March 10th 2017
Methven / Rakaia river – Double Hut
19.5 miles (+0.5 miles to the hut)
Total distance: 1430.8 miles
Sleeping in the common room turned out to be a great idea and when the alarm went off at 5am it wasn’t too difficult to get up. The road that will take us back to the trail and to the other side of the river is a infrequently travelled road and it can take all day just to find a ride, so a school bus driver has been taking people up there for NZ$20 per person. That makes it really easy for us and the only downside is having to get up at stupid o’clock.
It was dark and cold as we expected and the bus driver was waiting for us as he said he would be. It takes an hour to get up the road and we found out why. The road is terrible! It’s a dirt road, with about 10 cattle grids to cross and a few streams to drive through! Anyone hoping for a little nap will be disappointed as it’s a bumpy ride! The driver is retired but works more now than he did before, he drives the school bus, teaches kids with learning difficulties, delivers the newspapers and groceries.
By 7:15am we were back on trail and walking. The trail followed a nice 4wd track and climbed gently up to Turtons saddle. It even had a few switchbacks! There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and a crisp morning warmed up quickly and we gradually delayered as we went along. By the time we got to the saddle it was a lovely summers day. I was feeling pretty sluggish this morning and my pack, with 6 days of food, is heavier than it’s been in a while so it was just a bit of a struggle. We dropped down again and came to an A-frame hut where we stopped and had second breakfast, because 5am was too early for first breakfast.
The trail continued to a second hut not too far away so we arrived there for lunch. The trail still followed the 4wd track and climbed up and down a bit but we made it in just an hour and a half. There were some cool landslides to look at on the way. The Cicadas were all over the place and they were flying into us constantly. They don’t seem to have any idea where they are going and they hurt when they hit you, especially in the face or neck. I had to remember to keep my mouth closed!
The hut looked really grotty from the outside, with a completely collapsed one next to it, bit inside it was very nice. It has historical interest because it’s made of Dexion. We discussed having a nap at the hut, but I was aware there was a bit of a climb up to the next saddle so I wanted to push on so I could go at a relaxed pace. Colin and Sandy were undecided about what they wanted to do but I said I would see them later.
The trail then stops following the nice 4wd track and follows the river. Colin had spent all morning keeping his feet dry by acrobatically leaping across the rocks, I just walked straight through the rivers, thinking it was hot enough that my shoes would dry out in the afternoon. Well I was wrong about that because the next 4 miles were a walk in the river. It was impossible not to get wet feet so I’m sure Colin won’t be too happy about that! The trail crossed the river several times and sometimes there was nowhere to walk but in the river. The bush on either side was full of horrible spikey plants that you wouldn’t want to walk through, even if you had trousers on.
The walk was upstream so it was a gentle climb which was for the most part barely noticeable, the main focus was on not falling over on the slippery river rocks. It was lucky the weather was so nice and it wasn’t a big deal to have wet feet. About half way up I became absolutely starving, having only nibbled on a few Doritos for lunch so I stoped to make a tuna wrap and eat some chocolate. I think this is the best way to eat tuna, when you’re so hungry you don’t get the chance to think about how you really have had enough of eating it. I got some water from the river and thought the others might catch up but there was no sign of them.
Eventually the trail leaves the main river and goes up towards Clent Hills saddle following the orange poles through tussock which was at times taller than me. There were also patches of Spanish Needle Grass (or Spanish Razor Grass – I can’t remember the correct name, but it feels like you are being stabbed with a needle to the first one seems appropriate), each time it stabbed me it would make me cry out in pain, it really hurts! The tussock is difficult to walk through, it’s lumpy and uneven and there are loads of holes that break through to water, it was slow going for me as I tried to avoid all the obstacles and picked my way up to the saddle. The Cicadas which had been relentless gave way to lizards which scattered with every footstep. Clouds had been starting to gather throughout the day but once at the top there was still a good view. I didn’t hang around too long up there because it was windy and exposed, so I began the descent through the scree fields which was nice and quick, there is a well trodden path and easy walking.
Then the trail threw me back into the tussock again and I was having trouble maintaining a positive attitude towards it. It was just so slow going and the orange markers were so far apart they were difficult to follow, a lot of the time there was no defined path and I spent most of the time being unsure of where I was going. I went the wrong way about three times and ended up shouting out in frustration. I doubt the early morning was helping my mood! Then the spikey plant appears again, maybe it’s a variety of gorse, I’m not sure, but that was the final straw, I’d had enough of walking through it. I had to do some cross country moves to get to the next marker and after a final push through the tussock over a small hill and down the other side the trail opened out into Heron basin and I was finally down into the flat bit that looks so far away when you are on the top of the saddle.
The clouds were looking threatening and I made a last minute decision to go to Double hut for the night. Manuka hut was our original destination but it was too far away and we had discussed camping near the junction to Double Hut, but it looked to me like it was about to rain so I decided the 0.6 miles off trail was worth it to have a dry night. I still hadn’t seen Sandy or Colin so I scratched a message into the dirt which read S+C P2>DH and hoped they would understand. About 10 minutes after that it started to drizzle and I was still a mile away from the hut, it was flat so I thought I would jog a bit and I took two steps and fell over. Running was a terrible idea!
There was one last river crossing and now I had mostly dry feet so I spent far too long looking for a place to cross on the rocks and eventually I gave up and just went straight through. If it’s raining tomorrow then there would be no point trying to keep my feet dry anyway. So I crossed the river and walked as fast as I could to the hut. The rain started to get a bit heavier and I assumed my message in the dirt would no longer be legible. I made it to the hut at 7:30pm, I was the only one there which was a bit creepy. I hoped the others would make it and spent a long time looking out the window hoping to see them but they never arrived. I ate quickly and got into my sleeping bag. My legs were throbbing this evening and I felt exhausted.
Around 8pm the heavens opened and the rain came down heavily, I was able to see the mountain when I got here and now it’s just completely white outside with about 30m visibility. I’m so glad for the dry hut. I feel like I’ve walked 30 miles, not 20.
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.