• Jenny

Days 70-73 Lake Coleridge to Bealey then home

Day 70 ~ Walked: 29 km, ~ Start: lake Coleridge village ~ End: Harper campsite (km 2236) nobo

Wednesday 8th December

A great start to the day with an amazing breakfast cooked by Phil at the camp kitchen.


Kim was returning home to Christchurch for commitments and had her car in Methven so kindly dropped us off at our next start point. Very sad to say goodbye to Kim but we’ll definitely meet up somewhere in the future. Logistically it was better for us to go nobo (northbound) this section, as we’re completing the bit we had to skip due to heavy rain a week ago. It felt a bit weird and made reading the trail notes a bit harder. It was a good chance though to meet any sobos who might be close behind us.



We started on the opposite side of the Rakaia river from where we headed south from a few days earlier.

The Rakaia being a hazard zone and not to be crossed as part of the TA. The track started off through a pine arboretum then up alongside the intake pipes for the lake Coleridge power station.


There were lupins foxgloves daisies all around and the smell was heavenly.

At the top of the hill we got to see lake Coleridge which was the most incredible turquoise colour. It was a joy to walk around, although after seeing it on the map we only had vistas of such a small portion of it.


After the lake it was a very long gravel road walking section. I’d been looking forward to seeing the numerous lakes along way. They sounded pretty as had been named after some guys daughters (or wives) with names like Henrietta and Evelyn, but unfortunately they were all dull brown and unphotogenic compared to Coleridge.

Example of lake colours compared to Coleridge in background

We had a strong NW head wind and after doing so many road km everything started to hurt again by the end. We would have hitched some of it if we could but it was a dead end road and no one was around. The final hill was a struggle

Jackie and I trudged up the last hill
Phil and Gerard waiting for us at the top

and then the nail in the coffin was having to walk an extra km off trail to reach the campsite.

All this space and we parked a bit to close to each other

However the canal lined with lupins leading to the lake inspired me to walk another couple of km after tea so I could takes some photos.


Day 71 ~ Walked: 18km, ~ Start: Harper campsite ~ End: Hamilton hut (km 2218) nobo

Thursday 9th December

I had an early morning 5-30am toilet stop and got to see a pretty sky.


Red sky in the morning didn’t turn out to be a shepherds warning which was good as we wanted the rivers as low as possible for the crossings we had coming up.

Our first crossing of the Harper river was thankfully over a bridge where part of the river was diverted into canals. There was certainly a lot of pressure behind that water.

It was straightforward walking up the river valley and the crossings of the Evoca and Harper rivers were comfortable. As braided rivers they were quite wide and we were moving up and down to find the shallowest braids to cross.


The pinnacles were a feature along the way.


The other highlight was reaching our 1000km milestone which was measured out to the metre by Phil and a finish line created. Amazing to think we’ve now walked a third of the length of NZ.



We were following the trail on the map and we were led quite high up a ravine. After bush bashing through very inhospitable prickly matagouri and bracken, crawling through with our packs off we realised it wasn’t really a track.

We reassessed and decided to back track and cross the river instead. Looking up at the ravine from the river there’s no way we should have been crossing it. Oh well a memorable hour or more spent.

We were high up that bank about to hit the gravel ravine

Hamilton hut was our nights accommodation which is a modern large 20 bunk hut. We were the only ones there so spread out with a ten bed room each. Thought we should give Phil and Jackie a bit more space after cosying up to them last night. However that was short lived after eight others (non TAers) turned up so we ended up sharing a room after all.


Day 72 ~ Walked: 20 km, ~ Start: Hamilton hut~ End: Bealey (km 2198) nobo

Friday 10th December


Today was to be our last day of walking before returning home for Christmas. We actually had about five more days available before our planned return but with upcoming bad weather forecast and a shuttle available straight from Arthur’s pass to Christchurch airport it made sense to travel home on Saturday. Once this decision was made we were excited about getting back home, to our home comforts and seeing family, friends and pets. 72 days is a long time to have been gone. But first to walk out of these mountains.


The notes on today’s section were very brief with the main feature, surprise surprise, river crossings. The guideline time was for two hours longer than the day before for three km less. Sounded suspicious.

It was a long climb following the river up to the lagoon saddle but the track was very well formed and marked.

Parts where we had to sidle over slips were marked with cairns.

And all the river crossings were very straight forward we barely had to think about them.

There were two emergency shelter huts (to wait out flooded rivers) on the way which fell conveniently on our morning tea and lunch breaks.

West Harper hut similar looking to some previous stays
Wouldnt have wanted to stay in this one though

Lunch at lagoon saddle a frame hut

At the saddle we glimpsed the lagoon which was the source of the Harper river we’d been following for two days.

Then over the saddle the Waimakariri river and SH73 came into view.

A steepish walk down through a pine forest. Initially this had a dead dark spooky feeling after the openness of the grasslands of the saddle.

Towards the bottom we finally crossed paths with a sobo- Naiomi. We had a great chat comparing notes. She’d had to wait out quite a few days in huts for river levels to drop so we were surprised she was heading into this section so late in the day and with rain forecast over the coming days. I hope she stays safe with the rivers and continues to wait them out if flooded.

I’d quite enjoyed today’s walk, it was hard but had none of the challenging holdups that I’d been suspicious of. It was also a little sad that this was our last walking day for a couple of weeks. There was one final hut at the end of the track where we stopped for afternoon tea and being back into cellphone coverage started to firm up bookings for our return home.

Bealey hut

Then it was a four km road walk to the Bealey hotel where we were having our TA end of year Christmas break up. The hotel restaurant was suitably decorated for Christmas, it was just a shame we we couldn’t be dressed for the occasion. At least they let us in with our sweaty swampy smelling walking clothes.

It was a nice surprise to finally meet Dennis and Dot from New Plymouth. We’d been following each other’s journeys since mutual friends had told us Dennis was also doing TA sobo, with very valuable support from Dot in their motor home.


Day 73 ~ Walked: 0 km, ~ Start: Arthur’s pass village ~ End: New Plymouth

Saturday 11th December

I hardly slept I was so excited to be going home. Or maybe it was all that good food and wine from the night before, that my body was not accustomed to.

The forecast rain had duly set in which confirmed our decision to be leaving today. Annoyingly there are still two days walking we need to do here. It’s a track along the Deception and Mingha rivers over Goat pass. It’s actually the mountain running section of the coast to coast and we definitely want to do it. But we do not want to be doing it while the rivers are flooded. So we’ll be back for that at some stage.

We had time for our last meal with Phil and Jackie before the shuttle picked us all up for the trip into Christchurch.

Wet bedraggled kea at cafe - more stunning when flying

So sad to say goodbye to our wonderful walking companions. We really hope we can reconnect to walk some future sections together, and also with Kim. If not to walk together I’m sure we’ll meet up somewhere.

Our plans now, once we’ve had our Christmas break, are to complete the north island, before returning to complete the south. We really want to get to Bluff having done the whole lot.


Arriving home was as good as anticipated. Dad and Olivia there to meet us. Seeing our cats, and all our house renovations that have happened while we’ve been gone. And Olivia even bought me some flowers. Very happy.


NP airport 72 days apart and I’m 11kg lighter, Gerard 4kg

Day 70 ~ Walked: 29 km, ~ Start: lake Coleridge village ~ End: Harper campsite (km 2236) nobo

Wednesday 8th December


Day 71 ~ Walked: 18km, ~ Start: Harper campsite ~ End: Hamilton hut (km 2218) nobo

Thursday 9th December


Day 72 ~ Walked: 20 km, ~ Start: Hamilton hut~ End: Bealey (km 2198) nobo

Friday 10th December



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