Day 89 (Tues 16 Feb): Telford campsite to Aparima hut (Takitimu ranges)
Started 7.45am, finished 4.45pm, 21k.
Pain in the head status: The migraine amnesty continues which is amazing. When I have a run of migraine-free days like this, I feel like a different person, full of energy, able to think clearly and focus. Life seems effortless. I wonder if this is how ‘normal’ people feel all the time and whether they fully appreciate what a gift it is.
Word of the day: Tocsin, an alarm bell, warning.
I was a little worried about the amount of rain bouncing down on the tent in the night, but it cleared away by morning. We had an overcast start to the day then blue skies and sun. We started by friskily bounding up 600m up to the Takitimu tops, inspired by expansive views down the valley we had walked up and then across and into the mountains. An excellent track through stunning beech forest down to Lower Wairaki hut lulled us into a false sense of security, that the track onwards would be similarly easy. We wanted to skip a hut and make up for the day lost to bad weather in Colac Bay.
So we walked on and my appreciation of the forest began to wane as the track started to challenge my legs. Questions arose. Why do tracks dive down to every stream and gully then launch straight up the other side with no consideration to gradient? Do track makers moonlight as torturers?
I tried to squash down these negative contemplations by thinking about the extra food we could now eat since we had skipped a hut. To be honest, this was a major motivation to do this long day, so I could eat more. Muesli bars have never been so appealing.
The final kilometers of the track broke out from the bush into a marshy river plain with more inspiring views, that gave me the final burst of power to reach the hut. This was already under occupation by Kiwi inquisitorial duo, Colin and Damon, and a German who had developed a taste for Marmite in New Zealand and put it on his boiled egg for dinner. The Kiwis also originated from Wellington, much like the majority of people we have passed on this section – if there was a contest for which region of NZ had the most TA walkers this year, Wellington would be way in the lead.
Sunday’s cell phone tocsin alerting us to the latest COVID-19 threat got us thinking that our vague plan of hitching out from the end of the track into Te Anau might not be allowable under level 2 restrictions. Tony researched trail pick up options. He had also saved a screenshot of 2 degree phone coverage so knew we could phone out tomorrow near the next hut. What a legend.
Disease of the week: Birchwood Mosquito Pox. That’s what I’m calling the dozens of bites all over my shoulders, arms, back, legs, even one on my belly. My blood will have bred a new generation of militant mosquitoes ready to ravage any other TA walkers brave or stupid enough to stay at Birchwood station.
Day 90 (Wed 17 Feb): Aparima hut to Lower Princhester hut (Takitimu ranges)
Started 8.15am, finished 4pm, 16k.
Pain in the head status: Was excessively tired when we got up this morning, to the point where I was walking with my eyes half closed wishing I could have a nap. Then I started getting a tingle on the left side of my forehead and it dawned on me that there was more to this tiredness than met the eye – it was part of a migraine prodrome. Sometimes I get this heavy dragging fatigue before or after a migraine that makes you want to instantly go to bed, but if you do, you can’t sleep. It’s like carrying around a lead blanket. I tried to ride out the migraine but it ramped up when we had to pull ourselves up a saddle to exit the Takitimus. The magic migraine pill knocked it back.
Word of the day: Wabbit (Scottish), exhausted or slightly unwell.
I was wabbit today but I enjoyed all of the walk until the last couple of hours, where the track deteriorated into a nasty slog up through twisty forest. But before that, it was quite an easy and beautiful walk alternating through tussock plains and beech forest. It started out very cold, with our first frost of the trail, and we needed our wet weather gear to stave off water from the drenched grass, but this dried off quickly once the sun rose over the mountains.
It turned out to be a glorious day, the best Southland has put on for us so far. We took it slowly to soak up the views, and had protracted breaks in the sun to work on my gaiter tan line, an attractive browning of the leg from mid-calf to above the knee. Tony attentively waited for me when I lagged (which was all the time), especially when the tussock became more than armpit height or obscured holes and bog on the track. But I’m sure I turn my ankles more on farmland than on mountains. All you do on farms is curse the cows – either for rutting up the paddocks so you tumble around in hoof holes or for not being in the paddocks so the grass is so long you trip and can’t see your feet. Either way, the cows can’t win. We finished the day at Lower Princhester hut, not far from SH94, where we will be picked up tomorrow morning and taken to Te Anau, for resting and feasting. Nice hut by a stream and we had it all to ourselves so were not disturbed by snoring, rustling or farting trampers – except us.