March 5th 2017
campsite – Arthur’s Pass
Total distance: 1366.4 miles
The three of us decided to get going at 7am. I opened my eyes and it was still dark so I assumed it was the middle of the night still, I closed them again for about 2 seconds and my alarm went off. No way. It can’t be time to get up already. I packed up, having already put my bag inside the tent in anticipation of the sand flies. It was chilly so I put on all my waterproofs in a bid to protect myself from being bitten and it worked! Until I had to take the trousers off. Colin very kindly donated his toilet paper to me and we were all ready to go at 7 on the dot.
We set off together, through a big group of cows who were all mooing loudly and running about all over the place, and we were immediately having to cross streams. The trail continued to be difficult to follow and there weren’t many orange markers. I didn’t really enjoy the trail yesterday and I was dreading it a bit today, I just wanted this section to be over. We had heard that the washed out section of the trail was a bit of a nightmare, it was taking people 4 hours to travel 2.5 miles, so we all decided to walk the road instead and rejoin the deception river track at the Morrison footbridge, especially with the warning from the hunter about the weather.
To get to the road was a bit of a mission, we lost the trail and ended up in deep dense bush, I was being scratched all over the place by brambles and gorse. After a bit of bushwhacking we found our way out and joined a nice forest track before we started crossing rivers again. We weren’t sure where to go and at one point we were looking at the gps to check where we needed to cross the river and I said “it says we are smack bang in the middle of the river right now”. So Sandy and Colin speak French as their first language and their English is great but limited, and obviously doesn’t include englishisms like ‘smack bang’. So I had to describe what it meant and when to use it, which was really hard!
We eventually got out of the river, we crossed easily with it knee deep at most, and we made it out onto the road. Thankfully it was really quiet and we walked it really fast, crossed the very long bridge and got back on the trail. This time the trail was great, it was much more well defined than it had been yesterday and it was easy to follow the orange markers and know you were on the right track. We crossed the river a few times which we would continue to do throughout the day. On the way up we bumped into a young Swiss guy who had finished the trail a couple of weeks ago but had come back to do this section because the river was too high at the time he came through. He ended up doing the road walk alternate but still came back to do it. Rolfe was super fast, very tall, practically running over the rocks but he wanted to walk with people and chat so he slowed down considerably to walk with us. Colin is usually much faster but he was having some pain in the arches of his feet, making walking over the rocks difficult.
I chatted with Rolfe for a few hours and it was really nice. I felt free to tell my story without feeling like someone was getting annoyed by hearing it again. I was really enjoying myself. I tried not to think about Julia, I knew she had no idea if I was ok, but I was still concerned about her. I thought she may have taken the flood track and she may now be behind us. Rolfe mentioned how he was really ready to go home and do normal things and see his friends and sit on the sofa all evening, well I can relate to that. I was really thirsty so I dipped my bottle into the river and drank straight from it without filtering. This is the first time I’ve done that in New Zealand, but most people haven’t been filtering their water the whole time. I was just so thirsty.
We made it to Upper Deception hut in half the time suggested on the sign, the German guy, Paul, was there. I’d heard a lot about Paul in the last couple of days, mostly about the size of his pack. People were saying it weighed over 30kg, some were saying 50kg. There were stories of him baking cookies in huts! And the stories were true it seems, his pack was enormous, but he is out here crushing it. We went into the hut to have some food and Rolfe was looking through the hut book. He said there was a note from my friend. It said, ‘hope you got my message from the ranger about the impending weather, I’ve decided to push on to Arthur’s Pass, maybe we can touch base in town’ which basically translated as fuck you lot I’m looking after number one. Well, I was furious, and I let rip exactly what I thought on my poor friends in the hut. With impending weather (which we had been told wasn’t coming for two days by some other people) and a difficult section of trail with so many river crossings we should have stuck together. I would never have left Kiwi hut yesterday without her, I would have waited for as long as it took her to get there, especially so with the news of the weather. She had no idea whether I was ok or not. They all agreed she shouldn’t have done that.
The next hut was only 1.3 miles away but it was a bit of a climb, and Rolfe packed up and left and ran up to the top. I didn’t know this at the time but he had tried to catch Julia up and talk to her. He missed her by about 10 minutes.
The next part of the trail was so fun. I tried to not let my irritation get in the way and enjoy it. It was a rock scramble through the river to get up to the hut, climbing on rocks is always fun. When I got to the hut I sat down at the table and looked in the book, there was another message. ‘If there is no wifi in Arthur’s pass I will touch base in the next town.’ WHAT?! I couldn’t believe what I was reading. If she had wanted to go off on her own I would have been disappointed but I would have understood. I asked her a few times if she wanted to go off and do bigger miles but she always said no. She should have spoken to me about it before just hiking off ahead and not waiting for me, after 3 months and 1300 miles together, she could have had the decency to talk to me about it. I was more sad than angry this time and when Rolfe gave me a hug I burst into tears. He gave me tissues and chocolate and chatted to me to make me feel better. He was so nice to me and I really appreciate his kindness.
A couple of other French people arrived and Paul the German with the big backpack, and Colin and Sandy. We all sat around and had some laughs. Paul was carrying a 1.5 litre bottle of Mountain Dew and he sat there sipping it casually. I was so jealous. I would love a soda right now! Sandy used the hut radio to find out the weather forecast which was hilarious in her French accent. The forecast was for possible showers over night and possible light showers tomorrow at Goat hut, which was high. Not exactly the impending weather that requires such a rush.
At 4:30 Sandy, Colin and I decided it was time to push on. We were aiming for a spot just before Arthur’s pass to camp. The first part of the trail was boardwalk which was great and really quick, there were clear skies ahead, but it was getting really windy and there were clouds forming behind us so we were keen to get lower. The trail then weaved in and out of the forest, with some steep ups and downs, but we were still moving quickly. They stopped to wee and I carried on, thinking they would catch me up. Out of the forest it was more river bed walking and the orange markers disappeared and I started following small cairns and purely by luck managed to find some small paths on the side to follow. Then I started to cross the river a few more times, now I was getting cold and I was wet and tired, and my legs were really sore, there were a couple of patches that were stinging where it looked like there were cuts, and when I bent my leg too far it felt like the skin was about to burst open.
I passed the area marked as camping and it looked pretty grotty so I carried on. I could see the road and it was only 6:30pm, maybe I could make it to town and get a bed inside for the night, I just didn’t want to be cold and wet anymore. My plan was to get to the road and try to hitch, if I couldn’t get a ride I would go to a nearby shelter and camp and head to town in the morning. I thought about trying to call ahead to see if the yha had a bed, when I turned on my phone I got service and a message from Julia. “Hey! I just picked up my resupply box at Arthur’s Pass. I’m going to take off this evening; I’m keen to get some good miles in. Keep in touch & enjoy the trail!”
So she was gone. Just like that with no explanation. After all that time together she just says ‘keep in touch’. Maybe she has no idea how much she has upset me, but she had been about an hour ahead of me all day, so she has gained a hour and maybe a couple of miles but lost a friend. An overreaction maybe but right now that’s how I feel.
I walk out on to the road and I see a car coming, I put my thumb out and it stops! Quickest hitch ever! A very nice man who I think was called Tony took me the 3 miles up the road to the YHA and thankfully they had a bed. It was 7:15 and he said the restaurant across the street took last orders at 7:30 so I dumped my stuff and went to get some food. I chose a chicken curry which was recommended to me by my ride and it was delicious, it tasted homemade and it filled and warmed me up. Back at the hostel I was the only person in my room and I pulled all the curtains and turned off the lights and crawled into bed, I was so cold I just wanted to be cosy. I called my mum and had a good cry about the events of the last couple of days. I have no problem with walking the trail solo, but I do have a problem with feeling completely let down and having my trust abused. Maybe you can never really trust anyone. Maybe I am better off by myself.
I don’t know what I will do tomorrow, but by 9:30pm I can barely 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.