South Mavora Lake (km2769) – Te Anau hitch (km2807)
After 100 days, you would think I had seen just about everything. It should have been a pretty uneventful day, and it was for the most part. I just needed to do a big stretch to get to town for a shower and resupply. It involved a long road walk…pretty mundane, right?
I slept so well next to the lake, hearing the gentle lapping of the water on the shore. My tent was very close, so good thing there was no rain. It was just the right temperature for sleeping. The route began with another wonderful forest walk along the lake and Mararoa River. The tread was good and there were lots of robins greeting me along the way. I stopped to hang out with one.
Then I reached the final swingbridge and the notes said to cross if you wanted to avoid a river crossing further down. I didn’t feel like getting my feet wet, even though the river was low. Here I had a choice to walk the road or go along the faint path following the river. I went with the latter and picked my way through high grass and brush, meandering between fencelines and the river. It was rough going for about 10 kms. Most people just walk the road. Eventually, after enough Matagouri wrestling, I gave in, too. This left about 18 kms on the road, where at least I was able to play with my phone. There were a few cars that passed, so I probably could have gotten a ride. But I am stubborn. Instead, I just ate their dust. It wasn’t the greatest road walk but at least the weather was holding out. I could see rain all about but it was partly sunny where I was.
About halfway, I encountered a herd of cattle being pushed down the road, heading my way. There was a line of traffic stuck behind them, leading off with a huge semi truck. I got over to the high berm for the semi to pass, then resumed walking on the road, immersed in the cattle. About half of them started walking my direction. A few more cars pushed through and the cattle were understandably confused and stressed, mooing constantly for their displaced calves. I finally saw the farm truck up ahead, still trying to push the remainder forward, opposite my direction. I got over again, up on the berm and stood still next to the fence. The farmer was waving frantically and his dogs were barking. Then I realized he was waving and yelling at me and I was confused, as I had already gotten over as far as I could. About the same time, I noticed a cow coming straight at me. She was charging me. My only reaction was to lift my trekking poles, pointing them at her nose. She came to within a foot of the points and then veered off. I still wasn’t afraid but rather surprised at this sudden aggression.
The farmer approached and exclaimed. “These aren’t dairy cows, they’re wild cows!” He explained that they had been living up in the hills for 6 months without seeing people and were protective of their calves. I think they were just stressed out from the cars and the farmer pressing them on. But there you go. After walking past thousands of harmless cows on the TA, here were finally some dangerous ones. On a public road. I guess I was the idiot for trying to walk it, feeling I was safe and entitled.
There was no more drama the rest of the way, and I easily caught a ride into Te Anau. It started to rain as soon as I got into town. Good timing. I stayed at the same backpacker/holiday park that I stayed at 15 years ago and of course, recognized nothing. The town is still pretty quiet at least.
The best thing that happened all day was finding a $28 buffet at one of the hotel restaurants. There were great salad fixings and a variety of hot foods. Even dessert! Nothing was exceptional but it was so good to eat a variety of foods. I of course over-ate, but I didn’t really do that much damage to their bottom line. The manager must have felt sorry for my skinny state-of-being, since he only charged me $21. What a deal!