Saturday, March 18: Sunny to begin with, clouding over in the mountains, but then sunny again
Tramping: 20.3 km
Taipo Hut (Doc)
Time to pack up again. I was up just after 8:00; Sally had already left. I made two bacon sandwiches for breakfast, forgot the last of the size 8 eggs until afterwards and in the course of the morning managed to finish off both the milk and the fruit juice. Another couple of sandwiches were made for lunch on the track, then everything was ready to be packed.
Brian, my driver for today, wanted to know whether we could leave a bit before 11:00, which was fine by me; I only needed to check whether the ATM in the Four Square was going to be coughing up anything at all; after one last failed attempt I asked and was told that foreign credit cards weren’t honoured, so that’s that. Back at the hostel I packed everything up and the backpack was suspiciously light.
We were ready to go at around 10:45. Brian told me about some of his tramping exploits as we went past the market in town and along the dusty old track past Atawhai Farm (alternative accommodation) to the track end. Now only some deet needed to be applied and the GPS given a sat fix and I was away.
In the first section of the track there is quite a lot of windfall but arrangements have been made to bypass it. In general the track is in good condition with fine views of the river and the surrounding mountains. I had started walking @ 11:15 and was at the first hut for lunch @ 1:45 (Belltown Manunui Hut, 3 hours signed) after one hydration break. The sign at the hut gave the next distance as 6½ hours (6 from the start of the track!). I knew I had to pass two bridges and go up to Little Wanganui Saddle @ 1070 m. At the first bridge (Tangent Creek) I would have liked to have gone directly across the river but could see no sign on the other side; so I took the bridge – complete with lovely waterfall which I shot. The second bridge (Little Wanganui River) was reached not long after that at 4:30 which gave me some confidence – with 3 hours signed from Belltown – that I could make the next hut by nightfall. The climb was strenuous and slow, and the signs at the top of the pass made little sense. The downclimb was very steep indeed and soon (much sooner than the sign at the pass had said) I was at the Stag Flat Shelter, a hut for two with few amenities, @ 6:30. There was a map, however, so I had a look at it: I should be able to reach the next bridge by 7:00 and then everything would be OK.
I was at Pannikin Creek at just before 7:00 and a few minutes later at Taipo just as it was beginning to get dark. Long day! No one in the hut so I chose a sleeping place by the fire. Had an aspirin and was hydrating quite a lot. Started cooking the rice, then got a fire going (not much, but enough to keep the rice warm), then the rest of the meal was cooked on the gas cooker.
After that, washing up, sox (there are two 2 L milk containers here which are useful for transporting water from the rain water tank to the kitchen – otherwise no plumbing). On sending the spot OK the red light started to come on.
So that is day 17 on the track which brings this tour on par with 2013. Tomorrow the record and for the next three days with early starts perhaps some arrivals during the afternoon. Time for bed just before 10:00. Not many sandflies here.