17 Feb. A slow start to the day reloading my pack and checking out of the Abisko Lodge. Steph has been a great host there. The Alps2Ocean shuttle journey pickup was scheduled from the Primo cafe at 12:00 and cost $30-45 depending on numbers. The shuttle gets me back to the trail on the other side of the Rakaia River from Lake Coleridge. The next section finishes on Rangitata River where the trail breaks again with another shuttle journey to the opposite bank. These rivers are amongst the widest on South Island, and while it may be possible to cross in places at low water levels, the trail route requires shuttles for walker safety.
Before I left the Abisko, Steph lent me some electronic scales. My body weight is 67.5kg, so I have maintained weight since Hanmer Springs. Pack weight is 22kg with slightly less food than previous sections, but still plenty in reserve.
There were five other walkers at the Primo Cafe waiting for the shuttle. Jake from Sydney and Cass from Skipton, UK. Sven and Leonie from Mulheim, Germany. Svenja from Hamburg, Germany. Talking with Jake, he was on the trail in a similar situation to me. His father died from stomach cancer last November. We shared some of our experiences and like me, he is getting a lot from this journey.
Michael was the shuttle driver and he got us to the trail head for a 13:30 ($30) and we booked our collection at the end of this section for 17:00 on Wednesday. That’s 63km in three days, so there are going to be some 20+ km days.
The six of us set off independently but less than a km apart so we saw each other regularly at breaks. The first 6km was a steady climb from 450m to 1130m initially through farm land and near the top at Turtons Saddle into the DOC Hakatere conservation area. Once there, I felt safe enough to drink water from the streams. It was a very warm and sunny day and the increased breeze with altitude was welcome. After two hours we were over the saddle and into a gradual decent on well formed tracks down the valley. As you can see from the photos, it is big open country.
I walked with Svenja for a short stretch. She is taking a break before starting a research PhD in economic geography.
18:30 was the arrival time at Comyns Hut. 16km in 5 hours with 800m of climb. The hut already had some occupants, though everyone was camping outside with the expectation of some cool night air and free of mice. Tim and Di from Wanaka were mountain biking this section. I had seen them in the Methven Topp Country Cafe yesterday. They are “sort of” following the TA trail, but make up detours when it doesn’t work for bikes. I detected a Brit accent with Di. She has been in NZ since 2003, and did some British Army time with the RLC in the 1990s. She now works for DOC on biodiversity. Tim builds bike tracks; they certainly knew what they were doing. Jesse and Sarah are from San Antonio, Texas,
Pablo (Sardinia) Joe (US)and Coey, (Hong Kong) who were in Methven when we left, managed to hitch out to the section start and walked in about 20:00.
Dinner was roast beef, mash and vegetables dehy. Svenja kindly shared some of her Whitaker’s berry and biscuit chocolate with me. 😊