10/30 Among the Kauris

Waipapa River Crossing to Puketi Hut

13 km

The track this morning compels us straight up out of the gorge. Amazingly, there is almost no mud today. The track is flat, side to side at least, and balances perfectly on top of the the thin sharp spine of the ridge arm we are following up, each side falling abruptly away. This showcases the tops of the taller trees beautifully, most of which are Kauris. Several of the them are behemoths, candjelabras of arms raised in a silent sentiment; supplication or celebration, I am not sure. They support whole gardens of other plants, long trailing delicate ribbons that wave in the breezes like kelp swirls in a surging tide.

And the birds. I just can’t get over the birds. There are so many beautiful sounds. A few make clear crisp notes, a few sound like wind blowing over different sized glass bottles, and one sounds like a harmonica. One sounds like rubber bands being plucked, and one makes melodic metallic sounds like an old weather vane creaking in the wind.

We emerge from the forest track onto a road, but turn and backtrack to the last Kauri grove for a lunch break. We snack and watch the breeze and light play through the branches.

Parker jets ahead while we linger with the wise old trees. When we catch up with him, he’s waiting at a junction, tormented by flies (probably something to do with eel slime smell on his pack from hauling it, the hauling of which I am grateful for) and mauled by sandflies. He’s feeling not too hot on the hiking currently, but as a surprise we’ve booked bunks in the forest hut, since it was supposed to rain for 6 days straight. Even though the weather has stayed clear, it will be nice to get out the bugs for a night.

It’s a beautiful hut, with huge bunks and large windows. The white inside gives a bright airy feel, and the wooden floor is well worn, almost soft underfoot, smoothed from the steps and stories of all the people who have trodden on it before us.

We meet Pim, from Holland, who is tenting outside, and then John arrives a few hours later. There are pleasant conversations, and spicy hot chocolate. A huge cockroach scuttles above John’s bunk, and we tease him. “It’s big enough to spoon with!” It scuttles unreachable behind a wall joint as he tries to collect it to relocate outside. “Well. Fancy being rejected by a cockroach,” he muses. We all wriggle into our bags, and let the peace of twilight replace the strains of the day.

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