Brent & Claire

Category: Trekking (Page 1 of 2)

6/3/22 Specimen Point Hut to Seddonville – 17km – The Mighty Mōhikinui

Was this the back end of the miner’s trail as we hugged the true left bank of the mighty Mōhikinui River gorge; or was this the front end if walking in reverse?

Either direction, the undulation with the stunning pearl green river views, narrow trail with overhang and wire fencing, swing bridges that housed one person, two persons of five at a time and the like, really amplified the awe, and some.

It was the final day on The Old Ghost Road and an above average number distance wise.  Especially coming off the 25km the day before.

Piwakawaka’s darted the tree line trying to talk to us with their bird squeak talk.  Kereru swooped the higher branches.  Goat turds left evidence of their presence.  We had to step off the trail to allow the dentist and partner squeeze through with their final words offered “have a great life” as they rode off disappearing around a bend.

You just know when people are getting tired when they start to pose unnaturally for photo’s.  It’s okay.  If we can’t laugh at ourselves etc, etc, etc.

And just like that, the number 85 appeared on a track sign post.  Soon after, we exited off the trail beneath a similar hanging sign that read ‘The Old Ghost Road’.

High fives, social distancing hugs, congratulations said and then a pack dismount. Not necessarily in that order.  Before a final collective photo.

We found our re-located vehicle (thank you Buller Adventures) who threw in a complimentary bush shower at the Rought and Tumble Bush Lodge.

There is something to be grateful for when you can douse in shampoo or soap to clense and nourish the body.  The smell of clean is a thing.

We loaded the tramping gear aboard in readiness for the a huge drive back to Christchurch.

Interrupted with an early feed and ale at the Seddonville pub before turning left to head south.

A toilet stop at Culverden had all five of us wonky walking as joints had stiffened together from the seating posture.  All part and parcel of body weariness from the five days of continuous tramping on The Old Ghost Trail.

Conclusion – we would rate this trail with it’s unheralded diversity.

And it’s on our back door step.

Trail information does promote it should be attempted by technically competent and fit mountain bikers (we would agree) and experienced and fit trampers (we would also have to agree) however, anyone with a passionate ‘want to’ with some focused planning and certainly pre-conditioning training will be able to knock it off.

Become a statistic that has.

There is an absolutely difference between “I’m glad I did” versus “I wish I had of …”

Full stop.

Until the next adventure …

5/3/22 Stern Valley Hut to Specimen Point Hut – 25kms – Dr. Ashley Bloomfield

I’d describe his facial and head features as a combination of Emmett “Doc” Brown from the movie ‘Back to the Future’ movie, wearing Joe 90 framed glasses, styling a mop of hair similar to Medusa – the Greek mythology that had venomous snakes in place of hair!

The tights he wore did nothing for his skinny as frame, sagging from behind. He wore woollen socks as hut foot wear.

The senior citizen from Wellington with a career in dentistry (still working), he was a delight to converse with during dinner the evening before.  Except when he zoned in on cremations and what sort of pollution containment there is about with all the mercury fillings people have.  It was outside my specialty field with a slight tainted response that his era was the root cause of prilling, drilling and filling.  With mercury!

Both he and his partner (also a senior citizen but from Christchurch) were cycling the trail.  They were going to be staying at the same hut as us again this day at Specimen Point, so their departure time didn’t need to be as early as ours, given they were cycling, and we weren’t.

All the trail notes and maps were in collusion – 25km, 7-8 hours.

Visualising a long day in the boots, on the boots.

Overthinking the just thinking about it was exhausting.

Without even taking a first step.

But it had to be done and so we started.

A couple of kilometres up the trail, we stepped aside to allow the husband-and-wife marathoners to run past.  Actually, it was the wife first and then the hubby.  Quite the gentleman. However, every time we had to step off the trail to allow bikers to pedal past as well, it meant additional steps for us. 

And over the course of the day, they added up.

Nigh on half way, we had to stand aside and give way to a larger group of cyclists.  We anticipated seeing a friend who was supposed to be with them, however, he only made it to Lyell Hut and because of body conditioning, or lack of it, had to turn back.  In amongst the group, the dentist and partner rode past with words of encouragement exchanged.

Continuing, we encountered a couple of walkers heading in the opposite direction.  Stopping to chat, one of them asked if Dr. Ashley Bloomfield (NZ Public Health Official who has fronted the Covid pandemic since its beginning) was in the larger cycling group.

“Nah, he was just a dentist from Wellington” was my reply.

Encountering a second mate from Christchurch whom we socialise with that was also on the trail at the right time was the kind-rid spirited interaction we needed.  It evaporated the hurt in the legs the last four kms.

A hard day at the office to eventually arrive at Specimen Point Hut, the 25km achieved in 7.5 hours.

“Doc” Emmett wearing Joe 90 glasses with the Medusa hair style also confirmed that Bloomfield was amongst the group and cycling the trail and had past us by.

Just goes to prove the point that perving at lycra from behind always looks the same!

Who looks at faces?

4/3/22 Ghost Lake Hut to Stern Valley Hut – 13km – Patience is a Testing Waiting Game

The watch alarm rang out from the corner of me bunk.

However, it was an intentional ‘Ops’ instance.  There was no shuffle to extinguish the beep but a prompt move to disentangle one out of the sleeping liner and bag with a purpose.

Apparel was put in pitch darkness, easily found from having strategically placed it before the head torch was turned off the night before.  No snoring again from above, their head torch down the undies was working!

As I approached the sliding door out onto the veranda of the hut, a shadow came towards me from the other side.  Then a second.  It was comforting to see others had the same purpose and we exchanged salutations when the glass was slid back and opened.

The fella who slept on the veranda itself was awake.  I apologized for entering his bedroom.  He had arrived with his ten-year-old son on dinner time last night.  They had covered in one day what we had in two to arrive at Ghost Lake Hut from the Lyell car park.  A fare distance for short legs.

More bodies shadowed vertical.

Eyes were scanning the horizon to the east.   To watch the sunrise.

Patience is a testing waiting game.

As the rainbow spectrum began, I entered the hut to wake up BClaire to come share the experience.  Tin, Jeana and Brendan followed.  Practically the whole hut did.

Whispers and the clicks from camera’s shared the odd squawk from somewhere out there.  Weka’s probably.  They were abundant on the trail, minding their own business with an inquisitive sense of nosiness.

There was a point in the respected stillness when suddenly, voices and morning ritual business erupted.  And people headed off in the direction of where night became morning, back on the trail.

Day 3 of 5 had to be the most colourful 12kms trodden as far as trail variety.

From the hut, we board walked past the biodiversity lake on our left.  It looked opal green with rock snot than healthy pristine drinkable water.  A short hump and then a huge zigzag down section.  We were ahead of the first bikers.  You knew they were sharing the trail with the echo of brakes as they had to navigate the tight corners.  And some of them were tight.

We had descended quite a bit before we encountered them.  And the view back to the hut was an ‘OMG’ view as you didn’t see the cliff face from the veranda.  And what was below if you ventured too far in front.  A straight drop!

There was a little eerie valley mist before we ascended onto the skyline ridge.  Balance on a bike is paramount, more so as you finish that part to then must carry your bike vertical down 304 steps to join the trail again down the other side of the mountain.  Not for novice cyclists however, an adrenalin rush for as those using pedal power for sure.

Dad and 10 year old son on their way.
Departing Ghost Lake Hut

We were back under forest cover for the rest of this days walk, although, finished early again.

The bonus, a wash in the neighbouring river to clean cracks and crannies in-between blood sucking sandflies love bites, more playing of cards, and exchanging trail stories with other fellow beings sharing the hut.

Dad and son were already at the hut having a rest.  They were continuing.  Cripes, how could you not feel for the young one being under the type of parentage he was experiencing?  25-30 kms a day is tough on adults, let alone on a young teenager.

Who’s turn, is it?

Other cyclists doing the trail in a day arrived and left.  Some red faced.  Some fit as.  The runners who arrived were booked in to stay at the hut also.  They had run in from the Lyell car park and were tomorrow running out to the end.  Two marathons in two days.  Holy sh.t.

Not us though, we like slow adventuring now.

Part of the body maintenance plan at our ages.

The sun set happened without any fuss, not like the morning’s sunrise.

And thus, we would rate Ghost Lake Hut as one to return to for two-three nights stay.

A heavenly view to die for.

3/3/22 Lyell Saddle Hut to Ghost Lake Hut – 12km – Knock Knock Knock on Heaven’s Door

Anyone else have a body clock where you awaken just moments before an alarm rings out to welcome you into a new day dawned?

Even if it’s still pitch black.

The silence is usually broken with rustling movement from within sleeping bags.

Then the hurried pace to locate the watch so as to turn the ‘beep, beep, beep’ off before it’s timer automatically stops.

The breath is held hoping you didn’t cause fellow bunk roommates to slip from dream to consciousness.

But alas, nope.  A shuffle of a bag above or somewhere to your left.

Ops!

Oh well, might as well get up and put the billy on and take part in observing a hut come to life first thing in the morning.

Yesterday’s attire put back on.  Kettles crank up as water is boiled.  Then the brew smell of tea or coffee permeates the hut. Whispers become louder as more bodies become vertical.  Porridge and muesli overtake the hut odour.  Conversation gets louder.  Hut doors are open and closed.  Folk going out to the ablutions.  And back.  But more so kept shut to keep the beasties that suck your blood out.  Insect repellent smell becomes evident.

And somewhere towards the east, the night sky awakens to go through it’s morning ritual.

About to depart Lyell Saddle Hut

There was more forest altitude to climb before it opened up to tussock tops with vista views.

The trail route snailed around a huge rock outcrop known as Rocky Tor that peaked at 1,456 metres.

Horton Hears a Who
Rocky Tor

The spot that is sign posted ‘Heaven’s Door’ was one where you compulsorily stopped to admire the view into the abys.  And beyond.  The Murchison township was the Mona Lisa centre piece.  Perhaps the GPS location where the most photos would be captured on any fine weathered day.  To encounter on a shit weather day would be a disappointment.

But I would have to add that the view from the balcony of Ghost Lake Hut was ten-fold better.  It was panoramic.  It was again as far as the eye could see.  As close to heaven as anyone was going to be on the Old Ghost Road Trail. And day two’s stop.

We arrived early as it was only a 12km trek, so we go to consume lunches in awe.

And then sit at a picnic table to play Monopoly cards in the surround sound marvel.

The hut population grew.

Then at some point of the later day, a reverse of the morning ritual just happens as one heads towards shut eye.

Naturally, there is always the comment of “remember to turn off your alarm Ruru” with an acknowledgement response of “Yep, absolutely.”

I live for “Op’s” in the morning.

2/3/22 Lyell to Lyell Saddle Hut – 18km – The Crimson of Blood

The Old Ghost Road Trail is a distance of 85km.

It’s been transformed into a rideable landscape for bikers and therefore, the trail for walkers like us was like a highway grade.

The smell of clean before taking the first steps …

And the gradient itself was a steady upwards after a final picture under ‘The Old Ghost Road’ sign and a crossing over of a stream using a swing bridge.

18kms of it, to the first hut, the Lyell Saddle Hut.

Majestic beech forest dominated overhead, as did the giant punga palm ferns fauna.

Bird song echoed.  Robin’s weren’t shy and one even had the guts to peck at Jeanna’s leg drawing crimson.  Didn’t know they were meat eaters!

A heap of imagination bounced off the grey matter walls between the ears as we trapsed the long-forgotten gold miners’ route of yesteryear.  Weathered artifacts dotted the sides of the trail.

The old fella who had arrived prior to our departure with no teeth, a tobacco rollie hanging from the corner of his mouth, well-worn clothes and a gold panning sluice box sticking out from his backpack that befriended us, told the story that there was still gold to be discovered in these here hills.

It was his life now till his end of days.  Find that one nugget to change his life.  New teeth being a goal.

The arrival at Lyell Saddle Hut was welcomed.

All the huts on the trail are well equipped with gas stoves, pots, crockery and kfs’s.  To assist the bikers with carrying less.  We walkers were carrying the extra’s for that just in case situation where you have to shore up in-between a hut.  For whatever reason.

We swapped day wear for evening wear and then settled into a game of cards, meeting and conversing with other arriving fellow biker/walking trailers, compared dehydrated dinners and bantered bull shit with laughter.

A very exciting first day escaping the hustle and bustle of worldly events.

Both domestically.

And globally.

1/3/22 The Old Ghost Road Trail Pre-amble

Have you ever answered a survey after doing an event or completed an adventure or stayed at accommodation or purchased something and received a review asking for feedback?

I did.

Pretty much straight after our arrival back into rat race land after having knocked off The Old Ghost Road Trail.

One from Buller Adventures for relocating our vehicle from Lyell to Seddonville; and one from The Old Ghost Road Trail custodians to solicit feedback on our experience.  I rated them both a perfect 10 out of 10 without any hesitation.

But the third review won’t appear on any system generated questionnaire.  It was more a personal face to face interaction with a member in our party.  For their exemplary and outstanding effort to care for our wellbeing and health when sharing the bunk room.

By shoving their roll-on deodorant down the undies on the first night sleeping together.  And then their head torch for the consecutive four nights after.  Shoving it down their undies.

Apparently, it stops the person from rolling onto their back and therefore has them sleeping on their sides for most of the hours of darkness.

And extinguishes any notion of being able to snore!

For which I can categorically substantiate that it works. 

Allowed for a peaceful sleep by one and all.  Sharing the bunkroom.

Naturally, the head torch was a multi-purpose tool.  Used on the head after the lights went out on the trail.  Or in our case, when the sun slid down behind the horizon and day became night.

Just to add, the head torch was not a shared tool neither.

Knowing where it was going after its candle was switched off.

Notwithstanding, back to the review of The Old Ghost Road Trail – an over whelming high score experience.

You should do it.

It is so worth the effort, energy and engagement.

You will dream about the experience long afterwards.

And if you are a snorer, you can create your own review on the solution offered above.

Might dream better too!

1/1/22 Red Hills Hut to St Arnaud (6.5km) – The End

Under the cover of darkness, I arose to go sit at the hut forms and table to watch the sunrise over the Richmond Ranges trail.

An opportunity to just reflect on what had been.

In solitude.

In silence.

In between Pip snoring.

Night faded into morning.

One by one, others awoke.

And then a new end day began.

A selfie before the final descent towards St Arnaud – full respect to the Richmond Ranges behind us.

We followed the 5.5km four-wheel vehicle track down to an old cob cottage, then it was further 1km forest track to a car park.

Our return to this section of the Te Araroa Trail was complete.

The Rainbow Valley where thoughts turned to perhaps a bike packing adventure possibility.
Back on flat terra firma. Lighter packs too.

Emotions of pure elation felt.

The minds, bodies and souls stretched as far as they were going to be.

Back on tar seal with thumbs out, we hitched a ride into St Arnaud.  It’s where our third bedroom was waiting for us.  And fresh clothes.

The Alpine Lodge allowed us to get cleaned up before we met up with Iain from IT who had walked out the day before.

Jane and Pip had arrived by then.  They too had managed to catch a hitch hike.

We exchanged stories from the trail and heard about Iain’s solo bit after he left us at Mid Wairoa Hut.

All three of them were resting up for another day or two at St Arnaud in preparation for the next part of the TA, the Sabine-Traverse Saddle.  We had to start the return drive back towards Christchurch.

Our hesitation to leave was more because of jealousy that they were continuing, and our adventure had come to an end.

However, we had already tramped the Sabine-Traverse Saddle ourselves.  It was our training in readiness to knock off the Richmond Ranges.  Over Christmas of 2019 and New Year of 2020.

We knew exactly what they were in for.  As well as up for.

We will pick up the next section of the Te Araroa Trail possibly later this year.

Farewell hugs were given, and then we were on our way.  And home to Christchurch.

To recover as quickly as we can.

The first week of March, we set off to walk the Old Ghost Road Trail on the West Coast.  Five days, four nights.  Chaperoning seven others who when we put it out there, climbed on board to join us.

Yep, a new Ruru adventure on the radar.

And with the word ‘ghost’ in the trail name “Old Ghost Road” …

The end.

A hello and farewell catch up with Iain from IT. We head home, Iain headed onwards to do more of the Te Araroa Trail – South Island.

31/12/21 Hunters Hut to Red Hills Hut (19.5km) – Suck It Up Butter Cups!

We departed Hunters Hut shortly after 7.00am.

No more spooks in the night.

It wasn’t too far until we were scrambling over more open boulder fields as we arced around the mountainside leading up to the first saddle.  And although the trail veered down ahead of us, it was a best guess as to which compass direction it would take in the valley.  There were heaps of options.

It wasn’t long either before apparel was peeled off as the sun’s brightness shrunk shadows on the opposite valleys to then be upon us radiating the solar rays.  Sunblock was applied.

The contrasts in terrain were dramatic.  Erosion had new track markers skirt gaps where old trails had existed.  But were now open spaces.  And the never-ending undulation tested stamina.  Body weariness appeared early which was expected.  This was day eight and we knew we had a heap of kilometrage to walk this day.

Jane and Pip caught up to us at Porters Hut where we had stopped for an early lunch stop and water filtering refill.  We left them to it to as we embarked on the final 10.5kms.  Trail notes indicated that it would take us another 5 hours.  That was generous.

From another saddle, we could make out the trail as far as the eye could see.  It straddled the Motueka River Right Branch and looked rather straight.  But it was lumpy.  Which equated to more stubbing boot toes.  It included us having to climb up nigh on a sheer vertical cliff part, 6-8 metres in altitude.  BClaire went up first as I stood there with arms outstretched to catch her if a mishap.  I probably would have put my whole body on the line to cushion the bounce after I worked out that trying to catch her would have been fruitless.  Steady and yep, no problems.  I mirrored her steps.

Moonscape clamber up to the ridgeline.
Looking back to the past, passed …
Shadow pic.
Porters Hut abounds in the distance, and our lunch stop.
Looking back up the river traversed down.
More of the same to go.
Nature sun bathing.
Rest stops were regular now, the body weariness taking hold.

Further along, I twinged the knee to excruciating heights.  It felt like bone was rubbing on bone.  And had me doubting if I was actually going to finish the section.  If there was down, I was fine.  It was lifting the left knee stepping up that was the issue.  It reminded us that at our age, we are managing deterioration.  Only standing still the couple of times it happened to allow the pain to subside was it okay to carry on.  No point in abusing the knee.  I own them.  Sweet talking to them was the better mental attitude.

Coming off the straight bit had us at a confluence river crossing.  It was deeper than the other crossings further back down the trail.  We picked our line and went for it.  Jeez the water felt good.  Washed all the grime off up the lover parts of the body.  And numbed the knee somewhat.

Nearly the top half too with pack.  I was about to step up out of the thing and this huge monster spider came out to meet me as if protecting its territorial rock.  From under the bloody thing on the water’s edge.  I squealed, BClaire too.  Well, I think she squealed.  Or was it more like screamed shriek of abuse at me as I nearly arsed up backwards into her.  I changed direction and exited the flow a metre to the right.  Then BClaire saw the thing and was right on my tail.  Never heard an apology either.

We paced off to leave it be, only to have to climb some more.  It was a steep gradient to a height that when we looked back down the valley, we could follow the trail in reverse all the way back to the saddle at the other end.  We paused to try and spot the others.  Katie was first, then the movement from Jane and Pip further behind.

A long stretch before crossing the spider river, then it was a vertical ascent up to gain another backward glance.

The trail then sidled the contours of the hillside for what seemed like forever.   We eventually came up onto a flattened-out piece of topography that had marram type beach grass clump.  Except it was no beach.  There was no mention of this in any trail notes and an unwelcomed surprise.  Following the orange route markers, we had to hop, skip, and jump the stuff for as far as the eye could see.  A metre either side and you could have ended up to your knee in boggy water.

There was light at the end of the pasture, that being the hut.

To finally arrive at Red Hills Hut was welcomed.  And it would be fair to write, there was some exhaustion as we dropped the packs, gave each other a hug, inspected the lodgings which were brilliant and then kept pace at getting starkers to bath before the others arrived.

Red Hills Hut finally sighted across the marams.
The last steps taken on the Richmond Ranges Trail.

Some kind person had left a block of soap.  The brand, Pears.  And boy did it smell divine.  Lathering up and washing down was just magic.  We ponged nice for a change and just in time for Jane and Pip as they arrived.  Shortly after that, Katie too.  They each followed the cleansing routine.

This was the day of exhaustion.

A culmination of all that had gone on before, and some.

And, the longest day on the trail distance wise.

Spurred on by us reminding ourselves to suck it up buttercups.

And how special it was that we were able to make it happen.  And did.  And some more.

The nightly routine was followed, meaning that the hut was silent as 2021 transitioned into 2022.

What a last day of an old year.

Our last sleepover on the Richmond Ranges section of the TA Trail too.

30/12/21 Top Wiaroa Hut to Hunters Hut (10.5km) – Red Hills Country

Could a mountain top seriously have collapsed or eroded so much to scatter its debris in piles of rock further down the slope like it was?

Boulder hopping took poise, elegance and certainly balance as we climbed away from the hut towards the next saddle at 1,374m.

A misplaced footing to fall over onto the rugged boulder scree would have grazed, snapped, or convulsed, requiring first aid administration.

But the boulders were fascinating with a kaleidoscope red, crimson, brown or shit stain colours.

The climb ahead up to the ridgeline.

Beanies to protect the ears from the extreme gusty southerly were donned on just before a picture taken once summited the saddle.  It was enough to chill the bones.  And enough to detach BClaire’s pack cover to have one chase it like an Ostrich and retrieve before it was blown all the way to Nelson.  Only metres to spare before the edge abyss.

And although it was head down following the orange route markers head on into the wind, when we lifted to take in the view, we could see last nights hut down one side of the mountain and, make out Hunters Hut from the moon landscape we were treading, way down and out across the other side.

We separated from Jane and Pip to each walk at our own paces.  It wasn’t intentional, it just happened after the summit and negotiating the gale velocity.

Looking back down to Top Wairoa Hut.
Looking forward to Hunters Hut.
Another scree to cross.
Moon landscape.

The last river crossing before a short sharp ascent to the hut, had a piece of tin debris tangled in an embankment tree trunk.  Another further down.

We wondered if it was the remains of Bush Edge hut that was swept away in a flash flood during February 1995.  Two Dept of Conservation workers were staying in the hut at the time and sadly, both were killed.

One body was found.  One with his dog wasn’t.

Debris from the old original hut.
Arrival at Hunters Hut.
Looking back towards the ridgeline traversed this day.

Which when Jane and Pip arrived and settled into hut routines, had us conversing if the ghost encounter experienced at the last hut, was the lost DOC workers spirit still wandering the trail.

A 1,000-piece puzzle at the hut kept us entertained as we hunted out edges and corners and flipped all the pieces right side up and then started constructing.  Like eating potato chips or scorched almonds, once you start it’s hard to desist not eating more, puzzles are like that too.  Once you start, just one more piece becomes ten!  As we clumped colours and picture images together.  Wasn’t the same once the light faded and head torch came out.

Nigh on turning in for the night and still sitting at the hut table, an apparition flew passed the hut window.

Scared the be-Jesus out of me as I only caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye.  I’m sure my scream spooked the others who jumped.  The hut door opened; the whites of our eyes were at full beam.

To our delight, in walked Katie.

She certainly was beaming after her day of missing Top Wairoa Hut to take on the extra section as well and make Hunters.

Heart palpitations still took a bit to return to normal as we shared our ghost encounter.  And then seeing an apparition float passed the window.  Katie had one of her own sharing the Mid Wairoa Hut with a fellow tramper when a noise like the sound of a paper book hitting a table thudded in their hut.

One more puzzle piece was placed and then shut eye.

The final thought, man, a scorched almond would have been nice.

29/12/21 Mid Wairoa Hut to Top Wairoa Hut (7km) – The Encounter

Do you believe in ghosts?

Ever had an encounter?

We were sceptics.

Until …

The sky was still overcast for our departure from Mid Wairoa Hut.  Rain jackets were worn in readiness for being rained on.  It’s always a balance between not wanting to get drenched externally or becoming sopped internally under the jacket from one’s own perspiration.

I had swapped out BClaire’s panties for my own undies.  A chaffing decision!

We had decided the evening before to walk with Jane and Pip on this next section to Top Wairoa Hut together because of the trail notes.

“The track from Mid Wairoa Hut follows the river.  It involves a lot of sidling, at times on steep terrain, and eight river crossings.  In some areas, erosion on the track present slippery and/or narrow footholds and extreme care should be taken through here.  Some trampers will find this section challenging.  It should not be attempted during periods of heavy rain as the river can rise quickly.”

A photo of Heuy, Lewy and Dewey (the names I gave whilst taking the pictures) outside the hut before departure.  They were pissing themselves with laughter as they took their first steps into the bush undergrowth where Iain from IT had disappeared into yesterday.  Not at Iain’s expense, but at mine.  BClaire thought it funny to call me Poohy from my personal situation at some ungodly early hours of the morning.  So, there we were, Heuy, Lewy, Dewey and Poohy.  I wasn’t laughing.

Heuy, Lewy & Dewey.
Technical sidling.

By the time they reached the first sidling, they weren’t neither.  And the trail notes weren’t kidding about narrowness where clutching onto embankment and leaning in was just a matter of slow as you go.  This was the approach each and every time.

Jackets came off as bursts of the sun’s rays filtered through the canopy.  The flora and fauna looked crisp and sharp, and it was just beautiful.  Ya gotta love this country for its diversity.

The first river crossing was just like the approach to the sidling’s, taking it slow as you go.  It’s a great way to build up confidence through being careful about foot placement, balance, and supporting one another ford the river flow safely.  There was only one of the crossings that we had to lift shorts up to nigh a wedgy because of the depth.

One of nine river crossings.
Navigating obstacles were all part and parcel of the route more travelled.

Everyone came to a stand still when a yell from the opposite bank was heard.  There were looks of “what the hell was that?” thinking someone had shouted out for help.  No body moved. The only sound was the river below.  Nor could we see anything from our position.

“Heeeeeellllllllppppppp”

Shit.  It certainly echoed like someone was deliriously calling for help.  Jeez, we all thought it was Iain.  Again, we were trying to pinpoint where it had come from.

The third time, everyone shook their heads and started laughing.

A fkn goat was responsible for pumping up the heart rate.  And nearly causing a PLB to be set off for a helicopter extraction.  That is not what one wants to be remembered for – Search and Rescue coming to the rescue of a goat!  That we instigated.

But that wasn’t the ghostly encounter incident.

Arriving at the Top Wairoa Hut and reading the hut logbook to see Iain had made it was a relief.  He had had a fire as the smoky smell still lingered.  Another wander down to the river for the hut drinking water and because we still had daylight hours left, a body wash dip.  The temperature of the water doesn’t allow for one to muck around.  But it was welcomed.

Sophie from Brazil arrived.  She was walking the trail in the opposite direction and passed on a salutation from Iain to us.  Turns were taken sharing more conversations, everyone settled and turned in early.  Tomorrow was a longer distance that included a hump up and gradient down.

The hut toilet was some 20-30 metres back along the track.  A radiant orange colour with a magic view if one sits there with the door open contemplating life.  A deep sleep had me think I had dacked myself again so got up and under torch light, went to the toilet.  Nup, just a dream.  BClaire clambered down off the top bunk and exited the hut shortly after me to return and clamber back up. Time, about 1.30am in the early hours.

The hut door had a slide metal door handle.  You had to use a little force right to open and left to close.  From outside coming in, the opposite.

The noise of it being forced open, then shut, then open, then shut from the outside as if someone was entering the hut woke everyone up with a fright.  It was loud, forced and then nothing.  Pip asked the question, “what the hell was that?”.  We all had eyes on the door, expecting someone to walk through and no one did.  I ducked under my sleeping bag a little as I’m sure others did scared shitless.

“Brent, go check it out” came from a top bunk.

“Why me?” I responded.

“I’m a firm advocate for equality nowadays, women’s rights and all” I followed up with.

We all still laid there waiting.

Pip eventually did.

There was no one.

It wasn’t the wind.  And no way a goat or deer could have attempted to open and shut the metal door handle.  It had us completed baffled and certainly awake.

It was 4am.

Everyone tried to regain unconsciousness as best as they could until the streaks of morning light appeared.

It became a conversational topic time and time again over the remainder of the trail.

And still does today.

Perhaps a reason for such a ghostly encounter was evident at the next hut we walked to.

We are now believers.

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