Day 91 – Ain’t No River Wide Enough*

We weren’t necessarily attacked but were certainly disturbed by possums last night. There were at least two screeching and scrambling around in the trees above us but they never out right came and snooped around. They woke us up around 2am and probably kept us up for an hour or so, at one point I got out and threw rocks at them. I do think there’s a chance they may have just been fighting each other and oblivious to us. Other than that we had another completely dry night in the tent and woke up to some scattered clouds but no rain or dew. We knew if was going to start raining today and it already looked like the mountains might be getting some rain and we wanted to get across the Rangitata so needed to get going.

From talking with others we knew the river was low enough to cross before the rain and we knew it’d take about two hours so we thought we’d go for it. It took a good 45 minutes to get to the first braid and get our feet wet. This was probably also the fastest and deepest that it got. We didn’t know that going across of course so were pretty nervous. From side to side it’s about 10km and a lot of this was swampy tussock. This stuff took quite awhile to navigate and we took the approach of just going straight across rather than cutting down towards the trail head.

We ended up crossing three major areas each with multiple braids. None of these were really that bad and we never felt the need to lock together or lean on each other. It certainly wasn’t the worst river we’ve crossed on the South Island. We hit a farm track on the other side and followed that back down to the next trail head. It was a pretty rocky section and the sandflies were bad so we couldn’t stop. The next trail was similar to what we’d already been doing but just headed up a side river. We were in full rain gear by now as well. We just kept moving as fast as we could along the next trail, trying to ignore the uncomfortable rocks killing our feet.

This continued on for a ways until eventually climbing up to what we thought would be the hut. It turns out it was just climbing over a gorge and we would have to descend all the way back down to the river and climb back up again on the other side. We decided to stop for lunch here as the rain had paused and there were no sandflies up here. We have cheese for our wraps on this trip as well so lunch is a real treat.

We grudgingly descended back down and began to climb again. The rain also started again but if you climb in rain gear then you over heat instantly so there wasn’t much of a good option. We crossed out of the tree line and hit the first hut, a very old looking musterer’s hut.

After a quick break here we got started on the next section, beginning with a further climb up to a saddle at 1,500m. About halfway up here the weather really turned and ascending into cloud we didn’t come back out for the rest of the day. It was a very tough climb with the wind and rain and most of the track being thick tussock grass.

The saddle was nice and we occasionally had small views of the valley below through the clouds. The notes didn’t really say anything about the rest of the track other than crossing a few streams. It turned out to be up and down at least two more saddles all along soaked, slippery, boggy tusock. The navigation was incredibly hard as there was no track to follow other than the occasional footprint and the markers were spread so far apart we could never see the next one.

It seemed to take forever on this section but we did eventually descend slightly and see the hut off in the distance. There was an interesting bridge to cross right in front of it as well that Heather didn’t seem to enjoy. Unfortunately the hut has no wood for a fire but it has a roof and walls so we’re at least out of the elements. We’ll see how the weather holds for the morning.

*Except the Rakaia, which was too wide.

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