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  • Writer's pictureJenny

Days 141 - 146 Queenstown to Birchwood

Day 141 ~ Walked: 14 km ~ Start: Queenstown ~ End: Greenstone hut (km 2,710)

After having our last cafe breakfast and saying goodbye to Sophia- thanks for coming Sophia, we caught the shuttle to the next trailhead. It was a nice easy track alongside the Greenstone river.

With our super heavy packs loaded with possibly enough food to get us through to Bluff, I did struggle a little towards the end. We’d been a bit spoilt the last week carrying a featherlight pack of only our clothes and toiletries. Although admittedly part of the struggle could have been recovery from the amount of alcohol drunk yesterday.

Greenstone hut was a bit flash. It was one we had to pay extra for, but it had flushing toilets with hand washing basins and the mattresses were nice and new with a soft plasticity cover rather than the usual thick vinyl.

Day 142 ~ Walked: 22 km ~ Start: Greenstone hut ~ End: Boundary hut (km 2,732)

It’s getting darker in the mornings lately and I didn’t wake till 7-30 as it was only just starting to get light. And I was first up in our hut of 7.

Leaving the hut at 8-30

Fairly uneventful walking today. Initially through beech forest with patches of boggy mud,

Tree with big wart

then through open grasslands with patches of mossy spongey swamp.

At some point this morning we crossed over the border from Otago into Southland. Exciting!! We’re now in the final province.

We were excited to get to the first hut (Taipo) an hour earlier than the minimum time guideline so had visions of being able to get to the third hut along if that kept up.

first single person swing bridge for a while

But no. We came in at mid range on time estimates to reach the second hut. It was 4pm and we’d had enough for the day so stayed put.

boundary hut

We crossed paths with a group of 3 nobos, and along with the 3 sobos we shared the hut last night with, I think that may break the record for the most we’ve seen in one day.

Day 143 ~ Walked: 21 km, hitched 45km ~ Start: Boundary hut ~ End: Lower Princhester hut (km 2,798)

Amber one of the Sobos we’d been with since the Greenstone track told us she had a shuttle booked to pick her up from the Mavora lakes campground, which was our intended lunchtime stop. She said we were welcome to share it with her. We were quite keen on this as it would save us 1.5 days of gravel road walking and a freedom camping night. Plus the scenery was nothing new.

So we set off quite excited for our easy day of 21 km of flat 4wd road walking and knowing we would get to a hut rather than have to find a camp site. We followed the Mararoa river towards the North Mavora lake. I was expecting it to be quite picturesque, but I’m afraid we’ve been spoiled after doing the Milford. We were waking through grasslands dotted with matagouri and the rivers and lakes didn’t have the spectacular colours others have had.


north Mavora lake

We got to Carey’s hut in time for morning tea. Audrey and Pol were still there having slept in, so they hadn’t gained anything by pushing on to that hut yesterday. Other than a hut to themselves for the night.

Carey’s hut

On getting to Mavora lakes campsite in time to eat lunch, we then sat and waited for the shuttle (due in 2 hours). James and his dad who were on a hunting trip turned up at the same time and hung out with us for the duration. We had a great chat, with James giving us a show and tell of his gun and lots of local knowledge on birds, the deer, and hunting.

It had got cold with the wind blowing up the lake while we were waiting so it was good to get walking again after we were dropped at the end of Mavora Lakes Rd. Amber was heading back to Queenstown. Our walk to the hut was 6km on a farm road. The farm was very busy with farmers and stock all over the place.

Is that rain just where the hut is?

It was interesting to find the hut just on the edge of the farm and at the start of the Doc track. It was very welcome though as the rain was trying to fall but was being blown away by the strong cold wind.

Princhester hut

We are really on the countdown to the finish now - 9 more days of walking, all going well. We can’t wait to get back home and see friends and family again.

Day 144 ~ Walked: 16 km ~ Start: Lower Princhester hut ~ End: Aparima hut (km 2,814)

The main climb of the day was first up which is what we prefer. Through nice beech forest but it did involve a bit of sidling and scrambling on slippery clay/mud surfaces.

We did have to push through a lot of ferns which looked pretty but scratched and wet our legs.

Love the purple mushrooms dotted around

The rest of the day alternated between open sections of mainly tussock, but sometimes a bit of spongey moss, and the beech forest. It was quite good as as soon as we started getting tired with one it changed it up.

The worst was the chest high tussock. It was wet with dew (or overnight rain?) all day and we got saturated pushing through it. Not to mention we couldn’t see the track at all. In the end we put our wet weather gear on as our wet clothes were making us cold.

pretty section with dozens white butterflies flitting around

view of terrain.

The hut had a good little potbelly fire so we cranked it up to warm the hut up and dry our clothes. We even presoaked and cooked our dinner on top saving a days worth of gas. It’s been a long time since we’ve felt the need for a fire.

Eight more days walking to go. I’m dreading something happening to prevent us from finishing like an injury, illness or some emergency at home. So fingers crossed the next 8 days are uneventful.

Day 145 ~ Walked: 21 km ~ Start: Aparima hut ~ End: Telford campsite (km 2,835)

We had a 10 hour day according to the notes so we set off at first light just like all good search and rescue parties do. That happens to be about 7-30 these days. It meant getting ready entirely in the dark but the hut had a good supply of candles which helped.

It was a misty morning with very low cloud and the track started off through some marshlands. It felt like walking through the Scottish heath. Not that I’ve done that, but what I imagine.

We were soon back in the beech forest, where we remained the rest of the day.

Perhaps last swing bridge of the TA?

I do enjoy the beech forest walking particularly when the muddy patches aren’t to bad.

fungi of the day

There was a bit to much up and downs and windfall over the morning for my liking though and I was hanging out for the hut for our lunchtime break.

windfall we had to walk over

black fantail

We made it to the hut for lunch in good time - a bit under the estimated time, but were then shocked to see the doc sign said 8 hours to our campsite for the night vs 4 hours our notes said. Hopefully it would be somewhere in between but closer to 4. So we had a quick lunch and set off.

The afternoons walk was essentially climbing 500m elevation then descending again. And this was our last 1000m+ peak on the trail. It was hard going up. I hate climbs at the best of times but afternoons are the worst of times. It took a while but after about 2.5 hours we got to the top. Unfortunately the sunny blue sky we enjoyed at lunch had disappeared and we were in the clouds so didn’t get the views reward. But we did get the cellphone coverage reward. So we sat at the summit for 30-45 minutes posting a couple of Instagram posts and an overdue blog as well as booking tomorrow nights accomodation.


It was surprising how different the terrain was from the top down. Rocky and barren - clearly south facing.

As we went down the ridge we got below the cloud and started to see the surrounding countryside. We could even see out to what I think is the coast. It was a bit hazy on the horizon so I couldn’t be sure.

Only 4 more days walking and we’ll be hitting that coastline!! (And 3 after that to Bluff).

I really enjoyed the descent, especially as it was one of those days where we could see our destination for at least an hour before arriving - and it looked like we’d get there in good time - closer to the 4 rather that 8 hours.

This was to be about last camping night and the nice sunny afternoon was perfect for it. However it didn’t turn out so perfect once the sandflys found us. They were hideous. As soon as we were set up and tea cooked we jumped in our tent to eat and have a bit of respite- then pretty much stayed in. There are so many between our tent and fly it sounds like it’s raining with them pinging around.

Day 146 ~ Walked: 28 km ~ Start: Telford campsite ~ End: Birchwood (km 2,863)

It was a cold night in the tent (not the coldest we’ve had), but sleeping in our puffers got us through. We woke to a light frost on the ground and we had to set off with frozen fingers (from packing down the tent) and frozen toes (from putting on wet shoes and socks). My feet were so cold, walking through an ice cold stream shortly after seemed to warm them up!

I was feeling a bit sorry for myself until we started to climb a hill in the sun and I began to defrost. Then all complaints of cold were completely forgotten when we came across the most beautiful falcon perched on a rock surveying the valleys below. He was magnificent. He let us get quite close to him and we watched him for ages.

The whole of today was across Mt Linton station - NZs largest farm station according to our notes. The first few ‘paddocks’ we walked through were whole farm sized.

The terms and conditions of walking through here are the longest list of any we’ve been through and we get the feeling we’re not that welcome. Our pathway through is the most convoluted, up every hill, on the most unused farm tracks, just to keep us out the way of their operations. If you stray off track at all they trespass you and return you to where you entered. For us that would be Telford camp and we’d have to backtrack several days to get to a road out. So we were paranoid about straying accidentally off track. It didn’t help that the marker poles were very spaced out and often faded or hidden. Also quite often they went a different way to what the TA map said the route was. In the end we decided our priority was to follow the marker poles, and in their absence the farm track closest to where they’d been, then finally the TA route.

At one point the poles went up a fence line of a very very steep thistle covered bank, and there was a nice switchback farm track next to it with a nicer gradient and clearly went to the top of the fence line but Gerard was adamant we couldn’t take the road. I think we should have got away with that one.

Steeper than it looks

We did obey the rules of standing quietly and still when some stock was being herded past us.

One benefit of being up all the hills was seeing where we’d come from and where we’re heading.

Takatimus from last 2 days

Longwoods on left that will take us 2 days to get through

Towards the end we went through some regular sized farm paddocks and even rebelliously cut a few small corners if there was no stock in the paddock. We were getting very tired of such a long day on our feet and big km with all the hills thrown in.

While it was interesting to pass through Linton we were certainly relieved to be finally done with it after a long 10 hour day. We headed to our accommodation for the night in some old shearer’s quarters on the next farm along. It was very welcome - particularly the lovely hot shower after 6 days without one. A shame though we missed out on the home cooked meal as they had covid in the house, and missed the shuttle to the pub as we got in to late.

Day 141 ~ Walked: 14 km ~ Start: Queenstown ~ End: Greenstone hut (km 2,710)

Day 142 ~ Walked: 22 km ~ Start: Greenstone hut ~ End: Boundary hut (km 2,732)

Day 143 ~ Walked: 21 km, hitched 45km ~ Start: Boundary hut ~ End: Lower Princhester hut (km 2,798)

Day 144 ~ Walked: 16 km ~ Start: Lower Princhester hut ~ End: Aparima hut (km 2,814)

Forgot to record relive.

Day 145 ~ Walked: 21 km ~ Start: Aparima hut ~ End: Telford campsite (km 2,835)

Day 146 ~ Walked: 28 km ~ Start: Telford campsite ~ End: Birchwood (km 2,863)

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Mar 19, 2022

Great to get that leg out of the way, particularly avoiding trouble with the unfriendly Mt Linton Farm people. I liked the look of the purple mushroom wondering if it might be good for a celebration later ... Wonderful shot of the Falcon. Not so much the tent sandflies, you won't miss them ! Yes, you certainly notice the landscape is quite barren in comparison to previous areas in the South. Great score getting the ride to cut out all the tedious gravel, a good bonus there. Close now !!

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