Start: Lake Georgina (2,214km)
Finish: Lake Emily (2,283km)
Distance for the day: 69km
Cumulative distance: 2,283km
Today’s moving time was around 18.5hours; another completely epic day on the trail. Because of the way the legs split up I decided to not fastpack the 43km last leg and stay out overnight because it would have slowed me down so much and perhaps set me back distance wise. Back to that later.
The first challenge of the day was to cross the broad and heavily braided River Raikaia. This is a natural break in the trail defined by Te Araroa operators, primarily for safety reasons. It is certainly not wade-able like many of the other rivers on Te Araroa, so we needed to find a way of getting across, under ‘human power’, to fit my ethos for the journey.
|Dragging the kayak across the river bed|
|Crossing the river by inflatable kayak|
|Looking back on what I just crossed|
Mark and James recced the river first thing to establish a plan of attack for getting across which was proposed as a wade of several of the smaller rivers, then to paddle the main channel in an inflatable kayak (we had anticipated this situation and have an inflatable with us). So after a short 12km run down to the river from our overnight camping location Mark and I set about about the crossing. It all worked very smoothly, and the inflatable actually handled a ferry glide across the fast moving main channel fairly comfortably. I was delighted it was a success as it meant I could avoid a 50km detour on the bike. James was waiting for me on the other side with the camper van. He had experienced a bit of drama trying to get round; the recent heavy rains had washed out the gravel road in a couple of places, but he had found the local road maintenance chap, Swampy, along with his vast piece of road bashing kit – a Caterpillar. Nice! Swampy was delighted to help out and provided James with an escort to get to the meeting point, sorting the road out as he went… Brilliant!
|The road to the meeting point had blown out, preventing the support vehicle from getting to me|
|Swampy in his road builder as James explained to him how important it was to get through the road blow-outs|
|Finally meeting Swampy to say thank you|
|Swampy and I having a chat, with his enormous and essential machine in the background|
After a short gravel road link section, I then had the main section of running for the day, across the Clent Hills. We have a set of hills near where I used to live in Birmingham of the same name, where I’ve spent many days training. Whether there is any link I don’t know. The section was described by the guide book as ‘Hard Tramping’, which I know from experience they really mean. The first half was actually fairly sensible, following a historic vehicle track firstly climbing to around 1,200m, and then following a beautiful hanging valley across open moorland. I stopped at the series of huts in the valley to sign the visitors book and record my intentions (more important for people without a support crew, for safety).
|Leaving for the run to Lake Emily|
|A view down the Clent Hills|
|Looking back towards the completed river crossing|
From Comyns Hut it suddenly all got a lot more challenging. The route then followed a river upstream in a steeply sided gorge, reminding me a lot of Deception Valley. I had to cross countless times, probably about 50, to be able to make use of the shingle banks on the inside of the bends. Sporadic marker poles indicated the best side to be on, but it wasn’t massively clear, and it was best to just use your initiative. Again, it was very slow going, but I managed to reach the head of the stream and the Clent Hills Saddle at around 1,400m before dark. Over the otherside, the route then contoured in a challenging fashion; across loose scree banks and very rough untracked terrain. It was tough and slow going in the dark under headtorch, particularly due to the tussocks (lumpy rough ground) and the super prickly plants which I don’t know the name of. Patience was again the key, but I was feeling so unbelievably tired that all I could think about was sleep. I did in fact take a little snooze in the long grass, and set my alarm for 10 minutes, but it wasn’t a great move as it made me feel chilly, and I never really properly warmed up for the remainder of the leg.
Once I did eventually make it back down to the valley floor the physical fatigue and mental tiredness made it hard to make use of the more the favorable terrain. That added to the frustration! Anyway, I eventually made it back to the van at 2.30am after an epic leg, but I was delighted with the 69km tally for the day. James knocked me up some sausage pasta which I just about managed to consume without falling asleep in it, and then I crashed…….