The hut rattles and shakes in the wind, but when I step outside for the loo, it’s not cold. I sleep surprisingly well on my little bunk, pack up Olive Oyl and head up to the ridge along an eroded path.
The sky is crystal clear, the wind keeping me cool as I push up and over and back down into mossy, sun-dappled forest. I feel insecure after John’s bragging and relive the evening trying out new come-backs.
Of course he catches me up and I suddenly decide why not capture sound for an audio narrative. I apologize to him I should have asked yesterday and I know his schedule is ‘pressed.’ He’s happy to talk, so we sit on a rock with a view out of the wind and I interview him.
You know, he really is not that much of a jerk when you talk to him one-on-one. Of course remember I interview conductors, composers and performers, all with, shall we say, ‘healthy’ egos and I’ve gotten quite good at putting people at ease and letting them share about their favorite topic – themselves.
He explains he simply likes moving fast and that at first he did tell people to lighten their loads. But he also realizes he needs to stop and enjoy the view too. And he shows a humble side, the one grateful to organize his work life so he can take huge chunks of time off.
A small revelation. He still talks too much, uses ‘I’ and interrupts too much, but I feel different after our chat. He agrees we all have to hike out own hike and it’s something I continually have to tell myself.
He takes off as I plow uphill to the Old Man, where a mini rain barrel tops me up. The ridge from here is thin and rocky with tricky footing. I see the monster Rintoul looming ahead with the ridge going deep into forest, up and back down a few more times.
By the time I reach the final forest, I slow the pace so I can keep moving up. I pop out onto stones in no time and reach the top for a lunch of salami and cheese.
Warnings tell me the scree is hard and dangerous and there’s another mountain to summit.
Whoops! This one upon which I’m feeling so chuffed having summited is Little Rintoul. Like a Simpsons episode when he points to a giant peak, but the actual peak is next to it and even more giant, everything comes into sharp focus. I’m meant to climb down – way down – from 1643 meters then back up again to 1731 meters.
And this through a scree nightmare.
It’s loose dirt, stones, and boulders, clingy some of the times, but then spilling its way over steep rock. It’s use-the-poles, use-your-hands, use-your-butt kind of climbing. It’s slow – inching-along slow – as I carefully creep down the side of the baby mountain, nearly back into trees, before I finally heave a sigh of relief and shoot right back up on scree stones of all sizes, up and up to a summit that affords a view of mountains for miles and the impossibly turquoise water of the Abel Tasman coast.
The air is perfect and I can sit here as long as I like since I’ll take a bunk at the hut below with another big mountain saved for tomorrow. But I finally leave the beauty and work my way down more epic scree. Down and over and around a crumbling rocky ridge, then up to go down and more down. Sometimes skiing, sometimes just breaking a fall.
The rock tripping hazards even follow me into the steep forest until I finally reach a clearing looking straight at the bay and over to tomorrow’s mountain. Rintoul hut is hot and buggy with a lovely Kiwi and a German gal. Jamie explains who Rintoul was, a friend of Wakefield, the man who developed the “colonial theory” to lure British colonizers with promises of perfect weather and large tracts of arable land, which in actuality were thick bush and months upon months of rain.
Everyone soon arrives – Dutch, French-Canadian, American and the Czechs! All the bunks full, but camping is pretty nice too. I put off making dinner as long as possible not sure I can ration food for five more days. It’s a perfect evening with sun out but the air getting cool.
The two firefighters engage me in conversation and offer a few drams of Southern Comfort. I’m the age of their moms and they sweetly – but clumsily – compliment my being out here and how good I look. Yes, it made my day.
Now tucked into my bunk even if still light. A mountain and some hard river walking tomorrow as clouds fill the sky. I close my eyes on a wonderful day of surprises and friends, views and attitudes adjusted.