Remaining Distance: 498.2km
Distance Covered: 2801.8km
Total Traverse Hiking Days: 126
Last Wednesday morning while studying the map Ken was on, I suddenly felt sure of his precise location. Then, at that very moment the phone rang. It was Kenyon calling from a ridge while heading towards Lake Hawea. I asked him where he was in relation to a certain grid reference on the map. His answer; “right on that spot”.I just couldn’t believe that I had such a strong feeling of his location and for what reason I’m not sure? Lindy thinks it must be a twin thing? I’m thinking it’s more coincidence than anything else.
Before Ken called, he had set off from Stody’s Hut and had been heading to the ridge above which would then weave him down into Lake Hawea Bay. The ridge offered distant views of Mt. Earnslaw and Mt. Aspiring as well as faint mobile reception. Several of his calls dropped out along the way – more reminders that we really should have gone for TelstraClear, the preferred network which offers far greater coverage throughout New Zealand.
A couple of days ago Ken crossed the Ahuriri River. He mentioned it was thigh deep and running fast and that his boots had been damp ever since. The worst part of gearing up in the early hours of morning would surely be sliding warm feet into wet boots that have been slowly chilled over-night. Mmmmm . . . The second worst part would be having to slowly warm them up for the first hour of the day’s hike. You may well ask, why not take the boots off before entering the river? Well some rivers are fine to cross without footwear, depending on their depth, strength of current and riverbed surface. With a heavy pack and out of sight rocks to negotiate, the safer option is to keep boots on and remain sure-footed. While a heavy pack can help anchor you in a waist deep flow, it can also become buoyant once water reaches the height of the pack. This is often what happens and can lead to disaster. Getting swept away in rivers is the most common cause of fatal accidents in the sub-alpine area of New Zealand. The Ahuriri was Ken’s last solo river crossing of his traverse and by river I mean enough of one to call for concern. All remaining rivers on his hike are bridged which is of course a huge relief to me. I don’t like to think too much of anyone crossing rivers on their own let alone my brother, on a track with little traffic and days away from any help. Before and after every crossing Ken has made, I keep a vigilant eye out for his incoming SPOT message. Receiving the “OK” by sms is always the highlight of that day.
Ken and I have both been in recent contact with Graeme Woodward, a Sydney friend of ours from years back, who now lives in NZ. Since hearing of Ken’s hike and being a keen hiker himself, Graeme has planned for weeks to hike part of the Te Araroa Trail with Ken. Tomorrow morning Graeme and Kenyon set off. The first 15km will take them out of Wanaka to Glendhu Bay. From there they’ll take the Motatapu Alpine Track which is known for running through Shania Twain’s property. After sharing hot cross buns with the pop star, they’ll then head on to the town of Mace. It’s then Big Hill track into Arrowtown which is just a day’s hike north-east of Queenstown.