Last mountains before Bluff

Monday 26th March 2018.
Now, we have to hitchhike back to our trailhead. And we're not the only one trying to find a car. The 3 American ladies are there as well. All of us got a ride in less than 30 minutes. Happy us!
The first hut is only 1 hour from the main road, so we reach it in the early afternoon. It's a six bunks and it's already full with our 3 American ladies, Jenny, a woman that just arrived with a campervan but still took a bed and a bed occupied by a sleeping bag, but with nobody around.

But it seems that we're lucky today : a hunter shows up and pack his sleeping bag, leaving us a free bed. The girl from the campervan was waiting for her boyfriend who is hiking Te Araroa northbound. When he arrives, they decide to sleep together in the campervan.
As a result, we have a bed for tonight. And we share the hut with girls that we know for months now. We feel like if we were staying with family members. It's quiet and cool.
Tuesday, we wake up late. Anyway it's raining and we decided that we won't leave under the rain. The weather forecast says that the rain will start easing around 11 AM. But the rain stops at 12. Let's go ! 6 hours of tramping in bogs, between high tussocs and in beech forests. At some point, we don't see Jenny anymore. The tussocs are so high...

We were ready for a though day. But apart from wet feet, we're doing pretty good. We're happy of our day without rain and with beautiful views.

We arrive at Aparima hut a little after Jenny. There is also a couple of Aussies that are there. They make it clear that they don't want to share the hut with us and they try to convince us to go sleeping in the old hut (the new one is beautiful and warm, the old one is far from being as attractive). Marie-Laure and me decide to go sleeping in the old one, it's a 3 bunks and we'll have a quiet night there. Jenny chooses for the new one. The woman insists and says to Jenny "Are you sure you don't want to go sleeping with your friends ? My husband snores". But Jenny doesn't mind : she'll sleep with them. We try to explain to the woman that anyway, 3 more girls are coming. No chance that they will sleep alone in the new hut. We spend our evening all together in the warm hut and Marie-Laure and me go to the old one at the sunset.
Waking up in a cold and damp hut is never nice, but we were ready for it. The girls are ready before we are and they leave the hut while we finish our breakfast. They plan to go further than us today.
However, Lower Wairaki hut is a 4 bunks only, so I want to arrive early. We follow a trail going up and down in a forest. It's a bit muddy in some places, but nothing really scary. We get our feet wet when we cross a river. At 1:30 PM, we already reach the hut. Lower Wairaki is a cute old hut with an open fire, a wooden floor and 2 chairs.

Jenny is eating her lunch in front of the hut, but the 3 Americans are not there. Usually, we hike a bit faster than they do, and we were a little surprised that we wouldn't see them ahead of us.  They arrive about one our later. They had taken the wrong way, but they quickly realized their mistake and backtracked without losing too much time.
By the time everyone is gone, we've cleaned the hut, collected firewood and I cleaned myself. It feels so good !

I light the fire. I love the colour and the warmth of bonfires. We write and read the whole afternoon in front of our fire. We go to sleep early, just the 2 of us, in our tiny hut.
Thursday the 29th will be a short day. We've got only 8 kilometres to hike before the campground. We cannot go further, because there is a private property where we can't camp and it's a 26 kilometres hike to cross it. Too far.
That's why we take our time and take our breakfast in front of the fire.
Find the fantail on the picture. If you look at his tail, you'll understand where does his name come from.

We hike through a beautiful beech forest. We climb steadily to a small summit, from where we can see the mountains around, the sea and Stewart Island.
A beautiful purple mushroom

From the summit, we quickly reach Telford campsite. We realise that our biggest problem here will be the sandflies. We pitch the tent as fast as possible. We jump in it and start killing the ravenous insects that were able to come in.
There are so many of them blocked between the fly and the tent that it makes the same noise as a drizzle on the tent.
We just stay inside and read, till the dinner time. We have no other choice but to be brave and go cooking outside.
Friday the 30th of March, we wake up with the sandflies. Today, we need to cross the huge Linton Station. We've heard that there are some issues with the owner and Te Araroa trust asks hikers to stick to the marked trail.
There is a car that will be ahead of us during more than 2 hours. We wonder if someone is checking that we don't go on the wrong way. It feels weird, I don't like that. 
Honestly, the place is beautiful, at least the first half. After that, we cross fields of beetroots that cover the hills.  And endless pastures with sheep.

We reach Birchwood Station in the middle of the afternoon. We'll spend the night in this welcoming private hut where there is a hot shower, bunk beds and a kitchen. Just before the sunset, Vincent joins us here. He started from Lower Wairaki and he is super tired after the 35 kilometres.
The last day of March is a Saturday. The sun is with us and we enjoy the hike through Birchwood Station. The trail notes say 6 to 7 hours, but it takes us only 3 hours and an half to hike the 14 kilometres. With a few more before and after on the gravel road, it makes an easy 18 kilometres day.
We cross an 'exotic forest' (understand : a forest of pine trees). Funny, it feels like home !
A nice young trapper takes us with him to Otautau, where we have 2 nights booked in a small hotel. We're pretty much their only clients. It's a room with shared bathroom but as there is nobody else, we'll enjoy 2 private bathrooms.
Eucalyptus art

Sunday the 1st is a rest day. And it's not a joke ! We do absolutely nothing. And it's great.


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