I approached a heavily eroded stream crossing in the late afternoon. Light clouds had just started to roll in and with it a cool but gentle westerly wind. I should have stopped hiking a couple of hours ago. My body was tired and I had barely stopped hiking all day. The freshly eroded stream had many rounded rocks with rushing water moving over them quite fast. It was only about 3-4 meters wide but it funneled into a small 1 meter waterfall that fell into a deep churning pool below. No matter how small the river crossing I’m always assessing for danger. My first step into the water landed onto a large rounded boulder. With no time to react I slipped and fell heavily on my right side. There was a sickening sound of something cracking. I landed on my carbon fiber trekking pole that shattered under my weight. My right shin and left buttocks seemed to take most of the weight. At least that’s where I felt the pain 30 minutes later when the adrenaline wore off. Slips and falls are responsible for more rescues and deaths than any other incident for a hiker. Today I was lucky all I broke was a trekking pole, despite all my caution. Or did this happen because of fatigue when I failed to listen to my body and set up camp. I shall mull on this and learn from it, I thought.
Earlier in the day I had been the first to finish breakfast and set off into the cool morning mist. Sleeping in the hut gave me little sense of just how cold it was outside. Within a couple of minutes hiking I had to stop to put on my down jacket and gloves. My tropical loving body was struggling.
The morning cloud burned off to reveal that I was hiking up a wide river valley. The braided river weaved its way down the valley on what appeared to be a course that changed every year or so. Then there was the reflections on the lake, natures mirror.
10am photo below
I followed the valley stoping at a couple of huts to sign the trail register. Every hut has a book where hikers must register their arrival and plans. It serves to assist in any search and rescue if needed and let’s hikers know who’s ahead of them. With so many huts in New Zealand it’s a great resource.
A small natural hot spring was right next to the trail. I’d been looking forward to this for a while but there were three problems. Firstly, it was midday and already very hot. Secondly, the temperature of the water was way to hot to enter on anything other than a very cold day. And finally, the sandflies were particularly hungry. Suffice to say I tried to enjoy it but beat a hasty retreat.
I continued for about 35km in total up this river valley. Towards the end of the day I was getting quite tired but decided to keep climbing over Harpers Pass. A poor decision. I now only have 1 trekking pole until I get my replacement pole which just so happens to be in my bounce box. My reward was the light show that nature put on.
After the fall I planned to stop at the first available flat spot. It happened to be on a flat section of the gravel river bed. Before I had finished erecting the tent the sandflies found me. Such annoying creatures. As I write this I find myself constantly stopping to scratch my many bites. Not to mention rub my sore butt. If my old Pacific Crest trail hiking buddy called Faceplant happens to be reading this, Do Not come to New Zealand, you would hate hiking here. He hates biting insects and of truth be told, there are many here in the mountains of the south island, but only below 1000 meters in altitude. As for me, I love it here.