Stuck in a tiny hut waiting for the weather to clear, wondering whether I would have enough food to see me through. It was thrilling at first but with only a handful of outdated hut magazines it soon became boring. If it hadn’t of been for my gripping book and ripped trainers to sew up I may have lost my mind. I would have probably run out of food too. Do you know how diffucult it is to ration food when you are stuck in a hut with nothing to do?
Other hikers talk about how wonderful it is not to see anyone on the track and have a hut to theirselves; a chance to self reflect, to find themselves, they say. To be honest, I don’t entirely get it. I haven’t done a great deal of thinking which usually leads to overanalysing, worry and the feeling I ought to be keeping others happy rather than myself. For me, going solo out bush is with the aim to not think, not to worry and rather selfishly maybe, continue doing what I love the most. I’m exploring the great outdoors, challenging myself, meeting new people and suprising myself with how much I can do alone and despite sometimes questioning it, how confident I actually am. So I sit in my hut and wait.
The wierdest thing happened at 8:30am. I was reading my book, eating my cold oats and drinking my cold coffee when I heard footsteps and panting outside the door. The person was rather out of breath and I heard them unzip their bag and rustle inside. I coughed loudly so they wouldn’t get a fright finding me in the hut but they never came in. I was desperate to hear where they had came from and why they were here at this time in such poor weather but when I opened the door there was no one to be seen. Odd.
The weather finally cleared at 11:30am so I set off into the goblin forest which was a little disorientating at times. Above the bush line I emerged again and followed that incredible ridge. It was rather hairy, with many “if I fall now I am a goner” moments. Some of the track really was on a cliff edge and it was hard going. There’s on average five hours between each hut which the Department of Conservation (DOC) suggest you should stick to per day as it’s classified as an advanced tramp and for once I agree. It’s tough. I hadn’t seen anyone all day again but as I approached the hut I saw two little dots on a distant peak.
I knew exactly who it was. Sue and Jamie, the lovely family I stayed with in New Plymouth. By chance they were walking the same circular route but in the opposite direction. Boy was I glad to see a friendly face. Sue and I went for a dip in the tarn next to the hut. We were knee deep in smelly sulphur mud so not exactly the bath we so desperately needed but it provided us with a few giggles. Back at the hut everyone was buggered after a day walking the peaks but I felt reasonably fine. They reminded me that I was half their age. Fair point. After a few rounds of cards we hit the hay around 9pm.
I woke up early to two ladies rustling around wanting to get away by 7am. Why!? Visibility was zero at this time in the morning and I really didn’t see the point of walking a scenic track when you can’t see anything. Serious “hut baggers” they were so they were on a mission to tick off (or bag) the huts on their list. As they left they made some comments to me about having a map and compass, like I was a little foolish going it alone. I said I was fine as I had GPS – modern day hiker me! They also said that if I get scared then I should return to the hut. I tried to appreciate their mothering but I couldn’t help but think to myself that they were the dumb arses who were setting off in poor visibility. I take after my mother on the stubborn front and when strangers question my ability to do something alone, I tend to give them the middle finger and become even more determined to prove them wrong. I spent the morning trying to ration my coffee granules. How many cold water coffees could I make with my remaining teaspoon of coffee? I reminded myself that cold watery coffee is still far better than just rain water from the tank.
After a morning of card games with Sue and Jamie we were rewarded with a clearing of clouds and glorious weather for the rest of the day. We set off in opposite directions. I started with climbs over two sharp peaks on all fours. There wasn’t a track as such, just ropes and chains and rocks, which I enjoyed the most. It was risky business. I can’t lie and say I didn’t feel a little scared but the adrenaline and enormity of it all subsidied my worries. Once over the second peak I was greeted with the infamous ladder. I laughed and said out loud “you’ve got to be kidding me“. Silence. I was on my own. The rock climb to the bottom of the ladder was even worse than the ladder itself. There were no room for errors.
I was giddy with excitement, I couldn’t have imagined a more enjoyable track if I tried. I sat at the top admiring the view for 30 minutes. I walked on to Kime Junction where there was a 15 minute turn off to the next hut. I wasn’t staying there but I was running low on water and it was another two hours until the next source. I was eager to push on to the end so I sacrificed some water to save time. I passed a group of young sea scouts who were each carrying the kitchen sink with them. God knows how they were going to get over those peaks, they looked buggered already. I was forever thankful for my tiny day pack.
With my light load I flew down the mountain to historic Field Hut in excellent time. It would have been awesome to stay here as planned as it was one of the first huts built in NZ (1924) and the oldest remaining hut in Tararua Forest Park. I met a German guy there who had done some long days tramping. Again, he was carrying a year’s supply of food and things like an espresso machine. Ha. I was contemplating staying the night just so I could enjoy a good coffee with him but I still had some energy left in me so I pushed on. My knees were starting to feel it so I ran some of the way down to get it over with quicker. It was just bush by this point so not much to look at.
I reached Otaki Forks, the finish, at 6:15pm to find my bike and emergency food still there. Some of the TA walkers (walking the length of New Zealand) I had met had put a note on my bike which was a lovely welcome. I was joined in the hut by two of the sea scouts who had left the group as one of them had felt ill. They weren’t overly chatty but nice enough lads and so funny to listen to. Typical geeky lad talk about Harry Potter and bush tucker kept me amused for most of the night. They too were carrying enough to feed the 5000. I went for a swim in the river, washed my clothes and enjoyed a dinner of cold couscous and salami. I had made it. Four days of unforgettable track, magnificent weather and thrilling challenges. Highly recommended.