Day 62. Nichols Hut – Waitewaewae hut. 8 km. Total 1577km.
There was a storm last night and we even had to tighten the cord with which we made the door stay closed. It was rather warm with the 7 of us heating up the small hut. But in the early morning we are still right in the middle of a cloud with rain and very strong wind. As the hut is rather protected down a saddle, no way we can hike up to the exposed Mount Crawford. I knew it yesterday but was too tired to continue. So maybe this is the forced rest my body desperately needs? In any case I am just lying in my sleeping bag, sleeping a little bit more until I get too hungry around 7.30am. Usually I have breakfast at 6am. So I have my warm porridge and the others are getting started as well. Then we chill out and I start my planning for the South Island resupply. Slowly it’s getting better outside, although we are still in the clouds, the rain and wind are getting less.
We start packing up and eat some kind of lunch so we don’t have to stop on the trail. The Americans head out first and I follow with Christian and Malte just before noon. I asked if I can join them for safety reasons. Soon we have to stop and take off clothes as it’s getting hot. I can feel the sun coming through the clouds. Come on sun, you can do it! I tell the guys that I speak with the weather sometimes and it listens to me. And today it is again. It takes us about an hour for the hike up Mount Crawford at 1462m and the clouds are slowly moving away, giving beautiful views and a mystical feeling. At the top I cannot believe how lucky I am again, although it’s not fully clear, it’s maybe even better to see the play of the clouds and the mountains around us. Time for a picture and phone stop (signal only at the peaks here, probably none further down).
We are then tramping on the ridge, I love it, the views, the small bushes, the clouds, the sun. The sun is now fully out and it’s getting hot. But we are heading down back into the bush. And what a wonderful fairytale bush it is again! Wow! Alas, joy lasts only shortly, it is a very steep and difficult hike downhill, 1250m of altitude.
It takes us quite some time, sliding, falling, swearing before we finally reach the Otaki river with the swingbridge. Then another 10 minutes before arriving at 4.30pm at the Waitewaewae hut. The Americans are already there. It’s nice and new and there is firewood. But even better it has access to the river and I quickly go to soak myself in the water. It is very cold but so good. I let my body dry in the warm sun afterwards. Unbelievable we were sitting just this morning in a cold hut in a storm! Live is full of surprises and this trail makes anything happen. Later we sit by the fire (finally there’s wood!) for dinner, it’s so nice!
I am still tired though, even with the short (but strenuous) hike today, so maybe I should take it slow again tomorrow, only hiking on to the next hut? I can still make it to Wellington on time, just having to hike longer days but then on easier and mostly flat area.
Day 63. Waitewaewae hut – Parawei hut. 11.5km (some parts new and longer trail than in the TA maps). Total 1586km.
It has been raining again last night and continues this morning. As the four Americans get ready before 7am I don’t feel like hiking at all, especially in the rain. So it’s decided, another short day only to the next hut for me. Christian and Malte are also just hiking to the next hut and so we can enjoy some more time together. They have to be in Wellington one day after me though and have a bit more time. Malte’s wife is going to join him for a few weeks.
We are sleeping in, reading, listening to music, having breakfast, I do my exercises and around 11am we start, having accepted that the rain wouldn’t be stopping anyway. So we are hiking out in the rain, protected somewhat by the bush. But we are walking in streams now! The trail is submerged in many places and soon I just don’t bother anylonger trying to keep my feet dry, just walking right through. The river in which I took my bath yesterday is now way up higher, I cannot even see the little rocks I dried on yesterday. That should have teached us a lesson already. The first real stream crossing we have to walk way through water, the next one we can walk or crawl over a tree.
Then we continue in the water although supposedly it is the trail, which is by the way turning in rounds and doesn’t feel right but my GPS isn’t working and with the rain it’s anyway difficult to use my phone. The next stream looks very difficult and fast. We try to find a good spot but it’s all very fast flowing and rather high. I suggest we go as a group as I read it’s the best way to do it. So we hold on to each other and support the person who is in the most difficult place. And it works out very well! We are soaking wet but safe on the other side. Now I really understand why we are constantly warned about dangerous river crossings after heavy rain. Just no warning today in the trail notes and we follow actually a trail recommended for wet weather. I am so happy to be with the guys, otherwise I might have needed to return to the hut or might have been swept away.
It’s a tough day though, the trail is hard tramping and with the water it’s really difficult. One of the next streams looks difficult but also there is a tree to hold on to. While Malte is hesitating I think that I can do it and walk right into the water. I hold on to the tree throwing my poles away to the other side and then I am almost swept away. I can feel how I loose grip but cannot say a word to the guys. Just when Christian asks if I am alright I manage to say no and they help me out somehow. Wow, that was a big lesson learned, especially for the tough ones coming in the South Island. Finally we get onto an easier trail and also the rain stops!
We even get some views before reaching the swingbridge and the final kilometer to the Parawei lodge. It’s a pretty old and damp hut, the Americans are already there and lit a fire but there isn’t much wood. After changing and hanging up the clothes, Christian and Malte chop some trees and try to get the fire going further. I don’t think any of my stuff will be dry tomorrow but well, I will be in a town and need to wash everything anyway (for the first time it’s so gross that I hate putting on my hiking clothes in the morning). Also my rain pants are now completely ripped open at my butt (the guys didn’t tell me!). I will have to buy new ones in Wellington.