29km, 10 hours

The fighting tussocks! We’re up again at 5am, to catch a school bus leaving Methven and driving 1.5 hours to some of the most remote farming houses in New Zealand. Last Friday when we tried this, the bus got stuck in the mud, had to turn around and we tested the weekend near Christchurch.

Over the weekend, someone has bulldozed the ruts and the stream crossing the dirt road is back to a trickle. We cross with barely a bump.

It’s up a long game road in the fog past a couple of old huts. When the farm road ends, it’s tussocks over the mountain top. Tussocks are big balls of grass, sometimes up to shoulder height. You can’t really go through them when they are that high, you have to go around them. Except they are everywhere, so the path becomes a winding maze.

 Even streams disappear under the tussock mounds. Take the wrong step between two tussocks and you can drop into a stream you couldn’t see. It’s a fun challenge.

At the top of a 1500m saddle, we arrive to views of Rohan. We are in the place where all the scenes from the riders of Rohan took place and its distinct here. All yellow tussock land, with no trees. The valleys are open, and the plateaus multi-layered. It’s an epic landscape that few make it to. This area is, after all bounded by high alps to the west, the Rakaia River to the north and the Rangitata River to the south, both wild rivers not having a bridge for 50-70km downstream.

Perhaps 75% of the other hikers we met skipped this place because it is so hard to get into and out of. We’re glad we didn’t.

Day 88 – Mellish Stream to Rangitata River

Day 84-86 – Rakaia River Flood to Akaroa