1/3 The Beginning of the End of the North Island

Waitewaewae Hut to Parawai Hut

10k

I feel refreshed this morning, although the mattresses in the huts are thin enough I can’t sleep on my side without my hips aching and legs tingling.

We walk along the Waitewaewae River a short bit- very short. It’s a wonderful river! Then, true TA-style, we start toiling uphill for the the apparent sole purpose of skidding back down. Since yesterday was short, I feel fresh this morning, and the ups and downs are close enough together that each provides relief from the previous, so I feel fast. The mossy trees and streams tucked into the folds of the land are lovely. There are a few notes in GPS app that are confusing- they give warnings to go a different trail route than the TA marked as going down Saddle Creek to avoid ‘dangerous slips.’ Is this another case of people being unnecessarily cautious? Or is this an instance of having to turn around because we literally won’t be able to get through? There’s such a wide range of what people consider dangerous and impossible, it can be hard to suss out what is habitually repeated hype, and what is plain fact. We keep an eye out for a split in the trail, and Bro almost goes berserk when Prana misses the pileup of markers.

We decide to go the new route. I’m 90% sure the weekenders we met yesterday came the old route, which means it is perfectly passable, but that 10% could more than double the struggle of the day. I guess we will never know about the lower route, but the new route was no treat. There were trees down everywhere, grabby vines, annoying sidehill footing. At one point Bro steps on a pile of logs and debris and falls through up to his hip. “Um, I think I’m stuck,” he calls to Prana. Prana hauls him out. But any and all of this can be worth it if it is beautiful. It is just not. It is a small, unaesthetic, messy woods.

The effort continues for a couple of hours until we finally pop out on an old tramway, which is wide, flat, gently inclining, and replete with the old iron side rails. We follow this along, up around a land slip, then down to a suspension bridge. Our maps show a straight line trail through the meadow to the hut, but weirdly there’s a huge mown well travelled trail to the left, a huge mown well travelled trail to the right, and a tiny barely discernible use trail going straight forward. We follow this on blind faith, and it indeed morphs into an overgrown trail on some kind of raised and packed embankment. We tumble out at the hut, and dump our packs and ourselves on the porch just as it begins to rain.

We decide it’s as good a time for lunch as any, and the rain waxes and wanes between drizzle and torrent while we eat. We find ourselves waffling on the same decision we were yesterday: I want to keep hiking, Prana is uncertain but leans toward staying. The Purea Hut is dirty, not very inviting. The hut grounds are accessible by car, therefore noisy and filled with people. Now that we are out of the Tararuas, I feel as though the North Island is as good as finished; there’s no longer a section that is captivating my imagination and I’m anxious to get the last road-filled section through Wellington out of the way and tidily checked off. I’ve got the mindset and momentum to burn a big day after our half day yesterday, but for multiple reasons Prana wins the compromise to remain. I plug in my headphones and work on journaling.

Prana invites me to go swim with him before dinner, and just as we step out the rain starts again. It serves to clear out the swimmers, and when the sun pops out we have the swimming hole to ourselves.

It’s just as clear as yesterday’s, and almost as deep; it’s also warmer. I could get used to a swimming hole a night. I may even get over that nagging irrational fear.

As we are all preparing dinner, Super Mario points out that it could be out last evening all together, or at least one of them. A sadness creeps in- I knew that we couldn’t hike together for the whole rest of the trail, but I thought we would at least be leap frogging and path crossing for almost all of it. Bro plans to keep hiking with Prana and I, but Mario and Peach will be taking more days than us to prepare for the South Island, and also slowing down by two weeks to ensure meeting up with Princess Peach’s brother. While I have moments where I struggle acting within a group context, I love this group, and those struggles are more than surpassed by the amazing warmth and laughter and shared experience of this crazy game. I don’t want this to be the last night. We make plans to do go to the Coromandel and visit John together after the trail- even if we won’t hike together, we will still have time together to look forward to.

We all set up our tents and crawl in, no one desiring to stay in the hut. It’s nice to be back in our happy blue home; it strikes me that it has been over a week of nights since pitching. It’s delightfully warm, and I sink into the comfort of my blow up pad while my body and my mind finally relax.

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