Day 17 – Nelson Lakes – John Tait Hut to Blue Lake Hut

John Tait Hut to Blue Lake Hut – 21kms

Total – 288kms

Wow what a day! Nelson Lakes National Park is amazing. I started out at 7am continuing up the Travers river to Upper Travers Hut which sits below Travers Saddle. I was there by 9am and had a snack before starting my climb up and over the saddle. It was a fairly big climb. There was mixed terrain with grassy tussock and boulder fields. The mountain tops were towering around me and I could now see patches of snow on them. This is real Lord of the Rings country here. It was just like the movie. I passed a couple on the way up. Once I was on top of the saddle a whole new set of mountains came into view. It was breathtaking.

The way down took twice as long as the way up. I dropped around 900m of elevation. I don’t know how my knees handled it. My lower back didn’t like it and is now aching badly. Eventually I came to the east branch of the Sabine River and stopped for lunch. Salami and cheese wraps and some electrolites. I followed the east branch down to where it combines with the west branch. At one point I crossed a small bridge over a very narrow gorge. I could only hear the water roaring through below but could not see it because it was pitch black. It could have been 30 meters below. At the junction the track followed the west branch upstream to West Sabine Hut. I had planned to stay there for the night but it was only 2.30pm when I arrived. I knew the next day was also going to be a big one and the next hut was only three more hours away so I decided to push on to Blue Lake Hut.

The track continued up west Sabine River. The rivers here are so beautiful. The flow was intense in places and there were huge rapids. Mountains were still towering either side of me. I passed through several different avalanche zones during the day. There were huge slips that were hundreds of meters high. They feed the river with more rocks and boulders every time the earth shakes. There must have been some major floods through here over the last year or so because long sections of the trail were wiped out with giant trees ripped out of the ground and spread all over the place.

There was one last climb up to the hut and Blue Lake. I was really exhausted at this point. I had been well ahead of the trail times today but this last part was slow going due to the condition of the track and me running out of steam. I think I arrived at about 5.30pm. It felt great to take my boots and socks off. I filled a bucket with water and had a good wash then made another electrolite drink to take with me to the lake. I have been looking forward to seeing the water here. Niwa have studied the waters of Blue Lake and found them to be the clearest known fresh water in the world. You are not allowed to swim here but can swim down stream in the river that it feeds. The much larger Lake Constance above feeds Blue Lake. The water is filtered through a giant landslide that formed a dam which is why it is so clear. I will head up to Lake Constance tomorrow and complete the Waiau Pass. It is supposed to be the main highlight of Te Araroa and the second highest point on the trail at 1780m. I will be able to take my time and enjoy it after the big effort today.

I should catch up to Curtis tomorrow. He left a note in the intentions book at West Sabine that said “Dean, come to lake constance”. Then in the Blue Lake Hut another note that reads “Keep going Dean”. They are camping by the lake up there which would have been awesome. I can’t get there today unfortunately.

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