February 21st 2017
Mt Rintoul hut – Top Wairoa hut
Total distance: 1196.3 miles
Last night was awful. As soon as it got dark and we were all lying down about to go to sleep, the army of mice started running through the hut. Julia and I had hung our food but Amaury had left his on the side, thinking that the nice wouldn’t be able to get it there. But of course mice are very good climbers and they were soon rustling all over everything. When I shone my light into the corner I saw two mice on his food bag and one running across the top of my pack. Gross. I was on a top bunk, which I’m not usually keen on but I did feel a bit safer up there.
He moved his food bag, but they continued running all over the place. Their noise was so loud in the small hut. Ryan and Corine hung their packs on the wall but it seemed they didn’t do up any of the fastenings, so they got mice inside their packs. As long as they are in their packs then they aren’t in mine, I thought happily. Ryan caught a mouse and took it outside and killed it. I had taken an Aleve PM to help the pains in my knees, but it had no effect on my sleep and when people and mice were still rustling about a couple of hours later at 11pm I was wide awake. I tried to ignore it all the best I could and pretend there weren’t any mice and that there was no chance of my pack being chewed through and eventually fell asleep.
I woke up about a thousand times in the night and in the morning I was not ready to get up. Julia started packing up her sleeping bag at 7am and I just didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag, for the first time that night I wasn’t too hot. But I forced myself out of bed, and packed up without care of the rustling. I didn’t feel great, my ears were blocked and I felt a bit congested, I really hope Amaury hasn’t passed on his cold. I packed up and was ready in 20 minutes. Julia seemed very keen to get going this morning, and Colin and Sandy had left before we had even woken up.
Julia stopped to put away her broken pole, last nights fix only lasted a few minutes, and I managed to get ahead of her for a bit. We made it up the climb to Purple Top where we had some great views before descending back into the forest. I stopped to put on some sun cream as the sun was so intense and Julia went past me.
Sometimes I get really annoyed at feeling like this hike is a race. It’s not just this hike but all thru-hikes. You are either trying to keep up with other people or trying to be better than others and it’s really easy to fall into a race mentality. I hate feeling like I’m constantly trying to keep up, but in reality I know that I will arrive at the hut only a few minutes after. I try to relax and to just enjoy it. There is no hurry.
A reasonable descent through the forest, with a soft but still tree rooty trail, which I still managed to fall over twice on, landed at Tarn hut where we had a quick break before tackling the big descent to Mid Wairoa hut. We saw a northbounder while we were there, a guy from Ohio, lots of people from Ohio on this trail.
Of course there was a bit of an uphill before the downhill and we were sweating like we had never sweat before, it was just rolling off my face and I was breathing very heavily. Julia and Sandy were happy to hike with me in front and I lead us down. The trail is a bit dodgy in places, a little eroded, but nothing too hard to get around. It is a little slanty for the most part and it feels like your feet are being pushed over to the side which can get uncomfortable. I only fell over twice on the way down, Julia took a small tumble too but we all made it in one piece. I didn’t take any photos on the way down because I was too busy trying to stay alive, so my only photo is at the bottom when we got to the swing bridge over the river.
It was so hot in the forest and we heard there was a swimming hole at the hut, so when we arrived at Mid Wairoa hut we headed straight for the river. It was freezing but very refreshing, our knees and legs were really sore from the intense downhill so it was nice to stand in the water and numb them for a while. Eventually the sand flies and hunger drove us out of the water and back up to the hut where we had lunch inside to escape the heat and the bugs. So many wasps about today all over the trail.
This hut was our original goal for the day, but as we were there so early and the sand flies prevented us from hanging out by the river for the rest of the day, we decided to continue on to the next hut, Top Wairoa.
It was a climb up there but a much more gradual climb compared to what we had gotten used to. I lead which meant we all stuck together, and I think people were a bit apprehensive about the 8 river crossings coming up before the hut, even though we had been told they were easypeasy. Within 45 minutes we had come to the first crossing and there was a great swimming hole, so we jumped in! At first the sand flies didn’t seem too bad but eventually they found us and became unbearable. I put my clothes back on, adjusted to hiking with a wet bum (unpleasant) and hiked up away from the water to get away from the viscous little bugs.
We saw another northbounder, a French Canadian guy. The trail after that was up and down along the sides of the river, some bits were super sketchy and involved clambering over rocks and swinging off trees. There were very steep drop offs to the sides and one wrong move or a slip could have been quite disastrous, but with me in front we were all going slowly and carefully. Other than that the trail was really nice and went along the Wairoa river which is the most gorgeous, crystal clear, beautifully coloured river I have seen. We crossed a few more times and then came to another great swimming hole. I had started to dry out and it was getting late in the day with the sun going down, but it was still hot and I decided that I would likely never be coming here again, so I went for it and jumped in, and then ran straight back out again as it was cold. But it was nice to wash off the sweaty salt and cool down a bit.
We only had a mile left and plenty of time, the sand flies were just as bad as ever and we dressed hurriedly to get away from them. I have a whole host of new bites today. On our last crossing of the river we filled up with water and climbed up the steep washout up to the hut. Top Wairoa is a cool little hut, not visible at all until you are right next to it, which is an achievement given that it’s bright orange.
We all settled in for the night, hopeful there would be fewer, preferably no mice. Just as it was starting to get dark we heard the door rattle, someone was trying to get in. A kiwi couple northbouding the South Island arrived at the hut. One got the last bunk and the other put his air mattress on the floor.
I have drunk more today than any other day on the trail so far and yet I remain in a permanent state of dehydration. Any time I’m not drinking, I’m thirsty. My underwear is still wet under my sleep clothes and it feels quite disgusting.
It’s 9:30pm and I am struggling to keep my eyes open.
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.