Back on trail... haha so funny

During the day that the ex-cyclone Gita hit the country, on the 21st of February, we were hiding in a backpacker in Akaroa. We spent our 2 days reading near the fire. It was awesome. 
Marie-Laure decided to tattoo New Zealand and Te Araroa on her upper left arm. Beautiful! If you want a good address for tattoos in Christchurch, don't hesitate to ask her!
In Akaroa, we meet again a couple of German that was staying at the same backpack in Christchurch, so we go for a drink together before our buses leave.
In Christchurch, we see our friend Tom, a German hiker with who we tramped the Richmonds. He's a very brave and nice guy. For example, when he was waking up earlier than the other people in the hut, he would always go outside to cook his breakfast and prepare his backpack, so that he would not wake them up.
On Friday, before taking our bus to Geraldine, I go to the osteopath. My back is painful again. Hiking with that condition? No way!
We decide that I will stay in Geraldine while Marie hikes the next section with a young German guy, Vito.
Honestly? It feels horrible to see her going back on trail while I have to stay and rest. Luckily, the hosts at my backpacker are sweet people. It warms me up. And it's a good exercise for me to have to overcome the frustration and make the most of my forced stay here. I go to the cinema, I buy some cheese, I practice yoga with a DVD and I buy some wine for my evening meals. My stay eventually becomes a pleasant experience. 
Stag Saddle, where Marie-Laure went while I stayed in Geraldine 

I join Marie-Laure in Lake Tekapo, on Tuesday. We will cycle the section between here and Twizel. It's 60 kilometers, but without backpacks, on a flat or slightly descending cycle trail. My back is taped and it's going all right. 
From Twizel, we hitchhike to reach Mount Cook Village (Aoraki). The car that stops for us already has 3 people and many backpacks inside. But they hiked Te Araroa and reached Bluff recently,so they decided to take us and we squeeze in the small car. Mount Aoraki Village is a lovely place, where you feel at the heart of the mountains. The glaciers are surrounding us.
At the campground, we meet a bunch of nice people with who we'll end up spending the next 2 days. We are lucky with the weather, that is so much better than expected.
We hike without backpack on an easy but steep trail. It leads us to a place from where we stand just in front of a glacier. Magic.
My back behaves, provided I go very slowly and stretch every 30 minutes.
Friday the 2nd of March. We hike the Hooker trail. It's so easy. So beautiful. Why did we decide to hike Te Araroa, that is so hard, when we can have such rewarding views effortless?
Well, that's probably a mystery explained by the endorphins... Anyway, we enjoy the easy hike and then go back to our tent for the lunch and...a short nap. That's holidays after all!
In the afternoon, we go by car with our friends to another lake. We see it under the rain and the sun. Hello Rainbow!
Before going back to the campground, we stop at "the Old Mountaineers". The pub was created by a family of mountaineers about 20 years ago, after a long fight against the big hotel that had the monopoly before that. The woman is also a writer. I spend some time reading her autobiography. 
The next day, Catarina and Ronny drive us back to Twizel. We spend our afternoon preparing the next days : resupply, laundry, WhatsApp with family and friends. Because Sunday 4th is a special day. After 3 weeks of rest, I'll hike again with my backpack on Te Araroa.
It goes well. Slowly, but nicely, with a break at the salmon farm. 23 kilometers on a flat and easy trail. However, before we reach Lake Ohau campground, I feel to tired and we decide to pitch the end on a grassy area next to the lake.
When we try to go out of our tent on Monday, it starts raining. No need to have a long discussion  : we re-inflate our mattress and switch on our Kindle.
Talking about mattress, the situation becomes concerning : before, my mattress would deflate a little during the night; but it is now a real problem as I have to reinflate it multiple times during the night.
In the early afternoon, the rain stops and the sun appears. Soon, it dries the tent and we decide to head further, to the official campground. That's only 7 kilometers away. We stop en route to pick apples on wild trees.
We arrive at the campground and spend a friendly evening, between the arrival of our friend Arne and a cup of tea with a lady staying in a neighboring  campervan.
Tuesday is a nearly no picture day. Too much rain. I'm in a terrible mood, with a painful back and wet clothes. After 2 hours and an half only, we pitch our tent under the heavy rain, on a very small flat area next to the path.
The time we need to pitch the tent is exactly the same time the rain needs to make it wet, including inside. So sweet.

We jump in the tent, completely wet and cold. We get rid of our clothes, dry the inside of the tent with the remaining dry part of our t-shirts, and disappear deep into our sleeping bags.
The next day is more cheerful. As soon as we wake up, we notice that the sky is cloudy, but the kind of clouds that will soon give place to the sun.
At noon, we take a break on a scree slope where we can dry everything : clothes, tent, sleeping bags, shoes,...
After lunch, the trail leads us down to the Ahuriri River.
We don't dare to ford it, so we need to hike 10 more kilometers and meet a bridge downstream.
In the middle of nowhere 

Ahuriri river
It's already quite late, but we are on a private property. And we don't have any water. We need to hike a few more kilometers, cross a small affluent and pitch our tent outside the private property. When we reach the place, it's 7:30. We eat some dehydrated food. No energy for anything else tonight : we crash in our sleeping bags for a well deserved night of tight sleep.
Tin hut
Thursday the 8th of March starts with the sun. Ultimate luxury : the tent is dry when we pack it. It feels so good. After 15 kilometers on an easy trail, we reach Tin hut, a little historical musterers  private hut. The hut is open and the owners on  all the hikers to use it. We spend our afternoon there, catching up with Bronwen, a girl that we met in the Richmond range. We invite her for a tea and we spend a lovely time exchanging the last news. She gives us some toilet paper and it's great because otherwise we would have be in trouble soon.
Just after Bron left, a northbound hiker from Germany, Toby, reach the hut. When he realizes that there are no sandflies here, he decides to stay here and pitch his tent.
Did I told you about sandflies already? They are very small flies, a bit bigger than the Scottish midges. But they bite badly because they would cut a piece of skin before drinking our blood. The good news is that they sleep when it's the night.
Timaru river trail
The next day is short and quite easy as well. However, the clouds prevent us from seeing anything when we reach Martha saddle.
"View" from Martha Saddle 
At Top Timaru hut, we meet many other hikers. Most of them decide to hike further.
When we wake up on Saturday 10th March, we realize that it was so cold during the night that it left some frost on the vegetation.
We knew that it would be a long day. We didn't want to stay at Stody's hut with the rat family. And my back is usually less painful when I sleep in a bed and not in the tent. So we have to reach Pakituhi hut.
Climbing to Stody's hut
First, we follow a river downstream. We cross a dozen times the freezing stream. It's not that bad, as the water level is quite low and the crossings are easy. The trail itself goes up and down. I bet it's a nightmare when it rains and that the trail becomes muddy, but we are lucky : it's dry and easy.
Around 4:30, we reach Breast Hill, from where we enjoy stunning views on Lake Hawea and the snowy peaks of Mount Aspiring National Park.

When we reach Pakituhi hut, we are lucky to have the last 2 remaining beds inside (and only because 2 people that arrived before us want to try their new tent). We enjoy the sunset on the lake and the mountains. So beautiful...
From Pakituhi hut, a steep 950 meters descent and then a beautiful flat track drive us to Hawea. My back is painful again, maybe because of perspective of having to spend the next night in my tent, on my deflating mattress.
Luckily, we meet a guy in Hawea's street that offers some help and we end up in his bathroom. Well, only for the purpose of checking where the air leaks, with the help of his bath. Obviously. Leakage found. I'm so happy. I can repair it now! My night life will drastically improve, all the hopes are permitted (sorry, translation from a French expression).
Monday morning, we wake up and I must say that another bath will be needed for my mattress. However, the situation is better, I had to reinflate it only twice instead of 5 times a night.
We hike on a flat and easy trail to Wanaka, where the Frogs sent us our hiking maps for the next section at Mark's house. Mark is the boss of Ridgeline adventure and he agreed to keep it for us. But that's not the end of the story. He also invited us to stay at his place and to have dinner with him and his family. When he gives us the choice between tenting on his lawn and using the spare bedroom, we don't hesitate long and we accept the beds with gratitude.
We finish the trail to the centre of Wanaka without backpacks (it feels so light!), have a bier with our friends Arne (it's his last day on the trail) and come back to Mark's house. We meet his wife, Ceri and their 2 boys. We spend a relaxing evening, talking about travels and hiking, before crashing in our beds for a well deserved night of sleep. 


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