Day 133 A bit too deep
Thursday 20 February Near Locke Stream Hut to Morrison Bridge (and hitchhiked to Arthur's Pass) Start 7.45am Finish 5.40pm Distance 23km Total 2,150km Steps 41,260 Elevation 200m down Weather: some sun, mostly cloudy It was an amusing start to the day. Walked 2 minutes and there was someone else camping. Walked another 5 minutes and there was the hut. It was a lovely hut, and by the looks of the hut book I would have had it to myself. I had stopped about 1km short of it yesterday because the track had been so difficult up to that point that each km was taking up to an hour. You just don't know what is around the corner and even when you think you are alone, there are people not far away.
The apprehension about today was not well founded. Well - for the first half of the day anyway. The track was marked, and although there was a river crossing that was up to my thighs, swift and pretty cold within the first 15 minutes, the rest of the morning was good track and small streams. Then it all changed. I arrived at the crossing of the Taramakau River which I had been following all morning but only crossed once first thing when it was much smaller. I knew I couldn't cross where the track came out. It was far too deep and swift. I walked back upstream to find a part that was more braided, and where the Otehaki River which fed into the Taramakau was separate. Crossing the braided part was fine. The Otehaki River less so. I had already gone about 1km upstream and found a part that was still deep but no rapids. I did all my safety measures: locator beacon around my neck and tucked into my bra, straps of my pack undone and loosened, spotted a point to exit (hopefully) if I got swept off my feet. Everything in my pack was secure in the waterproof part. The deep channel was at the start of the crossing. It was cold but not freezing as I stepped in. The water was quickly at mid thigh level and I wasn't yet at the deepest part. The current was very swift and l couldn't control my walking poles and secure them to the bottom. Another step. Top of my thighs. At this point I had decided I would take only a couple more steps and if it got much deeper I would have to back out. The next step had me at waist level but the water didn't seem quite so fast. I knew my pack was now also in the water. There was no way of carrying it above the water. Ensuring I was stable (kind of ) before the next step, I took one more. It was shallower. Heart pounding, adrenalin pumping I climbed out the other side. All I could think of was how grateful I was that I had waited another day in Hamner Springs for the rivers to drain more.
The rest of the afternoon was hard graft. For the most part there was no marked trail. Where there was trail it would abruptly end on a cliff edge where the river has scoured it away. So a lot of river walking, some bush bashing where the river flow was too fast and right to the edge, and it was very slow going.
I eventually got to a junction that gave the option of more river walking or taking the flood route track. It had a warning that the flood route was very steep. I opted for the river. I am thankful I did. It took me just under 2 hours from the junction to get to Morrison Bridge. I was talking this evening to two others who took the flood route. It took them 3 hours and they described it as horrendous.
I was near Morrison Bridge when two people stopped to talk to me as they were waiting for a person who is running the track and they are his support crew. They kindly showed me the weather forecast DOC had provided to them. There was yet another heavy rain warning for tomorrow and they had been advised the Deception River Track which I was planning to do tomorrow is going to be closed by DOC as they expected it to flood.
Decision time. If I exited at Morrison Bridge I would need to hitchhike to Arthur's Pass Village, find accommodation and rearrange my schedule as I am meeting up with my sister Denise on Monday. Ultimately I didn't really have a choice, and the ladies offered to give me a lift if I hadn't been picked up by the time their guy arrived. I stuck out my thumb and the second vehicle stopped for me. Yay. I must not look too threatening, or just tired and desperate.
At Arthur's Pass there were no beds available. I pitched my tent at The Sanctuary. A brilliant little backpackers place. There are even ground level electric fences to try to keep the kea from stealing stuff from your tents. I have had pizza for dinner and I am in my tent listening to the rain starting. The plan now is to stay in Arthur's Pass until Monday when Denise arrives, and hopefully the rivers will have gone down and I can do Deception River Track with Denise. That is the plan at this stage anyway.