At 6am Dad and I had left Christchurch and were on the road, heading towards Lake Sumner Forest Park. We eventually found the beginning of the track in the morning fog and set out, through farmland and scrub, along the Hurunui River.
After two hours we came to the run down Gabriel Hut, had a quick break, and pushed on to find Lake Sumner, completely still and beautiful.
Quickly, though, we realised that the track was the lakefront, which was a mixture of loose gravel and boulders. Our spirits still high, we set off without complaining too much. After a hard slog around the shore, we were grateful to see a marker at the edge of the bush, and the trail heading up into it. Soon, though, we would be wishing to return to the gravel. The bush track was overgrown and riddled with slips, and made for excruciatingly slow going.
The following hours were a mixture of trudging over gravel, picking our way through rocks, and navigating the steep and difficult bush tracks. We stopped for lunch, exhausted, and looking forward to linking up with the official Te Araroa route, which would be much easier and well-worn.
Once we did link back up, the going was easy, although we were dog tired, and after every section I heard “That was never 2k!”, or “That was never 4k!”. We emerged from the bush onto a grassy valley and spotted Hope Kiwi Lodge a couple of kilometers up. It never seemed to grow as we trudged towards it, but we somehow made it there and found some bunks, collapsing for a pre-dinner snooze.
The hut is home tonight to several groups of trampers, and six hunters, all of whom have had no luck but seem to keep popping in for ten minutes before heading out yet again. One group of women arrived not long after we did and immediately smashed a bottled of wine on the bedroom floor, winning condescending looks from the other trampers. It was OK, though, because they had four more. I wonder if we’ll get any sleep tonight.