WHERE: Ship Cove to St Arnaud – South Island, New Zealand
WHEN: February/ March, 2017
OBJECTIVE: Te Araroa thru-hike
DISTANCE: 1702.0 – 1945.1 km
South Island!!! FINALLY!
The Interislander ferry dropped me in a rainy and gray Picton, but by the time I caught the water taxi up to Ship Cove the next morning the weather had much improved. For the next 245km, I have actually enjoyed the most amazing summer weather imaginable! What a difference! Even saw dolphins from the boat on the way up – extra special. Most of all I was just sooo happy to be back on trail again! I feel this way after every stop, especially those spent in a city, but this time it was almost like an insatiable hunger roaring through my entire body. I need this!!!
First up was the scenic Queen Charlotte track. An easy walk making the most out of the stunning views over Marlborough sound. A friend came out to walk it with me which was extra nice. It is a beautiful track, but rather accessible which means a lot more people out, most with day packs… smelling like… flowers(?) when you pass them on trail. Wonder what fragrance profile they collect from me in return..? Hehe… I long for the wilderness!
Oh and wilderness I got! Richmond Ranges did not disappoint in the slightest! The week I spent in these mountains have by far been the very best on this trail! Sure, some of the most physically demanding too, but just breathtakingly beautiful! Seriously take-your-breath-away amazing! More than once did I catch myself thinking “this is why I do this!!!” My reward for all that mud up north! I LOVE THIS!!!
I started from the Pelorus Bridge campsite where I had picked up my first food drop. The pack was really heavy loaded with 10 days of food. Trail notes say about 8-9 days, but for these remote sections, I pack extra food as you never know if you should get held up by bad weather or something.
The first few days follow the Pelorus river and the nice summer weather made for several stops along the way for a swim, super nice! Another perk is the great hut system down here. I have only stayed in a handful of huts up north, but now it will be a nice change for a while. I started this stretch with a few other hikers also walking Te Araroa and we’ve had some really cool moments on the trail as well as some very nice evenings together at the huts, including midnight possum stew…We probably stink pretty bad though. In one hut we managed to scare off two separate couples of hikers in one night…
There are some really big climbs on this trail… and I mean big… and pretty much every day… from the hut at 400m up to the summit of Mt Ellis (1615m) for example. Or one intense afternoon which consisted of first climbing Little Rintoul summit (1643m) immediately followed by Mt Rintoul (1731m), which by the way, was a highlight of this stage!
Mostly I am just thrilled to be walking on a dry trail for once. Imagine that… no mud! What a treat! For the first few days on the Richmond Alpine Track, every day seems to top the previous one in views and experiences pretty much. Stunning ascents up amazing summits, hair-raising descents surfing down loose rocks and scree, jaw-dropping 360-degree views along narrow ridgelines above the tree line, mythical alpine forests, swing bridges across deep gorges, countless river crossings and a remote wilderness that go on and on as far as the eye can see. I am in love!!
Ranges done in 7 days! Not bad! A zero-day in St Arnaud, a nice reward after all these climbs. Also – PIZZA!!!
This was hands down the best week of the entire trail! I just LOVE these mountains!!!