Junction of SH94/Princhester Rd- Merrivale
Resupply in Otauto
Day 69: Princhester Road to Aparima Hut (23km/7hours)
We got a lazy start and didn’t leave Te Anau until noon. Hitching back takes a while but we get to Princhester Road around 13:30 pm. We walk for six kilometers down the gravel road. Princhester road is a public road, but it goes through a working station. There are lots of sheep on the road and a couple of bulls, luckily they are quite passive. The sheep too (those of you who’ve seen the movie ‘black sheep’ will understand my relief). Even though it’s a public road there are signs saying we should ask permission from the landowner before we enter, or we will be prosecuted. That sounds serious. We’re not sure what to do next, but then a young boy of about 14 years old, who I presume is the farmer’s son, races by on a quad bike. He looks us over and gives us a thumbs up. I guess we have our permission. We take a late lunch brake at Lower Princhester Hut, which is surprisingly nice for a hut so close to the road.
Day 70: Aparima Hut to Lower Wairaki Hut (14km/6hours)
We leave this morning around 9am. the plan is to go to the Telfort Camsite, 22 kilometers from here. We cross the Aparima River on the swingbridge near the hut. Then we follow the poles through marshland on the terrace above the river bank.
It is very wet and I wonder what I was thinking when I put on dry socks this morning. After about 2,5 kilometer we reach the forest edge. From here the trail is predominantly in the forest.
The ground trail is light and sometimes hard to see, but there are many markers and it is easy navigating. The going is very slow though: lots of up and down though muddy fern covered gullies. We follow the Wairaki River Track and ford the river just before the Lower Wairaki Hut. Muddy and tired I let the warm fire get the best of me. It’s 3:30pm and the campsite is still another 4 to 5 hours away. I can’t be bothered anymore today. So I snuggle up and dry my soaked boots by the fire.
Day 71: Lower Wairaki Hut to Struan Flat Road (27km/8,5hours)
We had such a good sleep last night. Until around 11pm when two hunters came into the hut and started cooking dinner. After that the quite returned for about ten minutes, before the incredibly impressive snoring symphony started. I have been staying in many huts and this is the first time I actually got out of bed at 2 am to try and find a tent site, to no avail. When my alarm goes off at 6am I feel broken, which is unfortunate because we have a long day ahead.
The first section is a long climb trough the forest up to the Telford Tops. Once we break treeline we have some nice views. We follow the ridge line and then descent through some grassland to the Telfort Campsite. The lunch break has to be short because we have to enter Mt Linton Station before midday to comply with the daylight hour regulation and we are not allowed to camp anywhere on the station. Also the sand flies are so bad, you can’t sit in one place for more then five minutes anyway.
We reach Stuant Flat Road around 4:30pm. The next section is another 27 kilometers through private land where we aren’t allowed to camp. So now we are a stuck in between: there is no campsite here and we are not so keen on hitching to a town. We manage to find a decent camp spot that is on public land. There is a creek nearby, but the water looks disgusting and probably is not very clean with all the farmland around. So we take extra precaution and put a tablet in before we, quiet literally, boil the shit out of it.
Day 72: Struan Flat Road to Merrivale (27,5km/7,5hours)
We walk on the road for a couple of kilometers before the track turns and we travel up through some farmlands along the fence line. It’s a long climb but there are some decent views from the top. Looking around I realize we have definitely left the mountains behind.
We walk on a forestry road through pine plantations, which is nice and easy going. We reach the road around 3:30 and walk the last few kilometers to Merrivale from where we start hitching to Otauto to resupply. We check in at the Otauto Hotel, which doubles as a backpackers. Apparently we are the only guest. Great! Plus free laundry service. Couldn’t get any better.