March 7th 2017
Arthur’s Pass – Bealey hut
Total distance: 1372.6 miles
Despite it being outrageously hot in my room I slept pretty well. It was freezing cold outside so the other people in my room put the heater on and I woke up feeling like I was about to die because it was so hot. There was nothing I could do about it so I went back to sleep.
I woke at 8am feeling refreshed and so pleased I had taken a day off. It was good for my body and good for my mind and I had a chance to connect with a few people from home and that was good for the soul.
I packed up, said goodbye and thank you to the nice lady at the hostel. And she was nice, but I wasn’t the only person to have to opinion that she was very hard to read, it was very difficult to tell what her emotion was. Anyway, I went over to the cafe where I found John, Colin and Sandy drinking coffee. It was raining and freezing cold outside. It did cross my mind to just hang out in the cafe for the day and wait out the rain, but Sandy is such a ray of positivity she said we would be fine and I believed her. We are going to stick together to get to Methven at least, but I don’t want to become a third wheel or outstay my welcome with them so we will see how it goes.
I went outside to try and hitch a ride. It was pouring rain and freezing cold. No one was stopping. Well, plenty of people were stopping but they were going into the cafe. After about 20 minutes I went back into the cafe and moaned about how cold it was and that no one was stopping. Sandy says ‘we can do it!’ And we went back outside. She is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. She had drunk coffee so she had so much energy, she was bouncing around all over the place, so while Colin and I were sheltering from the rain she was doing all the work to get a hitch.
And after about 20 minutes a car pulled over and they gave all three of us a ride. They were two young Kiwi guys who were driving back to Gore. We all piled into the back and Wayne and Jeremy took us the 5k down the road back to the trail. We took cover in the shelter and met 3 French people there, so they were all chatting away in French which I have become pretty used to, I’m even starting to understand some of it! We hung out in the shelter for a bit until there was nothing left to do but walk.
We chose to walk 5 miles along the road which paralleled the track. The track went through the river bed and crossed the river numerous times. We had done enough of that over the past few days and although our feet would get wet in the rain, they would be wet and numb walking through the rivers. So the road was the decision. It was pretty grim, but it was quick. The rest must have done me good because I flew down the road, outpacing Sandy and Colin which was surprising. The road didn’t have much of a shoulder and there were some big lorries that passed covering us with the spray. But we couldn’t get any wetter than we were. The landscape opened out a bit which gave us more room to walk but it also meant we were more exposed to the wind. It was a miserable walk and I was on the edge of being too cold, I kept my hiking poles under my arm and my hands up my sleeves, and the faster I walked the warmer I was. We saw Sian and Colin ahead of us and they were trying to hitch a ride, they had realised they left some things at the hostel and after getting all this way they had to go back. They also don’t have any rain gear which is crazy!
We came to a one lane bridge that was quite long, we waited for the queue of trucks which were waiting to come across, and we got some cheery waves which was nice, then we ran across the bridge before any more traffic came. I felt like I was going to die after the run but at least I wasn’t cold anymore! We were sheltered by the cliffs on the other side and the rain seemed to ease off slightly, for a few minutes it seemed to get a bit warmer, but the rain got heavier and it became icy again really quickly. The wind was hurting my face and really it was thoroughly unenjoyable. Our aim was to get to Hamilton hut, nicknamed the Hamilton Hilton as it is rumoured to be the nicest hut on the trail.
The weather is supposed to clear tomorrow and as I was walking along I was thinking about getting to the next hut, which was only a couple of miles away, and just staying there. The Hamilton hut is probably nice, but really it’s just another hut. Unless it has someone there cooking my dinner and there is a duvet and pillow waiting for me it won’t be anything special. I didn’t see the point of trudging through the rain, not seeing anything, being cold, miserable, and uncomfortable just to get to a ‘nice’ hut. It would mean a slightly longer but doable day tomorrow to keep to the plan. Plus, we were at the bottom of a 1500ft climb which meant it would just get colder as we went up.
By the time we reached Bealey hut I had pretty much make up mind that I was going to stay, and when we got there Hugo was already there tucked up in his sleeping bag waiting out the weather. Just before the hut we saw a DOC worker leaving and he told us he had just finished painting the inside of the hut and to mind the wet paint. It was nice to have the hut freshly painted, Hugo said it was pretty grotty and covered in graffiti when he got here. It was only 1pm but after a quick discussion we decided to stay. I took off my wet clothes and got cosy in my sleep clothes and got into my sleeping bag. I was much happier being warm and dry. Within 5 minutes I had paint in my coat, trousers and trekking poles.
We settled in for the day, chatting, eating. Chatting and eating. They all speak French but they spoke in English for my sake which I really appreciate. Plus it improves their English! Neither Sandy or Hugo spoke much English at all before they came to New Zealand which I find amazing because their English is great now.
Hugo had a delivery of food from France which he shared with us, that was nice of him. Another guy Wallace from the USA came into the hut. After some discussion we found out we had been in the same room at the hostel last night, he had been in the bunk under me. It was really cold all afternoon, we could see our breath in the hut, so we were all cosy in our sleeping bags and settled in to watch the rest of the LOTR part 2.
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.