March 11th 2017
Double Hut – camping
17.7 miles (+0.5 miles from the hut)
Total distance: 1448.5 miles
I could barely keep my eyes open and I was asleep before 9pm. Someone had left a note in the hut book to say there was a giant rodent trying to get in the hut and to lock the door. It was pretty creepy being there alone but I ended up sleeping really well because I was so exhausted. I think I woke up only a couple of times because I heard noises, but with the sound of the rain on the hut I could pass the noises off as the weather.
When I woke around 7:30am it was still raining and I didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag. So I wrote about the day which I didn’t get the chance to do before I fell asleep and hoped the rain would stop. Which it eventually did and I ended up leaving around 9:30am. I was pretty sure Sandy and Colin would have camped before the junction and I thought they would have left earlier than me, and when I saw their fresh footprints I knew I was right. It wasn’t really raining but there was a fine drizzle in the air. The clouds were hanging really low in the valley and there were probably some great views behind them. Thankfully the trail was a lot easier to walk on than it was yesterday and it mostly followed a 4wd track that was flat so I could pick up a little bit of speed.
The grass was wet and my already wet shoes and socks became even wetter very quickly. Unfortunately I had to stop to have a poo – now my third nature poo of the whole trail. With that taken care of I walked as fast as I could with the hope of catching up to Sandy and Colin. It rained a bit harder on and off but it was mostly drizzle, it even stopped briefly a couple of times. Leaving the 4wd track for a short time the trail climbed up a short but steep hill and then flattened out again as it went around Lake Emily. I was looking for Sandy’s red jacket and I thought I could see something in the distance but wasn’t sure, as I got closer to the fence line she jumped up and started waving madly. They had stopped to have a lunch break and by 12:30pm I had caught up to them. They got my message I left in the dirt and they had camped just before the last stream crossing, Colin was feeling sick and his foot was hurting yesterday so they couldn’t make it to the hut. They managed to pitch their tent just before it poured with rain and they confirmed my suspicions that it rained all night long.
We chatted to a couple of local trampers about the weather and they told us the same story we had read about a couple of days ago. There is a big sub-tropical storm bouncing around in the Tasman sea, pinging between NZ and Australia and the North Island is getting slammed, with reports of flooding in many areas. We are getting the tail end of it and it is supposed to clear up in two days time. I actually feel like we have been lucky with the weather today, I thought it was going to be pouring rain all day but we have got away with drizzle. We have the crossing of the Rangitata coming up and we are a bit concerned about it. It doesn’t form part of the official Te Araroa and can be hitched around if necessary, but it can also be possible to ford it in the right conditions. They gave us a good tip which was to throw a stick into the river and if you can’t keep up with it when walking alongside it then the river is flowing too fast to cross.
We carried on and the trail joins a gravel road and a small bit of paved road which was a nice easy walk. There is a small carpark at the start of the Clearwater track and there was a man in a high-vis and a couple of hikers going north. The guy, who was from Derbyshire, was helping in an orienteering exercise which was for the police to train in search and rescue. Some police men came by in a car while we were there so we had a chat to the police which was nice. The guy in the high-vis talked nonstop for about 15 minutes, and we managed to get some more river crossing techniques from him; cross perpendicular to the flow; strongest person downstream; walk across on a 45° angle rather than fighting the flow; hold on to each other packs.
The Clearwater track is an easy tramping track and mostly follows a faint 4wd track. We walk along together exchanging stories and I tell them the story of the evolution of the bald headed eagle. It didn’t always have a bald head, but because they are scavengers they feed on things that are already dead, and to get to the juicy bits inside they have to enter the body through the eye sockets or the bum hole, and when you put your head through those holes you get covered in undesirable substances, so the eagles got rid of the feathers on their heads so they don’t get poo stuck to them. Thank you podcasts.
Colin is still struggling with pain in his foot, which I think will only get better with rest and not walking on it, but I don’t think he is likely to take time off. We originally had plans to make it to the start of the river crossing but it starts to rain a bit harder and everyone has had enough for the day so we start looking for somewhere to camp. We come over a hill and look down onto Clearwater lake, it’s a bit windy up there but Sandy thinks she spots a little dip that might be ok to camp in. I’m happy to just go with the flow of what they want to do and when they asked me for my opinion I told them I would go along with whatever they decided, but they told me I am an equal part of the team which was really sweet of them. So I said we should probably carry on a little bit which turned out, more by luck than judgement, to be the right decision as we dropped down off the hill and into a sheltered little valley where we found a flat spot to pitch our tents.
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.