Section 10 : Twizel to Birchwood via East Ahuriri track

Twizel-Birchwood Road
60 km
3 days
Resupply in Omarama

Day 52: Twizel to Sawyers Stream (35km/8, 5hours )
From Twizel we follow the Lake Ohau Trail. The track starts on the SH8 and we have to walk along the highway for about four kilometers. It crosses the bridge and then continues along Lake Ruataniwha. There is a salmon farm here and as we walk by, a big hose is sucking up the salmon from the lake to meet their unfortunate fate. Immediately after they are killed the fish are being put on ice, ready to be turned into sushi (or I guess that doesn’t really require any extra steps).

DSC00393

Lake Ruataniwha

Later the track joins up again with the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. We follow the shore of Lake Ohau to Ohau Village. From there we climb up to Sawyers stream where we camp for the night. It’s been a cloudy day but I still managed to get burned. Just after we pitched the tent it starts to drizzle.

We camped on the hill near Sawyers Stream. Rainy clouds and some evening sun make a nice rainbow.

We camped on the hill near Sawyers Stream. Rainy clouds and some evening sun make a nice rainbow.

Day 53: Sawyers stream to camp by the river (13km/8hours)
We continue a bit on the A2O Cycle Trail and then climb up to Freehold Creek. It’s quite a steep climb until we break treeline.

DSC00396 The next section follows the East Ahuriri Track that leads over the Ohau Range to the Ahuriri River. This is one of the Te Araroas more remote and demanding sections. Even in good weather it requires some navigational skills and we have less ideal weather: it’s very foggy and the visibility is not much more then five meters. The track has no obvious ground trail and the poles are quite far apart and we lose the trail in the high tussock. Navigation is hard, even with the map and compass, since we cannot make out any features. We manage to rejoin the trail again after a bit of a detour. We camp down in the valley. It’s been quite a long day, even though we barely managed to cover 13 kilometers.

Very foggy. Luckely once we are down in the valley we can see more then a meter ahead.

Very foggy. Luckily once we are down in the valley we can see more than a meter ahead.

Day 54: Hiking out to Birchwood Road (13km/2,5 hours )
It is still drizzling when we wake up, but by the time we’re ready to head out it’s clear. It is an easy walk out to the road through the flat river valley. The challenging part is crossing the East Ahuriri River, especially after it has rained. This is the largest unbridged river we’ll encounter on the trail. The river is quite high and the flow is strong but we find a good spot to cross. We climb up to Birchwood Road and follow it to the start of the next section: The Breast Hill Track.

Looking back at the valley where we came from today.

Looking back at the valley where we came from today.

But we cannot continue just yet because we still have to resupply. To get some food we have to get to Omarama. The road is pretty quiet so we just start walking toward the intersection with the highway. After we have walked about five kilometers we get lucky and two fishermen pick us up. On the way the conversation turns to food and one of the guys for some reason wants to know when we last ate meat. I tell them that has been some years. “Ah, she is one of those vegan hippies”, he mumbles to his mate. “Thats too bad because they have really good meat pies in town and we could have treated you.” Then he turns to Jack. “You too?”, he asks. “You don’t have the look. You look too healthy.” I can only conclude that means I do have ‘the look’. Anyway, they also has a very good fish and chippery in the town. I’m not so much a vegan hippy as a pescitarian snob.
We resupply and hitch back. Getting to the turnoff is no problem, but from there we have again difficulty getting down Birchwood Road. It starts to rain and we hide in a little shed. A lady drives up, she is not going down the road but obviosly takes pitty on us and offers us a bed and some hot tea. It sounds very tempting but we still want to try and get to the start. She points out where she lives, in case we change our minds. It’s 7:30 pm and we decide to wait until 8:15. It proves to be worth it because at 8:05 a car passes and picks us up. The driver is a carpenter who lives very close to the trailhead. He has a lot of spare rooms and offers us a bed for the night. It’s pouring now. So, yes that would be great! The Kiwi hospitality never seizes to amaze me: we got two free bed offers by random strangers in one day and might have gotten some free meat pies if we weren’t vegan hippies.

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