The closest thing to a Christmas stocking this day was putting on a sock worn the day before.
Two of them. Still fresh too, bonus.
Merry salutations were exchanged accompanied with a hug. And thoughts of loved ones back beyond the trail start. No ham and croissants this festive morning. Only a brew and heartening breakfast of muesli with powdered milk – just add water to the plastic bag sized portion and with a spork, eat straight from the bag and thus, only dirtying a spork and cup.
Packs were sealed up and re-positioned onto the backs as we bid a safe day tramping to Katie before we departed Hacket Hut to step out and up.
The trail followed Hacket Creek. It wasn’t too far before we engaged in a little zig zagging with getting the boots, socks and feet moist from crossing the cascading flow of water. Positioning feet below the surface is important so as not to arse up and refreshing your entire dress wardrobe worn. It was also good practice for what was ahead of us. The crossing encounters were going to have to be more tactful when encountering the faster deeper flows further along the trail. Especially if the rain forecasted lifted the high tide levels.
And then it was a right turn. And up. And a 900m climb which didn’t muck around with the leg burn, brow sweat, increase in water consumption, and the odd curse or three. Rest stops from the grind became frequent and the odd view beyond the canopy were gratified distractions.
Just keep going … just keep going … just keep going (from the Nemo movie) was on repeat until we rounded a bit of a heightened bend to expose an opening up in the bush line. Starveall Hut appeared in front of us. You bloody beauty.
Packs, boots and socks came off simultaneously as lunch out – wraps, salami and cheese. It wasn’t long before another fellow tramper arrived, Iain. Iain from Auckland who was walking the whole South Island section of the TA so had started way further back up the island at Ships Cove on the Queen Charlotte. He was Scottish so we had to keep asking him to repeat himself when he spoke. Working in the IT industry, it wasn’t long before we were calling him “Iain from IT”. A title that stuck over the next few days.
Katie appeared shortly after. She made short work of catching us up. Youth on your side has that ability.
There was a sense of accomplishment having reached Starveall. You do have mental ups and downs when tramping and unbeknown to us, the next bit between Starveall Hut and our days destination Slaty Hut, had just that. Up and down physically. And up and down mentally.
But we were above the bush line following orange route markers for some of it. The views as far as the eyes could see were spectacular.
“Just keep going” played some more between the ears until we rounded another bend and sighted Slaty Hut. The distance from Starveall when we finally stopped outside the hut door, another 5.5kms. Iain from IT and Katie were already there for our welcome.
It was a second portion of carried home-made Mac Cheese for the dinner meal. Tomorrow, the dehydration meals kicked in.
And then Iain from IT pulled out tin foil containing Christmas cake that his partner had made especially. Enough to be shared. Enough for the pallet to absorb some attachment to Christmas Day trimmings.
With a look to the distant horizon as the sun sunk below the curvature and one last mutter under the breath before we retired to inside the hut walls … “wherever you are, whatever you are doing, with whom you are doing it with – Merry Christmas everyone, from us Ruru’s”.