I grab two bars, pack Olive Oyl and head up Purple Top before sunrise. A family of goats meets me as I come out of the trees, and low cloud like a bubble bath for row upon row of blue mountains.
The top is off trail, so I leave my pack below on a quest for views. The sun heats the valley, burning the cloud cover to small cottony drifters. I feel so energized after last night. Nice, interesting people. We laugh and share and commiserate. It is what I needed. I can see the hut from here and the long scree slog. Soon I’ll go down into the river valley and say goodbye to views for the rest of today.
Which isn’t entirely true as tantalizing openings show the mountain I just crossed and the red hills I hope to reach tomorrow. Wasps are everywhere on the way to Tarn hut, one tangles in my hair buzzing noisily by my ear. I keep my mouth closed as I walk.
I meet three heavily-laden NOBO’s (northbounders) and share beta. They have no interest in the north island. The woods have a few blow downs and it reminds me of the awful trails up north. These are well cared for, and it doesn’t hurt it’s dry now.
The trail goes up, down and ‘sidles’ mountaintops before dropping 500 meters on badly eroded trail to the Wairoa river where I escape inside to avoid the heaps of sandflies.
I’m back to emerald green pools clear to the bottom as I walk up the river. Rippled light bounces on the white rock above. On this section, the trail is sometimes very thin high above the water. I use roots and rock for handholds and step carefully. I accidentally use a handful of stinging nettles, the pain firing all over my left hand. The rushing rapids are a constant companion and I’ll cross it eight times, but in no hurry. The hut will be hot until the sun sets, so best to saunter through this last part. I wonder who will follow me tonight.
I sing different songs for each crossing to correspond to its number. Right now, I’m on Take Five with water only to below my knees.
The trail is on mossy rock above a triple waterfall, boiling white pauses to green-brown then over the smoothed edge. I cross directly above them. Falls mean steep climbing. The hut is out of the trees below a high mountain and I’ll climb its shoulder in the morning.
Now over boulders and sand next to a torrent. This is not the place to be after a long period of rain or during snow melt, obviously. The eighth crossing takes me straight up dirt and scree to a flat spot and I’m greeted by the privy staked to the ground with guy-wires and painted bright orange. The hut too is bright orange with ‘513’ painted on its side. I’m not sure the meaning as I’m back up at 832 meters.
It’s empty, so I set up on my favorite bunk sideways to the door and across the room. Access to the water is steep, but doable so I fill up and rinse my hair and face. Absolute bliss.
My routine begins with soup – like tomato or chicken – then another soup where I mix noodles, tuna, cashews, olives, LSA and yeast flakes. It replaces liquids and gives me protein. I’m hungry all the time and now I’m munching on chocolate.
I love having the hut all to myself, but the Czechs show up and it’s pretty nice to be together.
I planned to walk further today because the last section there were so many warnings about the tricky ‘sidling’ on narrow, steep trails plus all the river crossings. The air was perfect and, while still full and rushing, the river was easy to cross.
I sometimes get too wrapped up in ‘getting there’ which makes me slog too fast and for too long. I skipped the cool swimming hole at the lower hut, mainly because it was hot and the sandflies were feasting. But I regret not going in, though the crossings and my mini hair ‘wash’ made up for it. Tomorrow, I’ll likely not choose to go quite as far so I can take more time to enjoy.
That being said, my hour all alone on Purple Top this morning with the mass of clouds below was pretty special and required time off trail to get there. So all in all, a fine day. And since it’s 8, I’ll begin to prepare for bed!