Day 59. Burtton Track Wahre – Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Centre. 26km. Total 1538km
After the pouring rain last night I wake up to clouds but at least no more rain. I put my wet clothes in a plastic bag and try to find dry ones to wear today (not that I have many clothes to choose from…). I continue the trail along the river, it’s pretty nice with a few clearings and views on the bush. Around 8.30am I come to an old Road that’s overgrown now and then I meet again the French couple Elodie and Frank who found some shelter underneath an abandoned shed. We talk a while as we saw each other last in the Bog Inn hut and they are not really following the trail but just do what they like.
Then I am on a 5km gravel road section (without any car) as it’s raining again and even hailing! Come on weather, you could at least have waited for me to be back in the bush!
I pass the dam and lake before re-entering into the bush for the Mangahao-Makahika Track. The first section is quite nice, mainly uphill but soon becomes very muddy. After 45minutes the first three river crossings before hiking further uphill.
I should reach the lookout after 3h after the highest spot of 657. Well, past 657 comes 670 and 690 on my map before I arrive very hungry at noon at the lookout with a nice area to sit. I unpack everything and try to dry it at least a bit while eating bread with tomatoes and cooking a coffee.
Then it’s time to continue at 1pm, another 3h to the end of the track and then 2km to my accommodation today according to the trail notes (but I assume to be faster as for the last bits). The trail descends very steeply via a second lookout and further to a river. Now it’s a game between the river and the trail, as the trail leads at least 20 times over the river!
It’s a flat and easy to cross river but in between its always mud. Its beautiful though. Then onto farmland where at the last river crossing before the road I wash my shoes and socks and continue in sandals to the Makahika Adventure Centre, reaching it around 3.30pm. The people here are amazing, they let hikers stay for free in their bunk beds. I meet again Jelly bean and Carbo and the two other Americans Essential and Shank as they have been named in the meantime. (I also learn that Jellybean’s dad is reading my blog! Hi Jellybean’s dad!).
I hang my stuff up to dry, take a shower (I even get a towel) and we are driving into town at 5.15pm for our resupply. Amazing! I could even have washed my clothes for free but it’s too late. Unfortunately I also don’t have the time for much Wi-Fi during resupply and in the centre there isn’t even any signal. We cook dinner and chat a while before I go sleeping at 9pm. I got a bunk room all to myself! Just the kids next door are excited and make a lot of noise. But I am very thankful for everything the centre provides for us for free!
Day 60. Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Centre – Te Matawai Hut. 18km. Total 1556km.
It rained the whole night and I was so happy to be sleeping inside, warm and dry. I take more time than usually as I don’t want to start in the rain. Still I get going a bit after 7am while the Americans are having their wonderful egg, bagel, … breakfast (and I only had yoghurt with fruits). It’s an hour of road to the carpark where the girls are being dropped off as well to start their accompanied hike to the first hut (while we will be hiking to the second one).
A short hike on farmland to the actual start of the hike. The first hour I am happy, no mud, my backpack doesn’t feel heavy (although it has more food than previously so it’s all a question of how I feel not the actual weight). The forest is beautiful. Just after I meet three young guys hiking together and telling them how nice the trail is, the real mud starts. But I knew about it and have accepted it even before starting the trail so it’s OK. I don’t even try to avoid it, walking right through except for the very bad parts. Just before Waiopehu hut the sub alpine area starts where there aren’t big trees anylonger and you have a great view. It’s only around 900-1000m altitude, quite low compared to the European Alps where the trees grow much higher. I have lunch at the hut, perfectly timed for noon. I am not staying long though as inside and outside the hut it’s pretty cold. With the 800m altitude difference hike uphill my hair is completely wet of sweat and I am now freezing having stopped.
Not far after that I am on top of Waiopehu and the clouds seem to slowly disappear with the sun coming out from time to time. Next up is the Twin Peaks, very close with another beautiful view on the Tararua ranges. Finally something for me, the mountain lover.
From there plenty of up and downhill parts with one extremely steep downhill part where I am really scared to fall with the slippery mud. I also can feel now how tired my whole body is. I have done so much hiking the last week while feeling tired since Whanganui. Seems my batteries are empty now. I should get a rest but with my Wellington due date I didn’t want to. But I have “holidays” with my friends upcoming anyway and am sure I can keep on walking until then. Plus the huts are not too far away and tomorrow’s 8h might only be seven for me so a short day (though intense with all the summits coming up).
The last stretch is again beautiful and to motivate my body I listen to music. At 3.15pm I arrive at the Te Matawai Hut where there are already 2 Germans and a French, all TA hikers. I have plenty of time to wash myself and do some stretching. I don’t even bother washing my shoes as tomorrow it’ll be the same mud. I talk with the Germans (I already met one of them a about 6 weeks ago at a camping place) and have a soup, followed by dinner at 5.30pm when the 4 Americans arrive as well. It’s now pouring rain outside and we try to start a fire with wet wood. Thanks to Malte’s effort it’s going for a while but we don’t have enough wood to make it last long enough.
Day 61. Te Matawai Hut – Nichols Hut. 13km. Total 1569km.
It took me a long time last night to get warm. As always I am up early and start hiking around 6.20am. It’s freezing cold, just a few degrees above zero so I am wearing my gloves. The rest of my body gets pretty warm as it’s going up the first mountain, Pukematawai, at 1432m. It takes me quite a long time to get to the top, I guess around 80 minutes. But the views are amazing. All this beautiful rainforest, hilly terrain with valleys and rivers, clouds, sun… Some of the higher mountains are so nicely powdered with snow.
After a lot of pictures I take the trail along the ridgeline that I could see traced from the summit. Obviously there is a lot of mud, but I don’t care today, it’s just too pretty. Then I enter the enchanted forest with beautiful trees and some difficult hiking, steep and roots and fallen trees.
At 10am I finally arrive at the first little 2 bunk bed hut, the Dracophyllium hut. Time for another real breakfast as I only had cold porridge before leaving this morning to not disturb the others. I have coffee and more porridge with cranberries and bread with peanut butter. The sun is also shining on me from time to time keeping me kind of warm together with the hot drink. Around 11am I continue the trail. Now it’s getting really tough, up and down over the next peaks with very steep and sometimes scary parts. I am getting very tired, my leg muscles are hurting for the first time since ages. But it’s so beautiful, the forest seems to come right out of a fairy tale. Sun and clouds come and go but my initial idea to continue straight to the third hut over Mount Crawford if the weather is good is set aside just because I am so exhausted.
I can barely make it up to the last summit, Mount Nichols. At least I can already see the hut very close from the summit and it’s just 10 more minutes. It’s only 2.30pm when I arrive. I clean myself, some of my gear and then I tidy up the small hut. Luckily no one else is there as it’s 7 TA hikers for this tiny 6 bunk hut. I get rid of all the dirt and mud so we will be comfortable. Some stretching and water filtering later the 4 Americans are arriving. It’s cold again now but there are no trees or wood around so we won’t have any fire. It will be easier though to warm up the small hut just with our body heat. Later the 2 Germans arrive as well, we are cooking and chatting and resting while it starts pouring again. I hope tomorrow it won’t be too bad and windy so we can actually continue instead of waiting out the bad weather in the small hut.