I have met so many lovely people, from so many countries, whilst tramping the Te Araroa that I hesitate to mention that some of them don’t seem to be aware that just because you have a DOC hut pass does not mean you don’t still need to sweep out huts, replace firewood and generally respect the fact that other trampers will use the huts. They may express polite interest in your tales of long distance ‘hiking’, they may act bemused when you respond to questions whether people hike with mules in NZ (er, seen any mate?!!) but if you chat outside the hut with them, where they felt compelled to go for some peace and quiet then they may well ask detailed questions about the TA ROUTE so they can avoid it.
The tramp to the upper reaches of the Sabine valley and beyond is a walk through a mixture of enchanted lichen-dripping forests, thunderous rivers, stunning tarns and is quite simply the most wonderful and profoundly-enjoyable section that I have tramped so far. By the time I reached the hut the grin on my face was in danger of turning into a permanent rictus.
The Blue Lake Hut (located on the West Sabine River, just before the Waiau Pass) was a tad crowded, with a mixture of TA trampers and Sabine circuit people. The Waiau Pass trip started out early and in misty rain, so I didn’t really see much of the much-photographed clear multi-coloured water in the oh-so-aptly named Blue Lake, nor of Lake Constance, to which you climb beside on the way up to the Pass.
I was lucky enough to be accompanied by an American TA ‘hiker’, even though I didn’t realize she was walking with me until I looked behind and there she was, my own noisy shadow. It is of course safer to walk together, especially in difficult sections but usually I’m aware that I’m walking with somebody.
When I reached the top of the Pass I was obviously super-thrilled to be sharing the moment with a very loud American woman, veteran of all THE long distance hikes overseas who hit my hand and shouted “O.M.G we are so amazing. High 5!!!” followed by much waving of poles in the air. Despite my frequent attempts to enjoy this enthralling setting by stopping to have a break, we arrived together at the river crossings. This was actually great as I thought we could cross together. But then again, after an initial attempt where she didn’t seem to grasp the concept of moving slowly-together, I felt it may be necessary to give up this ‘mutual-support’, as I wished to see the day out....Luckily for me, as soon as the scary sections were done, she took off, when I was stopping for lunch after 6 hours on the go, Apparently through-hikers just gulp a 1 square meal on the move....
I decided that I may need a break to meet some non-TA trampers, so I headed to Christopher Hut which I reached at 9pm. There I had a nice chat with some Kiwi trampers, who gave me some red velvet Tim Tams. A perfect end to a bloody-tough day. One which went all the way from elation, stomach-churning fear, exhaustion…. and beyond. Yup, perhaps an average day tramping in NZ!
When I sign the hut books I always write “Many Steps for Multiple Sclerosis” and I have been asked numerous times by people who have seen it about my tramp. I hope that I am in my own small way raising awareness of MS and the sterling work of the fantastic people working for the society here in NZ.
Next up is a wee break for body and soul, then through from Lewis to Arthurs Passes followed by Lake Coleridge. ...