Day 113: Harper Road and Lake Hill Track
Friday, March 1, 2024 10:26 pm
Location: Lake Coleridge (Raikaia River Hazard Zone) / Methven / Snow Denn Lodge (2308.5 km)

A long road walk brought me to Lake Coleridge Village. From there, I got a ride to Methven, halfway along the Rākaia River Hazard Zone detour, where I’ll resupply for the next section of trail.

I don’t know that I slept well overnight, but at least I didn’t overheat again, which counts as a win in my book. I got woken up around 4:15 when Hannah came in the shelter to grab her food bags. I didn’t see when she hiked off, but it was long before I finally did get up.

I managed to get up at 6, with my alarm. It was warmer out than I expected, which was enough to keep me from hitting the snooze button and going back to sleep. I left the campsite a few minutes before sunrise, while it was still cool. Very quickly, though, it warmed up, and only got hotter throughout the rest of the day.

Sunrise from the Harper River Campsite
Sunrise from the Harper River Campsite

A few minutes after sunrise, the wind briefly picked up, with a brief blast of warm air. I’d started with my fleece on, and that was enough to make me take it off.

From the campsite, the trail joined Harper Road, climbing up the south side of the Harper River valley, then turning southeast.

Harper River
Harper River

There was a fair amount of traffic for a remote dirt road in the early morning, nearly all work vehicles. Every time they passed, they kicked up a lot of dust, so it was easy to see them from a distance when they were approaching from ahead. The gravel road was a little rough, and sometimes annoying to walk on, but I made fairly good progress, taking my first break at 10 km in just over 2 hours.

A Dusty Harper Road
A Dusty Harper RoadTrucks driving past kicked up lots of dust from Harper Road.

While I was on my break, Elise, the French woman who was friends with Hannah drove past, and offered me a ride. Of course, I declined. About an hour later, the three guys from the lodge also drove by, and offered a ride. Again, I declined.

After the trail turned past the Harper River, there wasn’t a whole lot of scenery. It was generally flat, and passed a few lakes. I was a little surprised there were several toilets along the road, but it seemed like the area was popular with anglers, so the minimal facilities made sense.

My second ten miles took just under another two hours, and I stopped for another brief break.

Half an hour later, the roadwalk finally ended, and the trail turned off the gravel road and into a meadow. Crossing a few stiles, it was clear I was now inside a farm. A short distance along another dirt road took me past a small pond, after which I ran into a herd of sheep.

A small pond above Lake Coleridge.

The sheep, of course, didn’t like my presence, and ran away. Occasionally, they had a choice of direction, but most of them opted to follow the trail, which resulted in me chasing a herd of sheep down the trail for over half an hour. I was really glad there wasn’t a northbounder walking towards me, because that could have put either or both of us in the path of panicking sheep.

Sheep Logjam
Sheep LogjamSheep crowd the trail as they try to run away.

The trail took me past Lake Coleridge, and then turned south, following a sheep-shit-covered trail adjacent to the road. (Signs warned to stay on trail.)

Lake Coleridge
Lake Coleridge

Eventually, the trail rejoined a road, leading me away from the farm and towards the Coleridge Power Station. Water from Lake Coleridge, which is a natural lake (albeit enhanced by diverting flow from three rivers into the lake), is fed into a power station over 150 meters below, which discharges into the Rākaia River.

Still a fair distance away from the Rākaia, it was hard to see its braids, but it was easy to see that it had a very wide riverbed.

Rākaia River
Rākaia RiverThe braided Rākaia River flows between Lake Coleridge and several mountain ranges. Part of the Coleridge Power Station and the feed pipes from Lake Coleridge are visible.

After approaching the pipes sending water from the lake to the turbines, the trail steeply descended the hill, briefly going through an arboretum, and ending at the Lake Coleridge Powerhouse Lodge. This is the beginning of the Rākaia River Hazard Zone, and also marks my completion of 3/4 of Te Araroa.

I took a half-hour break at the Lodge’s picnic area, mostly because they give hikers a free soda and cookie, and also have a giant orange arrow that hikers can sign. For the first time this hike, I got to tag something with the purple sharpie I’ve been carrying all hike.

After my break, I walked down the road, and to the end of Lake Coleridge Village, a tiny town. From a hitchhiking perspective, the place was dead. I got there at 2:45 pm, and in the next 45 minutes, only three other vehicles went by in the direction I needed to go.

I was “rescued” by Stu, a local, who runs a shuttle service. After a very long-winded talk about how I probably wasn’t going to get a ride by sticking out my thumb, and how he was not a trail angel, and how he hadn’t really planned on going to Methven today, he finally got to the part where he said he could give me a ride to Methven for $100.

I didn’t really want to have to pay that much for a ride, especially when it felt a bit predatory how he swooped in and carried on an unnecessarily long conversation and blocked me from even testing two cars that went past in the meantime, but knowing roughly how much the shuttles cost, and that I was trying to get from one dead area to someplace a good hour away, and that he was probably right that I wasn’t going to get a ride, at least, not very quickly, I agreed. I think he was surprised I was willing to pay so much for the ride with no other hikers to split the cost with, but he made the offer, and I accepted, and off we went, with his small dog in the car running every which way to keep an eye on everything.

Fortunately for me, Stu needed to stop for gas, so rather than having to give him cash, I was able to pay to (mostly) fill up his tank instead. That was rather important for me, since I don’t have an easy way of replenishing my cash supply, so what I have needs to last the rest of the South Island.

It took about an hour to get to town, and then a few more minutes as Stu drove me around town showing me the “sights”. After looking around a bit, I got a room for two nights at the Snow Denn Lodge. I was exhausted and needed a break, at least a day off to finally put this cold to rest. And now that it was the weekend, the cheap way back to the trail (the $30 school bus) was unavailable. (I don’t want to double-zero and wait until Monday to leave town, and that would be a bad day anyway, since it’s supposed to rain heavily in the morning.)

After getting settled in my room and getting a shower, I got food at a Thai place down the street. A Foursquare supermarket is also nearby, within sight of the hotel, which will make resupply tomorrow quite easy.