TA Day 76 – River valleys and mountain passes

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7th January


Tarn Hut 1872.8km to Ellis Stream 1900km

The light drizzle was just heavy enough to wake me at 5am. I set off hiking alone. After a couple of hours of rather lackluster hiking the trail dropped down into a river gorge with a small, dirty mountain hut.

The trail followed a narrow river gorge that would eventually climb over 1000 vertical meters (3300ft) back up to the treeless mountains. Dense foliage and often times steep ravines had the trail cross the river on numerous occasions. Wet feet were guaranteed until leaving the gorge.

It was midday when I climbed out of the river gorge and stumbled into the second hut for the day. It was a small 6 bed shelter with a stainless steel bench to cook on and not much else. An Australian hiker was resting inside, just taking a day off. We didn’t chat long as I still had a long ways to go to finish the 1000m climb.

The trail opened up revealing red rocky terrain that reminded me more of the Australian Outback than New Zealand. The grasses were hardy more like those found in deserts. Just over an hour of hiking and I was at the top of yet another treeless mountain ridge. I stopped to enjoy the red rocky mountains and contrasting black mountains. The geology of this area is rather different. I’m no rock doctor but it looked like lots of granite mixed with either obsidian or some sort of green rocks. I wonder if it was Jade or Greenstone.

I reached a high point on the trail and checked cell phone service. I was hoping to post another blog. Part way through proofreading it I stopped, put down the phone and just enjoyed the view. I was alone, not another hiker for several kilometers. This is why I’m here, I thought. This is why I love hiking so much. The endless rolling mountains with no sign of humans except this trail. I didn’t post the blog on this day, it can wait. This place, at least for this very short moment in my life is all mine to enjoy. And that’s what I did for over an hour. I just stared at nothing and everything at the same time while letting my mind wander to whatever tangent it wanted to take. It’s been a while since I’ve allowed myself to do that.

It was getting late when I started my descent. By the time I reached the 3rd hut for the day it was 5pm. It was empty and very unlikely that any hiker behind would catch up. The sign outside said 4 hours to the next hut. That should take me 3 hours but I’m tired and it would mean possibly annoying other hikers if I arrived late and started cooking. I decided to head off but start to look for a place to camp after 2 hours. If nothing presented itself I’d just keep going and beg forgiveness.

Just after 7pm I descended into a rocky river valley. It was a rather steep and slippery slope that careened over a cliff. The most common cause of death for a hiker in by falling. I was alone and very conscious where my feet went. Trekking poles helped with my balance and foot placement. It was late in the day, I was tired. This is when accidents happen. I’m a very thoughtful hiker, always assessing dangers when others might not see them. It was time to make camp and call it a day. With plenty of fresh water and a small flat area for the tent I was happy. Very happy to enjoy the trail alone, for tonight at least.

Next – Day 77 – St Arnaud Village

All the tips you need to hike the Te Araroa Trail : 
Complete Guide to the Te Araroa Trail
Te Araroa Trail Resupply Guide
Te Araroa Trail Gear List
Te Araroa Trail Gear Review

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  1. Richmond Ranges and Nelson Lakes NP are definitely some of, if not the best parts of the TA. I had pouring rain on this section you just wrote about. But still GREAT! Thank you for your stories. It´s like I hike it again! Cheers 10-Speed

    1. Cheers Ross, I must say the Queen Charlotte Track followed by the Richmond Ranges and Nelson Lakes NP are a great introduction to the South Island. I’m sure they are on your to do list if you haven’t already done some of them.

    1. Cheers Peggy. I’m a very safety conscious hiker, specially when hiking alone but I guess you already knew that.

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