1/14 To Stink or Not To Stink- That Is Subjective

Bay of Many Coves Campsite to Davies Bay Campsite

31 k

I awoke at the wee hour of 10:30pm to Prana shining his flashlight through the tent screen, spotlighting a possum frozen in mid-rummage of his pack. The possum seemed rather unabashed, I thought, for being caught red-handed. He languidly blinked, and blinked again, and finally sashayed away. I immediately pulled my pack in from the vestibule and stuffed it under my feet.

No other intrusions disrupted the night, although I will learn later that a hiker did indeed have a shoe dragged off by a possum. And another hiker, their passport by a weka.

The sunrise this morning was too screened to be seen clearly, but red enough to broadcast the color through the trees. The morning is warm, so warm that I wake up soaked in sweat. We drink down plenty of water and exchange a few words with a man at the cook shelter. “You Te Araroa hikers are just racing through here,” he admonishes.

We parallel the ridge top through Manuka trees and shrub until the next camp, and the next water. The distance goes quick, and we page through the logbook while snacking. “Quack quack to the Duck Family if you read this.” Bigfoot Mouse + Phil! I wonder how they are doing. Prana and I do a round of super sevens- just not the same without the rest of our group- and leave a note for Mario and Peach to find.

Leaving Blackrock campsite, the trail is picturesque and lightly shaded under beech trees, with a rock wall bordering the pathway.

We are lulled into a false sense of ease, which is squashed an hour later when we emerge from the wood, cross a road, and climb into the heat, the trail fully exposed to the sun. It makes for good views, but lawd have mercy. The sweat sluices off of both of us. Let there be breeze!

We start to see many day hikers, which seems strange, but is not actually: it is popular to hike by walking from one bed and breakfast to another, and have a water taxi move your luggage for you. These people smell so bizarrely clean, some of them aggressively clean, or rather, what they think clean should smell like. Every one that passes leaves a ripple of ‘clean’ scent in the air. I don’t really like the way most of them smell, but I cringe a little when I realize that they probably also get a ripple of smell when they pass me.

Suddenly, with no preamble, I have chafing. What?! I layer on ointment, but it becomes so bad I can only hike without underwear, in hiking skirt. I pray now for no breeze, or at least not a breeze that will blow my skirt Marilyn-style when one of the clean day hikers is passing.

We stop for lunch at a deeply shaded stone bench; we aren’t that hungry yet, but it is so hot, and the bench is so inviting. We pull off our shirts, so wet they can be wrung out, and hang them in the sun. A few mountain bikes go by, then an older couple hiking, the woman immaculately groomed and accessorized, and when she passes she makes a little face like she was lightly slapped with a filthy dish towel, and I wonder how much she paid for her B&B room tonight and whether we look homeless to her (that expression couldn’t only be from our smell, which is only a 2 out of 10, which is to say, negligible) and whether we are impacting her narrative of this place and her trip the same way the clean-stinking day hikers impact my narrative of being dropped from a boat in the middle of nowhere. Probably at least as much.

A runner that passed us earlier passes us again the other direction, and asks us if we have some water to spare. We underestimated today’s heat, but even so will still arrive at the next source with plenty. He takes two mouthfuls, even when we urge him to take more. He is finishing a 42k run; whether this is his first time at this distance or not, he is pleased about it in an unboastful way.

The roasting continues for awhile, and we eventually pass into deep shade, so deep I almost can’t see with my sunglasses on. This track goes through a slice of every type and stage of forest there is.

The path leads through an alternation of deep and light shade as it contours imperceptibly downwards, finally low enough that there are streams running across the path. We sit in the shade near one we like, filter some water, and obsessively check the weather. Things are looking unideal for the next section, and there are reports of people abandoning it in droves. Current hikers are bailing down side trails, some have been stuck in huts for three days, and there are two big storm cells still forecast in the next week. I comb a few blogs and Prana checks the Facebook page, and we start tossing around ideas for what we will do.

Davies Bay campsite has tenting space right on the water, which is lovely, although the sandflies are horrible. We get the tent up quickly and sequester ourselves behind the screen, besieged. The tide is coming in, and I watch it fill the beaches and inundate the little creek bordering our grassy site. When I walk across the creek to get spigoted water, the swirling mixture of icy creek water and warm ocean water is a novel sensation, the temperatures still distinct. We eat a new dinner recipe of Thai green curry paste and rice noodles: spicemare. We can barely finish it for the burn, although the flavor is good in a masochistic way.

It’s a late night for the water skiers and the screamers out on the lake. Darkness, and subsequently quietness, don’t fall until close to 9:30.

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