March 4th 2017
Hurunui No 3 hut – campsite
Total distance: 1347.3 miles
I slept well last night, but when I woke up I saw my phone cover had been chewed by what could only have been a mouse. There were little scrapey teeth marks in two places. My phone had spent the night next to my head so that means a mouse could have run all over me and I didn’t notice. Gross. I checked over the rest of my things and everything seemed to be ok. I was sleeping in the main room, and Julia, Colin and Sandy chose to sleep in the little annex where there were 4 old rickety bunk beds. Apparently in the night Colin had a mouse inside his rucksack and at 3am he was emptying it to find it.
That’s the third night in a row that Julia had chosen to sleep in a different area to me. She goes off quickly ahead of me every day, and I’ve asked her twice if she wants to go on ahead and go faster without me, but she says no. We always leave together in the mornings, but I was wondering why this morning as she just goes off ahead anyway. I was ready half an hour before her today, and I waited until she was ready to leave. We hadn’t a big day planned and we could afford our leisurely 8:30am start time. The weather looked like it had cleared up a bit overnight and there were patches of blue sky ahead and although it felt fresh it wasn’t cold.
The first goal, although we hadn’t discussed it, was to get to Locke Stream hut for lunch I guessed. This involved a nice easy forest walk, with a few washed out parts but nothing too bad. The scariest thing was crossing a river on a 3 wire bridge, literally like a tightrope walk. Terrifying. There were a few stream crossings but I managed to keep my feet dry on all of them apart from a couple of toe dips. I passed Camerons hut and Harper Pass bivvy and the trail came out of the forest and opened out as it climbed through the valley up to Harper Pass. I saw quite a few nobos this morning, about 6 I think, and all but the last one was chatty and friendly. I had quite a long chat with a guy from Epsom, just down the road from where I live in England. A lot of people have given me the same advice – avoid the 4km wash out section and walk the road instead, it’s been taking people around 4 hours to do that section.
The views were nice from the pass and I could see down into the valley below, which was where I was heading to next. The clouds looked like they were starting to close in and I hoped the weather would hold out. The way down from the pass was quite steep and slippery. The trail was wet and it made the rocks even more treacherous. I had a few near misses and a few heart in mouth moments but I managed to stay upright and eventually the trail levelled out a bit until I arrived at Locke Stream Hut. I arrived in the hut and Julia got up and left, see you at the next hut she said as she was walking out the door. Oh. Ok. I didn’t understand what the rush was. I sat on my own and forced down some couscous, I think I’m kidding myself with this food on the trail, it’s disgusting, I don’t think I will be eating it again, I’m even thinking of eating tuna for dinner.
My mind was wondering all over the place today, and I was listening to podcasts to try and distract it, but the ones I chose probably didn’t help that much. A TED radio hour one – the science of happiness – which ironically made me a bit sad. I’ve been questioning what I’m doing today and really missing my friends, and my mum and dad. I’m doing this because I wasn’t really happy at home and now I’m questioning whether I’m happy here, but life changes so quickly, is happy even a constant thing anyway? Then I listened to an adventure podcast and someone said you choose your mood, which is something I said a lot to Catwater on the PCT, and I think I was choosing to be a bit miserable today. I had this feeling that Julia wasn’t happy walking with me, and that she wants to push harder and faster, which isn’t how I want to hike this trail, and it upset me, but I’m not happy right now, feeling like I’m either slowing someone down or constantly having to keep up, so if she does choose to move on then I can just hike how I want to. Stop when I want. Get up when I want. Rest for how long I want…
Maybe I would get to Kiwi hut and find out that my mind had been working in overdrive and really there wasn’t anything wrong. So after a couple of spoonfuls of my food and a handful of Doritos I packed up and moved on.
The next part of the trail was ridiculous, you couldn’t really get lost because it was just a case of following the valley, but there was no path and I was constantly worried I would find myself on the wrong side of the river with no way to cross it. The orange markers were few and far between and most of the time I was just walking down the valley hoping for the best. I crossed many rivers, after successfully keeping my feet dry all morning there were no longer dry, but for the most part the crossings were ankle deep, with some parts going up to the knee but nothing more. They were flowing well but not too strong so there was nothing to worry about.
I felt good when I saw an orange marker and I knew I was on the right track, of course the markers didn’t line up with the gps and they were just in the middle of the river bed but at least they were there. Despite the rocky terrain and lack of trail I was moving at a decent 2.5 mph pace. I was waking next to the river over the rocks and through the tall grasses and then down dry river beds. I fell over once and I was starting to get really frustrated with the trail. I got to Kiwi hut at 4:25pm and there were 4 people there but no sign of Julia. I asked one of the guys if a girl had been here and he said yes, a Canadian girl called Julia left about 10 minutes ago, she said to tell a girl with a British accent that she had carried on. Right, so did she say that she expected me to follow? No.
Now I was really pissed off. She could have waited for me. If she want a to go off on her own I don’t have a problem with that, sure I would be disappointed, but like I said earlier, I would rather that than walk with someone who isn’t happy walking with me. But what I can’t accept is someone just walking off without saying anything, that’s what annoyed my, that and the fact that I would never do that, I would have waited no matter what.
So I had to make a decision there and then, was I going to stay or carry on? I saw there was a campsite listed only 4 miles away and as it was only 4:30pm I would aim for there. The hut was only a 6 bunk hut and with 4 people already in there it might get crowded. So I carried on and almost immediately had to cross the Taramakau river, thankfully it was an easy crossing and it involved crossing about 5 smaller streams rather than one big river. There was no path and no signs after that, I couldn’t see any orange markers and the only thing that made me think I was on the right path was every so often seeing footprints in the sandy bits, well it didn’t mean it was the right path, but other people had walked there at least.
The clouds were getting thicker and I could feel a sprinkle of rain. I was starting to get cold so I stopped to pull my jacket out my bag, and that’s when I discovered my toilet paper bag was missing. Great. I hadn’t removed my bag since Locke Stream hut about 8 miles ago. I could be anywhere, but was probably in one of the forest bits, maybe having been caught on a tree. Not having any toilet paper was a pain but not the end of the world, at least I still had my jacket which was also in the front pocket, but when it comes to leave no trace I really failed there, although I didn’t realise it had fallen out. I can only hope someone will pick it up and take it out. And it means I’ve lost my trusty little trowel, which I’ve only had to use twice on this trail but I’ve carried all this way.
I put my jacket on and then came to the edge of the river, and I could see Julia ahead of me, not very far ahead. I could have shouted out but I didn’t say anything, I didn’t think while she was waist deep in water was an appropriate time. I didn’t think this route was the right route, nor did I think it was the best option, but she had made it and I couldn’t be bothered to fight my way through the forest so I followed. The water went up to my waist so now I was cold and wet. It took about 5 minutes to walk along the crumbling wall in waist deep water and by the time I had got out I had lost sight of Julia again.
I squelched my way across the rocks, crossing a couple more streams, picking up Julia’s dropped Smarties packet, and trying to find the trail. I saw a couple of cairns and followed them and found some orange markers again. I definitely hadn’t been on the right path earlier. A few minutes later I found the campsite where I though Julia would be but she wasn’t there. I was done for the day. I was wet and cold and I’d had enough. I was feeling thoroughly pissed off and felt as though the trust had been broken. She should have waited. As it is she is probably camped about a mile away. I set up my tent as quick as humanly possible before I was completely surrounded by sand flies. They are the worst yet and they sound like rain is falling on my tent. I eat the rest of my Doritos and too many biscuits and not much else. There is a nuisance duck lurking about, trying to get close to my tent.
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.