Best day of Te Araroa so far.

That’s a huge call, there’s been some good days previously, but combined that break in the weather, no clouds, calm in the wind department, with the huge day of views and, well, there you go.

I enjoyed my campsite last night, comfortable even with this sleeping mat self deflating once again. To me there’s clearly something special about just being out there in the middle of absolutely nothing, by yourself.

Then an hour’s walk up to Camp Stream Hut where a young couple were in residence, in for the night, back to Dunedin today.

Just past the hut two separate routes are possible: along the river, that’s upstream, if the weather is poor, but if it is splendid like today, the ridge route is recommended.

Early on it was possible to pick out Ben Ohau, down at Lake Ohau which must be more than 60km away, I’ve walked about 90km since then. Lake Tekapo had that famous Tekapo look, pale blue, even reflective up near the head.

Up near the pass you could see the water in Lake Pukaki. Tekapo had some glints of the housing but the main focus on the emerging east face of Mt Cook/Aoraki.

Wow, that looks crazily vertical, I’ve never seen the mountain from this direction, only from the Hermitage where the south face appears to be not impossible to ascend, erroneously as it turns out. Mt Tasman pops up over the Liebig Range, and eventually when a guided party on a day walk come past I find I can see the horizontal top of Malte Brun and to the north Elie de Beaumont. The Godly River with all its wanderings across the valley floor, braids aplenty, shine.

I’m in tussock but horses and people come up this side and it turns out to be easy walking.

It’s 25°C down in Tekapo, a sharp difference from my time there two days ago, I sit and bask in the sun taking it all in for a few hours, and then some more.

Eventually it’s time to say farewell to those lakes, Ohau, Ruatanawhai, Pukaki and Tekapo, soon it will be the big rivers, the Rangatata and the Rakaia.

Stag Pass might be the highest point on Te Araroa, 1925m according to the sign, but it seemed some of the least effort to climb, the visual distractions must help.

The descent to Royal Hut was a different story. The paucity of track markers means everyone makes their own route through the tussock, it’s substantially steeper on the north side but eventually, feet feeling rasped by my stiff socks, I plodded into the old Royal Hut, fine accommodation for a bloke on his lonesome.

It’s an old musterer’s hut but has been renovated with new bunks. Nice to have a decent mattress, my last one was at Roses Hut on the Motutapu on Day 19, two weeks ago. My back will appreciate the extra padding, that Tin Hut mattress was almost as old and lumpy as myself. Can’t count that.

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A guide to the night’s accommodation: Royal Hut

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