6 Feb. The hut occupants fortunately spilt into early and late leavers which eased the breakfast scramble and gear packing within the confines of the hut. The first group got away about 06:45 and I was with the second wave of Demelza, Rau, Fred, Rachael, Miriam and Dan who left a tidy hut for the next occupants at 08:00.
Crossing the Taramakau River linked up was more difficult than three days ago but group confidence in river crossings had increased. Another km further on we reached the Otehake river to find the early leavers on the other side. After getting some tips shouted from the far bank, we crossed as a group of seven linked up. We could just about see the river bottom but it was waist deep and fast following. Not the occasion for a group selfie midstream. 😊
On the far side we found another two walkers, Sang from South Korea, and another Alex from Germany. They had camped between the two rivers the night before. Time for an Otehake river crossing group photo.
With the river uncertainty behind us, we continued in our group of seven down the valley. The last 5km was slow going sidling along a steep forested bank along the river.
We met a lone tramper coming towards us. It was Debbie Buck, who was a member of the Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering Club several years ago before she moved to Hokitika. I had been on several trips with her before. Small world even in the bush!
The pace differences within the group meant Miriam, Dan and I arrived at Morrison Footbridge and the highway first at 15:00. 16.7 km in 7 hours. There we found Sam and Rosina who had been waiting 40 minutes for a hitch. Almost immediately we all got picked up by a couple, Batu and Lily, from Istanbul touring NZ in a camper van. They dropped us off 20km down the road in Arthur’s Pass Village.
It was a bad time to arrive in Arthur’s Pass. This weekend is the Coast to Coast multi sport endurance race, (https://www.coasttocoast.co.nz/the-race) and there was no accommodation free in Arthur’s Pass. Enough time to make a decision to catch the Trans Alpine train at 16:30 on its daily return trip to Christchurch. Miriam and Dan decided to hitch. The train conductor Dave sorted me out with a booking and a seat for the 2 hour journey through NZ’s finest scenery into Christchurch ($139).
By 19:00, I had a room in Christchurch (Merivale) at the Carlton Mill Hotel. Rib-eye steak, duck fat roast potatoes and salad followed by cheese cake and sorbet for dinner next door at the Carlton Bar! A day with end to end contrasts.