The Rurus - Adventure Before Dementia

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Month: December 2016 (page 1 of 3)

28/12/16 Turangi:  Happy Birthday to You!

Mike and Karen headed off toward Taupo for a day of activity; we remained behind to relax somewhat.

A friend from the past having seen the picture of the Kiwi statue overshadowed by Mt Tongariro made contact for a coffee catch up as they were going to be transiting through Turangi.  Wendy and her partner Phil were following their noses tiki touring the centre of the North Island.  Our kids had attended the same primary school and we were on the PTA together (fundraising committee) back in the day so it was great to connect and bridge stories of where the kids were at today.  They are grandparents.  We have yet to experience becoming those yet.  It’s fantastic when you can pick up a conversation after all this time as if it were yesterday, but wasn’t.

Today was Mikes birthday.  It provided us with an opportunity to not only partake in another candle being added to the birthday cake; but one where we could put on the apron and cook a meal as a treat to help them both celebrate a milestone.

Green Lipped Mussels cooked in an onion, garlic, red chilli and wine broth and salad with a slice of Salmon side dish; washed down with a Peter Yealands Sav Blanc.

“Happy Birthday to You!”

The distance between noodles, oats and trail mix scroggin is widening … eeeeeeeeeek!

27/12/16 Tongariro Nat Park to Turangi: Te Porere Redoubt

Folk had invited us to come visit between now and the day we needed to be at Tauramanui to start the canoe section of the TA.  Our friends the Wilsons from Auckland who were holidaying at Ohope Beach near Whakatane and our friends Colin and Elly who had relocated to Gisborne from Christchurch.  Mike and Karen from the US (we did the Tongariro Crossing with Mike) also invited us to stay in Turangi where they had a large time-share place for a week with the offer to pick us up.

A guilty feeling at the lack of boot sole to earth also simmered.  Apart from the crossing itself, we have been treading water in anticipation to canoe since the descent out of the Pirongia’s.  Too many options each with their logistical pro’s and con’s.  Furthermore, BClaire’s brother and family were going to be in Taupo for New Year’s Eve and thus added additional decision making to the mix as to whether we catch up with them to sing ‘auld lang syne’ as mid-night ticks over.

The Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk located in Te Urewera National Park was also attractive as something to explore and discover.  However, further research showed all the huts and tent sites were fully booked and so squashed that as an option.  The having to compete as a native New Zealanders on our own terra firma is rampant at this time of the year.

We were ready and waiting when Mike and Karen picked us up.  We headed for the Whakapapa Village and stopped off at a couple of roadside walks.  The snow fed Tawhai Falls were beautiful as they cascaded over a three metre or so drop.  The water looked inviting.  It also looked cold.

The Visitors Centre at Whakapapa was informative.  The video showing volcanic eruption footage reminded us that we live on an ever-changing planet crust surface.  The snow peak mountain backdrop today was quiet behind the Tongariro Chateau Hotel.  We ventured into the foyer wearing our trekking apparel and boots to be asked if we were lost?

“No, we are just showing our American friends where they could come and stay to ski during the winter months.  Is there somewhere where they could land their helicopter?”

Mike and Karen don’t own a helicopter.  Mike parking the pregnant roller skate on an angle where the back wheel was up on the curb was hilarious.  Thank goodness that was parked up the street otherwise we would have been evicted there and then due to us not looking the part!  The Chateau is worth a squiz if up this neck of the woods.  As was he drive up to the ski field itself.

Another roadside stop at Te Porere Redoubt where the last major battle of the New Zealand Wars was fought in October 1869.  Te Kooti was defeated by a combined force of Armed Constabulary and Māori fighters ‘from all points of the compass’.  The preserved earth fortifications remind us of our significance as a people to protect our Aotearoa lands.  More so today from foreign purchase and ownership.

Turangi is at the bottom of Lake Taupo when looking at a map of New Zealand.  The Desert Road forks into it from the south and is generally a through town for travelers to stop, refuel and grab a bite to eat.  It swells at this time of the year due to our summer holiday season.

We now making up the numbers!

26/12/16 Tongariro National Park: Her Name Was Judith

dsc00309Her name was Judith.  She is 78 years of age.

Her tiny body frame had curvature from a slightly arched back however, she held eye contact when conversing.  And although she spoke with a British accent, she had weathered the New Zealand enunciation from having lived here so long.  Her current place of residence is Wanganui.

Taking the bus to Tongariro National Park, she had booked into the YHA Hostel for three nights.  Rapport was quick when she threw out a smile and salutation greeting.  She did this with everyone whom glanced her way.  Only the very young didn’t bother to acknowledge her presence perhaps seeing some old woman out of character in a youth hostel.

When we arrived back after our crossing on Christmas Day, she had perched herself in a corner.  Probably sat there all day as her ability to walk very far was limited due to her now frailness.  A plastic bag with goodies to keep her nourished and a book borrowed from the Library.  Yet, her smile of belonging was infectious.  There was further communication describing our day on the volcanic tundra and then it was our turn.  We listened to her describing her experiences of walking the lands back in the 70’s.  Those days for her are long gone but she painted the picture as if she too had joined us on our walk only a few hours earlier.

Another family trying to co-share the oven had their pork roll generate smoke to fog the kitchen and dining area but luckily, didn’t set off the smoke alarm.  We changed method to microwave and then pan fry our vegetables to accompany our medium rare steak.  Judith shared her icing sugar for us to sprinkle on our strawberries.  It was our Christmassy treat and certainly masked the bitterness zing of just a raw berry.

Catching a train to Palmerston North and then a bus to Wanganui, Judith was returning home today.  We asked how she was getting to the station 800 metres down the road.  I’ll just walk and my suitcase has wheels.  BClaire escorted her pulling the handle for Judith and there was time for BClaire to shout a coffee at the station café.  A return treat for her icing sugar donation.

Judith has no immediate family in New Zealand.  Some nephews and nieces but they have their own lives.  She has lots of friends and associations which begged the question why she would come to the YHA hostel at the Park to spend Christmas Day?  We have yet to experience solitude loneliness at an old age.  Even then we would want to be around fellow beings to share in the emotion the day itself conjures up.  Even a cat would suffice we suppose!

Our inquisitive minds asked the question, why here Judith?  Why have you come to the Park to spend your Christmas day with total strangers?

Her response:

”If I had of stayed at home, there would be too many people who would make a fuss over me and I get that all year.  This was a place I could get to with public transport.  It’s a place to be able to have some quiet time in my own space.  I chose this place because it’s where nature can be seen from the window and, this place brings back some fond memories of when I traversed the view I could see from where I sat.  The people I have met here during my time keeps my memories young.  Whilst I still can remember.”

We have arranged to meet up for another coffee when we arrive into Wanganui after the canoeing section of the Te Araroa Trail.

The loveliest genuine smile you could ever wish for in a fellow being.

The place wasn’t the same without her presence today.  But remembered.

25/12/16 Tongariro Alpine Crossing – 19.4kms: New Zealand’s Best One Day Hike.

dsc00137-1280x853To all our whanau and friends across the globe … merry Merry Christmas from the Rurus.  Peace and love to one and all … and a beer/wine cheers.

We awoke to mist and light rain!

All the wet weather gear was being worn as we boarded the bus transport to the start, some thirty minutes away.  Wow, the number of people who shared the kilometerage with us was astounding. We thought there would be fewer doing it today given it was Christmas Day.  How wrong we were?

Tar seal turned into gravel still with wipers criss-crossing the windshield of the bus.  The words of advice from the driver just before we disembarked on 8am was that our pick-up time on the other side was 4pm.  It would be sufficient time to do the crossing and if adventurous, summit Mount Doom as well.

Here we were greeted by Mike and Karen from the US.  We meet these two at Waitomo YHA where they shared a piece of dirt tenting just along from us for two nights.  Only a couple of years married, they were still in their honeymoon period and being in their early sixties, there was a lot of life left if you know what I mean!  Mike was joining us to do the crossing together, Karen who recently had a knee operation wasn’t able to.  Christmas salutations were exchanged and then we stepped off.

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The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered New Zealand’s best one day hike for both cultural significance and dramatic, awe inspiring natural scenery.  Climbs can be steep and the weather unpredictable.

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It is a highway path when compared to the trail tracks we have encountered and made the crossing unbelievably enjoyable.  The foot traffic was dumbfounding in the volume of fellow crossers.  It was a global multi-cultural day out for tourists as the different languages reverberated on wooden boardwalks and climbing steps.  Bugger all New Zealander’s except for one family doing the non-traditional celebratory thing.  Lucy their youngest protesting that her parents had ruined her day by making her do the crossing!

Approximately three kilometres into the thing, the shroud of cloud went ‘poof’ and evaporated to reveal Mt Ngauruhoe’s scree covered cone.  It was stunning.  We could make out bodies ascending to its peak and when we reached the marker pointing us in the direction of up, we thought staying with Mike the better option so as to respect our elders and be there for him in case of need!

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dsc00179-1280x853Crossing the crater floors where dormant lava flows lay at peace was eerie.  The trail was well formed and wisps of cloud would swoop up and over the crater wall to immerse the trail of walkers.  Then lift to reveal the colony of ant sized figurines.  We ascended to a further marker pointing to the Tongariro summit.  Here walkers were resting.  The views as far as the eyes could see were remarkable.

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To then descend down an internal crater face, we were exposed to a crevasse that was a sheer drop off into the centre of the earth.  We had never before seen such redness colour soil.  Vapour escaped from vents and the emerald green lakes were breath-taking.  We sat beside one to eat lunch.  They are warm, acidic lakes fed by snow melt and beautiful.  The smell of sulphur although pungent, added to the ambience of the environment atmosphere.  We sat and watched other walkers descend in the hundreds.

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Once across a second crater floor, we were up and over onto the outer face and could see Lake Taupo off yonder.  Other folk like us were wearing Santa Hats with having gotten into the spirit.  Their redness in the faces though wasn’t through sun burn but from a bottle of bubbly they had humped and consumed to celebrate a 43year dream to do the crossing.  It was so cool.  And smart … why didn’t we think of that?

8kms up from the end, Karen (Mike’s wife) had walked up to greet us and this was amazing.  She wanted to test out her new bionic knee and had done well given the trail steepness and all.  We are a creature of habit to push the body boundaries and it was lovely to descend the pathway down swapping life as re-marrieds with life goals.

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A temporary hut not allowed for overnight stopping displayed holes in its roof and floor from where the rocks landed after an eruption from the Te Maari crater back in 2012.  Vapour clouds rose from the direction and was enough for us to make pace down to our waiting transport back to our accommodation.

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Not before crossing over a 700metre point of the track that is designated for lahar (mud flow) from a collapsed crater lake wall; nor bidding farewell to Mike and Karen who arrived just as we embarked onto the bus.

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The evening back at the YHA hostel was just a buzz of people.  The kitchen was alive with aroma of cuisine being cooked; bottles of wine and beer being charged as new friendships choreographed and the merriness of Christmas conversation eminent to background sounds of festive song.

Thank goodness the South Korean arrived back long after the bus had left the end of the crossing trail.  He had missed the cut off time and therefore had to find his own way home.  We thought he decided to walk to North Korea!  Nope, he summited Mt Doom and it took longer than anticipated.  The smile on his face was one of elated exhaustion.  He’s seeing the world before his compulsory two-year conscription into military service that he isn’t motivated to want to do.  Especially with the neighbours they have.  Not the doom he wants to be ever summit.

We are so lucky to have our paradise so far removed.  By the streams of people numbers visiting our slice of heaven today, you can have all the Christmas pudding you ever want.  And more.

Another day come and gone with diversity.

See you again next year Snoopy.  Where ever that may be!

24/12/16 Waitomo to Tongariro National Park – 170kms Hitch: Tis The Day Before Christmas

Dave offering to drop us off at Te Kuiti but driving us the whole way to Tauramanui was awesome.  The rolling farmland with weathered hillsides lush in green was a total contrast to the flat lands of Canterbury.  The is beauty in ruggedness.

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Dave, Steph and Max from the YHA Hostel ‘Juno Hall’ have been exceptional.  If there was any a time to re-invent one’s lifestyle choices to manage a back packers hostel, then this experience was it.  It’s all in the personality of the person to make a hostel a home away from home with parent surrogacy to some of the patrons.  As much as it is to tell someone whom believes the customer is always right to move on however, disrespects hospitality.  That is putting it bluntly with politeness.  We loved it.

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Two further hitches and we arrived at Tongariro National Park.  In the distance was the pathway we came to conquer, the Tongariro Crossing.

Mt Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu, and Mt Ngauruhoe (known by many a tourist as Mount Doom from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy) were shrouded in cloud.  A volcanic grouping with Ruapehu being the North Islands highest peak at 2797m (9176ft).

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It can drop to below zero Celsius at height and the wind chill factor has been known to freeze bones to near death.  But get a stunning day with clear blue skies, and sun block needs to be applied to prevent sun burn.

By evening, the cloud had dispersed and it revealed the topography with splendour and awe.  Tis the day before Christmas and there were no Christmas socks hung this year.

Only the ones to be worn tomorrow.

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22/12-23/12/16 Waitomo Layover Some More: Kiwiana Immortalized

Hearing the first Christmas song being sung on the radio brought all the movement of what we were doing at the time to a standstill.  The beat, internalized, had one singing the words and thumping the foot.

It propels the mind to wander to loved ones be it family or friend.  Close and afar.  To new friendships made over the years. Even friendships lost over time for whatever the reason.  Happy thoughts.  Warm thoughts.  Missing presence thoughts.

We made the decision to stay on at the YHA Waitomo for a further two nights.  The atmosphere of this community has been our family leading up to the next part of the trail.  More so to have a sense of belonging as the big fat red fella’s day approaches.

The bodies have rested extremely well.  The minds nourished.

The squally downpour during one night pitter pattered rain hard against the canvas.  Our Kermit tent held fast and protected us from the elements.  The wind that blasted through yesterday buffeted its shape.  Our Kermit tent held fast again.

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We hitched a ride into Otorohanga to re-supply treating ourselves to a Mince and Cheese Pie and Sausage Roll.  Good god they were good!  Typical kai when one is a tourist needing a stomach top up to quench the thirst for pastry and sauce!

The heart of Otorohanga is all about New Zealand’s yesteryear.  They have immortalized Kiwiana absolutely superbly, where origins began and things were made to last with less processed inhabitants.

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Who remembers when milk was once delivered to your door step in glass bottles; the introduction of the television with only one channel in black and white; or “We are the boys from down on the farm, we really know our cheese … there’s much better value in Chesdale, it never fails to please?”

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Being the first country in the world to give women the vote; Edmund Hillary summiting Mount Everest; the first bungy jumping operation; to our haka being feared on the battlefields across the globe performed by the Maori Battalion.

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Yep.  An easily drive through township just up the road from bums where the sun doesn’t shine that attracts the hordes of folk in the thousands to want to come see.  Take the extra thumb ride into Otorohanga and learn about our identity.  It strengthened the sense of belonging, proud Kiwi’s more grateful for our Aotearoa.

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The feet need to get walking it.  Tomorrow we make our way to Tongariro National Park to complete the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, on Christmas Day.  Thumping to the beat of John Lennon’s ‘Happy Xmas’ song.  No chance to standstill we anticipate.

However, certainly warm thoughts to one and all.

21/12/16 Waitomo Layover 2: No Words Necessary

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20/12/16 Waitomo Layover: Illuminated Bum Ends

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Situated on the outskirts of the Waitomo village, the hostel is awesome.

The transient traveller comes to this part of New Zealand for its underworld and what lies beneath.  Tubing, abseiling, zip lining or jumping over cascading underground waterfalls are all part of the experience to witness the solar system night sky created by the mystical glow worms whom live in the chambers of stalactites and stalagmites.

It is an unforgettable subterranean journey that should be included on either your down-under (if from overseas) or internal (if from within NZ) experience.  We would recommend the YHA Hostel as being the place to stay.  The community of like mindedness was a breath of fresh air.  It was the place to regather mindfulness after the past two days!

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Sophie the Engineer from Wales; Annika the student from Germany; Rob the Tour guide from the US; and the rest who are nameless but not faceless.  Later in the day, Nick whom we shared the hut with up the top of the Pirongia Range completed walking all the way to Waitomo.  His account of the descent yesterday was on par with ours … and now put behind us.

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Sophie allowed us to share a ride and do a bush walk.  Of all the things to do on a rest day, we go walking!  The limestone rock pancake layering formations reminded us of the temples in Cambodia – Ankor Wat.  The water snaking through grooves, archways and tunnels with a hiss and a roar was swift and sometime still.  We watched some tubers exit from a black hole all suited up in wet suits with pearly white teeth from grins.  One natural cave had a solitary glow worm glowing.  We looked for a switch to confirm it was natural!  Yep, confirmed.  It was natural.

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Another complimentary pick up had us arrive at Roselands Restaurant up some twisty road out back country.  We paid $10 for all you can eat rice, stew and roasted potatoes and $5 a beer.  Having to be rolled out after scoffing ourselves full, it was dark.  We were escorted to a hillside wall where the night was illuminated from the bum ends of heaps more glow worms.

Seeing an opossum dead on the way back from road kill had the tourists agasp when I asked “Where do you think the meat in the stew came from?”

We recommend eating there also, naturally.

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19/12/16 Pahautea Hut to Waitomo – 15kms + 40kms Hitch: It Was Hell

It was hell!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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It was heaven down on earth once more.

18/12/16 DOC Nikau Camp to Pahautea Hut – 8kms: Sticking The Pig

Filtering water last night and this morning took over 2,000 pumps with the handle.  A great upper arm work out but it was ridiculously time consuming.  The sand-flies went from famine to feast in two sittings of me down at the stream water’s edge.  Bloody speckled skin from all the swatting.  Who invented them anyway?  And what is their purpose on this planet?  Rather have snakes I think!

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Distance wise, today was day one of the Pirongia Traverse.  8kms on the Tahaunui Track ascending to the summit at 959 metres taking 4-5 hours to stay at the Pahautea Hut.

We were the last to de-camp as the others water filter mechanics were quicker.  At 2km per hour, we were doing well.  Meeting a Father and Son on the track with three pig dogs was exciting.  Their bounty of a wild soar was impressive.  Roasted wild pork on the barbque is divine.

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Each dog had a collar locator beacon affixed to its neck.  When they smell, and chase a pig, the thing can lead them on a wild goose chase into the depths of the bush.  This one did.  For a kilometre and a half this one did before the chaps caught up with the thing, dogs keeping it cornered.  Sticking the pig was how it got extinguished.

Now they each took turns to carry their mornings hunt back into suburbia.  A forth dog was a further 3.5 km up the track.  They weren’t worried.  Eventually, the dog realises the hunt is over and would make its way back down and home.  We passed Ziggy coming down way further up the track.  We were still going up because no barbque invitation was forth coming!

As the ascent went up, so too did the steepness and mud.  Our pace slowed to 1km per hour.  It was horrendous.  It was the toughest yet and exhaustion on top of fatigue wasn’t made easier by pictures of pork belly pig!   Reaching the summit was relief.  The highest point yet so far on the trail, the 360° views were worth the blood, sweat and tears.  That’s what we told ourselves.  Self-talk is important under the influence of stress!  It’s the highest point reached yet so far on the trail.  The extinct volcano transitions between kauri forest of the north and the beech forest of the south.

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Another half a kilometre and we were at the hut.  Yay!  Nick, one of the TA walkers we shared the campsite with the night before was there.  A fellow Kiwi too.  Everyone else had gone over and down.  Another two overnighters arrived.  A Dad and daughter.  They had trekked up a different track.  It was so cool to learn how she had chosen to live out of a pack for forty hours as part of a homework assignment.  The Pahautea Hut wasn’t an easy ascent and her achievement reminded us of ours.  She lifted our spirits.  Good on you Dad.

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The weather forecast for tomorrow afternoon predicted rain.    Our gamble was to spend the night at the hut and get down first thing as quickly as.  The time to descend showed 4 hours.   As the hut became quiet from everyone retiring early, cloud had started to roll in.

We don’t often pray.  This night we did.  Please someone up there, hold off the wet till we get down.  Walking up the track in dry conditions was heaven.  To walk down in wet, that would, be hell.

Amen.

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