Awapoto Hut to Castle Rocks Hut
The Swedish girl leaves silently, presumably early. She is gone when we awake after 7:00. We drink coffee and work on crosswords, then eat breakfast and work on the chores of cleaning and thoroughly drying everything. I shake sand out of all the pockets, hang all the random things in the sun. Everything smells like mildew already.
I work on stitching a weak spot on the frame sleeve of my pack; between the constant wet and my lack of gentleness when tired or cranky, a key piece of velcro has ripped. I spend about half an hour patching all the pinholes in my pack liner. It’s an exercise in futility, I am well aware, but I am determined to make this liner last the entire trip. I wanted to switch from using heavy duty garbage bags for multiple reasons, but the cuben fiber pack liner has lasted only as long, and is way too expensive to replace with any kind of regularity; it might be back to the garbage bags after this experiment.
I trim my toenails and fingernails, dig out all the earwax I can with a q-tip, comb my hair, shake all the sand out of my shoes and check my feet for any signs of rotting. My gear and I are both going to be ship-shape.
It’s noon when we bid the lovely Awapoto Hut adieu and head back into the forest. The side trail back to the main track takes so much less time on the return, as it always does. It is hot, and the Swedish girl must have a very different definition of ‘deep in the forest’ than I do, which is what she reported when we traded info about our respective routes yesterday. About every two steps out of five is under shade. No matter. We climb much less steeply than yesterday, and even spend some time going flatly, and downhill. The forest stays
shattered, like a huge fire has gone through in the past, or several major wind events. What happened? At least there aren’t many trees down across the trail: what few there are, are easy to navigate. It’s not terribly aesthetic, and I start to feel bored.
Once the forest closes in again, the mosses appear in profusion. Admiring them passes some time.
It doesn’t take long until I’m bored again. Bored! I must be spoiled, if hiking through this forest inspires boredom. It’s not bad. It’s just not piquing my imagination.
Suddenly tiny palms start appearing, like little botanical fireworks. Their fronds artfully litter the pathway, and their bursts bob like ornaments. Lovely!
Along with the palms, the sand turns whiter and large chunks of marble begin surfacing in the creeks and sandy hollows. Marble! The eastern part of the park has caves on caves- is it through this beautiful kind of marble? That would be spectacular. We reach Moa Park, a grassy, tussocky, rocky, gorgeous little anomaly. The plants are reminiscent of what we passed through in Tongiriro, and down the center flows the most perfect little stream.
We have a snack and hydration break, then rinse out all of our laundry for the first time since Porirua. It is hot enough it feels good to put the wet shirts back on.
It’s two hours to go to the Castle Rocks Hut, and we plunge back into the forest. This section is alluring; tiny clear ponds cupped in the root braids, lined with white gravel. The forest is moss-furred white-barked beaches, ferns and silver puff balls everywhere.
I become so absorbed, I am startled when we come upon a building. The Castle Rocks Hut! In only an hour.
The ground is swarming with hornets, so we take refuge inside. Prana cooks up a couscous and lentil dinner while I page through a few small publications about the NZ backcountry. One has a strange little column of words discovered by the writer. Most are Danish and German and French and describe emotions and intentions and longings related to traveling. I write them down to learn. Will someday there be a universal language that uses the best words of each current language, so there will be a word for everything?
After dinner, we walk up to the Castle Rocks themselves. It’s a peaceful stroll, and I feel light as a feather without my pack, like I’m bouncing on the moon. The rocks are a few chunks of granite poking up out of a Gorest. They offer a sweeping view of Marahau and the first estuary on the Abel Tasman. The Richmond Range stands clear and storm-less in the distance.
I slowly wander back to the hut, savoring the forest.
We bunk down for the evening- it stays light so late here! At 9:30 a noisily relieved young couple from Germany arrives. They are very likable in spite of their racket, and we trade info on our subsequent sections of the day. “When will you hike tomorrow?” he asks us. “7, 7:30. We want to catch the 12:30 bus.” “Wow. Ambitious,” he replies with a low whistle and something like subtle dismay in his expression. I have to give them credit for their ambition- all of their food for the week is canned, and the girl goes through a full beauty routine with full sized bottles. It makes me so happy when it doesn’t occur to people that they can’t do it like this. I mean, I pray for their knees, but applaud their spirit.
The girl blows out the stump of a taper candle that illuminated their tinned dinner, and we all get in our bunks. The mattresses here are new, softer than the other huts, and have a delightful texture, one that discourages the skin from suctioning permanently onto the vinyl. I’m not nearly tired enough to be sleepy, so I finally force myself to put my journal down and close my eyes.