Te Araroa NOBO (Days 27-29)
Despite it being a cold night in Arthur’s Pass Village, I slept exceedingly well! As I was packing up my tent, there were five keas that swooped down to curiously – perhaps greedily? – see what I was doing and if I had any spare food. Luckily, I had heard about how sneaky keas could be, so I had packed away my food right after my sleeping bag. It was safe at the bottom. I had stayed the night at The Sanctuary, and SOBO hikers had told me that Bill (the owner) was incredible. They were right! At 10 minutes to 8, I piled into his van, and he drove me back down from Arthur’s Pass and to the trailhead. Right where I needed to be!
The clouds had started to clear away, and it was looking like it would be a dry and somewhat cloudy day. The mountain peaks were visible through the clouds, and it felt magical. I was excited to continue the trail.
Within 5 minutes, I was fording through my first stream, and from there, it got more difficult. The easy start had not prepared me for what lay ahead. The rest of the day consisted of climbing over boulders and passing back and forth through the river. I was so glad that it was shaping up to be a nice and sunny day!
I was a little nervous for this section, just because I had heard that it was a boulder scramble over water and quite difficult. Many TA walkers choose to slack-pack this section because of the boulders. (Slackpacking is when you leave your big backpack at a hostel or campsite – in this case at The Sanctuary – and walk with only a day pack.) I chose to bring my backpack rather than slackpack, and it ended up okay, but there were a few times that I thought slackpacking was probably the way to go. I was also nervous for this section, because I had met another TA walker who had completed this section when I was at Arthur’s Pass. He had walked over the boulders while it was rainy, and he slipped and cut open his eyebrow. I stepped carefully and was often using my hands to slowly lower myself down on the boulders.
Today’s track ended up being 7.5 miles for me, and it took me a little over 6 hours. I lunched at Mingha Bivvy and slept at Deception Hut. I had originally wanted to stay at Goat Pass Hut, but I got there at 1:30 – too early in the day to be finished. The section from Goat Pass Hut to Deception Hut was very challenging. So many boulders, and I felt fatigued from such extreme focus and careful stepping, that I was ready to call it a day when I arrived to Deception Hut at 2:30.
There are 6 beds at Deception Hut, and we ended up filling all of them! Two SOBO hikers and four NOBO hikers. It was a fun, conversation-filled night. We mostly talked about food. This is the life of a thru-hiker!
As soon as light came streaming through the window, I was up and ready to get started. I knew that it was going to be a long day full of boulders and the river again. I was on the trail by 7AM, and right away, I was back in the river. Hikers are divided on this section. I’ve heard many who say that this is the most beautiful part of the trail and they love it. Others have said that this part is the most dangerous.
For me, I was ready for it to be over. I really don’t like climbing over boulders – especially when my shoes are wet. So, about an hour into it, I was praying that God would fly me out of there. Not even 15 minutes later, Phillip (a German NOBO who I had met at the hut the night before) caught up to me. We continued walking the river section together. He didn’t fly me out of there, but we talked the whole morning, and Phillip became the answer to my prayer. I was able to follow where he stepped, and our conversation distracted me from the fear of falling off of the rocks. We walked together for about 4 hours, and it ended up being a really lovely morning.
Once we made it to Morrison Footbridge, Phillip decided to continue forward with the trail, and I was ready to shake the rocks out of my shoes and take a break. I sat on the swing bridge, enjoyed a granola bar, and decided that I wasn’t having fun. At that point, I had a choice to make. I could either gut it out and continue the 6-7 miles to the hut. Or, I could walk to the road and attempt a hitch to the West Coast.
I had been wanting to make it to the West Coast ever since I was in Christchurch. I had met a girl from Canada who had done a bus tour of the West Coast, and her pictures were amazing. She described her experience, “as though I was walking through Jurassic Park,” I wanted to experience that as well!
So, rather than following Phillip to the next hut, I walked across the footbridge and to the road. I was surprisingly still close to Arthur’s Pass, so a lot of cars were coming from that direction. However, I needed to go the opposite direction, and there were not many cars heading west. I started walking, and 35 minutes later, a vehicle pulled over for me. Matt had been fishing at Lake Coleridge, and he was headed to Greymouth. Perfect! It looked like I was headed to Greymouth as well!
After an hour and a half, we arrived. He dropped me off at the information center, and my first order of business was to find accommodation for the night. Noah’s Ark Backpacker’s was right near the city center and only $20 for a 5-bed shared female dorm. I booked for two nights.
My experience on the TA hasn’t been what I expected. Rather than sticking to the trail, it’s been so fun to get out into towns along the way. I’m glad that I started the trail by giving myself permission to make it what I wanted rather than what was expected. I am not a purist hiker (a purist is someone who purely walks the trail. He/she does not hitch/take busses/bike/etc to complete the trail), and I’m not sure if I could even be considered a TA thru-hiker at this point (I’ve missed seven days on the trail to go to cities and haven’t returned to the exact spot where I left the trail, which makes me more of a section hiker even if I am completing the whole South Island in the next month), but this journey has been uniquely mine, and I love it!
Noah’s Ark Backpackers in Greymouth is so peaceful! There are multiple common areas inside as well as a garden outside and a balcony with tables and seating. I’m so glad that I decided to stay here for two nights! I went to Countdown (grocery store) yesterday, so this morning I had a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs with red bell peppers, yogurt and muesli, and coffee. Such a difference from trail breakfasts! On the trail, I make overnight oats. They’re quick, easy, and packed full of nutrients.
Quick side note about overnight oats: I learned this from another TA walker. The key is to carry a small peanut butter container. Once it’s finished, this is the perfect size for soaking oats overnight. I’ll put in oats, chia seeds, powdered peanut butter, and cashews. I’ll add water at night, and in the morning, it’s perfect! On occasion, I’ve added in flavored muesli, and that’s nice as well. It adds in sweetness from the dried fruit!
Back to Greymouth…
I had a super chill day in town. It’s a small town, so I was able to walk the city before lunch and complete all my shopping. There were two purchases I wanted to make in town: board shorts and postcards. After all the water crossings, I decided that I wanted designated swim shorts for whenever I want to jump in a river/creek/sea/lake and take a swim! I was able to score a great deal on some board shorts at a surf shop in town. I also found postcards at the information center.
After lunch, I explored the Cobden Cave, which is just across the bridge from Greymouth. The trail is maintained, but the cave is not. I had read that it was important to bring a torch (so I had my headlamp) and wear good shoes (so, I had my trail shoes, which were ok despite most of the tread being worn down) since it was extremely dark, wet, and muddy. Once I had gone beyond the entrance to the cave, it was difficult to see and exceedingly cold. I would take a few steps forward and then think, “Ok, as far as I walk in, I have to walk out. This might be far enough,” but then, my curiosity would kick in and I’d keep going. It was spooky being underground alone, and by the time I was back in the sunshine, I realized how strange I had felt alone in the cave. I was grateful for yet another beautiful, sunny day.
My day in town ended with a visit to the cinema. I had been wanting to see Avatar: Way of the Water, and it was in the small theater here in town for only $10! Score! And wow… it was SO good!! What a great rest day in town. I’ll continue my journey tomorrow and head north along the West Coast. I’ll get back to the trail eventually, but my blog posts for the next week or so will be off-trail posts. I look forward to sharing my West Coast Adventures with you!
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