At 9:30am I got underway. The marked route initially skirts around the western fringe of the lake before dropping steeply into the headwaters of the Arahura River, famed for its pounamu (greenstone). Once down in the floor of the valley it was a case of picking my way down the bouldery river bed, crossing the channels multiple times to make for faster progress (all around knee to thigh deep when I went through).
Around 2.5 hours in the route leaves the bed of the Arahura and briefly ascends a side creek to reconnect with the former bridle path. In some parts the track is a doddle, in other parts it has fallen to bits and a scramble is required. Overall, it proved to be much slower going than anticipated.
A sun-drenched Harman Hut (6 bunks) was my lunch spot. Soon after the path leads to a long swingbridge draped high above a tumbling Harman River. Then it’s back onto the bridle path, again with some good parts but also with some eroded sections.
Just before Styx Saddle there’s a choice of continuing down either the Arahura or Styx Rivers. My plan was to head down the Styx, but with the knowledge that parts of it had been severely damaged by flooding in recent years and would be slow going. (The Arahura option is a lot longer distance-wise, but from what I’ve read, easier and quicker overall.)
Styx Saddle (770 m) is adorned in tussocks, some of which towered over my head and swallowed the track and markers. Hidden holes underfoot provide a few heart-in-mouth moments. The forest is soon reached but I also found the track here to be overgrown and challenging to follow, at least for the first few hundred metres. It eventually improved, but as I was becoming quite accustomed to by now, progress was taking a lot longer than expected.