Brent & Claire

Author: Brent Ruru (Page 2 of 4)

28/12/21 Tarn Hut to Mid Wairoa Hut (6.5km) – Back Burp!

Rain arrived nigh on shut eye the evening before.

A heavy fall battered the hut roof.  Blocked out Iain’s snoring.

It was short, sharp and to the point.

Whenever the heavens above cry, we prey to the gods that it’s not for long because it could make the difference between being able to cross a river, or not.  And we knew there was a day of crossings on the radar.

We departed Tarn Hut with rain jackets on.  Tree canopy still gravitated droplets to soak one through to the skin, even if the air vapour was mist.  A shower or three reminded us of who was in control and extra care had to be taken underfoot over the terrain.  Tree roots can become a banana skin peel in the bush.

A single lane swing bridge was negotiated over the Wairoa River that looked crossable.  Tomorrow’s overthinking.

Distance was again on our side, and we covered it in 4 hours so a welcome undress of wet clothes and into the dry ones you carry.

Except for Iain from IT.  He had arranged to meet friends in St Arnaud to see 2021 cross over into 2022 and at some stage, had to do a skip a hut and do a double day walk in one.  He stayed in his wet clothes and after a bite, we watch him depart into the bush behind the hut after our farewell hug.  Shaking hands are for sissies.

Naturally, inward sadness to see him leave us because even though we had only known him for a couple of days, the experiences shared had made it feel like a lifetime.  The TA Trail does that.  Give a deep sense of connection.  So, another FB friend to visit in the future.  Or do more off the beaten trails in the land of the long white cloud together.

The hut was quiet for a bit.  Until Jane and Pip arrived.  In good spirits too even if drenched.  Wearing $6.00 ponchos from the Warehouse that they swear by.  Added to our list of things to have for next time.

There are usually water tanks at each hut that should be boiled before consumption.  Mid Wairoa didn’t have one.  Instead, you had to take a bucket and go down to the river and fill up.  It didn’t look too swelled from the rain so should be okay for Iain’s crossing that he would have been encountering somewhere up the thing.

The sun broke through and then it didn’t and then it did.

Gear was put out to try and dry.  And then they were brought in so as not to get more wet.

A little bit of up, down, up, down.  But nothing compared to what Iain was forging on with no doubt.

Huts have bunk beds so it too is one up and one down.

The key is to certainly hydrate, but only just enough not to have to get up in the night for a pee.

Only heard BClaire get down once from up above which woke me.  There we were outside away from the hut looking up at the stars together, urinating.  Very romantic in pitch black darkness under starlight.

A misfired fart didn’t go too well.

Let’s just write that the dehyd food and Ibuprofen combination caused an accidental stain.

Which was a shit when you only carry one spare pair of dacks.  And one of the pair was hanging from a clothesline in the hut trying to dry.

BClaire, laughing – which wasn’t necessary at the time when one was exposed because I just knew that it wasn’t going to be a personal kept incident during hut banter, luckily carried a third pair of panties.

I should have worn them arse about face, just saying.

And certainly, dosing so as not to have a repeat.

So all you lot who commented on our toilet paper photo of gear carried before we defarted, now you know why.

And hopefully appreciate.


27/12/21 Mt Rintoul Hut to Tarn Hut (8km) – Samurai

Our arrival to Mt Rintoul Hut yesterday included new greeting introductions to Jane and Pip who were also walking the South Island TA Trail.

They had arrived earlier in the day after ticking off the Rintoul’s as well.

Except, they had started their day from Old Man Hut.

Oh dear!

They affirmed our decision yesterday that to keep going was a good one from the descriptive language they used to illustrate the climb up from Old Man Hut.  Pips grimace though was short lived when it was replaced with a grin.

On day 2’s climb up to Starveall Hut, I picked up a sandal lying on the trail that had obviously been lost off someone’s pack.  A note in the hut boot mentioned a phone number for it’s return and so was going the right thing to carry it out and get it returned.  It was Pip’s and I immediately knew.  She had the other on and wearing just a sock on the other so as much as I was happy to lose the 100grams of weight, she was happier to be finally able to stop hopping one foot around huts and to the toilet.

Jane and Pip were first out the hut door bound for Tarn Hut.  Iain from IT and us weren’t too far behind, Katie decided to have a down day and do some washing.

There were more up’s, a-longs, downs, exiting bush, entering bush, boulder hopping, outer shells put on, outer shells taken off and to our surprise, no sign of Jane and Pip ahead.  Either they had taken a wrong track when there wasn’t a wrong one to take, had fallen off a ridge ledge or were a heap fitter than they let on and cracked on at a pace.

Before we went over a brow, we took one last pause and glance back at Mt Rintoul Hut and the towering mountain behind.  It gave us a greater perspective of just how steep the last descent was.  I was reminded more so as the knee pain became constant when lifting the knee to step up.

More drugs provided some abatement.

Looking back at yesterdays descent. Follow the tree trail – can you see the dot of Rintoul Hut?

We eventually caught up and passed Jane and Pip.  They were certainly cranking on.  A couple more ridgeline undulations with the sun bake rising the mercury had the forest in places humming.  Wasps were massed, doing their thing.  At one point, we kept the mouths shut so there was no swallow mishap.  Bait traps were empty and needed re-setting.

It was another down hill before we saw the tarn itself.  Quite a large body of water too.

The hut appeared.

A much shorter day than yesterday by a long shot.  Jane and Pip soon arrived too and it just happened that we all decided to take a dip in the tarn collectively.  There was discreetness as best as could be when one by one, we striped off to bath.  Bums faced in whilst drying off and redressing had a no looking agreement.  I looked.  Pip’s shriek is probably still echoing around the tundra!

In a couple of day, we will be on those red hills in the yonder.
Tarn Hut
The tarn at Tarn Hut.

Clothes were hung to dry and air as we were able to just sit for a couple of hours and chit chat. Iain whittled a miniature samurai sword as he sat there – very clever.

Shadows appeared, another de-hydration meal consumed, last pee, then assuming the horizontal position, the hut became silent.

Until Iain from IT started snoring.  The pitch up there with Pip’s naked shriek mountain echo.

Luckily for him, his samurai sword was hidden.

26/12/22 Slaty Hut to Mt Rintoul Hut (12.5km) – Pt 2

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

And so there we were, all four of us standing, at the signpost that was supposed to be our left turn and with noses pointed in the direction of Old Man Hut, begin the descent waaaaaaaay the hell down.

It wasn’t beauty staring us in the face.  But bloody ugly.

On reflection, no hanging a left and continuing also looked ugly.

And it was more hesitation versus procrastination that had us second guessing the night before decision to only go as far as this hut.

Taking packs off, we plonked ourselves down and had a crisis meeting right there on the trail.  Hell, might as well have some scroggin.  Eating is a great escape when stress levels are shooting through the veins.

A recalibration discussion to entertain the thought of pushing onwards called for physical body condition checks.  All good.  Then we started doing maths as to how much we would progress going horizontal on the trail versus vertical, and then vertical again in the morning.  Katie applied sunblock.

Even when the apprehension fear as to the technical aspect of the next part surfaced had the damn pro’s outweighing the damn con’s for pushing on.  More scroggin was eaten.  BClaire then applied sunblock.

We lifted our packs back onto our body frames and in our circle, all put the hands into the middle and raised them with a combined cheer.  We can do this.  Then waited patiently for the first of us to take the next step to knock the Rintoul’s off.

No one moved.  Everyone laughed.  Iain from IT led off.  We followed.

Six hours later, BClaire & I wandered out of the bush at a clearing to arrive at Mt Rintoul Hut.

Iain and Katie perhaps ten minutes earlier after all keeping together until the last couple of hundred metres of final descent.  Katie was sprawled out on the seat of a picnic table.  Iain seated with bare feet only just having discarded his boots.  They got up.  We all hugged and praised each other with smiles of elation.

With a code of silence that we had all each done the thing we thought we could not do from the night before.  Whatever the fear apprehension was had evaporated.  There was no need to over think anymore.  Or so we thought further down the trail.

The trail from the Old Man Hut signpost to Mt Rintoul Hut is just like trail notes and those who have gone before us blog posts described.  Physically and mentally gruelling.  However, so worth the blood, sweat and tears.  Not that there was much blood or tears.

Descending off Little Rintoul before the ascent up Big Rintoul.
Big Rintoul conquered – Katie, Iain, BClaire & Ru.

The topography was unimaginably remarkable.  And hopefully the photos taken and shared does it the justice it deserves.  The respect one must give it as it is not to be underestimated.  Don’t attempt in shit weather.  Buddy up where you can.  Carry a PLB that can be easily accessible.  And a camera so that you can snap a bunch of moments in time to reflect on time and time again.

And you will.  We have.

Taking a fall in the last hundred metres birthed an injury under the left knee cap.  There was no swelling or excruciating pain, but a mild intermittent dull ache when lifting the knee to step up.  With the hope a well-deserved night’s sleep would send it packing.  Along with Ibuprofen and Panadol medication.

Take that too.  You just never know when you must rely on it.

I certainly found out.

This post’s last words are dedicated to Katie and Iain from IT – cheers you two for sticking with us this day.  For lifting our spirits when needed.  Assisting to navigate the technical parts.  To banter well.  To wait for us to catch up.

A heartfelt thanks from us two.

Rintoul Hut – looking back up to the ridgeline descended off Big Rintoul.

26/12/22 Slaty Hut to Mt Rintoul Hut (12.5km) – Decisions Decisions Pt 1

Overthinking is a bastard.

It can cause the brain matter to swirl in circles when one is trying to quieten the mind, to reach a decision.

All four of us were doing it the evening before.

After all the Christmas cake had been consumed and getting ready to hit the fart sack.  Or bed if you didn’t know what a fart sack was!

Should we only go as far as Old Man Hut tomorrow, and if so, suck up the steep decent down to the hut that’s off the beaten track?  It would mean having to climb back up the 1,000 metres the following morning and pick up where we left off the day before, to start that day’s distance.

Or should we not go down to Old Man Hut tomorrow and keep going, to knock off both Rintoul’s as well in the same day.  Old Man Hut to Mt Rintoul Hut was our highest point of this trail section.  It is also the most extreme technical underfoot to navigate, the drop offs were real and uninviting.

Whatever Iain from IT said, we had to ask him to repeat it – remembering he’s a Scotsman with an accent!

Notwithstanding, overthinking is a bitch.

Reading previous fellow TA walker blogs was perhaps a mistake before setting off because some of the descriptive language used escalated more of the overthinking it.

And all four of us were doing it!

By the time people faded into noddy land, we had all agreed to go as far as Old Man Hut tomorrow.  And a second motion to stick together to scale up and over both Rintoul’s the following day.

And then the tomorrow arrived, which was Boxing Day everywhere else in New Zealand.

Iain from IT was first to get onto the trail, we weren’t too far behind, and we knew Katie would eventually catch up.

As we sidled upward to reach the first ridge, again the panoramic views were just phenomenal. It also gave us our first look at the Rintoul’s to the south.  Overthinking apprehension stirred.

The imprint on the shale marks the route towards the ridgeline.
Iain on the ridgeline.
Selfie pose from the ridgeline.
View across the valley to Little Rintoul on the left, and Big Rintoul on the right.
The mighty Kaikoura’s in the distance.

We caught up with Iain from IT and gas bagging whilst trekking the Ada Flat allowed us to clock over the undulating ridgeline kilometres.  Some negotiation of a narrow ridgeline before a climb up to Old Man summit had us view Katie powering the ridgeline we’d already trodden back over yonder.

Then we hit more technical clambering that slowed us up, taking a cautious approach so as not to need our PLB (Personal Location Beacon).  The views to the Kaikoura Ranges were crisp and clear.  It wasn’t too much longer when Katie was upon us for us to become a team of four.

TA walkers coming in the opposite direction were looking trail weary.  But chit chat swapping trail conditions lifted the spirits on the face of it.  However underneath, deep down, overthinking apprehension still stirred.  Rintoul’s were directly out to the front of us now, and still some ways off.

We were scooting through some ridgeline low tree bush when all of a sudden, we happened upon the signage that indicated the left turn we needed to take to Old Man Hut.  And the 60% gradient downward slope.

Old Man Hut zoomed in. Looking down.

The looks on everyone’s faces were one of Holy Fk!

And a simultaneous collaborative thinking it over meeting had.

Thinking whether our best laid plans from the evening before of only going as far as Old Man Hut, were the best plans when faced with the damn hut looking back up at us in reality.  From waaaaaaaaaaaay down there.

And all four of us were most definitely doing it!

25/12/21 Hacket Hut to Slaty Hut (11km) – Christmas Day Cake

The closest thing to a Christmas stocking this day was putting on a sock worn the day before.

Two of them.  Still fresh too, bonus.

Merry salutations were exchanged accompanied with a hug.  And thoughts of loved ones back beyond the trail start.  No ham and croissants this festive morning.  Only a brew and heartening breakfast of muesli with powdered milk – just add water to the plastic bag sized portion and with a spork, eat straight from the bag and thus, only dirtying a spork and cup.

Packs were sealed up and re-positioned onto the backs as we bid a safe day tramping to Katie before we departed Hacket Hut to step out and up.

The trail followed Hacket Creek.  It wasn’t too far before we engaged in a little zig zagging with getting the boots, socks and feet moist from crossing the cascading flow of water.  Positioning feet below the surface is important so as not to arse up and refreshing your entire dress wardrobe worn.  It was also good practice for what was ahead of us.  The crossing encounters were going to have to be more tactful when encountering the faster deeper flows further along the trail.  Especially if the rain forecasted lifted the high tide levels.

And then it was a right turn.  And up.  And a 900m climb which didn’t muck around with the leg burn, brow sweat, increase in water consumption, and the odd curse or three.  Rest stops from the grind became frequent and the odd view beyond the canopy were gratified distractions.

Shortly before the right turn and up.
It was up. And more up. And yet more up.

Just keep going … just keep going … just keep going (from the Nemo movie) was on repeat until we rounded a bit of a heightened bend to expose an opening up in the bush line.  Starveall Hut appeared in front of us.  You bloody beauty.

Packs, boots and socks came off simultaneously as lunch out – wraps, salami and cheese.  It wasn’t long before another fellow tramper arrived, Iain.  Iain from Auckland who was walking the whole South Island section of the TA so had started way further back up the island at Ships Cove on the Queen Charlotte.  He was Scottish so we had to keep asking him to repeat himself when he spoke.  Working in the IT industry, it wasn’t long before we were calling him “Iain from IT”.  A title that stuck over the next few days.

Starveal Hut.

Katie appeared shortly after.  She made short work of catching us up.  Youth on your side has that ability.

There was a sense of accomplishment having reached Starveall.  You do have mental ups and downs when tramping and unbeknown to us, the next bit between Starveall Hut and our days destination Slaty Hut, had just that. Up and down physically.  And up and down mentally.

But we were above the bush line following orange route markers for some of it.  The views as far as the eyes could see were spectacular.

“Just keep going” played some more between the ears until we rounded another bend and sighted Slaty Hut.  The distance from Starveall when we finally stopped outside the hut door, another 5.5kms.  Iain from IT and Katie were already there for our welcome.

And still, more up after Starveal Hut.
Just follow the orange marker poles.
As far as the eye could see, just absolutely beauty.
Slaty Hut appears …

It was a second portion of carried home-made Mac Cheese for the dinner meal.  Tomorrow, the dehydration meals kicked in.

And then Iain from IT pulled out tin foil containing Christmas cake that his partner had made especially.  Enough to be shared.  Enough for the pallet to absorb some attachment to Christmas Day trimmings.

Sharing Christmas cake wishing one and all where ever they were a very “Merry Christmas”.

With a look to the distant horizon as the sun sunk below the curvature and one last mutter under the breath before we retired to inside the hut walls … “wherever you are, whatever you are doing, with whom you are doing it with – Merry Christmas everyone, from us Ruru’s”.

24/12/21 Hacket Car Park to Hacket Hut (5.7km) – Beet Root or Root Beet

“OMG, you would not believe what happened to me when I stuck out my thumb to catch a hitch to the start of the Hacket Track” was American Katie’s elevator pitch to us as part of the first introductions, after she arrived at Hacket Hut, dumped her pack, and sat on the floor – red as a beetroot (or is that root beet in the US language?)

We had been dropped off at the same spot only hours early by Cameron (our son) who was then going onto Nelson for a mate catch up.  We’d driven through from Murchison to St Arnaud and parked up the third bedroom for its holiday without us.  For nine or ten days.

Hacket picnic area car park drop off.

Our initial simultaneous reaction was to think Cameron had picked her up.  He was going to head south again after the mate catch up.


Instead, it was Katies old boyfriend and his new girlfriend!

Hitching is a gamble, and a lift is a lift when one is betting on a pickup.   What were the possibilities? Didn’t matter, she was in good company now to share our hut this Christmas Eve.

As we got to know her over the next couple of days shared on the trail, we often reflected how cool it would have been if it had of been Cameron that had given her the lift, as Katie’s character and persona were so much in tune with his – “No point in mowing lawns as every overgrown weed flower feed bee’s.”  Yup!

Hacket Hut was approx. 7 km from our drop off.  It was just enough to fall in love with the weights of the packs, get into a stepping rhythm, adjust the weights of the packs, be teased by some up-hill gradient, discuss what we can lose to reduce the weight of the packs, be excited to reach the first hut, scramble to dismount the packs too when we arrived.

Possibly looking like beet root as well as it was mighty hot temperature wise.  Tis always good to start out how you mean to go on, sweaty and sunblock/insect repellent grimy.  The splash of water in the nearby stream freshened and cooled us off.

Lying on the hut bunk looking at the roof, sticking plaster had been affixed to the apex which had us wondering WTF?

It wasn’t until a frantic wasp appeared at the window on the inside of the hut wanting to escape that it had become apparent.  No sooner had I let the thing out, another appeared.  Then another.  There was a wasp nest in the roof of the hut and a hole further along from the plasters was their escape route.  Except into the bloody hut instead of out.

Not only was there indecision as to who should be brave enough to clamber up to the heights and stuff another sticky over – arrrrr, no one; there was further chit chat about whether to have the hut windows open or closed.

Let the wasps out.  Or the damn sandflies in!

We gambled to keep letting the wasps out knowing that when the sunset shade appears, wasps too go to sleep.

All those sandflies do, is turn into ruddy mosquitos.

And those mongrels most certainly do leave love bite beet root marks.

Or for Katies benefit – root beet.

Hacket Hut

23/12/21 Chch to Murchison – Embrace Adrenalin Rushes

We have all experienced it.

The adrenalin rush feeling.

Take the texting or checking your FB likes whilst driving (illegal here in NZ) and simultaneously scanning the road from left to right or ahead for the constabulary.  As much as not to go up the arse end of a stationery vehicle or parked car!  Adrenalin rush.

Or watching or listening to parliamentary and all the so-called experts dribble nowadays.  That too can be an adrenalin rush.

Or under the cover of darkness, dumping a cooked chicken dinner carcass or concrete patio off cuts into neighbouring yellow recycling bins without being spotted, caught or filmed.  That’s an adrenalin rush.

So was every neighbour receiving a letter from the Chch City Council about it being illegal to dump your rubbish into someone else’s.  Especially if it’s not recyclable.  Neighbour’s too obviously experienced adrenalin rush.

For us heading north towards the Richmond Ranges driving the third-bedroom, there was adrenalin pumping.  Both the excitement type.  And the apprehensive type.  The type described above.  But all that evaporated into the anticipation with an open mind type when we descended off the Lewis Pass elevation and rounded the bend at the Maruia Hot Springs facility on State Highway 7.

The road between there and the turn off into the Marble Hill picnic/camping area is predominantly canopied by native forest – it would have to be one of the loveliest stretches of tar seal we have encountered on the planet to drive.

It gives you a sense of belonging to something special.  A genuine adrenalin rush to be proud of what we have.  To enjoy.  Definitely look up if you get to experience it.  Keeping one eye on the road of course!

Getting out of the third-bedroom and not having applied the 80% deet insect repellent took the adrenalin to new heights too.  Little bastards can do that!

We had decided to break up the drive and spend a night in Murchison de-fragging from the lead up to the “ho ho ho” festive chaos and tramp.  Murchison has always been just a drive through pit-stop kind of town however, veering right after heading north and there is quite a bit of depth to the place.  Both historical and present-day atmosphere.  It’s now on the radar to come back for some staycation time.

The butchers shop window with a frontage sign that read “Home Kill Still Available” and a phone number had me inspired to giving them a call to discuss prices and if they do a deal for more than one person?  Ahem!

The camping ground we parked up was human contactless which didn’t help somewhat as we hadn’t booked, just rocked up.   Caused us some adrenalin Christmas Eve morning as we weren’t able to pay on-line, nor in person.  The messages we left on the phone and by text (not whilst driving I’ll add) informed the hosts that we would be back to settle the account.

In nine or ten days-time due to us going walk-about.

The last thing we needed was the security footage of us arriving and then leaving without paying to be on the television programme “Crime Watch” so as to soil our upstanding reputation in the neighbourhood.

Imagine that type of adrenalin rush!

Richmond Ranges Trail Preamble

It wasn’t so much that we had the desire and need to prove something to ourselves.

But more a desire to return to something we started back at the end of 2016 – walking the length of New Zealand on the Te Araroa Trail.

We made the decision to postpone the South Island section after completing the 1,600 kms North Island top to bottom.  At the time back then, we were a little jaded and needed a rest – remembering that it followed on from the tandem bike ride having cycled 7,500 kms from one side of Canada to the other.

Us completing the North Island Section of the Te Araroa Trail – 2016

That was then.  This is now.  A lot of chaos has transpired in-between since.  Procrastination and aging, as much as forced reclusiveness over the past couple of years.  Whereas all other life has kept going.

The investment in “the third bedroom” and subsequent escapes onto the backyard has certainly stimulated the reframe needed to get out there and enjoy what we have.  Getting back onto the trail included.  Bring this item on the “Before I Die” list to its conclusion.  Even if in sections.

However, the Richmond Ranges by all the stories shared by those who have done it before, is that it’s the toughest part of the TA Trail.  One must prepare for it as it’ll test you – are we good enough, tough enough, brave enough, smart enough?  How much could we take?  How do we measure up?

And it doesn’t discriminate.

And so, it was meant to be this festive Christmas 2021/New Year’s 2022.

But strewth, just getting the gear and food sorted for the nine days/eight nights was testing itself.

Only time would tell if we passed.

Or failed!

4/12/21 Mt Herbert Training Walk & the Mad Guy Attack

It just had to be done.

A conditioning tramp incorporating climbing, descent and distance humping fully laden packs.

Regardless the weather forecast – which turned out to be a scorcher.

Mount Herbert / Te Ahu Pātiki is, at 919 metres (3,015 ft), the highest peak on Banks Peninsula.

It rose up in-front of us as we stepped out to leave Orton Bradley Park and where we had parked up the third-bedroom the night before.  A lovely spot close to the city, yet far enough away from suburbia.  From its height, we could see suburbia in the distant horizon.

We passed a group getting ready with day packs and looks on their faces that said it all after we gave reason as to what we were intending to do this day.  Not too sure if they were grins of encouragement or grimaces of encouragement.  Any descriptive adjectives were probably whispered out of ear shot as we fudged into the tree line.

It just had to be done and so onward we forged.

The first steps trodden towards Mt Herbert / Te Ahu Pātiki
Up the guts it is.
Knock knock!
Not too sure what happened here.

We engaged a half dozen runners nearing the top, who blurred passed us half-way up now retracing their return down.  They too were in training for the annual event – the Coast to Coast and were in good spirits.  As is always the case when you have gone as high as you are going to go so as for it to be all down-hill after that.

It took us nigh on 3.5 hours to cover the 7.1 kms and reach the Mt Herbert / Te Ahu Pātiki shelter.  Packs came off, salutations with fellow adventurers engaged, seating embraced, and lunch scoffed as chit chat was exchanged.

The temperature had certainly escalated the mercury and so water consumption to keep hydrated was imperative.  There is a psychological mental emotion when emptying out water from the pack to consume that the pack weight is declining.  We were carrying 3 x 1.5 litres each to substitute the weight of the food that will be carried for when all the training is done and dusted.  Or is the shift from one to other just weight transfer?  The chicken sandwiches didn’t touch the sides neither.  Another weight transfer.

The Irish trekker questioned us as to whether we had been attacked on our climb up.

She had to call a friend to ask for help for which the intermittent service cutting out and interpretation of what she was trying to communicate nearly got lost in translation.  And the Police being dialled.

Her friend on the other end of the mobile had thought she had said in her Irish accent, “I’m being attacked by a mad guy, what should I be doing?”

What the Irish girl had actually said was, “I’m being attacked by a magpie, what should I be doing?”

She was worried as she was returning the same path trodden.  I reached out with a broom that was standing up right in the corner of the shelter and suggested to take it with her to use as a weapon and give the mad guy a warning sweep.

It had us laughing which is the best medicine to help you forget about aches and pains and any overthinking of there being more of the same to encounter.  We hadn’t even reached the summit, so the short sharp steepness brought us back to earth quick smart.

However, when we did reach the 919 metres, you could have imagined that you were on top of the world.  The 360° panoramic view was to die for.  It was just stunning and friggin amazing.  The slight breeze enough to dry off beads of sweat.  And time for a selfie.

Up we go.
Looking back down towards Orton Bradley Park from half way up.
The Mt Herbert / Te Ahu Pātiki Shelter.
At 919 metres, the view is absolutely amazing – worth the leg stretch and back strain.
East towards Koukourarata – Port Levy

Our descent took us down the Diamond Harbour Mt Herbert Walkway part of the trail.  The Southern Alps, Kaikoura Coast, Canterbury Plains slowly disappeared as the opposite peninsula crept higher.  Across farmland and pasture, it was more open with limited shade cover and the 9kms taking us 3 hours for us to reach the tar seal.  Sun weathered the bare skin.  One should stop squinting as well, so as the burning gets into the cracks!

We turned left which was a southerly direction to route march the road and the homeward 7 kms that had us undulating the coastline.

There was a combination of adrenalin to keep the “it just had to be done” going and the anticipation of what the feeling was like to reach the third-bedroom so as to drop the laden packs and remove boots and socks.

Walking the road back to Orton Bradley Park from Diamond Harbour.
Mt Herbert / Te Ahu Pātiki skyline.

Fellow campers visited our little bit of dirt to inquire about our day as they saw us walk off early morning to finally walk in 9.5 hours later.  More looks of horror amplified by shocks when they lifted the packs to hasten a guess as to their weights.  But congratulatory comments and further conversation about our reasoning for a training hike fully laden on a scorching Saturday day.

The Richmond Ranges are part of the Te Araroa Trail at the top of the South Island.  Every TA trekker that we have had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with, have said it’s the most spectacular part of the whole NZ TA Trail.  And one of the most technically challenging bits.

We completed the whole North Island TA Trail at the end of 2016 and start of 2017.  The South Island TA Trail has always been on our “Before We Die” list of adventures to tick off.  But instead of one continuous trek, doing it in bite sizes.

It’s where we are heading to this coming Christmas/New Year holiday season.

Entering onto the trail at the Pelorus Bridge, we hope to do the 110 odd kms over 8-9 days, finishing at St Arnaud.  We have to carry our equipment and enough food for the entire 9 days.

And hence, the Mt Herbert / Te Ahu Pātiki training day.  The up, down and distance with sun scorch.  Complimented with the aches, pains, grins, grimaces, fellow interactions and view “wow’s”.  Times 7 or 8 more days in a row.

Does it come with “are we biting off more than we can chew?”

Nah, not at all!  Something ventured is something gained.

It just has to be done.

13/11/21 Lake Tekapo

Dark grey wafting clouds smudged the mountain tops as the curtains were pulled in the third-bedroom.  The sound of the intermittent squally rain pounded the cabin.  Then it didn’t.

A little climb up at the 45th Parallel as we departed Cromwell.
View from the 45th Parallel of our third-bedroom.

Decisions were needing to be rendered as to how we should spend the next couple of days on the road.  The Thirsty Thursday crew had extended an invitation for us to join them in Queenstown.  The first night neighbour was encouraging us to join them in Tapanui, further south.  Staying another night at the same place to do absolutely nothing was as equally attractive.

But the NZMCA parking space we backed into with a new view through covering pine trees down to Lake Tekapo won our picture framed setting.

The third-bedroom parked up with a picture frame view of Lake Tekapo.
Mt John Observatory rose up across the lake.
An evening beverage on dusk.

Mt John Observatory rose up across the lake.  We couldn’t see it from the third-bedroom, however, absolutely could as we sat at a lakeside picnic table watching the sun sink behind it.

We were surprised at the lack of population out and about enjoying what we were witnessing, given the hordes of mobile accommodations sharing this slice of paradise.  Perhaps the heavy rain earlier in the day the reason.  Cold bones wanting the warmth of indoors on the dusk.

Tekapo is a popular tourist spot (227 kms from Christchurch) with SH8 dissecting the township.  For us, it’s usually a drive through or the occasional stop for a pee.  The fading light too took us indoors to hibernate and rest the weary bodies from the Dunstan Trail adventure.

It was back on the mountain bikes the next morning to explore.  We rode left skirting the lake front.  Lupins were in full colour with pinks and purples and whites.

A public toilet where you had to pay wave $1.50 to use was certainly a first.  Still is a first too as we refuse to pay to piss.  Dogs, cats, goats, horses, sheep, birds, cows and every other species don’t get afforded such a tax to pee and poo – why the hell should we?  So always carry a roll of toilet paper and if nature calls, try to be discreet, cover a turd for permanence, and empty out away from water sources.  Or in our case, find the next public toilet which was further around the lake front towards the Tekapo Hot Pools.

The hill side was being cleared behind the pools.  Track signage showed a route up to the Mt John Observatory.  Initial thoughts were to lock up the bikes and hike up however, a walker with children offered advice that it’s only steep initially and is bikeable once into the pines.

Not judging, our trust in fat bellies took a turn for distrust when we humped and pushed the bikes up and into the pines, only to find we had to hump and push the things nearly to the summit.  It gave the calf muscles some stretching.

An abundance of lupin colours graced the lake edge.
The hot pools setting up for kids bouncy castle play.
Stairway to heaven which is nigh the top.

The rewarding view from the observatory was absolutely panoramic beauty.  Up the lake towards the top end mountain range was a canvas of squally rain.  Every other direction was as far as the eye could see.  We could make out the whites of campers and caravans in our picture frame location as we sat at a picnic table on top of the world and feast on a savoury muffin and cuppa.  The café is awesome.

Our return route was virtually dropping straight off the observation point to follow a track on the farmland towards the Southern Alps.  It curled back around at the end of the peninsula, and we eventually did a complete circle arriving back at the hot pools.  It was bouldery in parts but doable.  Follow the horse poo as horse trekking shares the track.

From the Mt John Observatory looking back at Tekapo.
The Southern Alps view.
We think this is a pheasant that just happened to spook us.

It was back to the third-bedroom and new neighbours had parked up.  Another opportunity to greet, meet and swap nomad life on the road over a beer and wine.  Not as much as previous nights.

But just enough to be in a happy space to ponder a return back to Tekapo in the third-bedroom to explore some more.

Footnote: There is a wonderful sit-down toilet 280 footsteps from the northern end of the NZMCA camping ground.  It’s serviced, has toilet paper until you bum is content and, no charge.

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