February 23rd 2017
Porters Creek hut – car park, state highway 63
Total distance: 1218.2 miles
We were all so tired I think everyone had a good nights sleep. I had a great night, once I closed my eyes I didn’t open them again until it was already light outside. A solid 10 hour sleep. How did everyone sleep, I asked. Like a rock, Colin replied!
We had one big climb to get out the way this morning to Red Hills hut, where we planned to take a nice long break, then it was the end of the hard stuff and a cruise down to the road where we would camp, leaving only a 6 mile road walk into St Arnaud in the morning, so we basically get a whole day in town but only have to pay for one night of accommodation. We could have made it to St Arnaud today but well, what’s the rush?
We casually ate breakfast and packed up and Julia and I headed out last at around 8:30am. It was cloudy but so humid so we were sweating with our first steps. We took the same approach as yesterday, which is my specialty, no heavy breathing and minimal sweating. Unfortunately the minimal sweating part was unachievable because just standing still brought a sweat on. Walking at a casual pace increases the sweat and walking uphill meant sweat was cascading down our faces, dripping off the end of our noses and stinging our eyes. I honestly don’t think I have ever sweated this much.
Again we broke the day down into the 3 climbs, but first we descended to the river. The trail was quite steep and angled and potential for slipping and falling to your death was high. When the trail is hard but covered in lots of tiny stones it becomes really slippery and quite difficult to walk on. The trail followed the river bed for a while, thankfully for us the river was really low and we just walked over the rocks, we crossed the river about 4 times I think, but the sight of the channel the river had carved out of the land makes you think about how powerful the river is when it’s in flood. I did a good job of keeping my feet dry with some precarious rock hopping. Julia just ploughed straight through the water as she usually does.
The first climb went by quicker than expected, the sweat was real and the trail was rocky but we knocked it out reasonably quickly while still trying not to get out of breath. After the climb we descended back down to the river and this time it was too much hassle to try and find a path of rocks so I admitted defeat and just ploughed through the water, hopefully they will dry out later. After a short chocolate and hydration break we started to next two climbs, which was just one climb really but separated by a little flat section in the middle. We climbed up vertically, almost completely vertically, from the river and dragged our sweaty bodies up the steep climb. It was nice to look back on the range and use the excuse to take a photo to sneak in a tiny break from the uphill. It felt great to get to the top as we knew all the really hard stuff was over for the next couple of days. The last two miles to Red Hills hut was almost flat, but rocky and muddy. As we moved on the trail became grassy and I was glad I hadn’t put too much effort into keeping my feet dry earlier in the day because there were giant puddles amongst the tussocks which were unavoidable. We saw a couple of people heading north today, so we have seen 8 or 9 northbounders so far about half of them only doing the South Island.
It took us a very relaxed 4 hours to get to the hut where we joined our friends for lunch and then settled into the bunks to watch the second half of Lord Of The Rings. We only had about an hour and a half of easy walking to get to our camp site so we had plenty of time. We talk all the time about taking an on-trail zero and we have never done it, but this is the closest thing to it and it has been so fun and nice to fully relax for a few hours.
When it was time to leave our shoes had dried out and our socks had gone crispy in the sun. A northbound guy came into the hut and we quizzed him about all the food available in town and asked him to describe what he ate in fine detail. We talk about food so much.
Amaury decided to stay at the hut for the night and the rest of us carried on. The trail turned into a wide 4wd track and it was heavenly to walk on, we could walk without looking at the ground and we were moving at quite a speed which is something we haven’t been able to do for a few days. It was nice to stretch our legs a bit. We arrived at the small parking area near a road and felt like we were re-emerging back into civilisation. It wasn’t the nicest camping spots we have had but it puts us in a great position to hit town early tomorrow. We pitched our tents for the first time in a while, mine smelt a bit musty as I had put it away without it being fully dry, but it’s quite windy tonight so hopefully that will help it air out a bit. It was actually really nice to be back in my tent, in my private little space and my comfy air mattress. The huts are great and they would be particularly great in bad weather, as we discovered in the Tararuas, but they can be stuffy and noisy and the mattresses can be hard and sweaty because they are made of a wipe clean vinyl type material. It will be nice to sleep in the fresh air tonight.
The sand flies are outrageous down here and I didn’t hang about when it came to setting up my stuff and zipping myself inside away from the nasty little creatures. I got myself settled and ate the rest of my crackers without the tuna. I’m getting to the end of my tuna tolerance which is unfortunate for me because I have 6 packets of it waiting for me in my resupply box at St Arnaud. I will have to find a way to force it down. I will be rolling into town with two tortillas, two tuna packets and a small chunk of salami, which is pretty good going for 8 days. My pack feels great, so light, and I don’t want to have to fill it with food again!
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.