January 13th 2017
Waihaha hut – Possible camping
Total distance: 634.4 miles
A great nights sleep at the Waihaha hut and with another short day ahead of us we were in no hurry to get up. It had rained all night long and we were glad to be inside and not packing up wet tents which is the worst. Dingo Dave and Mongrel Mike left about 7:30 as they were pushing to get to Taumarunui today. We have invited them on our canoe trip and I hope they come because they were really good company, but I think that could be the last we see of them unfortunately.
Eventually we decided to pack up because the sooner we got to the next hut the longer lunch break we could take there. I went to use the drop toilet, the worst smelling one on the trail by far. I managed to hold my breath but took a deep breath in too soon after I opened the door and I was very nearly sick.
We set off at 8:40am, it had stopped raining which was great, but of course all the plants were wet and the trees rained on you if you nudged them, which we did frequently. The trail was really muddy in patches no doubt made a lot worse by last nights rain. The sign said it took 7 hours to get to the Hauhungaroa hut and we hoped to do it in less, but our progress was slow. There were lots of obstacles in our way; fallen trees, bastard grass, obvious mud patches, hidden mud patches, vines. Some points there were a serious lack of orange markers and we lost the trail a couple of times, one only briefly and the other more seriously. Julia and I, who were ahead of Kristen and Erin, went the wrong way and found ourselves clambering up the side of a very steep hill through various sharp and pokey trees and plants. After a good 20 minutes of fighting our way through the forest we thankfully found the trail again.
We couldn’t make it all the way to the hut, which was about 7 miles, without having a snack stop so we sat for a while and ate from the dregs of our food bags, while discussing what we were going to eat when we hit town. We had some very odd conversations today. I taught the Canadians about Eurovision and they taught me about Saturday Night Live. We talked about the merits and downfalls of Britains Got Talent and XFactor contestants amongst other random things. We had a few streams to cross and most were easy to hop across on logs and stones, I tried to execute a move which involved swinging from one tree to another and had it worked would have been outstanding, but it unfortunately didn’t work and I ended up with both my feet in the water. Luckily I managed to remain upright. We slipped repeatedly on the mud and came close to disaster several times but narrowly managed to avoid it.
It took us 5 hours in the end to reach the hut, arriving at 1:40 which is way past lunch time so I was starving. I devoured my cheese tortilla and a few crisps which left me largely unsatisfied. The sun had come out and it was super hot outside the hut. It was a newer hut and everything inside was really nice, we had a lie down on some of the 6 bunks that were there and had a communal podcast session. The water at these huts is rainwater collected from the roof which is cool to see, as that is one of the solutions provided by Just A Drop to ensure people have access to clean water.
We stayed at the hut for nearly 3 hours before deciding we should leave to complete the last 4 miles of the day. My shoes had dried out in the sun and my socks had dried into a very stiff crispy shape. The sign suggested it would take two hours to get down to the road. We thought we would have plenty of time as they usually overestimate these times. Well, not this time. It was painstakingly slow going as there was so much mud and lots of vertical and dertical areas that involved a lot of bum shuffling to get down. The elevation profile on the app suggested we would be going down, which we did eventually, but there was also a lot of up.
Julia and I were ahead and we were doing a great job of avoiding the mud and keeping our shoes dry and cleanish. We were picking our way through the mud slowly, but we thought we were going pretty fast in the non muddy stretches, but every time we checked the GPS we had barely made any forwards progress at all. Julia took a fall on a particularly slippy area and now has mud everywhere. We came to a stream that we had to walk down for 10 metres to be able to access the trail on the other side. All that time wasted trying to keep our feet dry and we now had to wade right through the river! It was nice to be able to wash the mud off, but not nice that it was so near the end of the day as our shoes and socks won’t dry by the morning.
We got to our camp spot at around 7:30 and pitched our tents and happily crawled in. I saw a tiny little hedgehog which was really cute. I ate 4 cheese slices in a tortilla, crisps and biscuits, and I might even roll into town tomorrow with an empty food bag. At 9:30, as I reach out to zip up my tent I feel that everything is covered in condensation already.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Please donate here, every little bit helps.