New Zealand part III: Mount Aspiring National Park, and down to the ocean

When I arrive in Makarora after three intense weeks through the backbone of the South Island, I know the hardest part of the trip is now behind me. But… my favourite week of the entire traverse was yet to come!

The section through Mount Aspiring National Park is probably the most beautiful of the entire trip. I paddle down the Makarora River and across Lake Wanaka, and hike up into the mountains through the remote and Albert Burn Valley. Now in top shape, I make long days to camp on the most beautiful spots I can find on the map – including the best bivy’s of the trip on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak and on Cascade Saddle, with astounding high-altitude sunrises and sunsets. I float down the wild Dart River, and even paddle the length of the youngest lake on earth! It all just feels like a perfect week out in the mountains.

Once Mount Aspiring National Park is behind me, the journey starts to wind down as I walk down the immensely popular Routeburn Track, and continue south on the Greenstone-Caples and Mavora Tracks, with the mountains becoming lower and more rounded as the kilometers fly by. With march now on the calendar, the days become shorter and the weather more unsettled, with regular rainy episodes.

I use my spare days to make a 2-day detour on another ‘Great Walk’, the Kepler Track – beating the crowds by paddling the Waiau River section and starting the long ridgewalk before sunrise. A surprisingly beautiful 3-day, 110km paddle down the Waiau River guides me further south to conclude the journey. And eventually I hear the wild roar of the Pacific grow louder while covering the last kilometers towards the mouth of the river. Goose bumps!

Putting in near the confluence of the Wilkin and Makarora Rivers

Putting in near the confluence of the Wilkin and Makarora Rivers

Paddling down the Makarora River

Paddling down the Makarora River

I had a 5-6 beaufort tailwind while paddling along the shore of Lake Wanaka towards the base of the Albert Burn valley, with increasingly high waves which required attention.

I had a 5-6 beaufort tailwind while paddling along the shore of Lake Wanaka towards the base of the Albert Burn valley, with increasingly high waves which required attention.

Hiking up the Lower Albert Burn valley. The river has to be forded a couple of times, which will be impossible during adverse weather.

Hiking up the Lower Albert Burn valley. The river has to be forded a couple of times, which would be impossible during adverse weather.

The 8-bunk Albert Burn Hut in the Albert Burn Valley. Although the Albert Burn is a wonderful access into Mount Aspiring National Park, I was only the second person in 10 months passing this hut!

The 8-bunk Albert Burn Hut in the Albert Burn Valley. Although the Albert Burn is a wonderful access into Mount Aspiring National Park, I was just the second person in 10 months passing this hut!

The track through the Albert Burn is cut up to 1150m, after that it becomes a bad bush-bash with a lot of Spaniards grass and one particularly rough section, climbing up along a spectacular S-bend cataract in the river up to the high valley.

The track through the Albert Burn is cut up to 1150m, after that it becomes a bad bush-bash with a lot of Spaniards grass and one particularly rough section, climbing up along a spectacular S-bend cataract in the river up to the high valley.

The terrain becomes easier in the upper part of the Albert Burn valley.

The terrain becomes easier in the upper part of the Albert Burn valley.

Camping high on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak, Glacier Dome (2367m) in the back

Camping high on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak, Glacier Dome (2367m) in the back

Bivy high on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak

Bivy high on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak

Mount Pollux (2536m) and Castor (2518m) from the summit of Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Mount Pollux (2536m) and Castor (2518m) from the summit of Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Glacier Dome (2367m) from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Glacier Dome (2367m) from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Evening views from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Evening views from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

The moutains around Minaret Burn from the summit of Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

The moutains around Minaret Burn from the summit of Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Lenticular clouds above Mount Avalanche (2606m) from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Lenticular clouds above Mount Avalanche (2606m) from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Alpenglow on the Mount Aspiring Range at sunrise, from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Alpenglow on the Mount Aspiring Range at sunrise, from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Sunrise from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Sunrise from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Mount Cook (3724m) at the horizon as seen at sunrise from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Mount Cook (3724m) at the horizon as seen at sunrise from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Morning glory, Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Morning glory, Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Morning glory, Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Morning glory, Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Panoramic bivy high on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Panoramic bivy high on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

The East Matukituki Valley as seen while descending on the west side of Albert Burn Saddle

The East Matukituki Valley as seen while descending on the west side of Albert Burn Saddle

A recent wildfire made the bush-bashing down into the East Matukituki way easier

A recent wildfire made the bush-bashing down into the East Matukituki far easier

Walkwire across the East Matukituki.

Walkwire across the East Matukituki.

View up the Kitchener Valley from Junction Flat.

View up the Kitchener Valley from Junction Flat.

Down the beautiful East Matukituki Valley.

Down the beautiful East Matukituki Valley.

Bivy along the West Matukituki.

Bivy along the West Matukituki.

The West Matukituki Valley near Aspiring Hut. The weather was getting worse and I sprinted up the difficult 1300m climb up to Cascade Saddle to make it there before the rain set in.

The West Matukituki Valley near Aspiring Hut. The weather was getting worse and I sprinted up the difficult 1300m climb up to Cascade Saddle to make it there before the rain set in.

The West Matukituki Valley as seen while climbing up to the Cascade Saddle Ridge.

The West Matukituki Valley as seen while climbing up to the Cascade Saddle Ridge.

Laura from Canada on the last bits up to the Cascade Saddle Ridge.

Laura from Canada on the last bits up to the Cascade Saddle Ridge.

I camped in the Cascade Creek valley across the Saddle, and sat out the rain for most of the afternoon and evening. The weather cleared during the night and I hiked back up the ridge in the morning twilight for sunrise. This is Mount Aspiring (3033m) minutes before sunrise.

I camped in the Cascade Creek valley across the Saddle, and sat out the rain for most of the afternoon and evening. The weather cleared during the night and I hiked back up the ridge in the morning twilight for sunrise. This is Mount Aspiring (3033m) minutes before sunrise.

The Dart Glacier at sunrise from the Cascade Saddle Ridge (1800m)

The Dart Glacier at sunrise from the Cascade Saddle Ridge (1800m)

Sunrise on the Cascade Saddle Ridge (1800m), the mountains at the head of Dart Glacier in the back

Sunrise on the Cascade Saddle Ridge (1800m), the mountains at the head of Dart Glacier in the back

Mount Liverpool (2482m), Mount Barff (2252m) and Mount Aspiring (3033m) at sunrise from the Cascade Saddle Ridge (1800m)

Mount Liverpool (2482m), Mount Barff (2252m) and Mount Aspiring (3033m) at sunrise from the Cascade Saddle Ridge (1800m)

Mount Tyndall (2496m) at sunrise from the Cascade Saddle Ridge.

Mount Tyndall (2496m) at sunrise from the Cascade Saddle Ridge.

Hiking along Cascade Creek

Hiking along Cascade Creek

Down along the Upper Dart River, Mount Edward (2620m) in the back

Down along the Upper Dart River, Mount Edward (2620m) in the back

Reaching Cattle Flat in the beautiful Dart Valley.

Reaching Cattle Flat in the beautiful Dart Valley.

Bivy on the beautiful, but sandfly-infested Cattle Flat in Dart Valley.

Bivy on the beautiful, but sandfly-infested Cattle Flat in Dart Valley.

Descending into the Dart valley. Several whitewater sections (mostly in the sections through the forest) are present down to Daleys Flat Hut. I put in about 1km downstream of the hut.

Descending into the Dart valley. Several whitewater sections (mostly in the sections through the forest) are present down to Daleys Flat Hut. I put in about 1km downstream of the hut.

At the time I was paddling here this was probably the youngest lake in the world - it formed by a massive rock avalanche (clearly visible in the back) damming the Dart River 5 weeks earlier. A rim of dead trees along the shore testifies to the recent flooding. As all existing trails in the valley are washed away, I was probably the first to make it down the Dart valley in its new configuration.

At the time I was paddling here this was probably the youngest lake in the world – it formed by a massive rock avalanche (clearly visible in the back) damming the Dart River 5 weeks earlier. A rim of dead trees along the shore testifies to the recent flooding. As all existing trails in the valley are washed away, I was probably the first to make it down the Dart valley in its new configuration.

Taking out at the natural dam at the western end of the Lake.

Taking out at the natural dam at the western end of the Lake.

The outflow of the lake now thunders through what used to be the beech forest on the left bank; an obligatory portage for any packrafter who wants to make it down alive.

The outflow of the lake now thunders through what used to be the beech forest on the left bank; an obligatory portage for any packrafter who wants to make it down alive.

Portaging the rapids on the rock avalanche.

Portaging the rapids on the rock avalanche.

Putting in again downstream of the rapids - at the start of the most powerful part of the river.

Putting in again downstream of the rapids – at the start of the most powerful part of the river.

Bivy at the confluence of the Rock Burn with the Dart River - the Earnslaw Burn Range in the back.

Bivy at the confluence of the Rock Burn with the Dart River – the Earnslaw Burn Range in the back.

Early morning put-in at the confluence of the Rock Burn and the Dart River

Early morning put-in at the confluence of the Rock Burn and the Dart River

The beautiful summits around Beans Burn as seen while paddling the Dart River.

The beautiful summits around Beans Burn as seen while paddling the Dart River.

Stunning paddling on the braided lower Dart River.

Stunning paddling on the braided lower Dart River.

I put out of the Dart River near the Routeburn Farm, picked up the food drop which I had left there over 2 months earlier, and continued my trek on the popular Routburn Track, on of New Zealands 'Great Walks'. This is a morning view down the Routeburn Flats, with clearing showers after a rainy night.

I put out of the Dart River near the Routeburn Farm, picked up the food drop which I had left there over 2 months earlier, and continued my trek on the popular Routburn Track, on of New Zealands ‘Great Walks’. This is a morning view down the Routeburn Flats, with clearing showers after a rainy night.

The Upper Route Burn valley.

The Upper Route Burn valley.

The Routeburn Track offers wonderful views down into the Hollyford valley - a future packrafting destination!

The Routeburn Track offers wonderful views down into the Hollyford valley – a future packrafting destination!

I hiked most of the 32km Routeburn Track in a single day, and climbed Key Summit (909m) in the evening to sleep there under the stars.

I hiked most of the 32km Routeburn Track in a single day, and climbed Key Summit (909m) in the evening to sleep there under the stars.

The mountains lining Hollyford Valley as seen from Key Summit (909m).

The mountains lining Hollyford Valley as seen from Key Summit (909m).

Evening beauty from Key Summit (909m).

Evening beauty from Key Summit (909m).

Lake Howden on a cold late february morning.

Lake Howden on a cold late february morning.

Hiking down the beautiful Caples Valley. I initially planned to hike the length of the Livingstone Range off-trail, but didn't feel like it at the moment and continued south on the Caples-Greenstone and Mavora Tracks instead.

Hiking down the beautiful Caples Valley. I initially planned to hike the length of the Livingstone Range off-trail, but didn’t feel like it at the moment and continued south on the Caples-Greenstone and Mavora Tracks instead.

A lazy afternoon with good company at the Mid Caples Hut.

A lazy afternoon with good company at the Mid Caples Hut.

Further down the Caples Valley the next morning.

Further down the Caples Valley the next morning.

Taking a break in the Caples Valley.

Taking a break in the Caples Valley.

The weather got worse when I continued into the Greenstone Valley and eventually through the vast tussocklands in the upper Mararoa Valley.

The weather got worse when I continued into the Greenstone Valley and eventually through the vast tussocklands in the upper Mararoa Valley.

Clearing weather in the Mararoa Valley.

Clearing weather in the Mararoa Valley.

Along the North Mavora Lake - I hitched towards Te Anau from the campsite at the southern end of the lake.

Along the North Mavora Lake – I hitched towards Te Anau from the campsite at the southern end of the lake.

I had a rest day in the Anau while the rain poured down, and started a 2-day detour on the Kepler Track the day after. I avoided the boring part of the track along the Waiau River by paddling it instead. The Waiau River is the outflow of the vast Te Anau, and the volume of the river, which has some class II rapids, was impressive. My speed was around 10km/hour.

I had a rest day in the Anau while the rain poured down, and started a 2-day detour on the Kepler Track the day after. I avoided the boring part of the track along the Waiau River by paddling it instead. The Waiau River is the outflow of the vast Te Anau, and the volume of the river, which has some class II rapids, was impressive. My speed was around 10km/hour.

Rainforest in the Iris Burn Valley, Kepler Track.

Rainforest in the Iris Burn Valley, Kepler Track.

The Kepler Track includes a long ridgewalk. To beat the crowd, I left at the Iris Burn Campsite over an hour before sunrise, and hiked up through the forest in the pitch dark with my tiny headlight (only works on the Great Walk highways!). I made it up the ridge just as the first sunrays touched the Fiordland Mountains.

The Kepler Track includes a long ridgewalk. To beat the crowd, I left at the Iris Burn Campsite over an hour before sunrise, and hiked up through the forest in the pitch dark with my tiny headlight (only works on the Great Walk highways!). I made it up the ridge just as the first sunrays touched the Fiordland Mountains.

Sunrise from near the Hanging Valley Shelter (1356m), Kepler Track

Sunrise from near the Hanging Valley Shelter (1356m), Kepler Track

The South fjord of vast Lake Te Anau from the Kepler Track

The South fjord of vast Lake Te Anau from the Kepler Track

The South fjord of vast Lake Te Anau from the Kepler Track

The South fjord of vast Lake Te Anau from the Kepler Track

Trampers on the Kepler Track

Trampers on the Kepler Track

Paddling down the Waiau River near Manapouri - the start of my 110km float to the Pacific.

Paddling down the Waiau River near Manapouri – the start of my 110km float to the Pacific.

The Waiau River used to be one of New Zealands main rivers, draining all the water of the vast Lake Te Anau / Lake Manapouri watershed. Most of this water is now diverted into Doubtful Sound for hydroelectricity production, and only spillovers are drained down the Waiau River downstream of this dam at the confluence with the Mararoa River, 10km downstream of Manapouri.

The Waiau River used to be one of New Zealands main rivers, draining all the water of the vast Lake Te Anau / Lake Manapouri watershed. Most of this water is now diverted into Doubtful Sound for hydroelectricity production, and only spillovers are drained down the Waiau River downstream of this dam at the confluence with the Mararoa River, 10km downstream of Manapouri.

Beautiful afternoon paddle on the Waiau River, with the Takitimu Mountains in the back.

Beautiful afternoon paddle on the Waiau River, with the Takitimu Mountains in the back.

The Waiau River was nicer than I expected, with some interesting class II rapids where limestone slabs dipped into the river. Some sections where particularly nice, like the Monowai canyon. I took little pictures as I did not have my camera with me on the water. Here I take a break near the historical Clifden suspension bridge.

The Waiau River was nicer than I expected, with some interesting class II rapids where limestone slabs dipped into the river. Some sections where particularly nice, like the Monowai canyon. I took little pictures as I did not have my camera with me on the water. Here I take a break near the historical Clifden suspension bridge.

Taking out at my last bivy spot, a few kilometers upstream of the town of Tuatapere, and adter paddling 91km on 2 days.

Taking out at my last bivy spot, a few kilometers upstream of the town of Tuatapere, and after paddling 91km on 2 days.

Pacific!

Pacific!

New Zealand part II: the central South Island

After straying off the Te Araroa in Arthur’s Pass National Park, I was about to tackle by far the most daring part of my entire South Island Traverse: over 3 weeks of almost entirely off-trail hiking through some of the wildest country of the Southern Hemisphere – across countless alpine passes in the very hearth of the Southern Alps, with many kilometers of infamous bush-bashing, and including a ford of one of New Zealands most powerful rivers. It was to be the most remote, the most difficult, but also the most rewarding part of my entire trip. My packraft, which I would pick up on the way, would allow me to paddle world-class rivers – including the Tasman River itself, the arterial of the South Island, draining the massive glaciers sliding off the slopes of Aoraki / Mount Cook, the highest summit of the country.

In the end, I did not follow my intended route and even skipped part of it. After a possibly unprecedented 7-pass crossing of Arthurs Pass National Park towards the farmlands of Hokitika at the West Coast, I even decided to hitchhike around to my next resupply at Erewhon Station, skipping a 6-day stretch through the untamed rainforest of the Hokitika watershed, across the Main Divide at Whitcombe Pass, and the ford across the Rakaia River. Why? The Rakaia is a highly demanding ford, where fatal accidents have happened before. I made a bet before my trip putting my packraft in the resupply package after the Rakaia ford, thus avoiding 4kg extra in my pack during a difficult week of hiking. But the Rakaia is a river which can only be attempted to cross in (very) good conditions, and the weather forecast was up for the first rainy weather of the trip. It meant the end of my attempt to make an unpropelled traverse of the Southern Alps. But when I had to paddle across a 100m wide, muddy and powerful Rangitata River a few days later instead of easily fording it in knee-deep water like you can in good conditions, I knew I had made the only safe and right decision – and never thought about it again.

I continued my hike through the hearth of the mountains, and although the harsh terrain and an episode with cold weather and snow down to 1000m made me veer off my original route twice more, it became the most intense part of the entire trip. I crossed passes which are likely visited by only a few people per decade, paddled down fantastic rivers like the Tasman, the Dobson and the Ahuriri, shared the barren valleys with only tahr and chamois, and saw the sun rise from nameless peaks. And I did not meet any other tramper for 18 days straigth. Enjoy!

The walk up Kelly's Creek was a good appetizer of what I could expect during my 4 day crossing of Arthur's Pass National Park - and not the best hike with my hangover from the night before!

The walk up Kelly’s Creek was a good appetizer of what I could expect during my 4 day crossing of Arthur’s Pass National Park – and not the best hike with my hangover from the night before!

View up Hunt's Creek, with Bijleveld Col, the menu for tomorrow morning, in the back. The walk through the valley was slow because of the dense vegetation. I walked most of the distance through the river as it was the easiest (but coldest!) way up.

View up Hunt’s Creek, with Bijleveld Col, the menu for tomorrow morning, in the back. The walk through the valley was slow because of the dense vegetation. I walked most of the distance through the river as it was the easiest (but coldest!) way up.

Camping between the tussocks high in Hunts Creek Valley

Camping between the tussocks high in Hunts Creek Valley

Climbing up to Bijleveld Col

Climbing up to Bijleveld Col

The Central bits of Arthur's Pass National Park from Bijleveld Col (1690m)

The Central bits of Arthur’s Pass National Park from Bijleveld Col (1690m)

The walk from Bijleveld Col to Campbell Pass and up to Mount Campbell was arguably the hardest of the entire trip, with complex orientation, severe bush-bashing, a descent which felt more like canyoning, and a steep climb on scree and boulders. The views from the summit of Mount Campbell (1829m) made up for it!

The walk from Bijleveld Col to Campbell Pass and up to Mount Campbell was arguably the hardest of the entire trip, with complex orientation, severe bush-bashing, a descent which felt more like canyoning, and a steep climb on scree and boulders. The views from the summit of Mount Campbell (1829m) made up for it!

Looking back towards Mount Campbell Range, I came down the pass at the very right of the picture. Steep stuff!!

Looking back towards Mount Campbell Range, I came down the pass at the very right of the picture. Steep stuff!!

Looking towards Whitehorn Pass, first thing to climb tomorrow morning, while descending to Harman Pass

Looking towards Whitehorn Pass, first thing to climb tomorrow morning, while descending to Harman Pass

Camping at Ariels Tarn near Harman Pass after the hardest day of the entire trip.

Camping at Ariels Tarn near Harman Pass after the hardest day of the entire trip.

View back while climbing towards Whitehorn Pass (1753m). A small earthquake occured while I was climbing up and just before I took this picture, bombarding the snowfield with scree and boulders. Luckily I had been smart enough to walk on the safe side.

View back while climbing towards Whitehorn Pass (1753m). A small earthquake occured while I was climbing up and just before I took this picture, bombarding the snowfield with scree and boulders. Luckily I had been smart enough to walk on the safe side.

Taking a break on Whitehorn Pass (1753m)

Taking a break on Whitehorn Pass (1753m)

More harsh terrain on the descent from Whitehorn Pass

More harsh terrain on the descent from Whitehorn Pass

Next goal: the supersteep south side of Browning Pass. With a vague trail, luckily!

Next goal: the supersteep south side of Browning Pass. With a vague trail, luckily!

Looking down the Wilburforce Valley from Browning Pass

Looking down the Wilburforce Valley from Browning Pass

Beautiful Lake Browning on the Pass

Beautiful Lake Browning on the Pass

Morning beauty near Harman Hut

Morning beauty near Harman Hut

The beautiful Arahura valley as seen while traversing to Styx Saddle

The beautiful Arahura valley as seen while traversing to Styx Saddle

Giant slips and landslides had swept away the trail through the Styx valley on many places, forcing me to ford the river a couple of times. Don't think about the name!

Giant slips and landslides had swept away the trail through the Styx valley on many places, forcing me to ford the river a couple of times. Don’t think about the name!

Looking up the wild Styx Valley

Looking up the wild Styx Valley

Once I made it down from the Styx Valley I could check the weather forecast - and decided to hitchhike around to Erewhon Station to avoid the Rakaia River ford. I made a 1-day stop at Arthur's Pass on the way to climb Avalanche Peak (1833m), where I could spot the kea's I'd heard and seen a couple of times during the last few days

Once I made it down from the Styx Valley I could check the weather forecast – and decided to hitchhike around to Erewhon Station to avoid the Rakaia River ford. I made a 1-day stop at Arthur’s Pass on the way to climb Avalanche Peak (1833m), where I could spot the kea’s I’d heard and seen a couple of times during the last few days

Kea's are the world's only alpine parrots, and are said to be one of the smartest animals on the planet. This one gave a quick demonstration by distracting me and posing for pictures, while his buddy was stealing food from my daypack.

Kea’s are the world’s only alpine parrots, and are said to be one of the smartest animals on the planet. This one gave a quick demonstration by distracting me and posing for pictures, while his buddy was stealing food from my daypack.

Views from Avalanche Peak (1833m)

Views from Avalanche Peak (1833m)

Devil's Punchbowl Falls

Devil’s Punchbowl Falls

Picking up my next resupply package at Erewhon Station, including a packraft and new shoes!

Picking up my next resupply package at Erewhon Station, including a packraft and new shoes!

I crossed the Rangitata river near Erewhon Station. This was one of the smaller braids, yet I had to paddle across as the river was wide and swift after a few days of rain along the Divide.

I crossed the Rangitata river near Erewhon Station. This was one of the smaller braids, yet I had to paddle across as the river was wide and swift after a few days of rain along the Divide.

Crossing the Rangitata braids

Crossing the Rangitata braids

The mighty Rangitata braids - to give an idea about the sheer extent of this all, the valley is about 4km wide, and the last channel I had to paddle across was over 100m wide!

The mighty Rangitata braids – to give an idea about the sheer extent of this all, the valley is about 4km wide, and the last channel I had to paddle across was over 100m wide!

Cattle in the Rangitata Valley

Cattle in the Rangitata Valley

Bivy near Mesopotamia Station

Bivy near Mesopotamia Station

Morning beauty near Mesopotamia Station

Morning beauty near Mesopotamia Station

Dust storms on the slopes of Bush Creek on the approach of a cold front. The weather went from clear skies to torrential rain and severe gale in only 3 hours, one of the most rapid and impressive changes I have ever seen in the mountains.

Dust storms on the slopes of Bush Creek on the approach of a cold front. The weather went from clear skies to torrential rain and severe gale in only 3 hours, one of the most rapid and impressive changes I have ever seen in the mountains.

Crooked Spur Hut in the Bush Valley

Crooked Spur Hut in the Bush Valley

I was joined by Kiwi packrafter Dulkara for a couple of days as we hiked through the vast tussocklands of Canterbury High Country towards Godley Valley

I was joined by Kiwi packrafter Dulkara for a couple of days as we hiked through the vast tussocklands of Canterbury High Country towards Godley Valley

Fresh snow at Royal Hut during a brief cold spell

Fresh snow at Royal Hut during a brief cold spell

Ripe while hiking up to Stag Saddle (1902m). Sub-zero temperatures and gale force winds made the crossing of this pass super-cold, with the water freezing in our bottles.

Ripe while hiking up to Stag Saddle (1902m). Sub-zero temperatures and gale force winds made the crossing of this pass super-cold, with the water freezing in our bottles.

Across Stag Saddle, Lake Tekapo far down

Across Stag Saddle, Lake Tekapo far down

Descending into Godley Valley

Descending into Godley Valley. We forded the river without too many problems.

Cozy Ribbonwood hut in the beautiful Godley Valley

Cozy Ribbonwood hut in the beautiful Godley Valley

Cozy Ribbonwood Hut in the Godley Valley (GoPro picture)

Cozy Ribbonwood Hut in the Godley Valley (GoPro picture)

Cozy Ribbonwood hut in the beautiful Godley Valley

Evening beauty, Godley Valley

Climbing up to Rankin Pass, crossing into the Cass Valley

Climbing up to Rankin Pass, crossing into the Cass Valley

Reaching Rankin Pass after a fairly easy climb. There are bivy possibilities about 100m down from the pass on the north side.

Reaching Rankin Pass after a fairly easy climb. There are bivy possibilities about 100m down from the pass on the north side.

The descent down Rankin Pass was along a spectacular moraine wall.

The descent down Rankin Pass was along a spectacular moraine wall.

Descending along the Cass, with Mount Hutton Range in the back

Descending along the Cass, with Mount Hutton Range in the back

Speargrass, also called 'Spaniards grass', trampers worst nightmare. The leaves sting right through the skin.

Speargrass, also called ‘Spaniards grass’, trampers worst nightmare. The leaves sting right through the skin.

Crossing a remote, nameless pass (2050m) on my way from the Cass to the Jollie Valley

Crossing a remote, nameless pass (2050m) on my way from the Cass to the Jollie Valley

Descending into the Jollie valley, a horrendeous bush-bash on steep terrain. My legs were covered in blood by the time I made it down.

Descending into the Jollie valley, a horrendeous bush-bash on steep terrain. My legs were covered in blood by the time I made it down.

Descending along Jollie River

Descending along Jollie River

Storm brewing in the Jollie Valley. I would not sleep a lot that night.

Storm brewing in the Jollie Valley. I would not sleep a lot that night.

Tahr hunters trophy, Jollie Valley

Tahr hunters trophy, Jollie Valley

The beautiful lower Jollie Valley

The beautiful lower Jollie Valley

Paddling down the mighty Tasman River towards Lake Pukaki - Mount Cook (3724m) in the back

Paddling down the mighty Tasman River towards Lake Pukaki – Mount Cook (3724m) in the back

Paddling down the Tasman River!

Paddling down the Tasman River!

Ready to paddle Lake Pukaki

Ready to paddle Lake Pukaki

Aoraki / Mount Cook (3724m) from Lake Pukaki

Aoraki / Mount Cook (3724m) from Lake Pukaki

Looking south across the ridiculously beautiful Lake Pukaki

Looking south across the ridiculously beautiful Lake Pukaki

Paddling across beautiful Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook as a perfect backdrop

Paddling across beautiful Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook as a perfect backdrop

Turqoise Lake Pukaki in the brown steppe landscapes east of the watershed

Turqoise Lake Pukaki in the brown steppe landscapes east of the watershed

Bivy in Jacks Stream Valley while crossing from Lake Pukaki towards the Dobson Valley

Bivy in Jacks Stream Valley while crossing from Lake Pukaki towards the Dobson Valley

The menu for tomorrow morning, Kaimakamaka Peak (2431m) to the left. I would not be surprised if I was the only person crossing this pass during the entire summer

The menu for tomorrow morning, Kaimakamaka Peak (2431m) to the left. I would not be surprised if I was the only person crossing this pass during the entire summer

Mount Cook Range and the Tasman Valley from Kaimakamaka Peak (2431m), the highest summit I climbed during my trip

Mount Cook Range and the Tasman Valley from Kaimakamaka Peak (2431m), the highest summit I climbed during my trip

Looking down the valleys of Irishman Stream (left) and Stony Stream (right). I would descend all the way to Dobson valley through the latter that day

Looking down the valleys of Irishman Stream (left) and Stony Stream (right). I would descend all the way to Dobson valley through the latter that day

Massive amounts of wild tahr were roaming along Stony stream

Massive amounts of wild tahr were roaming along Stony stream

Spreargrass minefield during the descent along Stony Stream

Spreargrass minefield during the descent along Stony Stream

Descending along Stony Stream. Most of the descent was through the riverbed, but at one point the river plunged down into a narrow canyon and I had to make a difficult, steep traverse through the beech forest on the right bank.

Descending along Stony Stream. Most of the descent was through the riverbed, but at one point the river plunged down into a narrow canyon and I had to make a difficult, steep traverse through the beech forest on the right bank.

Reaching wonderful Dobson valley

Reaching wonderful Dobson valley

Paddling down the Dobson River, my favorite packrafting stretch of the entire traverse

Paddling down the Dobson River, my favorite packrafting stretch of the entire traverse

Looking down Dobson Valley during a 20km late afternoon paddle on the river

Looking down Dobson Valley during a 20km late afternoon paddle on the river

Beautiful take-out at the confluence of the Dobson and Hopkins Rivers

Beautiful take-out at the confluence of the Dobson and Hopkins Rivers

Dust storms raging through the valley while taking out at the confluence of the Dobson and Hopkins Rivers

Dust storms raging through the valley while taking out at the confluence of the Dobson and Hopkins Rivers

Evening in Dobson Valley, beautiful Mount Glen Lyon in the back

Evening in Dobson Valley, beautiful Mount Glen Lyon in the back

Beautiful camp sheltered by a group of wilding pines in the Dobson Valley

Beautiful camp sheltered by a group of wilding pines in the Dobson Valley

I climbed out Dobson Valley through the valley of Temple Stream (South Branch) and camped near the tarns at the pass into Watson Valley. I was misted in for most of the next day, the first real weather day of my trip.

I climbed out Dobson Valley through the valley of Temple Stream (South Branch) and camped near the tarns at the pass into Watson Valley. I was misted in for most of the next day, the first real weather day of my trip.

The weather cleared in the evening and I could finally climb the nameless peak (2005m) I had hoped to summit the day before

The weather cleared in the evening and I could finally climb the nameless peak (2005m) I had hoped to summit the day before

Evening light from a nameless summit (2005m) in the Mount Maitland Range

Evening light from a nameless summit (2005m) in the Mount Maitland Range

Evening alpenglow from the nameless summit (2005m) in the Mount Maitland Range

Evening alpenglow from the nameless summit (2005m) in the Mount Maitland Range

Sunrise from the nameless summit (2005m)

Sunrise from the nameless summit (2005m)

Sunrise from the nameless summit (2005m)

Sunrise from the nameless summit (2005m)

The Barrier Range from the summit of my nameless mountain (2005m)

The Barrier Range from the summit of my nameless mountain (2005m)

Skyline hotel, Barrier Range

Skyline hotel, Barrier Range

Another stony descent down Watson Creek towards the Ahuriri Valley

Another stony descent down Watson Creek towards the Ahuriri Valley

Reaching the Ahuriri Valley

Reaching the Ahuriri Valley

I paddled down a nice section of the Ahuriri valley from Watson stream towards the Ahuriri Base Hut. There shouldn't have been less water, but I managed to make it down without portaging anything.

I paddled down a nice section of the Ahuriri valley from Watson stream towards the Ahuriri Base Hut. There shouldn’t have been less water, but I managed to make it down without portaging anything.

The beautiful Ahuriri River near Ahuriri Base Hut

The beautiful Ahuriri River near Ahuriri Base Hut

The upper Ahuriri Valley, with Mount Barth (2456m) in the back, as seen while crossing

The upper Ahuriri Valley, with Mount Barth (2456m) in the back, as seen while crossing

Hiking down the Upper Dingle Burn Valley

Hiking down the Upper Dingle Burn Valley

Due to numerous landslides the track through the lower Dingle Burn valley is now a through hike with about 1000m of climbing (and descent) on the 8km stetch through the beech forest between Cotters Hut and Bush Hut. I slept in cozy Bush hut and hurried down this last section towards Lake Hawea the next morning - hoping to be there before the wind picked up.

Due to numerous landslides the track through the lower Dingle Burn valley is now a through hike with about 1000m of climbing (and descent) on the 8km stetch through the beech forest between Cotters Hut and Bush Hut. I slept in cozy Bush hut and hurried down this last section towards Lake Hawea the next morning – hoping to be there before the wind picked up.

I reached Lake Hawea - still flat like a mirror - around 10am and paddled across as fast as I could. The wind started to pick up just after I completed the 3km crossing of the lake - this is a view back from the western shore.

I reached Lake Hawea – still flat like a mirror – around 10am and paddled across as fast as I could. The wind started to pick up just after I completed the 3km crossing of the lake – this is a view back from the western shore.

Lake Hawea from 'The Neck', where I reached the highway after picking up another food drop at Hunters Farm. I was invited in for a nice dinner with pizza and could have all the sausages the family couldn't finish - I don't dare to tell how many I ate :-)

Lake Hawea from ‘The Neck’, where I reached the highway after picking up another food drop at Hunters Farm. I was invited in for a nice dinner with pizza and could have all the sausages the family couldn’t finish – I don’t dare to tell how many I ate :-)

New Zealand Part I: a 23-day stroll on the Te Araroa

In the beginning of the year I made a 9-week hiking and packrafting traverse of New Zealand’s South Island. In the coming weeks, I will write a brief trip report on this magnificent trip. This first part will be about the first 23 days of the trip, during which I followed the Te Araroa trail, a 3000km thru-hike of both of New Zealands main islands. No packrafting was included in this section yet.

The Te Araroa was officially opened no longer than 4 years ago, and the trail has become steadily more popular since the very start. In the first 2 years, about 50 thru-hikers made the entire distance, this number has increased to about 250 in the 2014-2015 season. I’m quite sure the the amount of thru-hikers on the Te Araroa will rapidly reach levels which are comparable to those on the 3 main American thru-hikes: the PCT, CDT and AT. I met a few hikers a day during my walk, and when I slept in one of the many wonderful backcountry huts (often with only 6 bunks), we were 2 to 5 people. The pressure on the hut system will soon increase to untenable levels.

Many people hiking the Te Araroa have little backcountry experience – I even met a few (admirable) guys who never made a multi-day hike before setting off on Cape Reigna! Although most of the trail is fairly easy, there are river fordings which can be nasty or impossible in adverse weather conditions, and a few slightly technical passes with steep scree and some scrambing (notable the Rintoul section and the Waiau Pass in the part of the trail I hiked). A few accidents have occurred in the last few years, one British guy fell to his death on Waiau Pass.

In retrospective after the trip, this was the least interesting section of my traverse. Fortunately I was blessed with outstanding weather conditions, even along the West Coast (which ranks among the wettest climates on earth). Once you make it down from Waiau Pass, the Te Araroa stays deep in the wooded valleys all the way to Arthur’s Pass, with little views of the mountains. It was a cool feeling to hike in and with the flow of a world-reknown thru-hike, but I was also happy when I arrived in Otira after 23 days and could start doing what I had really come to New Zealand for: doing my own thing in the hearth of the Southern Alps.

The water taxi to Ship's Cove at the Northern terminus of the Queen Charlotte Track, the starting point of the traverse

The water taxi to Ship’s Cove at the Northern terminus of the Queen Charlotte Track, the starting point of the traverse

The traditional start of the Te Araroa on the South Island is the well-established Queen Charlotte Track, a 71km stroll through the green Queen Charlotte Sounds. There are options to hike this trail with overnight stays in lodges and luggage transport by water taxis, and hence it is rather popular. We met about 10-30 other hikers per day. The DOC has a number of campsites along the trail.

Cook's monument at Ship's Cove, the official start of the South Island section of the Te Araroa

Cook’s monument at Ship’s Cove, the official start of the South Island section of the Te Araroa

Queen Charlotte Sounds

Queen Charlotte Sounds

Endeveour Inlet, Queen Charlotte Sounds

Endeveour Inlet, Queen Charlotte Sounds

Sunrise from the Bay of Many Coves campsite, Queen Charlotte Sounds

Sunrise from the Bay of Many Coves campsite, Queen Charlotte Sounds

Cow Bay, Queen Charlotte Track

Cow Bay, Queen Charlotte Track

After a boring road section through the town of Havelock (the last town with a supermarket I will be in for 8 weeks!) the Te Araroa hits a stunning 8-day section through the Richmond Range National Forest, including a few long ridgewalks around the treeline and a wonderful section through the Red Hills. It is a section with a very strong own identity – and by far my favourite part of my TA section. Water is a limiting factor on the ridges, and I slept in the cozy huts (which have water tanks) most nights with my trail mates Sharon and Malcolm.

Bivy at Dew Lake

Bivy at Dew Lake

Sunset at Dew Lake, with the skyline of the Taranaki's in the back

Sunset at Dew Lake, with the skyline of the Taranaki’s in the back

The skyline of the Richmond Range from the slopes of Dun Mountain

The skyline of the Richmond Range from the slopes of Dun Mountain

Morning views from Dun Mountain

Morning views from Dun Mountain

The Te Araroa is well maintained by the DOC. Here they must have had a long day cutting the track through a massive treefall. I would think back about this kind of trails with a good dose of nostalgia when I hit the unmaintained tracks later during the walk.

The Te Araroa is well maintained by the DOC. Here they must have had a long day cutting the track through a massive treefall. I would think back about this kind of trails with a good dose of nostalgia when I hit the unmaintained tracks later during the walk.

Beard moss, Richmond Range

Beard moss, Richmond Range

A picture perfect evening on Slaty Peak

A picture perfect evening on Slaty Peak

Ridgewalking near Slaty Hut, Richmond Range

Ridgewalking near Slaty Hut, Richmond Range

Ridgewalking near Slaty Hut, Richmond Range

Ridgewalking near Slaty Hut, Richmond Range

Steep scree on the slopes of Mount Rintoul, one of the harder bits of the Te Araroa

Steep scree on the slopes of Mount Rintoul, one of the harder bits of the Te Araroa

The interior of Rintoul Hut, one of many cool 6 bunk standard DOC huts in the Richmond Range

The interior of Rintoul Hut, one of many cool 6 bunk standard DOC huts in the Richmond Range

Rintoul Hut, with Mount Rintoul in the back

Rintoul Hut, with Mount Rintoul in the back

I shared the huts with Sharon and Malcolm for a couple of nights

I shared the huts with Sharon and Malcolm for a couple of nights

Sharon fording a stream on the way to Top Wairoa Hut

Sharon fording a stream on the way to Top Wairoa Hut

The top Wairoa Hut marks the start of a unique section through the barren Red Hills, a deeply weathered ophiolite complex which was comparable to nothing I have ever walked through before

The top Wairoa Hut marks the start of a unique section through the barren Red Hills, a deeply weathered ophiolite complex which was comparable to nothing I have ever walked through before

A gradual climb into the Red Hills

A gradual climb into the Red Hills

Into the Motueka Valley, Red Hills

Into the Motueka Valley, Red Hills

Somewhere on the way to Porters Creek Hut, Red Hills

Somewhere on the way to Porters Creek Hut, Red Hills

Low on food, I covered 35km in the scorching heat on my last day through the Red Hills

Low on food, I covered 35km in the scorching heat on my last day through the Red Hills

Saint-Arnaud was my last real resupply point where I could buy my own food in the tiny shop (I literally buy ALL the cookies they have) – after this I will pick up a series of 7 food cashes I made before the walk while road tripping with my girlfriend Elien. Saint-Arnaud is the gateway to the first National Park I will cross during this trip, Nelson Lakes NP. The Ta Araroa trail cuts through the park in a rather straight line, crossing 2 high passes (Traverse Saddle and Waiau Pass) on the way, before dropping into the Waiau valley.

Lake Rotoiti in Saint-Arnaud

Lake Rotoiti in Saint-Arnaud

Rodents and predators like rats, stoats and possums introduced by the Europeans during the colonisation have ravaged New Zealand's ecosystem. Many bird species have since become extinct, others are now critically endanged. The DOC is running one of the most agressive pest control programs on earth. Aerial drops of poison are now common in many public land areas through the country.

Rodents and predators like rats, stoats and possums introduced by the Europeans during the colonisation have ravaged New Zealand’s ecosystem. Many bird species have since become extinct, others are now critically endanged. The DOC is running one of the most agressive pest control programs on earth. Aerial drops of poison are now common in many public land areas through the country.

Sun breaking through after the very first rain since the start of the trip, Travers Valley

Sun breaking through after the very first rain since the start of the trip, Travers Valley

Travers Valley, Nelson Lakes National Park

Travers Valley, Nelson Lakes National Park

Views from Travers Saddle, Nelson Lakes National Park

Views from Travers Saddle, Nelson Lakes National Park

Descending into the East Sabine Valley, Nelson Lakes NP

Descending into the East Sabine Valley, Nelson Lakes NP

Blue Lake in the East Sabine Valley. The Blue Lake has the clearest freshwater known on earth, with an underwater visibility of 75-80m (distilled water: 83m)

Blue Lake in the East Sabine Valley. The Blue Lake has the clearest freshwater known on earth, with an underwater visibility of 75-80m (distilled water: 83m)

Taking a break along Lake Constance, before tackling Waiau Pass

Taking a break along Lake Constance, before tackling Waiau Pass

View back to Lake Constance from the slopes of Waiau Pass (1870m)

View back to Lake Constance from the slopes of Waiau Pass (1870m)

The start of the descent on the south side of Waiau Pass (1870m). This descent includes a short scramble a bit further down.

The start of the descent on the south side of Waiau Pass (1870m). This descent includes a short scramble a bit further down.

Following the 4WD along the Waiau River

Following the 4WD along the Waiau River

Following the 4WD along the Waiau River

Following the 4WD along the Waiau River

Following the 4WD along the Waiau River

Following the 4WD along the Waiau River

The Te Araroa connects to the Saint James Walkway, which guides me to the Boyle River Outdoor Education Centre – where I pick up my first food drop. My last 4 days on the Te Araroa are on the Harper Pass track, a historical crossing of the main divide through the green Hurunui and Taramakau valleys.

Hope Kiwi Valley

Hope Kiwi Valley

Cow skull in the Hope Kiwi Valley

Cow skull in the Hope Kiwi Valley

Most of the Harper Pass Track is an easy stroll with little altitude differences. This is a view back from near Kiwi Saddle while crossing to Lake Sumner on my birthday

Most of the Harper Pass Track is an easy stroll with little altitude differences. This is a view back from near Kiwi Saddle while crossing to Lake Sumner on my birthday

Morning break near Lake Sumner

Morning break near Lake Sumner

All huts in NZ have a so-called 'intentions book' where you write down your personalia and plans for the next few days.

All huts in NZ have a so-called ‘intentions book’ where you write down your personalia and plans for the next few days.

The Hurunui no.3 hut, one of the cozy standard huts along the Harper Pass Track. This was one of the hottest days of the trip, with temperatures over 30 degrees.

The Hurunui no.3 hut, one of the cozy standard huts along the Harper Pass Track. This was one of the hottest days of the trip, with temperatures over 30 degrees.

View down into the Taramakau valley and towards the West Coast from Harper Pass (962m)

View down into the Taramakau valley and towards the West Coast from Harper Pass (962m)

Bivy along the Taramakau river

Bivy along the Taramakau river

The wild Taramakau valley with its dense rainforest was one of the finest I did on my Te Araroa stretch, with almost no trail and numerous river fords

The wild Taramakau valley with its dense rainforest was one of the finest I did on my Te Araroa stretch, with almost no trail and numerous river fords

Bushwhacking through the rainforest while trying to avoid another river wading

Bushwhacking through the rainforest while trying to avoid another river wading

Reaching the Otira valley on another hot january afternoon

Reaching the Otira valley on another hot january afternoon

I stayed in the Otira Stagecoach Hotel (where I had my next food drop waiting together with my ice axe) for the night. Otira was a real shithole, with about 80 inhabitants. The entire village (train station, 30 houses, hotel, and all inhabitants) was recently for sale for 4 long years, until the nice couple now running the hotel bought it two years ago for 1 million NZ dollars. The hotel is now an all-in-one town hall, post office, shop, bar, restaurant and hotel. Sam, a young Christchurch guy doing the administation, took me to a Maori birthday party in the town where we stayed until the early hours - a great evening!

I stayed in the Otira Stagecoach Hotel (where I had my next food drop waiting together with my ice axe) for the night. Otira was a real shithole, with about 80 inhabitants. The entire village (train station, 30 houses, hotel, and all inhabitants) was recently for sale for 4 long years, until the nice couple now running the hotel bought it two years ago for 1 million NZ dollars. The hotel is now an all-in-one town hall, post office, shop, bar, restaurant and hotel. Sam, a young Christchurch guy doing the administation, took me to a Maori birthday party in the town where we stayed until the early hours – a great evening!

New Zealand – trip report coming soon!

It’s been a busy spring and I have hardly found the time to browse through all my images and video from New Zealand. So let’s put some pressure on myself by announcing I will start publishing a (brief) trip report soon!

I’ll subdivide the entire trip in 3 or 4 blog posts:
Part 1: the ultra-long distance Te Araroa trail was my guide through the Queen Charlotte Sounds, the magnificent Richmond Range, Nelson Lakes National Park and the Harper Pass trail. 23 days of ridgewalks, lush green valleys, cozy huts, and often relatively easy trails, which allowed me to get physically and mentally prepared for the real deal in the hearth of the Southern Alps.
Part 2: I strayed away from the Te Araroa in Arthur’s Pass National Park and tackled the most difficult part of the journey, often off-trail along the main divide across countless alpine passes. I picked up my packraft on the way to paddle mighty braided rivers through the wilderness. Changing weather, flooded rivers and harsh terrain made me deviate from my initial route plan a couple of times. On all but a few days I didn’t meet a single soul on this 20-day section.
– Part 3: After paddling across Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka I made it into Mount Aspiring National Park, the absolute highlight of the trip with stunning vistas and high bivy’s. After a float on the Dart River, the trip started winding down on the Routeburn, Caples and Kepler tracks and eventually with a long paddle down the Waiau river all the way into the Pacific, which I reached after almost 1300km on the trail.
– If I find the time, part 4 will deal with some shorter overnighters I made together with Elien before starting my traverse, mostly in the Ahuriri – Wanaka – Glenorchy area.

Those who like numbers and statistics can find a complete overview of all stages (including km, climbing/descent, …) in this document.
The route I eventually hiked and paddled is indicated on the map below (large file!), which you can use as a reference while reading the report.

TOP250DONE

Descending from Albert Burn Saddle into the East Matukituki, Mount Aspiring National Park

Descending from Albert Burn Saddle into the East Matukituki, Mount Aspiring National Park

New Zealand South Island trip – trailer

A few days ago I arrived back home after finishing my New Zealand trip. It has been a fantastic period, and I feel privileged to have spent such a long time wandering through the wild and unspoilt backcountry of the South Island. It will be a pain to get used to the rat race again, and it could take a while before I will start publishing my trip report.

This trailer is a tribute to NZ’s wilderness, but also to all organisations, individuals and passionate volunteers at the other side of the globe caring about the conservation of it, and without whom a trip like this would never have been the same. Thank you!

In Te Anau – and floating to the end

I’ve made it to Te Anau today after a bloody brilliant february, with countless stunning kilometers, some harsh off-track travel, fantastic paddling on braided rivers, sunsets from forgotten summits, and probably even being the first to cross the youngest lake on earth (the 4km Dart Lake which formed in mid-january)! It has been the best bit of the trip, and I hope I can share some of it with the pictures below.

As I have some time left, I’ll probably have a blast on the Kepler Track the next 2 days before paddling down the Waiau River to the Ocean – some rainy Fiordland weather is on the menu however so I’ll have to keep a close eye on the river flow.

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Halfway the traverse – and taking a break!

I’m in Hokitika right now after having hiked south for 27 consective days – it has been a great trip so far in outstanding weather conditions. The Te Araroa offered some nice sections, in particular in the southern Richmond Range and in Nelson Lakes National Park, but also a lot of valley hiking, and I was thrilled to switch to my own route through Arthurs Pass National Park, where I crossed 6 passes – most of them pretty alpine – in 2 days. West Coast travel is rough with heavy bushwhacking below 1200m, a lot of riverbed travel, and many river fordings and slips/landslides to navigate.

The weather forecast for the next few days does not look very good, however, with quite some rain, and fresh snow down to 1000m early next week. My next stretch to Erewhon involves 4 more days of rough West Coast travel, fording the Rakaia River down Whitcombe Pass (by far the largest ford of the trip, on a place where accidents have happened before in sub-optimal conditions), and the crossing of Buttler Saddle, one of the more serious passes of the trip. This all felt like a dangerous cocktail to me, which could have kept my tent- or hut-bound for several days waiting for improving conditions. It is impossible to detour around the Rakaia ford. Therefore I have decided to hitchhike to Erewhon, and rather use those days to fully enjoy the next few weeks of my trip, which should be the very best!

In a few days you should be able to view my progress again through this link (thanks Thomas!): http://parnakra.github.io/map.html

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