Te Araroa Trail – Mount Gerald – Two Thumb Range Circuit
Wednesday 23rd November – Friday 25th November 2016
Circuit Party: Rob Birks, Leo Garmonsway, John Hyland, Kar Keong Ng, Stephen Keach.
Report By: Leo.
Life is all about how you handle Plan B.
Rob in an early communication had said that Bush Stream, “Could be a problem.”
So it proved for Daniel Maier-Reimer of Hamburg, who lost his footing but scrambled out having been tumbled for 50 metres, still in possession of his life but battered in body by contact with the rocky bed. A timely scare. He lost his poles and hitched to Geraldine and bought some more.
Terra Arguimbau, a young girl from New York, had managed to get across and Daniel had followed the same route. They turned back as they could see that the Bush Stream would continue to be dangerous in the many crossings needed.
They met Irishman David Linear and Kar Keong Ng, “Just call me “K K””, a 28-year-old Malay who also turned back.
We met K K at the Peel Forest Farmstay operated by Steve and Jenny Deans, Steve being the son of A A Deans who lived in the Peel Forest area for many years and painted many landscapes of the area.
We offered K K a lift and he accompanied us on Plan B, a circle alternative to the Bush Stream Track leg of Te Araroa we had intended to walk.
John drove us to Lake Tekapo then east into the foot of Mount Gerald where we left the car at the start of a Department of Conservation track which climbed, following a deer fence, to join a 4-wheel-drive track which led to Camp Stream Hut on the Te Araroa Trail above the confluence of Coal River.
A notice on the door dated the hut to 1898 and it is now managed by Mackenzie Alpine Trust. We each paid a $10 donation for use of the hut, which offered 6-bunks with modern mattresses, a wood stove and lots of cut firewood. John and I slept in foot-to-foot bunks. His yeti or “Big Foot” feet overlapped mine and occupied most of the bottom of my bunk. We both had our heads against the opposite ends of the hut. People were much shorter in 1898.
Next day we headed up Coal River, initially crossing it a few times but then gaining some terraces above the true right bank. It was a gradual climb up the valley. We stopped for lunch in a dip, sheltering from a cooling wind, then continued as the tussock and shingle changed to rough scree, and a few patches of snow as we topped the unnamed 1,820m saddle. We were able to see Royal Hut in the distance on a flat on the true right bank of Bush Stream. For the first kilometre or so the descent was steep but then followed down the true right bank of Bush Stream, passing an old hut with sack bunks and a low door. Another couple of kilometres brought us to the comfort of Royal Hut with its large galvanized iron table top.
We enjoyed some hours of warm sunshine and ate in the early evening. The highlight of the meal was a cheese cake constructed on the spot by Rob and greatly enjoyed by Kar Keong whose meals seemed to consist of large amounts of rice and chick peas, consumed with gusto with curry as flavouring.
Kar Keong announced that he would get up very early and at his ‘’best speed’’ head for Tekapo on the Te Araroa Trail over the 1,925m Stag Saddle.
In the early hours a sharp shower pattered on the iron roof reminding me of my childhood on the West Coast.
We set off for the saddle about 40 minutes after K K. Some gentle rain occurred but not enough to require me to get my heavy weather gear on.
There was snow and very rough scree up to and across Stag Saddle, where we met Daniel Maier-Reimer walking back over from Camp Stream, intending to stay at Royal Hut.
We then ‘strolled’ down the southerly-bearing long ridge between the true Te Araroa Trail below on our left and the Macaulay and Godley Rivers on our right, with Lake Tekapo ahead of us.
We could see a couple of trampers walking north on Te Araroa following Camp Stream far below. Strong wind from an approaching north-westerly storm buffeted us as Rob led us off the ridge to our right, down to the private Rex Simpson Hut, where we spent time talking to a guide who was shepherding some USA people on a wilderness experience.
More downhill, but at last we reached the car and loaded and left just as the rain arrived.
Stephen got cellphone cover for texting K K and after some confusion on which road he was on we caught him up. He’d followed the official Te Araroa Trail past Round Hill Ski Area and on to Boundary Stream, then down it to Lilybank Road, taking the road to Tekapo to complete this leg of Te Araroa. We caught up with him in the car on the gravel road, about 10 hours after leaving Royal Hut and five kilometres from Tekapo. The only visible sign of his having walked about 30+ kilometres was his dusty legs. No sweat, large smile, looking fresh, he refused a ride and retrieved his tent and other food which had been stored in the car, adding these to his bulging pack before continuing on foot to authenticate his walk.
Our next stop was Kimbell for an evening meal and a beer at the Silverstream Hotel. A very good meal with a full menu.
Stephen took over the driving and we joined Jim and Ngaire at Mountain View Road for Christmas cake.
Stephen and I headed home separately next morning with me cruising slowly, nursing a noise that had developed in the engine of the Mercedes. Watch this space!