It was a chilly(Kiwi me) freezing cold (Aussies) 6° morning and rain had been forecasted for the afternoon so we set off at 7am for the 15.5km to Mandanocks Hut.
It ended up being 16.2km because we headed along the wrong track within 5 minutes of departing. Luckily Cameron’s smart watch shouted out “You are off track”. We took just under 5 hours which was probably a bit faster than I would have done on my own.
Keeping up with a fit 45 year old, 185cm, over 6ft male is a bit of a challenge for this old duck. But I make it a training day day to get me faster, fitter and thinner. I managed to stay with him until about 2km before the hut when I told him to take off and get the pot on for a cupa. I arrived about 5 minutes behind him.
The next 4 days saw us climb 4 mountains and stay at Manadnocks, Mt Cooke, Nerang and Gringer Creek campsites. The days were similar being about 16km each, mostly flat with a “mountain” or two to climb each day. 600 metres above sea level is a mountain here so not like a New Zealand mountain. But in saying that I did huff and puff up them as I chased along behind Cameron. (Good training) So for my Taranaki friends that the Kaitake range is over 1,000 metres high. Manawatu friends, the Gorge loop walk is similar. Te Araoroa walkers would probably not even notice the change in incline!
We had one day with some heavy rain at times and even hail just before we left camp. We would dry out just to get wet again. Unfortunately arriving at camp soaked through one of the days. My highlight was climbing Mt Cooke as I know I will never summit New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mt Cook. The days were a mixture of bush and red roads. There was one long diversion because of a planned burn off that was still smouldering.
The Tramily (Trail Family) is beginning to develop as we meet other walkers and we had some good evenings with a range of other walkers. Most of them snorers so my earplugs are being well used. They also have the added benefit of allowing me to sleep through my own snoring and not feel so guilty when I blow up my leaking mattress every couple of hours. The walkers going the other way are good for info on the track coming up.
After 4 days we were met by Cam’s in laws Rudi and Bev who would take Cameron back to Perth. I had enjoyed having this time with Cameron and especially pleased when he carried some of my gear for me. I had thought this would slow him down and speed me up but not really!. I appreciated the picnic they brought along and the next 4 days of food for me. I left with a full tummy and a full pack, including fresh filled rolls and slice to share with Tony back at camp.
I shared the evening with Tony who is planning to take about the same time as me to complete the track. Another couple of guys arrived just as it got dark, Glen and Steve. They had double hutted (meaning 2 huts in a day, about 30km). Steve from the airforce arrived full of beans and went off to put up his tent. Glen, army man, was absolutely buggered so laid out his sleeping bag on the platform in the hut. We had a fun evening around the table and crawled into bed by 7.30pm (Hikers midnight)
I found my first tick tonight on my arm and Tony managed to get it out with my tweezers without leaving the head behind