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.