It rains all night and I wake up so glad I walked both passes in reasonably good weather and that I went all out to get this far with only a four-hour walk out today. Hopefully I can cross the swollen rivers.
It wasn’t easy to get comfortable overnight, my legs were tight for many hours as I tossed and turned. Fortunately, Alex shuffled as well but says he slept deeply.
My dreams were filled with sorrow, all about saying very painful goodbyes. Before I closed my eyes, the Czechs and Alessio spoke about all the people hiking fast that they are impressed with. It turned me right off because it feels so shallow – and maybe also because I can’t possibly compete, even if I’m doing some very long days. The Czechs barely said hello to me when I walked in last night, but I sense tension and I don’t think it has anything to do with me exactly. He wants to move fast and has complained she takes too many breaks.
Now that the hardest parts are completed – as far as I know – I can ‘hike my own hike’ and try to distance myself from this mentality though up ahead are rivers to be crossed and it’s good to make friends.
That being said, the sky is lightening a pink glow, so perhaps the rain is over for today. And I must admit I am grateful that some of the Czech attitude rubbed off on me to get going when the going’s good – decent weather, still early and feeling energy – to get myself in position for the next bit.
I leave first as is usual, in full rain gear. It’s showering, but more squally then pouring as I cross the bouncy swing bridge only wide enough for one. The trail sidles the river deep into a canyon. There’s a reason for all this vivid green moss – moisture. But the sun still comes in and out of cloud and a rainbow appears. I feel good wending my way deep into this forested section which eventually opens up to a wide valley of flaxen grasses, a stream snaking towards me.
I cross the river on two more bridges, crunchy-clangy under my feet in the V for one person through more fairy forests before reaching the ‘metropolis’ of Boyle Village, essentially a parking lot, DOC campground and the Boyle River Outdoor Adventure Center which caters to TA hikers by holding resupply boxes, selling resupply goods and offering accommodation.
Part of why I pushed yesterday was to avoid staying in a dorm for $40 per night and eating overpriced frozen food. I puzzle over what to do while walking – stay in the village, hitch to Hanmer Springs or join Alex and Tom and begin the next section. To be honest, that option didn’t occur to me at all – even when Alex asked so sweetly last night what my plans are, honestly the first person on this entire trip to ask me that question. But when I arrive and the very businesslike – but humorless – Ange gives us our resupply parcels and informs us it’s $2 per person for trash, I wonder if maybe moving on is the best option.
Sealing the deal is the weather. Rain, and a lot of it, is expected. As a tourist tells me in the car park, “You can’t change it, so you might as well be ready for it.”
The next section crosses the southern alps and is filled with streams and rivers that must be crossed. Ange advises us to get moving before the rivers fill.
The men promise to stick with me, so I send a note to Richard through iffy cell service and we’re off.
Odd to be back on road again for just a few kilometers. We take a path through the tall grass down to the river. Our first crossing, and it’s absolutely boiling rapids – and deep. We walk clumsily along the rocks trying to find a safe spot, but it’s impossible. The option is two hours on road to the bridge, and we wisely take it. Alex hates the road and chatters on about finding another spot to cross – “We shouldn’t have bought cokes, we need a canoe!” – while Tom calmly walks on, finding plum trees along the way, succulent and full of health.
We do eventually find a bridge across a narrow gorge. It’s fenced with a sign saying ‘no access’ but it meets the trail in a matter of minutes and saves a lot of time.
Here, we split up at the Hope Kiwi track as I can’t keep their pace. It winds through another enchanted sun-dappled hobbit forest of tall beech, this variety with a black trunk oozing with a kind of nectar that attracts bees. The wind is in the tree tops, creaking and groaning. I hope a limb doesn’t decide to break off as I walk by, stepping into stream after stream, after 20, I lose count.
I reach the river and see the tiny shelter ahead – not flash enough to be called a hut. If we had it in us to go further, there’s promise of a large, modern hut, but staying in this rustic spot ensures we have it to ourselves. It’s clean with new plastic mattresses, tidy, and only a few sandflies to murder.
I apologize I’m so slow, but they tell me they’ve only been here ten minutes – and besides that, they’re tired. I guess I’m not all that slow.
Each of us unpacks our huge resupply – big mistake to buy so many heavy nuts – clean up, purify water and make dinner before the rain buckets down. Will we make it to Arthur’s Pass? No one knows, but at least we’re dry and safe in this shelter and the big river is two days away. Nothing to do now but rest.
No rest possible. Ten people – loud, obnoxious people – arrive. They do not possess inside voices, or manners. But we do, moving everything out of the way, and inviting them in all their awfullness, to sleep on the floor.
I am so happy I packed ear plugs.