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TA Day 81, Top Wairoa Hut to Red Hills Hut, 29 km

The landscape changes after the Wairoa River, getting drier and more rugged.
The landscape changes after the Wairoa River, getting drier and more rugged.

I awake with a jolt from nightmares. I’d gone home trying to explain what I’m doing and then had one of those dreams where your house has extra rooms you didn’t know about. Those are always a challenge for me as though I’m not tapping into my resources fully.

I also was stirred up seeing a weird note from Chloe in the DOC Intentions book – meant to keep track that people have paid for their hut stay and to know where they’ve been and where they’re headed should they go missing. It’s about escaping people who smell bad. Surely it’s a joke, but I found her so harsh and self centered, it strikes a chord in me and feels off-putting to read in this official book.

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TA Day 80, Rintoul Hut to Top Wairoa Hut, 22 km

At Purple Top again early in the morning.
At Purple Top again early in the morning.

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.

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TA Day 79, Slaty Hut to Rintoul Hut, 13 km

All alone in the early morning on Old Man Ridge in the Richmond Range.
All alone in the early morning on Old Man Ridge in the Richmond Range.

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.

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TA Day 78, Hacket Track car park to Slaty Hut, 18 km

Near Slaty Hut looking out to the never-ending mountains.
Near Slaty Hut looking out to the never-ending mountains.

Maggie brings me outside when I wake up to show me my good luck charm – a rainbow. Cary joins us for the walk to whispering falls. A serpentine seam glistens in the sun. Maggie loaded me up with one more bagel and lox, extra cream cheese naturally. I have the last piece of rhubarb cake saved for when I finally reach the mountain view.