Anakiwa 1765km to Nelson 1850km (day 96 – 102)
This next section of the TA looms large for all walkers. Long (approx 10 days), high (lots of walking above 1200m) and tough (km per hr rate about 2km/hr). We were no different. For me, anxiety outweighed excitement. Still, one step at a time.
First, focus on the lovely walk to Havelock. Nice, great pathway above road for at least half. We even walked with someone for the first time – a lively American Allison. Into Havelock by 2pm, with added bonus of seeing Jake, a friend from Wellington, there that evening.
Secondly, the planning. We set up to meet friends at Hackett Hut, the closest point to Nelson in 5 days time, and they would top up our supplies for the following 7 days through the ranges. We bought our supplies, charged our devices, and got things in order for our long period off-line. Then we had a lovely evening relaxing with Jake!
The next day was walking along a back road, and farm pastures, through to Pelorous Bridge. Long but doable, even with our fully loaded packs. The DoC campground there is gorgeous!! Great facilities, in a magic riverside location back off the road. Sweet. We talked a little with Thomas, a TA who we’d first seen back on the Queen Charlotte, and had a nice quiet evening.
Next morning, off into the Richmond Forest Park. 14km on a dirt road, and hour to Emerald Pools, then 3hrs to our hut at Captains Creek. We saw at least 8 trampers as we walked up the no exit road. The hut sleeps 6! The Pelorus river is stunning! Picnic lunch beside its water, magic. Sharing it with 8 other trampers, not quite the back country experience you expected. The next 3 hrs were pretty, and pretty tough in places. Slips and erosion made some bits treacherous, and Pete tripped more than once. Still, we made it to the hut by about 5pm, very relieved to find only 2 bunks taken. The rest of the trampers choosing to walk on at least 2 more hours to the next hut. Suited us just fine! We got to know Thomas more, and meet Franzi, a very literal young German girl. We were joined later by NZ Hunter, and Danish Michael, who had both walked 43km from Havelock! Outside 6 tents were pitched by other trampers, talking seriously about weights, equipment, and long distance kilometers.
In the morning we had a lovely 2.5hrs to the next hut, where we had an early lunch, before hitting the trail upwards, 700m to the next hut. It was a steady, hill climb through some gorgeous beach forest. It took us over 5hrs, but finally the forest gave way to rocks, and we arrived at the 16bunk Rocks Hut. Again, Franzi and Thomas were the only ones to stop there, so lots of bunks to choose from!! We were eventually joined by 5 other trampers, and had a lovely evening in our high lookout hut, complete with flushing toilets.
What goes up…can keep going up. 200m more the next morning, to 1000m. The slowest part was through a giant tree graveyard, where we had to scramble over and under trees which had been blown over. A tornado? Who knows, but it was carnage, and really slow going. Eventually we popped out on the top, with views over Tasman Bay. Lovely!
But now the descent. Tree root ladders and really steep, it makes up seem like a cake-walk. By the time we made it to Brownings, our knees and toes were screaming. A soak in the not terribly clear stream helped though. We waved farewell to Thomas, who was walking out to road end, to rest a sore archilles in Nelson, and Franzi, who was staying put at Browning, then walking out tomorrow. We scrambled down to Hackett Hut, delighted to find it empty!
We had a lovely time at Hackett. The Turnage family joined us in the morning, with bacon and avocado Vogel sarnies! Then as we walked them out, Les, Mark and Jack puffed into view, loaded down with supplies for tonight, and top ups for our next tramping stage. Beers beside the stream, good humour, lots of sun. Magic. Sausages, potato salad and coleslaw dinner. Yummy! 5 of us, plus one brace TA, in the hut, made for a fun if noisey overnight sleep.
All this lead to us deciding not to do the rest of the Richmond Ranges. We are not like these fit young things, and we don’t enjoy the anxiety that this terrain involves. One misstep can be dangerous, even fatal. Completing TA at any cost is not for us. W are off to Nelson to rethink our next three months. It will involving seeking out tramps and camps in off the beaten track parts of the south island. It will involve making our way towards Bluff. It will be a challenging adventure, together. It just won’t be the official TA.