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  • Writer's pictureJenny

Days 126-130 Lake Ohau to Wanaka

Day 126 ~ Walked: 25 km ~ Start: Lake Ohau lodge ~ End: Ahuriri river (km 2,520)

Another big day for us so pleased we’ve just had two relatively easy cycling days. We actually did closer to 30km as had to walk the 5km from the lodge to get back on trail. With an 800m elevation gain thrown in it took us 9.5 hours in total.

Amazing sunrise to start the day

It was a day of milestones. Our last day in the Canterbury region, so now only two regions remaining. And then we’ve ticked over the 2,500 km mark, with just 500 km remaining.

It’s only the second milestone after our 100km mark way back on ninety mile beach where we are matching the trail km points.

The trail initially followed the alps to ocean track

Remains of burnt trees from Ohau fire with village in background

then up through some beech forest. It was nice to be back in the lushness, obstacles and all.

After that we were back into the open grassy mountains with views back to lake Ohau initially.

As with the last few weeks skinks are everywhere, skittering away as we approach. But today there were thousands of little furry black caterpillars. I was literally squashing about six of them with each step. I also saw what I think are snowberries and I think they may be edible. At least they should be as they are sweet and yummy.

I didn’t taste these although they are attractive

We were wanting to reach and cross the Ahuriri river today to get that out the way. It is the largest unbridged river we have to cross in the South Island TA. Reports had been good about it being passable at present although there is a 10km/3hr detour for when it’s to dangerous.

We were a little concerned then when a nobo we chatted to not far from the river said it had a strong flow and was waist deep on him and he was about 6.5 feet tall.

Finally we reached the river after coming across rabbit infested flat grasslands.

There were literally vertical cliffs on each side of the river bed - which stretched a kilometre wide. And then the flat grasslands continued over the other side. It was a good vantage point for assessing the river before dropping down to it.

We saw two good crossing spots and the first was a success for us. We linked and went slowly as it was swift, but it only got thigh deep after mostly being just knee deep.

We found a good spot in the river bed, slightly elevated from the water and tucked behind a matagouri and wild rose bush for wind protection, to set up camp for the night.

Day 127 ~ Walked: 24 km ~ Start: Ahuriri river ~ End: Top Timaru hut (km 2,544)

Another 9.5 hour day. The notes said 7-8 hours so I had in mind 7, but it took us over an hour to get out of the river bed and to the car park that the notes started from.

The track went through Longslip station which started on the expansive grass flats, through a bit of a swamp then up an easy walking farm 4wd track alongside a lovely river.

This animal didn’t survive the swamp

At our morning tea stop we saw three deer on the hill across the river just on the edge of the bush line. They saw us too and we’re quite wary but after a while were quite happy getting on with eating the grass.

We got to chat to the farmers along the way. Nice to see them so friendly and accommodating to walkers passing through. That even extends to them having their old musterers hut available for use. We stopped for lunch there.

Tin hut

After lunch the climb started in earnest up to Mt Martha (1680m). It was a 4wd track all the way which was quite impressive to that height, and made the walking straightforward apart from the steepness.

Struggling with the steepness

We were heading into the clouds but just as we got to them they lifted and we got to see the peaks we were amongst.

Having a break before heading up into the clouds

We also saw three goats running around the vertical to slightly overhanging cliff faces. Amazing how they do it.

Goats were on cliff section in middle

Once over the saddle it was an equally steep descent on what used to be a 4wd track but slips and rockfalls had clearly made it unusable for that.

After our second extra long hard day we were willing it to end. Each corner we came around without seeing the hut was a huge disappointment. Finally we got there and again only one spare bed in it which was a shame as it was a nice new hut (6 bed) that we thought we were going to have to ourselves.

There was a Napier tramping club group and Bill another TA sobo. We decided to both sleep in the tent this time.

Day 128 ~ Walked: 14 km ~ Start: Top Timaru hut ~ End: Stody hut (km 2,558)

I woke at 6am for a toilet stop and it was still pitch black so thought I’d do another tent photo seeing as I was up.

Speaking of the toilet, the one at this hut could do with some new hinges.

We were hoping for a shorter day today after our two big days and with just 14km to get through we started off optimistically. The track however was straight into a lot of steep narrow sidling.

The first 12km was following the river downstream. If we weren’t in the river or crossing it around a dozen times, we were being led 100s metres up and down the banks on narrow steep and often precarious paths.

We did seriously consider the option of going in river instead of the steep sidles but didn’t want to risk getting caught in a deep narrow gorge and have to back track as the notes indicated could be a possibility.

Every now and then we had about a 500m flat run which were celebrated, however inevitably they would be interrupted with hurdles.

The positives were the good weather, low river levels, and a very well sign posted track. A couple of times we veered off track but almost immediately realised and were able to correct ourselves.

There were a lot of tiny robins or tomtits making the cutest little peep peep chirps, flitting around us. I haven’t manage to get any decent photos of them though.

Finally we turned off from the river for the final 2km to the hut looking forward to our mid afternoon finish and a bit of a rest. But we hadn’t studied the elevations enough to realise it was an almost vertical 2km.

View from part way up - note river valley a long way down

It was hideous. We were both tired from the technical (aka very difficult, aka slow going) section we’d just done, on top of two big days up and over mountains, on top of 8 full days without a break. It was like the nail in the coffin. All we could do (other than press our sos button which was quite tempting) was to keep on pushing through. That final 2 km took us over two painful hours, but we finally made it to the hut. It ended up being an 8 hour day and was very reminiscent of the Richmonds.

Two of the Napier group had kindly set up their tents already so we could have the beds in the hut but we decided we’d prefer our tent tonight instead of the full hut. The hut didn’t have a good reputation with its dirt floor and resident mouse that didn’t even wait till dark to come out. It was happily exploring the bench soon after we arrived.

Stody hut

For me though it was the darkness of the hut. We set up our tent and I had a nice little lie down in the sun protected from the sand flies.

Day 129 ~ Walked: 22 km ~ Start: Stody hut ~ End: Hawea (km 2,580)

We set off early at 7 am today as the notes said 8-10.5 hours for this section and we’d been an hour or so more than the highest guideline the last few days.

We had a bit of a climb up to Breast hill from the hut but it was over nice easy 4wd farm tracks which after yesterday were very welcome. It was nice looking out over the mountain ranges which continued far into the distance.

We could even see some glaciers which looking at the map seem to be the Volta and Bonar glaciers.

We were very happy to get to Breast hill in clear weather and get the reward of awesome views and cool rock formations that we’d slogged out the last few days for.

It was very worth it and we spent some time there taking photos and having our morning tea.

The descent down to Lake Hawea was very steep and technical and not for the faint hearted with steep drop offs. We took our time with it and I’m always happier going down than up.

Then we had a very pleasant 7km flat walk into town around the lake edge.

All up it only ended up being 9 hours including the long stop at Breast hill. We had a delicious meal of fish and chips then an early night.

We may have over ordered

Day 130 ~ Walked: 24 km ~ Start: Lake Hawea ~ End Wanaka (km 2,604)

Always a good day when we can start with a cooked cafe breakfast. I used to love porridge, but not so much now.

Goodbye Lake Hawea

An easy riverside walk today, and a nice little linking section that is all off road - very much appreciated.

Stile for dogs who can’t get over cattle stop

The river was racing along super swift as the dam at lake Hawea was releasing. We were analysing it all along as to how we would negotiate various parts if we were canoeing it based on our recent Whanganui river experience. When we saw this little bit we decided we would have been exiting and carrying canoe alongside to continue afterwards. We could see the necessity of having the life ring nearby.

A bit further on there was a similar rapid and signage about surfing the waves and we realised it was the specially built white water park. Great facility but not for us.

Once over the swing bridge

and through the massive Albert Town campground which was well utilised we stopped at the Pembroke Patisserie for lunch.

We took the direct route into Wanaka from there as we’d biked the scenic coastal route just last year, and we needed time to get into the shops for a few gear replacements. Photos from last year of lake and Clutha river side route:

Gerard got a new pair of shoes and I needed to replace my pillow and leggings. I was gutted my $2 Kmart pillow didn’t hold out for a few more weeks.

Best $2 I ever spent

I’d had three very disturbed nights sleep as it was not holding the air all night and propping it up with clothing items wasn’t really working either. The only option I could find was the top of the line $65 model. Ouch. But I suppose that’s the price of a good nights sleep over the next month.

Today felt like a good semi rest day before heading into the Motatapu track tomorrow. The last alpine section of the TA.

The Wanaka tree last year when we were here

Day 126 ~ Walked: 25 km ~ Start: Lake Ohau lodge ~ End: Ahuriri river (km 2,520)

Day 127 ~ Walked: 24 km ~ Start: Ahuriri river ~ End: Top Timaru hut (km 2,544)

Day 128 ~ Walked: 14 km ~ Start: Top Timaru hut ~ End: Stody hut (km 2,558)

Day 129 ~ Walked: 22 km ~ Start: Stody hut ~ End: Hawea (km 2,580)

Day 130 ~ Walked: 24 km ~ Start: Lake Hawea ~ End Wanaka (km 2,604)

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Mar 07, 2022

Wow, what a brutal part of the journey - your narration Jenny, really tells the story well.

Reading it one feels the pain and anguish ! Offset of course by fantastic scenery and that great sunset - awesome ! Well done ! A real battle with the landscape.


Julia Dolan
Julia Dolan
Mar 02, 2022

Such a scenic part of the world but yes, some challenging terrain to go with it. But so much better in the sunshine 🌞. Well done you two!

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