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Te Araroa – Wellington to Hacket Road End (and Motueka)

or sea, hike and sun …

It is a wonderful feeling to be in Wellington – one Island done, I take a bit of time to relax, go to the museum, have a nice meal at a mexican restaurant with the awesome crew of TA hikers I’ve been sharing this experience with.

Wellington is a very enjoyable city. But, as much as it is awesome to have this kind of place to stop in after finishing the North Island part of the Trail, it is also somewhat “dangerous” … It would be easy to get stuck here, get distracted and forget to go back on the Trail again. So I decide that two days in the city are more than enough, and I take the ferry on Thursday 22nd of January.

I must admit that my heart beats a little faster as the ferry slowly steers its way into Tory Channel …

The South Island! It feels like coming home…

I relish that feeling as I am waiting for my water taxi that will take me to the start of the Queen Charlotte Track. The water taxi is also the mail boat, bringing parcels to all the people living in the Sounds with no road access. So I get a full 2 hours cruise in the Malborough Sounds… perfect, what a fantastic place it would be to live in!

Graeme and his friend Colin are taking the same boat ride, so we start hiking the Queen Charlotte track together and I happily share this section of the Trail with them.

We get to Ship Cove shortly before 4pm, and it is an easy hour walk to the first campsite, SchoolHouse Bay. It’s still nice and hot at 5pm so, after pitching my tent I join the guys for a swim in the ocean. What a beautiful day to start the South Island Section of the Te Araroa!

I wake up the next day feeling rested and ready to be back on the trail again. I slept so well! I must say that after 4 nights in the Wellington YHA, sleeping in my little tent again in this very quiet campsite feels like luxury … and my tent is home, after all!

The Queen Charlotte track is a very easy track, and we decide to take it nice and slow, staying at Camp Bay, then Cowshed Bay, and Davis Bay the last day instead of going all the way to Anakiwa, so we can enjoy another quiet campsite and a good swim in the ocean. As Graeme put it, walking the Queen Charlotte track after all we’ve walked is “gliking” …(by analogy with “glamping“). We start later than usual (around 7.45 or 8 am), get to camp early afternoon, go for a swim and on two occasions, for a few beers as well …

The Queen Charlotte Track definitely feels like a holiday in the life of a Te Araroa thru-hiker…

The weather stays sunny and very hot as we walk from Davis bay to Havelock. It is mostly on road, with the Mahakipawa Hill to climb over before getting to town. Mahakipawa Hill is a good 400m climb. It would not be too hard if not for the heat … but it is unbearably hot as we climb up, without a single spot of shade and not much wind. I probably sweat 2 liters of water going up that hill (and of course this is the moment my water bottles decide to be pretty much empty). I feel like I’m in the hot desert… and the seagulls gliding in circles above us suddenly seem like vultures above their preys … Hopefully this lasts only for an hour… and we are quickly in Havelock after coming down the other side.

This made me doubt my abilities of ever hiking in a desert (the start of the PCT for example)… how could you stand this for days and days and days?

Havelock is a resupply stop. I stock up on 4 days of food that will take me to the Hacket Road End, where I go out of the Trail to go to Motueka. Graeme and Colin have to carry an painfully heavy 12 days of food to make it through the Richmond Range. The next day (Tuesday 27th of January) is on tar-sealed road to start with, then gravel road, and finally through paddocks … nothing really exciting there, and the heat is really sucking all the energy out of me (and on top of that a bit of a stomach bug doesn’t make it any more enjoyable…). But it is a short day and easy day, and I am very happy to get to Pelorus Bridge early in the afternoon. As Graeme would say “Just like that … we got up, walked here, and sat down”

All I want is a swim, and the Pelorus River is such a beautiful river, crystal clear and so warm after so many days of hot weather… Oh my… that’s just the best place ever!

We follow the Pelorus River upstream the next day, on a road first and then on a lovely forest track, entering the Richmond Forest Park. I enjoy being in the bush again! The trail takes us to Captains Creek Hut where we decide to stop for the night. It is a lovely 6 bunks hut by the river, but it is way too hot in there, (and it is out of the question to leave the door and windows open, the sandflies here are fierce!!) so I pitch my tent, thinking I’ll have a much better sleep. Well, I don’t have a good sleep, not because of the temperature, but because of a RAT! We are warned of mice and rats presence by people who wrote in the hut book. So we put our food in the strong box hanging off of a tree. I usually leave a few items outside my tent at night, just to have more room … but even with no food there, the rat takes a cunning pleasure chewing a hole in one of my my water bottle, my water filter hose, and a bit of my pack. Well, it could have been worse, but I learned my lesson!

The next destination is Rocks Hut after a short 10km up the hill. I could push on and go to Browning Hut or even Hacket Hut to be out earlier the next day, but Rocks Hut is a nice big 16 bunks hut, and the view from the lookout 10 minutes up the hill from it is simply stunning. I’d rather stay here and enjoy. I spend most of my time at the lookout, sitting on top of the biggest rock there … It’s brilliant weather still, and there’s a perfect 360° view. Mt Fishtail, Mt Fell, Johnston Peak, Mt Richmond looking South, and the Nelson Bay looking North … It feels so good to be here. I spend a bit of time by myself during this section, but I am also very happy about Graeme and Colin’s being there too. There get along like two peas in a pod and are absolutely hilarious. I’m grateful for their very enjoyable company, and the next day, when I have to say goodbye to them after our lunch break at hacket hut, I must admit I am little sad …

I am going out of the trail for 4 days. I had promised my friends in Motueka I would stop by when I get there, and I have left my maps and some extra gear to pick up … I am also taking that time to study the maps and the most challenging sections of the trail that are to come, so I can send some food parcels to myself along the way … When I will come back to the Trail, all the people I have been walking with for the last month or more will be well ahead of me … and after sharing so much, they have become like family … I know I will meet new people, but all these guys (Eef, P-J, Serina, Patrick, Graeme, Colin, Rebecca, Nicolas…) are just awesome folks, and I hope I will be able to see them again on the Trail further South.

As I head down the track that takes me to the Hacket Road end, I wish I could turn back and just keep on walking …

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