Friday, March 7, 2014

Around the Rakaia

We've had an adventurous last week on the trail.  We've had lots of rain, snow, hail and a little sun, all in the middle of 'summer'.  It's been cold, and for several days the peaks surrounding us have been covered in snow.  Last Monday we took the day off in Arthur's Pass and it snowed most of the day in town!   The trail before Arthur's Pass was a really fun and challenging section.  For 25 km we follow the Mingha-Deception track, which is the run portion of NZ's famous 'Coast to Coast' race, which had just taken place two weeks before.  The race is a multi- sport event, combining running, cycling and kayaking for over 250 km from the West coast, up and over the alps, ending on the East coast in Christchurch.  Hiking the run portion of the race was WAY more difficult than we thought it would be.  The track isn't really over a trail, but rather UP a river which is quite deep and fast flowing in most places.  The whole time we kept thinking how difficult it would be to RUN up the river, never mind hiking it.  NZ is famous for many of it's multi-sport events and for having some of the best athletes in the world- with race courses like this now I know why!
  Anyway it was a fun, COLD, and challenging day. It had snowed the night before and the river water was freezing cold.  But we were greeted with a wonderful hut at the end of the day, which is always a welcome ending to a long day.
  The rain, snow and cold continued when we left Arthur's Pass, but we enjoyed a beautiful hike that day over the Lagoon saddle, along the Harper River to Hamilton Hut.  A few trampers came in and later as it was getting dark, a tall man walked in looking wet and very tired.  As it turned out, he had fallen "several times" including a few falls in a river, and had hit his head, cut open his elbow (which needed several stitches) and had proceeded to faint after one of the falls.  He was a little out of it, seemed to be bordering hypothermia, and all his extra dry clothes were wet from falling in the river.  He was clearly in need of help, so Brazil Nut and I helped him to clean his elbow and bandage it up as best we could with what we had.  He needed stitches, but that had to wait until he got out of the woods and back to Christchurch-hopefully the following day. We got him into his sleeping bag and got water boiling for a hot drink and food.  Within an hour he was much better and had eaten a hot meal.  We both know the most important thing when someone is that cold is to get into dry clothes/a warm sleeping bag and drink something warm.  He set off the next day seeming much better and we hope he made it out to the road with no further mishaps.  This was just a small reminder of how dangerous tramping can be, especially in cold, wet weather.  The South Island is famous for lots of rain, and all kinds of weather extremes even in the summer.
  The sun has finally come back out and the weather looks good for the next several days.  At the moment we're in Methven which is about 50 km off the trail.  We came here because we got to the Rakaia river yesterday which is one of the two largest river crossings the trails comes to, and we are advised not to cross it. With the recent rain, and because we have no interest in drowning, we are hitching around it, as are all the other hikers.  The rivers are one of the most dangerous aspects of tramping in NZ, so we are not messing around with these large crossings.  The Rakaia is one of several 'braided' rivers, in a stream bed that's over 6km wide!  But unlike most normal rivers, there's not just one crossing, rather several crossings within the wide stream bed, so trying to cross it is very dangerous.   We lucked out yesterday as a Kiwi tramper Peter who we've been hiking with was getting picked up and driven around the river by his wife, and they kindly offered us a ride to town so we could resupply.  Otherwise, it would have probably been a long time waiting for a hitch, as we were essentially at the end of a dead end road. Tomorrow we'll hitch back to the other side and pick up the trail southbound again.
 Happy hiking,
-Jetpack and Brazil Nut


Beginning the Deception river walk

Snow topped peaks near Arthur's Pass


A back country hut

Cold hiking near Arthur's Pass


View up the Harper River

Road walk to Lake Coleridge


Snow topped mountains near the Harper River


 

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