Te Anau, hitch to Princhester Rd. (km2807) – Becketts Hut, off TA route but running parallel (approx. km2822)
I needed to do some shopping in town and then try to escape the vortex to get some distance done for the day. First, I got pictures with the giant Takahe. They are like pukekos only larger and very endangered. I have never seen a real one. They are only found in this area (Fiordland), so naturally it is the town mascot. Feeling cheeky, I tried to ride the takahe and when that proved too difficult, a kiss sufficed. Note to future tourists, you should not be like me and leave the takahe alone. But I just love birds so much, I can’t help myself! With this important activity out of the way, I mailed off the contents of my bounce box (which I had carried for the last 3 days). I sent it all back to Denis in Auckland to hold until I depart. My very last bounce. Then I went shopping for my resupply and bought some extra items for breakfast. After, I couldn’t resist getting some chicken fried rice for lunch at the local takeaway.
I met up with Ruslan again to hitch out of town. It was already after noon. Then the vortex played a new trick. I spotted a dog running loose on the outskirts of town. He ran right across the highway, but luckily there were no cars. I called him and he came to me. He had a collar with the name Scruff and a phone number. I called the number and the owner came after about 10 minutes. This put a cramp in our hitching game but it wasn’t long after that we got a ride back to the trailhead. I’d like to think that helping out the lost dog added to my Karma bank. Scruff the runaway dog. At least I got a petting in!
We started hiking at 2:30 pm. The town vortex strikes again! It was a 6 km gravel road walk, at the end of which was Princhester hut. We met TA Kiwi walker Phil there. He had recently been walking with Lost Kiwi Mike, so knew who I was. He was by himself now and seemed eager for some company. But I wanted to get more distance in, being that the rain had stopped and the weather was decent. We had hoped to make it 16 kms to Aparima Hut but the DOC time estimate was for 9 hrs. The map showed a trail to Becketts hut, which paralleled the TA. The distance to that hut was only 8 km and seemed do-able with the time we had.
The route climbed through the dense forest and over the saddle, dropping into a tussock valley. It was a bit of a rough track, with some mud pits, deadfalls, eroded trail, etc. It was more like the forests on the North Island, with overgrown ferns and vines trying to ensnare. Along the way, we met a couple that were also shooting for Becketts hut.
At the junction, we quickly realized that there was no marked trail to the hut. Confident in our route-finding skills after all these months, we went for it anyways.
Head-High tussock…I’m loving it!
Four kms of tussock bashing, bog snorkeling, and streambed scrambling ensued. It was great, making us appreciate the TA for being an actual marked trail most of the time. It is slow going when there isn’t even the faintest trail or marker. Occasionally, we did find a cow trail along the stream. At the very end, we came upon a 4WD track, and it was easy from there. There were even a few orange markers leading up from the creek to the hut. It was in the trees, so invisible from the valley.
This was a classic old hut, with 4 bunks and a lot of character. It’s identical to Lower Wairaki hut, the one we stayed in the next night. I love the small, older huts (just not Stodys hut with all the rats!). The hut book went back to 2008 and was only a 3rd full. Not many TA walkers make their way to it but there were a few recent entries.
It was cold, so we made a fire…first time I have helped build a fire this whole journey. The hut immediately filled up with smoke. We had to keep the window open to get the smoke to go out the chimney. Otherwise, it was a perfect night. Definitely worth the bushwhacking.
BTW, the couple that we had met earlier in the day never showed and we never saw them again along the trail. I hope they were ok!