Start: Camp Stream Hut (2357km)
Finish: Braemar Rd (2405km)
Distance for the day: 48km
Cumulative distance: 2405km (+diversion km)
After a 2-hour walk-in, begun in the light of our head torches, we could see the lonely hut in the distance but there was no sign of life. We had hoped to see Jez on the trail, walking out as we walked in, but we hadn't, & our anxiety was growing. My logical head said that Jez must have spent the night in the hut having decided not to do the final few km the previous night, but my emotional head was in a very uncomfortable place.
|The support vans parked up near the agreed meeting point on the mountain by Round Hill Ski Area|
We had had a message from Jez the previous evening to say that he was feeling very tired, & would Gem & I run back up the trail to meet him. We left the van at 11pm & it was tough-going due to heavy scrub & the numerous sharp cacti-type plants that lay hiding. After about 90 minutes we descended to the river but a crossing looked dangerous in the dark. So, after much agonising, we turned back. We had hoped to see the tell-tale flickering light from Jez's head torch, or hear a response from our shouts but the noise from the river would have drowned them out. Gem & I consoled ourselves by remembering that Jez had the satellite phone, & an emergency GPS locator beacon, but we still had this feeling that we were abandoning him.
Back to the van at around 2.15am & there was no news from Jez. Why hadn't he rung? Where was he, & was he ok? That morning he had not looked good & had not eaten much of his cooked breakfast. Why had I not challenged him about the wisdom of running into the mountains that day?
Then some good news. Jez carries a GPS tracker which emits real-time coordinates of his position displayed on a map. These can be seen at:
From this information Jamie worked out that Jez was probably at Campstream Hut about 4-5km from the van. The assumption was that, as this last section of the trail was very slow, he had decided to stay at the hut overnight. But why hadn't he phoned?
We decided that we would not go straight back out because, if he wasn't at the hut, it would be very difficult to spot him, & we knew that he was well equipped to spend the night out. Also he had not activated his emergency rescue beacon.
|The view from the trail at 5am as we hike from the camp to find Jez|
|The view towards Mt Cook as we near the half way point to Camp Stream Hut at 6am|
So we agreed to leave at 5am & head for the hut. It was a beautiful clear morning, the snow-capped mountains standing out boldly in the early daylight.
We descended to the river &, after finding a safe place to wade across, we climbed steeply to the plateau beyond. Eventually we spotted the hut in the distance across another valley. It had the appearance of a delapidated garden shed looking out forlornly across a barren but beautiful landscape. Still no sign of life.
At last we made the final climb to the hut, just before 7am, & pulses began to race. The hut door proudly displayed '1896' & it had obviously served wanderers well for over 100 years.
|The photo of Camp Stream Hut that Jamie took in a rush as he race to open the door|
Jamie opened the door..................& there he was, sleeping soundly! Jez looked somewhat bemused as Gemma rushed in & grabbed hold of him. Our relief was profound.
He had wisely decided to stop at the hut around midnight as he was cold & tired. He tried to call but the satellite phone would not connect. So he had made the right decision, & done his best to contact us.
Jez was a little sleepy when he emerged to find all of his support crew outside the remote hut at such an early hour!
We cooked him some breakfast & stood around drinking tea as the sun began to throw a brilliant light across the green hills around us. We were then able to relax & enjoy the beautiful walk back to the van in the warm early morning sunshine. It felt good.
|Smiles all around as the support crew head back to Camp with Jez along side|
A quick shower, some more food, & he was off again in the company of his very relieved wife. The heat built until it was about 30C by mid-afternoon. The route took Jez & Gem along the shore of Lake Tepako whose colour is .......blue due to powdering of the rock by glacial action. That lunchtime Jez was delighted to be joined by his great friends Murdo & Jo from Edinburgh. It was brilliant to see them.
|Gemma and Murdo running a short section of the trail with Jez|
After lunch it was on again through Lake Tepako Village & then down to the canal which is part of the hydro-electric power system. Jamie & I set off to meet Jez for a standard refreshment stop only to discover that we had ended up on opposite sides of the canal! The problem was solved by swimming across with Jez's beverages, which was no hardship in the hot afternoon sun.............but we were soon to regret the swim as a patrol vehicle sped up & stopped to reveal an very unimpressed power station official.
'Didn't you see the notices about the road closure, & swimming not being allowed?' came an angry shout across the canal. Despite several profuse apologies he was not to be placated! However, what was worse was that we had failed to spot a diversion in the Te Araroa route, not shown on our 6-month old mapping. Jez could not proceed on his current route. It was closed a few kilometres south due to major refurbishment work to the leaking canal.
|Figuring out the new route using version 30 of the maps|
We then looked at the map to discover a 30km diversion! It isn't difficult to imagine Jez's facial expression at that point! However, in typical stoical fashion, he rapidly turned around, retraced his steps to the road, & commenced the gravel road diversion. This was not before he had won over the angry official who, once he calmed down, was keen to know more about the expedition.
So another eventful day was over with the promise of valley running tomorrow.
|Jez stopped en-route to have a cool lemonade in the 30 degree heat|