February 7th 2017
Waitewaewae hut – Parawai lodge
Total distance: 1001.5 miles
Despite popping an Aleve pm I slept badly, well, I didn’t sleep badly as such, the times I was asleep I was deeply asleep, but I woke up a lot because of the pain in my body. My arms were completely numb at times and my legs hurt of course. I felt like I had been run over repeatedly. The three kiwis started getting up and making breakfast but I was pleased to see that none of my group were moving at all.
It was pouring with rain, and had been all night. We had heard that the streams and rivers can rise and drop very quickly in this area and not to cross them if there had been heavy rain so we were all a little apprehensive knowing we had a few crossings ahead of us. The 6 miles to the next hut was listed as taking 5-6 hours so we knew we had some tough terrain coming up.
We all discussed our options and went round and round in circles about staying in the hut for the day or hiking out and risking it. We never came to any conclusions. Instead we remained lying down. We watched the kiwis pack up (they had a very long packing routine!) and we watched them hike out into the rain. Unfortunately the need for the toilet forced me out of my sleeping bag. It was a short walk to the drop toilet, but the rain was so heavy I knew I was going to get soaked so I went in just my underwear and rain coat. It didn’t look great but it made sense.
Colin got a fire going and we managed to dry out some of our things. We then settled in to watch Shrek 2 on Sandy’s iPad. We hung it up on some string and crowded around it. It was difficult to see and hear, because the rain was so loud. But it was still fun and passed the time. We lounged about a bit more and we discussed our options again with no conclusion. We had to make a decision before 2pm. Suddenly Marcus decided to hike out! We didn’t want to split up the group but we still weren’t sure whether the rivers would be too dangerous to cross, plus it was still raining. The river next to us was blue and still last night and you could the the rocks, now it was brown and raging.
We were still lounging around but it wasn’t relaxing because we still had the decision to make. So we took a vote which turned out to be 2 for stay and 2 for leave so that didn’t help at all. In the end, after much more discussion and going around in circles we decided to leave. I had voted to stay mainly out of laziness but realistically I didn’t have enough food to comfortably stay another night.
Sandy wanted to record a little video for her brother so she tried to teach me a French song which resulted in much hilarity, mostly because I was really shit! But I mumbled my way through it! We packed up and we left just after Colin and Sandy at 1:30pm. They said they would wait for us if there was a treacherous crossing. Hopefully if we manage a 1 mile an hour pace, and we have no problems with the streams, we will be there before dark.
The trail was very wet as it had been raining continuously for about 24 hours, but we were lucky that it had stopped just before we left. We got too hot after about 5 minutes and delayered, it was so humid I had sweat rolling down my face, which for me is pretty unusual. The smell of our clothes and waterproofs is pretty revolting. Everything has been wet for so long without drying out it all stinks. I stink. We stink. Everything stinks. I don’t think I have ever smelled this bad before.
The trail climbs up through the trees, everything is super slippery because it’s so wet, and half of the trail is a river anyway, either with giant puddles or with water running down the mountains. We cross a few streams which are no problem at all, all are less than knee deep. We start to think we have been lucky and either the streams just aren’t that high or we have timed it perfectly. We know that they rise and drop quickly but we don’t know how quickly. So the streams don’t give us any problems at all, but all the other things that want to kills us, like the tree roots and the vines and the mud are all obstacles that hinder our progress. We manage to cling on to our 1mph pace. We needed to stick together today so I lead, it’s nice to walk together as we can commiserate together about the trail, laugh at each other when we fall over and tell stories to pass the time. Some of the trail was sheer and we were climbing up or down sections using tree roots like a climbing wall.
Our legs were so sore from the big days yesterday and the day before, we were physically exhausted, but we were mentally drained too. It takes so much concentration to just remain upright and to stay alive. I could feel every step in my thighs and at some points I felt like I had lost control of my legs. I had a few near misses where I got caught in vines and slipped on mud but we got through it without incident. There were lots of downed tree and washed out sections of trail so we were climbing under and over and clinging to trees we hoped were secure, all of which makes progress slow.
After 4 hours and 4 miles we came to a junction, after checking the gps it said there was a grade change and we were no following an old tram track. After the forest it was heavenly. We were still going up, and it was wet, rocky and muddy, but we felt like we were flying along, it was the quickest we had been able to go for a few days! The forest had been so dark and gloomy, with the moss hanging low, now we were getting into some open spaces with semi views, it felt so nice. We could see the river down below and the clouds covering the tops of the mountains. In the last half a hour it started to drizzle but the rain held off long enough for us to reach the hut.
Colin, Sandy and Marcus were there waiting and as soon as I could see the hut I let out a cheer, and we heard a big cheer from inside as a response. We made it in 5 hours, it was a nice walk, and had we not been so tired we would have probably have enjoyed it even more. Marcus told us he got lost 3 times and ended up doing about 4 kilometres extra! He had been give a trail name of Cotton Eye Joe (where did you come from, where did you go, where did you come from Cotton Eye Joe), because he keeps getting lost. Great trail name!
The hut was pretty gloomy, but with only 5 of us there was plenty of space. We had dinner and then settled in to watch Shrek The Third on Colin and Sandy’s iPad. It’s pretty surreal being in this hut with these random people watching a movie, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We listen to the rain outside as we fall asleep and think how lucky we have been today to avoid it.
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.