Start: Lake Emily (2,283km)
Finish: Bush Stream sar park (2,319km)
Distance for the day: 36km
Cumulative distance: 2,319km
Well it was just nice to be back on the trail and moving again, although it was far from easy to start with. I woke up fairly determined to get going today; at least a bit. I certainly didn’t feel wonderful this morning, but I figured I had enough energy to at least get across the Clearwater Track, and then leave time to potentially tackle the final major river crossing, the Rangitata River.
|Heading towards the river to start the crossing|
The Clearwater track was thoroughly pleasant. The open valley had a real savannah feel to it, with sun and wind dried yellow grasses swaying around in the breeze, and one or two other prickly plants dotted around, to be avoided at all cost. The grading was generally very gentle and not too technical. It’s fascinating the way the valleys vary so much in climate and therefore look and feel, creating an amazing diversity, and constant interest. After gently climbing for 12km I eventually hit a saddle and a completely new vista to take in, across to jagged, snow capped peaks far away in the distance. The new valley was also home to Lake Clearwater and the not-so-exciting Clearwater village. However my route was away, east towards the intimidating Rangitata River valley in the distance – another heavily braided and incredibly wide river bed to add to the mix.
|Starting the crossing|
Again, the Rangitata is another hazard zone quite rightly identified by the Te Araroa authorities, but my approach was the same as before, effectively to kayak it, well the main streams anyway. After a good lunch break I set off with Mark to attempt the crossing. I felt a little anxious, probably because of my reduced strength, but still felt sufficiently confident to make it, particularly with our joint water/ river experience from the trip so far, and the crossing of the Rakaia River earlier in the week.
We were lucky enough to pick up a track to take up most of the way to the first stream, and the single of the river bed was smaller than previously experienced, making progress across it more straight forward. But the crossing of the first few streams made us soon realise the water was shifting at a serious rate despite being fairly low, so caution was required. On one crossing we both took at swim, mainly because of the much looser bed, but our cags and buoyancy aids meant we were always safe and just need to kick to the side, albeit arriving lower downstream than intended.
|Mark & I fording the braided river|
The greatest challenge was the wind, blowing directly downstream, providing a double level of resistance for us to negotiate. For the final few streams we blew up the inflatable and I paddled across to the complete the crossing on my own, leaving Mark the unenviable task to retracing his footsteps (and stream crossings) of several kilometers, and a long drive round to the other side. Another great example of the selfless work he has put in to this expedition. I remain so incredibly grateful – every day.
It presented a real challenge carrying the blown up kayak between the remaining streams with the wind playing some cruel and trying games on me. But I successfully negotiated the final stream and was then able to ditch the kayak under a pile of rocks – for retrieval tomorrow – and complete the final few kilometers to James and the waiting camper van on the other side.
So I am now in position all ready to tackle the Two Thumb Range tomorrow – a challenging 43km high level traverse with some more ‘hard tramping’. That means hard and slow….. But also the dangling carrot of some easier days thereafter.
|The view if the Rangitata River from the other side where I met with James|