Distance travelled today: 26 km
Total TA distance coveted: 2082 km
Did I sign a must have wet feet clause somewhere?
A good nights sleep and a hot shower at Boyle Village Outdoor Ed Centre was just what the doctor ordered. Plus a chance to get some laundry done. Trampers are not the Outdoor Ed Centres first priority but neither the less even after a busy week and closing down for the weekend they looked after me. It was basically just Roger and myself last night, having the run of the place to ourselves with a weekend caretaker popping in briefly.
A warm shower and fresh fruit with breakfast is always a good start to any day out on trail. Straight from the outdoor ed centre it was onto State Highway 7 for a kilometre before heading down towards the Boyle River and following its rocky banks for another 1 km before having to cross the river itself. I’d just got my socks and shoes dried and was determined to keep them that way, at least for the start of the day, so shoes and socks came off and crossed the river barefooted (never a good idea by the way). It was above my knees but not quite hip depth. Foot placements were fine but it was bloody freezing so early in the morning. Picking a line across I just kept going before my feet became numb. On the other side I sat down to dry my feet and put socks and shoes back on but it was a very rushed job. The sandflies were insane, harassing any piece of exposed skin. Arrh… They are so annoying. Along my tramp I’ve formulated a flying insect analogy with aircraft and reckon sandflies are like stealth bombers: silent, out of sight and you only know they are there when the damage is done. Anyway, one crossing down and I have dry feet, at least for now! Was that going to last? Nope. Not a chance in hell.
I had another 2.5 km to go before having to cross the Doubtful River which feeds into the Boyle River. But even before I got to the Doubtful the trail passed over some swampy ground hidden under grass that was impossible to keep out of. One foot found a soft spot and sank into the dark mirk. Quickly scrambling for a foot placement my other foot soon found out that this swampy section was wide as it also sank and became waterlogged. So less than one hour in and I have wet feet again. Awesome. This got me thinking… did I sign something along the way that committed me to having wet feet day in day out? Maybe its a hidden clause or regulation of the Back Country Hut Pass.
Always look on the bright side hey – at least this made the crossing of the Doubtful easier and I guess I didn’t have to worry about trying to find dry crossings for the rest of the day. On the down side, with wet feet all day, in the heat, particularly when there are muddy crossings, both socks and shoes reek really badly. It’s not too bad with lots of fresh water crossings and a chance to dry socks at the end of the day but constantly wet, equals constantly smelling.
The next 6 kilometres were on a section of trail basically constructed to keep walkers off the highway and link two sections of track. It was well marked and easy to follow but just shitty. Nothing of value to see, patches of gorse and scotch thistle and quite a portion following a deer fence. Anyone following in my path, save yourself the time and walk or hitch the highway to Windy Point. Some portions were brand new, with recent signs of a small machine pushing through head high manuka to form a corridor, easy to follow, nice and wide and easy to walk.
From Windy Point the trail improved massively, entering into the shade of beech forest again. This was great as the sun was out in force and burning the back of my neck. The track through the beech was perfect. Nice and wide, relatively root and rock free and following along a contour for a change rather than straight up and straight down. This continued for around 5 km before exiting the trees and heading down towards the grassy valley flats to Hope Halfway Hut. I had lunch here. Given I hadn’t had a wet foot crossing for quite a while I hung my socks and shoes out in the wind and sun and managed to get them dry again which was great.
From Halfway Hut the trail meandered through small sections of beech forest and mostly stuck to the valley flats. Not sure if these are state or privately owned but they are grazed. Signs of cattle dung was everywhere and numerous small stream crossings were showing the signs of damage as well. Besides grass pasture and native grasses the only plants that seemed to be growing were tall, very prickly wattle type of things, the footpad weaving in and out amongst the them. After four kilometres of this it was onto a swing bridge over the Hope River. Then another 1.5 km across grasslands to my destination for the day Hope Kiwi Lodge.
A good night was had at this hut. It was here I met Vanessa, an Aucklander out for an overnighter over the Waitangi Day public holiday. We got chatting and like so many others was fascinated to hear about Te Araroa and asked heaps of questions. Celine and Jeremy, a French couple who I’ve followed in the hut intention books for a couple of weeks were also there. Later, Rose arrived, a kiwi walking Te Araroa north bound. We spent the evening talking through various sections that each of us would encounter over the coming weeks which was great. I learned that Deception Valley is no problem and watch out for the Two Thumbs track. Rodger also showed up later in the day.