Start: Merriview Hut
Finish: Birchwood Station
Distance: 17km

A detour around Island Bush due to logging meant an initial road walk of 14km…but screw that. Jacqui and I decide to try hitch and save ourselves a big day.

We stood on the side of the road, waiting, my self worth decreasing with every passing car, until an electrical work ute pulls up, a window rolls down and a young man asks where we’re headed.

He helps us load our gear in, introduces himself as Pierre and off we go. We chat about all things TA and what to do in Te Anau before he drops us at the start of the Woodlaw Track.

Exactly 8am and we’ve already ticked off 14km!

We head through logging areas and pine forest, which is a beautiful way to start the day.

Then, we start the big climb of the day. My body is alright at the start but as the track rises and rises I can feel my enthusiasm draining. I hate climbing.

But then, a thought pops into my head ‘smell the roses.’

So I stop, look up and smile. I am in the middle of a beautiful lush forest, I’m not in a rush, why not take a moment to enjoy where I am.

As I stand there calming my breathing and feeling absolutely content, a gentle breeze sways through the trees and blows gently on my face as if to say ‘thank you for appreciating us’.

After that the climbing was fine, slow but fine.

I would look down at my feet for the usual 100 steps, then look up and enjoy the scenery before doing another 100.

We reached the top and started making our way through a bit of bog and horse before emerging onto a gravel road.

We took a few photos, had a quick snack and started the beautiful walk through pine forest.

Thrilled with our progress we were bounding along the road, on top of the world. I barely even noticed that we had been climbing until I saw the mast that marked the start of the farmland.

As we were rounding the mast corner the view took my breath away. In front of us was sprawling hills, dotted with the white of sheep, and in the background was a line of snow covered mountains.

Buy boy it was windy!

We took our caps off, securely attaching them to our packs, climbed the stile and set off along the farm.

We already knew there was a steep descent, thanks to a fellow TA hiker a few days ahead of us, but when we looked down the fence line all we could do was gulp.

Slowly we walked, sideways, leaning on our poles down the steep hill, trying not to get distracted by the hundreds of sheep and lambs we were disturbing.

Eventually the track flattened out and we made our way through long grass and gorse and over stiles, the last few KMs stretching on and on until we reached the road.

From here it was a short but hobbly walk, past some nosy cows through the station to the hut.

Sarah the owner was here lighting the fire so we chatted to her and played peek-a-boo with her 2 kids before a nice hot shower to wash the mud off and settling in front of the fire for the night.