It was hell!
Pea soup blanketed the view from the hut windows and as we departed, the rain started. It didn’t abate and at times, was torrential. Being soaked from above didn’t bother us as the layers underneath were merino. Over-trousers for the bottom half. More to keep the anticipated mud external.
The first 900 metres after the hut was all boardwalk. One slip and you tumbled down into the abyss beneath. The view from the next summit a thick pea soup. We bid farewell to Nick who then disappeared into it.
And then, it was hell! Puddles became streams of water; the black fudge of mud just a quagmire of deeper sludge. The pathway in some places lay dormant from footprints. One step into the bog and you sunk up to your thigh. Only once did we need to make that mistake! New paths had been stomped out to one side of the main track for easier negotiation. It didn’t cease the slipping over or sliding down as streams became mini-water falls. What the f..k was enjoyable about this?
It took us six hours to descend from Hut to the road at the bottom. Seven and a half kilometres. We vowed that this would be the worst weather and track conditions to test our mental and physical limits ever. The next 8kms to a State Highway was gravel. The rain had stopped and only the wind chill motivated us to keep pushing forward.
With thumb out, we hitched two separate rides. The second was by three young girls from the States who passed us. The driver never having driven on the left-hand side of the road before didn’t bother us. We were in a car on our way to Waitomo which would have been our destination taking us a further two days walking. The driver went from learner to fully licensed in the 40 odd kilometres driven from the back seat.
We got dropped off right outside the front door of the YHA. Dave the Manager was just brilliant at welcoming, settling and then baby stepping us with frozen venison and pork for dinner; washing, drying and folding our washing; and banter that we were South Island Kiwi’s. It was the therapy that returned us to our normal state of mind.
More importantly, the ball of yellow presented itself. Calm had restored itself. In one-self.
It was heaven down on earth once more.