April 5th 2017
Aparima hut – Telford campsite
Total distance: 1763.2 miles
There was a bit of mice activity in the night but the only thing you can do is ignore it and hope they don’t chew through any of your stuff. It sounded to me like they were mostly rummaging in the wood pile. I was grateful for the warm hut because the morning was really cold. Crusher had chosen to pitch her tent instead of stay inside as she was concerned she would make too much noise with her late arrival. She also said she isn’t that into communal sleeping, which I can understand, it’s not for everyone.
We set off around 8:20ish, I was fully layered up with my gloves on because it was so cold. I was concerned about what lie ahead because the trail notes said the trail was really hard to follow and markers were few and far between, so I was imagining the same as yesterday with a battle through the tussock and hidden orange poles. But it turned out to be much better than yesterday and it was an easy to follow trail, which was good for me because I was getting a bit tired of the trail yesterday and I was close to being completely over it, but today gave me a renewed vigour. For the first mile or so we were following a ditch that was the same width as one of my feet, narrow and difficult to walk on. There were lots of scratchy bushes we had to go through which were really hurting my skin, possibly because it was so cold and possibly because they were already scratched all over from the day before. It seemed to get colder as we walked and I was longing for the sun to find us.
We walked in the sun for a few minutes before going into the forest. The trail climbed gradually and undulated the whole way to the next hut. The walk through the forest was a nice one and the muddy patches were all avoidable. The climb soon warmed us up and I regained the feeling in my fingers. Crusher fell behind a bit and I plugged myself into an audio book and picked my way through all the roots, branches, twigs and mud. I tripped on a stick and tore my shoe, I finally have a hole in it, they’ve lasted pretty well on the South Island and they will last a few more days until the end of the trail before getting ceremoniously dumped. It took 4 hours to get to Lower Wairaki hut which was our planned lunch stop and where I would wait for Crusher.
I was enjoying my cheese and sweet chilli crackers when a guy came into the hut, I didn’t recognise him and I said hi and asked him if he was heading north or south. He looked at me strangely and he said he was in the same hut as me last night. It was Quentin! And I had slept with him, well not slept with him but slept in the same hut as him, obviously, last night and had several conversations with him. I just didn’t recognise him. I felt terrible and I wanted the ground to open and swallow me up! I’ve also been getting their countries wrong. He is from Belgium and Anna is from France. Crusher arrived about half an hour after I got there. I don’t think she is enjoying the trail that much. She isn’t keen on the mud and the steep bits in the forest. And this part of the trail really isn’t that bad compared to some of the parts we have been through!
After lunch we moved on around 1:30pm. There was a climb ahead, not as big as previous climbs and I want too worried about it but Crusher was a bit concerned about her pace and wanted to make sure she got to the campsite before dark tonight. It was a couple of thousand feet up over 3 miles which is quite gentle for this trail. Having been sat in the hut for an hour I was really cold, and I got moving quickly to warm up. We remained in the forest the whole way, the climb was gentle and gradual for the first half and it became steep to the top. It was much the same as the morning, avoiding roots and branches and mud patches. It took me 1.5 hours to reach the top, and the top kept going, every time you thought you’d made it it would climb up a little more until the trail broke out of the trees and followed a ridge. There were beautiful views at the top, I could see all the way to the sea and if you looked hard enough Bluff was out there somewhere.
The wind was super cold up there and I walked to the end of the ridge, layered up and waited for Crusher. I got some cell service and had a message from my little French Canadians (who aren’t actually French Canadians, they are from Quebec so they are Québécois – thanks to apple for assuming that’s what I was trying to say and spelling it for me!), they said they had trouble hitching and got back to the trail at 2:30pm yesterday. So they probably aren’t that far behind. The ridge was rocky and exposed and when Crusher reached me she declared that the trail was ‘total shit’. I felt a bit sad for the TA, because that’s an opinion shared by many people who have been spoilt by well manicured trail in the USA. To me the terrain is similar to that of Wales or Scotland, and, apart from the knee high mud, hasn’t come as much of a surprise to me.
The way down gave her a taste of the slippery ball bearing like rocks as we descended towards the campsite. I fell flat of my arse which was pretty normal, and when I tried to get upright again I couldn’t find any traction so ended up sliding down a significant portion on my bum. After the rocks the trail got a bit easier and became more grassy and not quite so treacherous. We made it down to the campsite at 5pm which we were happy with, giving us as decent amount of daylight to get things done. We set up quickly to get away from the many many sandflies. As I was making my noodles I look out of my tent to see Colin walking towards me! They put in a big day to catch me up and we are reunited once more! Harry & Emma, Quentin & Anna and Sandy arrived shortly after so we have quite a group here tonight at this flatish camp site.
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.