Day 146 (Wed 14 April): Nelson to Rocks hut
Started 9.50am, finished 5.05pm, 20k.
Pain in the head status: The head didn’t feel quite right today but no migraine eventuated.
Word of the day: Plangent, loud and resonant with a mournful tone.
Back on trail today, we discovered the track in to Hacket hut was closed due to the slip we’d crossed over on Monday. That didn’t seem to be an appropriate deterrent so we went back over it and it was easier this time as someone had dug the track out a bit to widen the ledge.
From Hacket hut, it wasn’t far to the next hut, Browning, where we had lunch, which was a filo pastry from last night’s dinner, a muesli bar and a mandarin. It was so nice to have a change from peanut butter and wraps- I think I’ve reached my yearly limit of peanut butter consumption.
After Browning hut, we chugged up towards Dun Mountain mostly through forest but with a bit of open tussock and some rocky outcrops. It was a dreadfully slow rooty muddy rutted track. Along the top for several kilometers the trees had been smashed and flattened as if by a massive giant’s hand – apparently as a result of a fierce and unusual easterly storm some years back. I was impressed at DOC’s tenacity in making this route passable – it must have taken months to clear the enormous amounts of windfall.
During this part of the walk to Rocks hut, I hit the wall emotionally and physically. Maybe it was the shock of being back on a difficult trail after nearly two days of being fed and looked after but my body was not interested in walking any more. My left knee started seizing up with pain, especially going downhill, until I felt like I was an awkward toddler stumbling along with an ungainly gait that might topple me over any instant. I was so tired I had to force myself to keep moving and not sit down on the side of the track and doze off. If any of the walking dead had appeared I could have joined their ranks undetected.
The ubiquitous inquisitive fantails and the robins with their plangent calls did their best to keep my spirits up. Eventually I heard lots of shouting in the distance and had a few minutes of horror imagining a large noisy group at Rocks hut, just when I was craving some rest and quiet, but it was only two loquacious mountain bikers cutting up scraps of wood for the fire. They did talk incessantly but luckily were more interested in talking to each other than to us. I didn’t feel like talking especially after I became irritated when they mentioned they had to be up early to get home and ‘babysit’, as if taking care of one’s own children is not an intrinsic part of fatherhood.
We had a delicious antipasto risoni for dinner, thanks to Sarah’s donation of home-dehydrated meals. If I did this again, I would add some variety to our dinners – but I don’t know why I am even theoretically contemplating doing this again…
Day 147 (Thurs 15 April): Rocks hut to Captains Creek hut
Started 8.20am, finished 12.35pm, 10k.
Pain in the head status: No pain.
Word of the day: Hummock, a small hill, hillock or knoll. Bonus word: Rutilant, glowing or glittering with red or golden light.
Thanks to a couple of doses of Nurofen, my knee felt better today and I could mostly walk like a functional adult again, but I was still hanging out for a nap, even after a full night’s sleep. But it was only a short day and I promised myself an afternoon kip at Captains Creek hut, which would be the last DOC hut we stayed at on the trail.
But first we had to meander down to the Pelorus river and past Middy hut. This wasn’t a very exciting walk but that could have been influenced by my weary state of mind. Rocks, trees, little streams; more trees, more mushrooms, a rock garden on a hummock. We saw lots of wasps, but most looked as weary as I felt, crawling over the black-crusted bark of honeydew beech trees, and falling to the ground in a state of depletion and weakness. The precious drops of honeydew had all been sucked away.
The Pelorus river was pretty, sweeping through white-rock gorges in a crystal blue-green surge. Several long swing bridges took us over it safe and dry, if a little wobbly-legged.
Captains Creek hut was right beside the river, and after our anti-peanut butter lunch of Sarah’s seed crackers and tomato pesto (with a side of panforte), I got my promised nap. It was everything I desired.
Last experiences on Te Araroa: This was the last DOC hut we slept in; the last evening spent illuminated by rutilant candlelight; the last splash in a river to wash at the end of the day; the last night without phone service; the last setting of the mouse trap. Civilisation is nigh.
Day 148 (Fri 16 April): Captains Creek hut to Pelorus bridge
Started 7.55am, finished 2.15pm, 23k.
Pain in the head status: No pain still, having another unexplained migraine hiatus.
Word of the day: Troglodyte, member of a primitive cave dwelling people.
After all my sleeping yesterday, I should have been leaping out of the hut door onto the track, but I was still a bit slow and lethargic. I’d definitely moved out of the zombie walking zone, however.
It was more undulating forest track, with stretches beside the Pelorus river, until we hit the end of the Pelorus track (can tick that off the tramping to do list now). Then it was 14k on a road to get to Pelorus bridge campsite. I had actually been looking forward to some road walking, where I could walk relatively mindlessly, not worrying about an ankle turning on a twisted root or the uneven stones jarring my knee. I plugged in my headphones, started up the podcast app, and the time slipped away.
We passed through farmland and at one point I got into a staring competition with some livestock, and had a moment of utter disorientation when I couldn’t remember where I was, not even which island I was on. I could have been anywhere, looking at any Jersey cow or generic woolly sheep that I still can’t identify the breed of.
At Pelorus bridge, the campsite registration was conveniently located next to a cafe so we could have scones and ice cream and pay for the camping all at once. We opted for the cheap $8 per person campsite instead of the $20 per person which included a hot shower. The woman selling us the camp docket looked at us as if we were smelly, incomprehensible troglodytes when we declined the shower – but really, what’s one more showerless day. From tomorrow, we can have as many showers as we like. But maybe we have turned into troglodytes. Apart from the brief respite in Nelson, it seems a long time since we’ve had any sustained time in ‘normal’ life.
One more week to go.