at 6am. It’s a neat little system where the bus driver will take walkers to the trail head (about 50km down a road no one else would otherwise go down) for $20 on his way to pick up the kids for school. We chatted a bit of and he was a really nice chap. As all New Zealanders do he had a story or two about being back country including a helicopter rescue. We drove over a number of areas where new road had recently been built as a result of a slip in the previous road. Apparently not long before we got there the road had been out for about 3 weeks.

He dropped us off just after 7am and we set off up the trail. It was a day of saddles and we immediately started out with a climb up several hundred meters to the first saddle. The views back across the Rakaia were fantastic and we could see rain hammering down on where we were two nights ago.

We came up over the top and quickly descended to a cool little A frame hut that was surprisingly new and clean. It would’ve been a nice place to spend the night but unfortunately it was only 9am so we needed to keep going.

The trail continued on down an extremely windy valley with a small climb up and over a gorge. The whole time the trail has been on old 4WD track so very easy to follow but no without a few boggy patches. It was coming down past the A frame that we hit our first non-jumpable river crossing for the day and had to soak our dry feet, socks, and shoes. We had a series of river crossings in succession and then arrived at the hut. A very old and windy 8 bunk hut with reasonably new looking mattresses. We stopped here for lunch which as we’d just come in from town included a fresh loaf of bread. These are the best lunches. We also carried cheese this time so extra luxurious.

The trail got significantly harder after lunch as we began climbing up another saddle. This saddle was reached by first spending about 6km climbing through the river bed of a stream. We believe we crossed the stream around 50 times but Heather was counting so we’ll never know for sure (she admitted to forgetting to count after the first three or so). The river section was long and we were both feeling pretty tired by then from several long days and early mornings. It took us about 3 hours to reach the point where the saddle climbed away from the river.

Thankfully we’d already done most of the climbing and it was a 30 minute ascent with tussock and spear grass, our new South Island friends, before we reached the top. It was a clear day so we could see far and the views were pretty incredible. Perhaps even more incredible was that someone had hiked a lawn chair up to the top and buried the legs in rocks to stop it blowing away. We enjoyed a nice break here soaking in the views.

From here it was several scree slopes to cross, a lot of tussock, a dilapidated fence line, and another (smaller) saddle.

We descended from the final saddle onto a flat plain and after one more river crossing reached the turn off for the hut. There are two others at the hut (6 bunk hut) and given the mouse situation looked suspicious we’ve decided to camp outside. It’s not to cold and a completely clear night so far to view the stars.

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