Day 87. Mount Rintoul Hut – Mid-Wairoa Hut. 15km. Total 1893km.
It was so warm at night I could even sleep with my sleeping bag open and have some more space for my legs. I also didn’t wake up once at night!
When getting dressed and preparing breakfast I can feel the cold though, it’s only 8 degrees Celsius. So we better get started (7.15am) and hike up some hill to feel warm again! The hike today is easy and soon we are on the summit of Purple Top (love the name but don’t see why it has been given). The views are incredible again. I never before had so many sunny days in a row on the trail.
We continue in the bush, getting every now and then a glimpse of the mountains and forest, rather easy trail with some scrambling. Much sooner than expected we reach Tarn Hut, it took us only 3h30 instead of 5h. It’s a nice small hut a bit downhill from the trail at a small lake. It’s still early but we have lunch there anyway.
Then more and more hours in the forest. Time can be a strange concept when you walk in the monotony of a forest, having your mind wonder and reaching a certain meditative state. Just interrupted by a few difficult parts and the few conversations Peggy and I have. The final stretch is very steep downhill for half an hour till we reach the river and the swingbridge. 100m further is our hut, another 6 bunk one. The perks of arriving here early at 2.30pm? Swimming in the river on the green shaded freezing cold pool, washing clothes, body and hair, drying everything in the sun, reading, relaxing and hating the sandflies that ruin our peaceful afternoon.
The group of 7 Kiwis arrive one after the other, most of them camping outside again.
Day 88. Mid-Wairoa Hut – Hunters Hut. 17km. Total 1910km.
Waking up at just 400m altitude means it’s pretty warm this morning! No freezing, but instead buggering sandflies 😦 We have another challenging day ahead, 8 river crossings and very steep terrain in the first part. Off we go, right on the difficult trail. I know now what the word sidling means! Steep up on your right, steep down into the river on your left and a small bit of trail in between. It’s alright though for me, I can trust my feet and legs by now and just walk as always.
The first of eight river crossings already makes my feet wet – but the other seven are only coming at the end of this section to Top Wairoa Hut. The river is amazing, the green-blueish colour of the pools, the waterfalls, the stones, it’s ever changing and in between you doubt how to cross it again but it’s doable every time.
When crossing the last time before the Top Wairoa we enter a completely different landscape. Red hills, huge rocks, dryish looking terrain. The Top Wairoa Hut is featuring a bright orange look and 6 bunks.
We try to dry our shoes a bit while having lunch, considering if the weather will be good enough to go up to the next hut. It’s pretty exposed and the sky full of white and grey clouds with already wind down here. But it’s only noon and the group of eight Kiwis arrived and plan to stay here. We decide to continue, hiking now uphill for a few hundred metres of altitude, on red rocks and in tussock till we reach the saddle. It’s drizzling a bit but stopping again, the wind gets pretty heavy though especially on the ridge now. I am overwhelmed by the landscape, it feels like being on a different planet all of the sudden. The arid, red mountains around us, the river far below. Hard to capture on camera but impressive. The wind and clouds actually fit well into the scenery.
We hike by Mount Ellis, close to its 1600m summit before getting another view of Golden Bay. Damn. We are still not further away from it, every two days we can see it from a summit and hike hard in between but it’s still there! Well, it also means I have a signal and quickly check my phone for any important news from friends or family. I also make a reservation for the Alpine Lodge in St Arnaud in two days. It’s 3pm but still 5km to the hut. After a break we don’t feel like it but we have to hike on, downhill now sometimes steep to the river, crossing it here (easily).
Then some more out of the world landscape before crossing the much bigger river once more and hiking 15 more minutes uphill to the very nice 8 bunk Hunters Hut. It’s only 20 years old and has a great view of the mountains. Tim, a Kiwi hiking the Te Araroa South Island is already there, he overtook us earlier. It’s close to 6pm, we were quite slow for the last section. After dinner Pawel also arrives and just afterwards it starts to rain. After the rain, the sun provides beautiful red glowing clouds and we enjoy the evening, laughing and chatting. Very happy to have made it to this hut!