Day 37 today & the expedition has stopped for the first time! Jez has decided on his first rest day. He is enjoying the rest & the photographers have been showing him some amazing footage.
|Our rest stop for the night - near Lake Emily|
His progress until today has been extraordinary, covering an average of 40 miles/day, but it's been much slower than he expected due to the difficult conditions under foot - the most challenging that he has ever experienced. Therefore his days have been much longer than we expected. 3 days ago he finished at 4.30am having run a a very difficult mountain pass involving a lot of river wading & scrambling in the dark. Last night he came in at 2.30am & consumed a large meal of chicken & sausage pasta followed by chocolate pudding & custard!
The weather has been very mixed but lots of cold rain in the last few days, & we can now see large amounts of fresh snow on the mountains. Jez would have been running through snow if he had been out today. The heaters are working full time here in the camper vans. So much for the New Zealand summer!
Yesterday we had an interesting challenge - to cross the Raikia River, one of the big rivers draining the Southern Alps. It is considered to be a 'hazard zone' by the Te Araroa Trust & attempted crossings are not recommended. Most Te Araroa walkers drive round but Jez, using 'human power only', had the choice of a river crossing or a 35-mile cycle ride on a very modest mountain bike that is too small for him.
So Jamie, Matteo (photography team) & I left the van at 5am to survey the possibility of a crossing. The river is about 2.5km wide at the place where we wanted to cross it, & it is braided in the summer ie composed of multiple smaller rivers separated by shingle islands. I got across all the flows by wading, often having to try different crossings points that were shallow enough to be safe. However, the last crossing was several hundred metres wide, deep, & fast-flowing. We are carrying an inflatable kayak but have no experience of using it to cross fast-moving water. We returned & put the options to Jez - he chose the river crossing.
So back to the river with the inflatable kayak where Jez & I started the crossing with the mini-helicopter buzzing overhead taking aerial photos. We reached the large final crossing, prepared the kayak, & Jez was off! My anxiety evaporated as he rapidly made progress, & within 15 minutes I could see a tiny figure carrying the kayak across the rough ground on the opposite bank up to Jamie in the camper van where Jez could eat, have a cuppa, grab his running kit, & disappear back into the mountains.
We have another similar crossing tomorrow but we have had heavy rain again today so we shall have to be very careful. He won't want to fail this next crossing as the cycle round is 50 miles.
I would like to stress that we are well equipped, & experienced with river crossings. Jez & the team fully support the Te Araroa Trust's view that the Raikia & Rangitata rivers are significant hazard zones, crossings of which should not be attempted without appropriate expertise (as for Cook Strait).
|Jez making the water crossing|