Picnic camp 2469.2 to Hut 2501.6
Overnight winds were predicted to reach 120km/h. My campsite was protected on all sides by thick shrubs and trees. If it did get windy during the night I slept through it, but I have been known to sleep through thunderstorms. Why is it I can sleep through thunderstorms but not people who snore.
The trail climbed upwards through an enchanted forest of moss covered trees and scattered shrubs. I half expected to find fairies or leprechauns or unicorns, it was strangely different from other sections of trail. A gentle stream flowed near the trail sending it’s sounds of relaxation. Suffice it to say, I felt calm and relaxed.
Exiting the enchanted forest the trail climbed into the open alpine mountains. I stopped to put on a layer of sunscreen while getting buffeted by gale force winds. I kept climbing upwards. The lake below became a distant speck. The trail turned to the left to continue climbing to the top of the pass. Blue sky gave way to gray and within a 15 minute period it started raining. It was a cold rain. My exposed legs felt colder than a penguins toenail. For 2 hours the cold soaked through my body. My fingers lost feeling and at times my teeth started to chatter. I dared not put on my dry thermals just yet. I considered stopping to put up my tent. I could strip naked and jump in my sleeping bag.
As quick as it started, the rain passed and the sun reappeared. To warm up my core I put on my puffy down jacket. It only took about 15 minutes to warm up again. Blood started flowing into my fingers and I was happy to have them working again. I left the down jacket on until after lunch, despite the heat of the strong sun.
Ahuriri river has a nasty reputation on the Te Araroa trail. It is mentioned in the Te Araroa notes as the largest unbridged river on the south island section of the trail. Many hikers have been swept away by its seemingly placid water. It is a trap for the unwary or inexperienced. I could hear the sound of the white water rapids long before I descended to the riverbank. The days rain had certainly increased the flow. I wandered up and down the river looking for the safest place to cross. I found a likely place and started into the river without my pack. I was testing the waters, so to speak.
My first foray was too deep and the water was flowing so fast it almost swept me downstream. I moved downstream about 50 meters. The river was wider but not so deep, it reached my belly button and I was just able to walk without being swept away. This was the limit of my ability, I thought. Maybe I should just walk downstream for half a day to the bridge and cross there. It would save me one whole day if I crossed, I thought.
My mind was running every possible scenario. If I was washed away, I would end up in some fast flowing rapids. I could leave my pack on as I floated downstream and kick my legs out in front of me until I reached ground to commence walking again. My backpack would serve as my lifejacket. Please don’t worry, I’ve done this before.
I was ready to cross. I packed my loose items into my pack, made sure it was waterproof then set off. My route took me on a diagonal path across the river so I didn’t need to fight the current. At almost 50 meters (150ft) wide with a strong flow it was challenging. After breaking 2 trekking poles recently I picked up my spare one a couple of days ago.
The water was so deep my hand holding the trekking pole was underwater. I reached the deepest, fastest flowing section of the river quickly. My feet searched for every footstep with added caution. I was alone. Nobody around to help me. At this moment, unlike any other my mind and body were completely focused on this one task of hiking across the river. My heart was racing and my eyes wide open. I could see the dangers but a combination of previous experience and good risk management got me safely to the other side. It was a tough crossing.
I suspect few hikers would cross the river today. The extra flow from today’s rain made it challenging. I feel so very alive. I filmed the crossing as I’m planning to make a video on how to cross rivers. On the Te Araroa trail this is a skill that hikers need. Hopefully others can learn from my teaching.
The rest of the days hiking was a rather dull affair in comparison. Long river valleys and a 4wd track that became the trail. A small hut was my home for the night. It was mid afternoon when I arrived but it was not prudent to continue. An exposed mountain climb lay before me and there may not be anywhere safe to camp. 2 northbound hikers were there. They told me they wouldn’t be crossing the river as they met two separate groups of hikers who got swept away in the river, one of which ended up with all their gear soaking wet. River crossings in New Zealand are not to be taken lightly.
On this day in 2014 I took my first steps of this adventurous journey. So begins the start of the 6th year of this website and my adventures. 50000km of human powered travel around the world. No end on sight, but I will slow down this year!