Day 126 (Thurs 25 March): Hurunui No 3 hut to Hope Kiwi lodge
Started 7.30am, finished 4.10pm, 29k.
Pain in the head status: For no good reason, I had the worst insomnia I can remember on this trip last night. I caught up on a lot of podcasts, including a fascinating investigation into how the UN were responsible for an horrendous cholera outbreak in Haiti not long after the devastating earthquake there, and an in-depth analysis of a UK COVID-19 case study, which suggested how the virus might mutate and new variants arise in immunosuppressed patients. But the insomnia took a toll – I had a thumper of a headache for most of the morning, worse when walking uphill, of which there was an annoying amount. Meds to the rescue. I was much better in the afternoon. If I don’t sleep tonight after all that exercise, there is something seriously wrong.
Word of the day: Spruik, to promote a thing or idea to another.
The morning started with a flock of Canadian geese and a herd of Hereford cows having a contest to be the loudest mammal in Hurunui. The cows won, but not by much. I’ve heard it said that nowhere in Aotearoa is more than 100k from the coast; I would not be surprised if nowhere is more than 50k from a cow.
The highlight of the day was finding the geothermal mineral hot spring pool, about halfway between Hurunui No 3 hut and the confusing similarly named Hurunui hut 5. Tony stripped off for a soak but I just put my feet in. A hot bath not long after breakfast didn’t seem right. I only have hot baths when I’m sick.
A helpful swingbridge took us over the Hurunui river, saving our boots from a drenching, so this was a damp foot day rather than a wet foot day. We then circled around the top of Lake Sumner and up over Kiwi saddle. At some point here we heard a stag roar and I suffered a bout of over-imaginative paranoid thinking, wondering where the hunters were and whether they would accidentally shoot one of us; what would I do if one of us got shot; I really should have bought a high-vis pack cover; it would be such a bummer to get shot this close to finishing Te Araroa. Fortunately, we stopped for afternoon tea, which distracted me from my dismal ruminations.
As it happened, Hope Kiwi Lodge (aka Sandfly Blood-letting Station), our accommodation for the night, had two deer hunters in residence; two more later turned up and they told us of pig hunters down in Hope Valley. So my paranoid fantasies were not unfounded. One of the hunters even said, ‘It’s a dangerous time to be in the bush.’ Incidentally, none of the hunters were suitable husband material.
Just before 7pm, Duncan staggered triumphantly in, having done his first 11 hour, (nearly) 30k day. We had spruiked the walk to Hope Kiwi lodge as a way of avoiding the rain forecast for Saturday, so it was strangely gratifying to see he actually did it. We were all in bed before 8pm; the hunters were out sitting on hills watching for bucks – the two older ones had shot as much meat as they could carry out but were now after a well endowed head.
Challenge of the day: I set myself the goal of squashing 50 sandflies before I could eat dessert (a generous eight squares of Whittakers almond chocolate). 50 was too low a target – I easily got to 100.
Day 127 (Fri 26 March): Hope Kiwi Lodge to Boyle Village
Started 7.15am, finished 2.05pm, 26k.
Pain in the head status: I woke up around 3am and after an hour or more I finally accepted that the pain in my head was a migraine and I wasn’t going to get back to sleep unless I treated it. It’s funny how it takes so much longer to figure these things out in the bleary dark hours. I lay awake for a while longer until the meds started to work, feeling sorry for myself – another emotion that gets exaggerated at night. Just because I have a bad night doesn’t mean I get to have an easy day. In fact, this was going to be a full-on day as we had 26k to walk to reach Boyle Outdoor Education Centre before 3pm, which was when the office closed on Fridays. We had a food parcel there, and had booked accommodation and if that wasn’t motivation enough had pre-paid for a pizza for dinner. A pizza each. There was no way we were missing that.
Word of the day: Canorous, richly melodious.
We were up before dawn to make sure we met our pizza date that night. We were up so early we had to wait for the light to brighten enough for us to walk in. We got to admire a densely starry sky and Mars winking redly on the horizon.
For some reason, probably because of the inadequate track description in the trail notes, I was expecting a flat and fast walk down the Hope River, maybe with some bog and river stones to skip over, but nothing strenuous. What a fool I was. Te Araroa doesn’t do a flat trail when it can take you up and over a hill. We spent more time climbing and looking down on the Hope River than strolling alongside it.
We had some special and new sounds to accompany us. In the morning, it was gunshots ricocheting around the valley. As protection, Tony wore his high-viz buff on his head and I tied my bright red raincoat to my backpack. In the beech forest, the hum of wasps pulsated in the background like a sinister tinnitus. But we also were serenaded by canorous bellbirds, singing choruses in small flocks.
We had a brief break at Hope Halfway Hut, which wasn’t halfway to anything I could distinguish and where we mostly walked around in circles doing high kicks while scoffing a muesli bar to escape the sandflies.
Finally, we could see the end of the track at Windy Point carpark, which was actually a very windy point so more aptly named than the Halfway Hut. We crossed a swingbridge over a beautiful gorge to get there in time for lunch.
The big decision at this point was whether to try and hitch a ride to Boyle Village (another poorly named location as there is no village and no one named Boyle) or walk 10k on the road (SH7) to get there. This is where our personalities are revealed. I might have taken a gamble on hitching if I was on my own, as single women usually get picked up quickly, even unwashed disheveled older women like me. But for two of us, it would take longer to get a lift. If we walked, we were certain to get to the outdoor centre before 3pm. If we hitched, we might get there a lot earlier but there was a chance we might not get there at all. We took the hard but certain option. We’re not gamblers, obviously.
Tony set a gruelling road pace and I occasionally had to go for a jog to catch up but we reached the centre in record time and just in time to take our pick of leftover food from a group that had departed. We scored half a loaf of bread, hummus, a packet of home made vegetable stew, a pot of sour cream, milk, gala apples and bananas. And half a dozen iceberg lettuces, but I passed on those. Hungry through hikers will eat almost anything – but lettuce doesn’t have enough calories to bother digesting.
I didn’t know what to expect at the outdoor centre but we had a small bunkroom to ourselves, run of the large kitchen and lounge area, stacks of Wilderness magazines to read, Wi-Fi (but no phone service), and a much needed hot shower. And the anticipated pizza. What more could we want.