Day 143 (Sun 11 April): Old Man hut to Starveall hut
Started 8.05am, finished 2.25pm, 15.5k.
Pain in the head status: Troubled by a migraine overnight but it resolved with a migraine tablet and was gone by morning.
Word of the day: Obnubilate, to darken, dim or obscure something.
At some point in the night, the rain ceased but was replaced by gusts of wind that hit the hut like thunder. A tree crashed to the earth not far away. The weka squawked in protest.
I was thinking we might have a rough time on the tops but the wind had almost entirely died away by the time we set out, although we were beset with a firm and chilly breeze at times. Once we had hauled ourselves back up to the ridge line from Old Man hut, the track was mostly in the open, occasionally ducking back into the forest.
The low clouds obnubilated our views but every now and then a window would open down to the plains or across the mountain ranges. The Rintouls, however, stubbornly hid their faces from us.
The undulations of the track took us over Old Man Peak, across a long green grassy area called Ada Flat, and up and around the side of Slaty Peak, with lots of the eponymous slaty slidey rock. There we stopped for lunch at Slaty hut, which faced into a wooded mountain face spewing waterfalls, then carried on up towards Mt Starveall, not quite going over its peak.
Around its side and down the ridge we could look down towards the west and see the long straight road that led to Hope, a satellite village near Richmond. It’s always encouraging to have Hope at the end of the road.
Down further, just before the treeline, was Starveall hut. It was a place I felt starved in, the hiker’s hunger having got its teeth into me, despite yesterday’s rest and having eaten almost all of our extra food. It was somewhat appeased after we had our final home-dehydrated dinner – a double dose of lentils, veges and rice. Tony needs food more than I do – he’s starting to look a bit like a dehydrated bean.
Wildlife experiences: We saw lots of goats – black, tan, white and variegated. We smelt even more. I don’t know if I can ever eat goat’s cheese again – the rank stink of goat makes me retch.
Day 144 (Mon 12 April): Starveall hut to Nelson via Hacket picnic area
Started 7.30am, finished 11.45am, 13k.
Pain in the head status: No pain today.
Word of the day: Ambrosial, (food of the Gods), extremely pleasing to taste or smell, fragrant, delicious.
To be honest, today’s walk was overshadowed by the excitement of knowing that our friend from Nelson, Sarah, was picking us up at the Hacket picnic area at lunchtime. We left early to make sure we’d be there in plenty of time. It was a 900m descent from Starveall hut down to the Hacket river and Hacket hut, through some pretty forest, past a big rocky outcrop (Pyramid rock) and across the river eight times (unavoidable wet feet).
There was a small slip on the easy trail from Hacket hut to the road end, where there was a carpark and picnic area. The slip had reduced a bit of track from a wide, bikeable gravel path to a ledge the width of a boot, crossable by hugging close to the bank and avoiding looking at the swirling river a few metres below. There were warnings of washouts on this track but it was almost comical as the washout alternative tracks were in better condition than the majority of Te Araroa tracks.
At the Hacket picnic area, we’d just changed out of our boots and were stuffing a muesli bar into our starving faces when Sarah arrived, and pulled out a goodie bag that would fill the heart of any hungry through hiker with an extremity of joy and gratitude. She’d brought us fresh fruit, a selection of sodas, chocolate Easter bunnies, home-made friands and two types of panforte, since we’d missed out on Christmas cake and Easter. The pit in my stomach diminished to a small dent.
Sarah took us to the top Nelson accommodation that was her house, where we met her husband, cleaned ourselves up and continued feasting. Sarah’s kitchen is the source of ambrosial products, which we were the fortunate recipients of.
It was a good day to come out of the mountains as it started to rain in the evening. It was good to know we had no river crossings the next day and we could sleep easy.
Day 145 (Tues 13 April): Nelson (rest day)
Our rest day felt well deserved and well timed, as the rain continued for most of the day. We continued our concentrated effort to eat as much nourishing food as possible in the space of a day, and had even more nourishing company, with lots of discussion about tramping, life and other mysteries. We went on a quest into Nelson for an inflatable pillow, visiting four outdoor shops without success. We abandoned that quest and embarked on a new one, to find Penguino’s, an ice cream parlour that I’ve never been to before, inexplicably given the many times I’ve visited Nelson. This mission ended successfully in the consumption of a double cone.