I had really enjoyed my evening in Te Anau, with Fiona, the English woman, as we swapped travel and tramping adventures over huge pizzas and beer.
Next morning I stayed snuggled up in my bed in the tepee for longer than I should have and mucked around packing and breakfasting in the hostel kitchen. Then I realised I hadn’t bought enough dinners so put on my pack and headed to the supermarket. Whilst there I realised I had left some stuff in the fridge at the hostel so went back in and bought more salami and cheese.
Then I couldn’t resist a coffee at a cafe so I wasn’t out on the road hitching until after 11am. But the days walk was only 5- 6 hours as I remembered. I was soon picked up by a woman working for the Guide Dog Association. She had just delivered a retired dog to it’s new home in Te Anau and was heading back to Dunedin. We chatted about the Camino de Santiago as she had been considering walking it.
She dropped me at nearly noon at the start of Princhester Road which I was to follow to the Lower Princhester hut where I planned to eat my lunch. No rain at this stage but this is Fiordland, one if the wettest areas if New Zealand and it had rained solidly for the last 2 days and was forecast to rain again in the afternoon.
The trail goes firstly through a farm, then through the Takitimu Conservation Area before crossing Mt Linton Station, ending on the highway between Otautau and Tuatapare. The trail notes say 3 – 4 days and I was aiming for 3 days.
However I arrived at Lower Princhester Hut 1.30 to see a sign saying it was another 8 hours to Aparimu Hut. The sign indicated that this would take 4 days of 8 hours each. So much for my plan of doing it in 3 days. I ate my lunch quickly then took off like a mad woman determined to get to Aparimu Hut before 8 pm when it would be dark. That gave me 6.5 hours to get there. My Plan B was to make camp at 7.30 pm if I wasn’t on track to make the hut by 8 pm.
So into the bush I go and it is now raining and the track is already very muddy, slightly reminiscent of Raetea Forest, way back in the early weeks of the trail. I have been spoiled with the good weather for the vast majority of the trail so felt I couldn’t complain. Not that there was anyone to hear my complaint! Is a complaint a complaint, if no one is there to hear it? This question kept my mind occupied for quite some time.
Some parts were steep and slippery and hard going so now I was realizing why it would take so long to do 16 km. I didn’t stop to take many photos at all after the first hour as I was on a mission: I didn’t want to waste any precious minutes of daylight.
Eventually I came out into high tussock grass that was very wet underfoot. I struggled to see the markers with the rain, fog, and grass nearly as tall as me. It was very slushy underfoot and I had to use all my concentration to miss the deep holes filled with yukky, smelly, muddy water. I fell into many of them and had to pull myself out just to step in another hole shortly afterwards. This was really hard work!
When I was just about over that it was back into the bush and the slippery roots and mud again. The rest of the afternoon alternated between these 2 scenarios. It really was hard going but I didn’t stop at all except to dip my cup in the creeks to drink as I came across anything that looked halfway drinkable.
I was on a mission, and even though it was bloody hard work, I was enjoying myself and my spirits were good. My mantra was “Just keep going at a good rate and you will be there by 8” And that is just what I did.
Whew! At 7.45 pm I was nearly overcome with emotion when I smelt smoke from the chimney of the little Aparimu hut. This hut is renowned for having the biggest and boldest mice population but I didn’t care.
Inside was German man doing a few sections NOBO and Natalie who I had met at Te Anau. She had told me that she had been following me for weeks but hadn’t been able to catch me. My extra rest day in Te Anau allowed her to catch up.
The hut books are our permanent record of where we have been and who is in front of us, what the weather was for them and they are a compulsory and an exciting read. We know each others handwriting well before we may meet in person. For most of us it is the only reading we do each day.
I was very wet and fairly cold so changed my clothes out on the veranda. My hands were so numb that it was difficult to take off my socks, undo buttons etc. I thought about asking for some help but didn’t want to make anyone come out into the cold. So I fumbled on and soon I was inside in the warm getting my dinner on. The others were in their sleeping bags telling me about the cheeky mice trying to get into their food bags as they were cooking their dinner and running over their feet as they sat at the table. Mice are okay but I couldn’t sleep knowing there were rats in a hut.
I hung up my pack with my food bag inside it and was soon warm, with my mask and earplugs in, feeling extremely satisfied with my day. This was probably the hardest day I have had on the trail, physically and mentally, but emotionally it was good. The mice could do what they wanted.