We have now left the sunny fields and stepped in to a big raincloud that has no intention of leaving anytime soon, making my desire to finish even stronger.
Our track started back up on the other side of the Wakatipu Lake that skirts Queenstown. There are not many options of getting there as the road isn’t busy and the water taxi or shuttles are very expensive.
Our initial plan to hitch around was cut short by a flooded road. We hitched as far as we could and then managed to get a ride with a small boat to a lodge in Kinloch after the road closure. After a warming cup of chai and a short shuttle ride we could finally start walking.
It felt amazing being on our track again, being in control of our destiny and even the rain didn’t seem to get us down. The forest looked greener and richer in the rain giving it tropical feel.
The walk was along the famous Greenstone track providing easy walking on the well-formed path. However, after a while it all turned in to shit, literally. New Zealand has an outrageous amount of cows, so naturally it turned out we were following a small herd following the same route as us. They scrambled up the steep sections, over roots and rocks turning the wet ground into a mud and poop bath. Annoyed, I desperately tried not to get stuck in the knee deep mud sending some pretty nasty thoughts to the cows ahead.
It was no longer possible to keep our shoes dry. The small streams had turned into overflowing waterways, the moss into swamp lands and the river flowing alongside us was roaring like an overloaded washing machine. It was discoloured, overflowing and I was hoping we wouldn’t have to cross it at any time (not that crossing it would be possible).
That night we stayed in a very fancy hut with a lot of firewood that we used to dry ourselves up.
The next morning we woke up with a surprise. The mountain tops surrounding us were covered in snow. It was beautiful and scary at the same time it was real now and we were in the midst of it. Up until now we had never seen fresh snow this low down and it was a sign that winter has finally arrived.
Unwillingly, we left our dry habitat and continued in what can only be described as the great flood where God asked Noah to build the Ark except we didn’t have an ark (and arguably no deity either).
We didn’t have to cross the big river but any side streams that normally would be crossable with dry shoes had turned in to rivers and some of them so fast we had to really hold on. One particular stream was in fact so fast that after a quick assessment uncrossable. There were some fallen trees and washed up debris crossing it so we decided to give that a go. Trembling, I started to slide along the flimsy, rotten fallen trees. They were moving in all the wrong ways underneath me. I could feel them about to break with every inch I moved. The river was rumbling like an angry mountain lion ready to eat me. The added weight on my back and the limited movement was making me pretty scared but safe to say we both made it across without falling in.
The wet swampy ground was making the walking slow and hard. The nice rainforest feeling was gone and the only ones enjoying the wet was the various mushrooms proudly pointing their shiny bright heads upwards, basking in the downpour.
Our hut for the night was small and without any fire place, meaning we would have to put the wet gear right back on first thing in the morning.
There was a short break in the rain in the morning when we started our walk. The clouds were big and grey behind us and it felt like we were in a racing the inevitable rainy onslaught. I was desperate to stay away from it as long as I could and kept pushing my cold wet feet beyond their limit.
Just before the first hut were we planned to have lunch the heavy rain finally caught up with us. We sat in the dry hut for a while hoping for another break and to our surprise we got one. Suddenly, the clouds parted and some blue sky came through and at times even some sunrays. I didn’t dare hope for much as the blackening clouds were still all around us but it was nice having a break.
We were walking along a four-wheel drive track that, at times, felt more like a river than a road.
We made it to our destined hut just before the pouring started again and were thrilled to discover it had a fireplace and even some dry wood.
That night we got visited by 3 rats happily checking out our stuff. Our food was hung up but they found some plastic that they tried to hide away. They didn’t seem to be bothered by us so I decided they were friendly and weirdly it was nice having some company. I slept through most of their mischief.
Arthurs tooth, that previously had some troubles, had gotten infected and we decided to try and get in to Te Anau the next day as we would be going along some bigger farm roads and past some camping spots.
We continued to walk along the road/river until the Mavora Lakeside where the road disappeared into the lake. We literally walked in the water on the lakeside to get to the road again.
I was starting to get used to being wet now and the idea of reaching Te Anau was helping lighten the mood a little. It all got even better when getting to the first proper road, we got a ride with a chap and his little son to Mosburn where a lady driving a young rugby team to a game offered us a ride to Te Anau.
Without thinking, we got a cabin at the campsite. With our wet clothes in the wash, our shoes drying and our body’s heated up in the hot shower, I happily snuggled in the bed under the soft covers, something I hadn’t done in a really long time. It all almost seemed worth it for the amazing feeling of warmth and comfort. The rain was bucketing outside but I didn’t care, I was dry and warm.