The thing I had most feared when preparing for this trip was walking up Breast Hill with full packs, containing food for 5 nights and 6 lunches. We had never carried that much before and we had to climb 800m to the Pakituhi hut and a further 200m to the top of Breast Hill.

Of course, we did it. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t half so difficult as I had imagined. We dropped our packs at the hut, had a nap, then set off for the summit.

View of Lake Hawea from summit of Breast Hill.

We slept in the hut that night and were joined by a couple out for a 2 night tramp and a man who had walked down to the Timaru river and back just for fun. Dinner was my favourite, Gardener’s pie with mashed potatoes.

Day 5 started well, with an easy 3hr walk to Stody’s hut along a 4WD track.

First lunch at Stody’s hut. Pita bread, cream cheese and lettuce.

We then set off on the steep downhill section to the Timaru river. The 500m descent took us 2hrs and turns out to be the part that Martyn was most dreading about this trip. My knees held up well, but the descent really took it out of me and I had little energy left to navigate the Timaru river track with its frequent river crossings, constant ups and downs and numerous fallen trees to clamber over.

We were heading for a camping spot by the river that we had seen other TA walkers had used, but when we came across a potential spot on the track at 5.30pm we were both only too pleased to call it a day and put the tent up. Just as I was clearing the ground, a Czech girl came by, eager to get to Stody’s hut that night to meet her boyfriend. She had walked from the Ahuriri River that day! We heard later that she did make it, arriving at 9.30pm.

Seeing 2022 in with Root veg stew, chickpeas and rice.

Day 6 involved more of the same. More river crossings (at least 12), more ups and downs and more fallen trees (I counted 21 in all). We arrived at Top Timaru hut relatively early, but decided against pushing on over Mt Martha’s saddle in the heat of the afternoon. Opting instead for a refreshing river spa and a pleasant evening spent with Rocky and Julz of Further Faster, TA sobo Phoebe, Glen from Wellington and another nobo couple from Auckland. Plus around one million sandflies! I cooked dinner for a change – quinoa with TVP, peas and kumara.

The welcome sight of Top Timaru hut.

Day 7 started early. Up at 5.30 and leaving at 6am in order to beat the sun up Mt Martha. Rocky had promised some amazing discount for anyone who could walk up the saddle in the DOC time of 2hrs. We were on a mission and reached the second highest point of the TA at 9.15am, just as the sun did.

Evidence of our time!
Mt Aspiring behind me.

From there it was an easy downhill walk, past super fast sobo Matt, to the lovely Tin hut. Martyn used the hut chairs for our picnic lunch and we were soon joined by sobo “Apteryx” (68) and then by the Auckland couple.

Perfect lunch setting. More pita bread, lettuce and cream cheese.

Two hours sped by before we set off again towards the Ahuriri River. We had been hearing “good” accounts of the crossing, but both Matt and Apteryx had encountered some difficulties so we were rather apprehensive. The track was a little unclear, Martyn’s battery was dying, so I gave him my phone for navigating. A few minutes later and my phone was on the bottom of Avon Burn….

We reached the road at about 5pm, so a good 11hr day so far. We decided to try our luck hitching and the first car to come past stopped for us. It was Scotty, the farm manager, taking his kids for a swim at the bridge we wanted to go to. He told us to camp in the nice grassy field, just by the No Camping sign, and we enjoyed a dip in the Ahuriri along with his kids.

The perfect campsite.
The bridge that would take us safely over the Ahuriri River.
Dinner of pasta, nomato, peas, green beans and lentils by the Ahuriri River.

A slower start to Day 8, past pine plantations and orchards of dog rose and matogouri bushes. Lunch of buckwheat crackers with tin chicken and the last of the lettuce, watching rose petals fall.

Cherry blossom like,
Rose petals flutter downstream,
Rose hips follow soon.

The next section was tougher, over another saddle, through some bog until we reached the pleasant downhill stretch through the Freehold Creek forest. This included the significant landmark of being 500km from Bluff. “I would walk 500k, and I would walk 500 more…”

Our own special 500km marker!

Ohau Lodge was less luxurious than I had imagined, but the chef did an amazing job of catering to my special dietary requirements. He made me my own pumpkin soup, prepared a special lamb shank and provided vanilla ice cream for dessert. No photos, cos no phone!