Day 122: Lake Tekapo
Sunday, March 10, 2024 10:25 pm
Location: Lake Tekapo / Haka House (2461.2 km)

After seeing the lake for most of yesterday, a long day today brought me to Lake Tekapo.

I got up at 6:30 with my alarm, aided by Jack and Isabella also getting up then, so I didn’t have to worry about disturbing everyone else in the hut.

The day started off with a bit of a bummer: mice got into my other food bag. It wasn’t immediately apparent what they got into, but later, I saw that it was a slab of chocolate that they got into. Which seemed like an awful lot of chocolate for one mouse. (There must have been several.) At least it was easy to break off pieces around where they had chewed through.

From the hut, the trail went down a steep path down towards Camp Stream. I crossed the small creek I got water from yesterday, and then followed Camp Stream’s left bank for a while, until reaching the Coal River. The trail, for the most part, was decent, but a bit rough. Being near the stream, some of the trail had collapsed in landslides, but it was generally not difficult to work around. Usually, it meant walking on the stream’s rocky bed, but far enough away from (the present flow of) the creek to not risk getting wet feet.

Camp Stream
Camp Stream

Once I reached the Coal River, I had to cross that as well. I was able to almost make it across without getting my feet wet, but the last rock I needed to cross was a little too far under water for me to make it across without getting my feet wet. I was able to use my poles to move another rock to slightly redirect the flow of water so that I was able to step on the rock without getting wet, and nearly made it across dry; I didn’t push off with quite enough force and slipped backwards a title bit, getting my feet a little wet.

The trail followed the Coal River for a little while longer. At one place, it appeared as though I needed to cross the river because the trail ended, and I was able to do that via rock hop. But a little further ahead, I needed to re-cross in order to continue on the trail up a hill, and now there was no chance to cross dry. (From the new vantage point, it seemed as though there might have been a trail that hugged the cliff the river was flowing near, but I didn’t want to take the time to backtrack.)

Because I had a long (33 km) day planed to get to the town of Lake Tekapo, I really did not want wet shoes so early in the day. So I swapped my socks and boots for my crocs, crossed, dried my feet off, and put my socks and boots back on.

For about a kilometer, the trail steeply climbed up the side of a cliff. It was the only significant climb of the day. I got some nice views of the Coal River in its valley, and then the trail moved away, initially following the top of the cliff, and then turning south.

Coal River
Coal River

Once up from the river, the trail was generally very nice, and I was making excellent time. I needed to; I had to be at the bike rental place in Lake Tekapo before 5 pm to collect my bike.

The trail crossed a gravel road, then began following a dirt ATV trail, at least for a while, until the track dissipated back to single track. The trail headed through sparse brush with a lot of little white butterflies for nearly another ten kilometers, reaching a fence line with a gate. I crossed to the other side, and took a break.

Once through the gate, the trail generally headed west, towards Lake Tekapo, rather than paralleling it. Of course, this made the views of the lake that much nicer, as it became larger and larger.

Lake Tepako and the Southern Alps
Lake Tepako and the Southern Alps

The only hitch along the trail was when a trail reroute wasn’t reflected on my maps, and a marker pole from the old route was left in place. This caused me to make a little detour, and a steeper climb up the side of a hill than I otherwise needed to.

Eventually, I reached a gravel road, which I followed nearly the rest of the way to Lake Tekapo. The road was quite dusty, and whenever cars drove past (usually fairly quickly), they threw up huge dust clouds. When more than one vehicle passed in succession, it left enough dust in the air to significantly reduce visibility.

Lake Tepako
Lake Tepako

Along the way, I stopped for a break behind a hay bale on the side of the road, which was pretty much the only (small) source of shade I’d had all day.

The road became paved as I neared Lake Tekapo, and I eventually branched off to enter the Lake Tekapo Regional Park. In the park, I joined a path fairly close to the lake, following the lake shore around the southern part of the lake.

Lake Tepako
Lake TepakoLake Tepako from its southern extent.

Arriving on the outskirts of town, the trail passed a monument to the Collie, “without the help of which the grazing of this mountain country would be impossible”.

A little while later, I reached the Haka House, my lodging for the evening. My room was superficially quite nice, four bunks (unfortunately, I was stuck with a top bunk) with a bathroom. For as much as I was spending, though, it felt a little bit offensive that they didn’t even have soap in the shower, nor the ability to sell soap or shampoo. (But, apparently, I could buy a trash bag for $2?!)

After checking in and claiming my bunk, I walked a few minutes to BeSpoke Bike Tours, where I picked up my bike. I got there a little before 4 pm, an hour ahead of my deadline. (I suppose this was cutting it kind of close, given how far I walked today.) This was my first time on a mountain bike (as opposed to a street bike), and I was somewhat unsteady as I went for a spin around the parking lot. I managed to mostly get the hang of it, at least as far as being able to start and stop without falling off, because that was different. I was also given a bike helmet, a high-vis safety vest, a bike lock, a tire repair kit, and saddle bags to carry a small amount of stuff. My pack will get picked up from the hostel tomorrow morning, and transported to the Twizel Holday Park, where I’m staying tomorrow.

I’m only planning to bike for one day, to Twizel, 55 km ahead. This is to get through a long stretch on a cycle track with no camping opportunity. But two other people had booked a two-day excursion to Lake Ōhau Lodge, a further 37 km ahead, so I was given the opportunity to do that as well, and I don’t have to decide until tomorrow afternoon after I get to Twizel. At the moment, I’m leaning against it, but it’s good to have the option.

I took the bike back to the hostel, got dinner at a nearby burger restaurant, and went to the FourSquare to pick up some snacks for tomorrow — I am nearly completely out of food, and I’ll have to do a full resupply tomorrow in Twizel.

I’m not really sure what to expect tomorrow, but it’ll be interesting regardless.