1/21 TA-bound

Castle Rocks Hut to Nelson

15 k hiking

The alarm goes off just after 5:00, and we quietly sneak out to the porch to let the traumatized young Germans sleep. We hope that we indeed collected all of our gear last night, as their backpacks appear to have vomited camping gear and food rations over every available surface; if we left anything out, it is buried. The girl had sighed deeply and wistfully last night, wishing she had thought to pack coffee. Since we have so much and are headed through town today, (and one coffee devotee can always recognize the need of another) I pour off a portion of our coffee into a ziploc, write them a good luck message on the outside, and stash it next to their carton of dozen eggs to be found with breakfast.

The first few K’s are of the same quality as most of the trail, roots and rocks and mud and stream hops. It is beautiful in the soft morning light.

There are a few funky cairn shapes tucked into the woods.

We reach Holyoke clearing, which sports a cute little two bunk hut and a view out over Marahau, and have a soggy rice cracker snack break while a Weka tries to casually rifle our packs. I feel a small twinge of disappointment that we didn’t press on to here last night- there is also a great flat meadow for camping in front of the hut.

From here, the trail transforms into something resembling the Great Walk sidewalks. It is cruiser, easy, smooth. Oh my god, I think, if the Germans reported that this was hard, how will they do going north from our shared hut? Something tells me they will have an epic adventure tale to tell when their week is over. And that I should have left them more coffee.

The trail winds through environment that reminds me of the desert, chunky granite scattered throughout coarse sand, bonsai Manuka forests that are sparse and shoulder high, piles of silver puffball moss. The openness allows great views, and we draw close to the end of our loop. We pass a sign that says “Anchorage/ Watering Cove – 4 Hours.” Dang! If we had camped at Holyoke we could have just squeezed in Watering Cove this morning. Ah well. Hopefully we do come back.

We are close enough to the coastal track that we see more and more people. A particularly enthusiastic Kiwi stops to chat- he loves the Inland Track, and trains on it for adventure races. The Marahau estuary comes into view below.

When we rejoin the coastal track, it seems packed with people. Most of them are day hiking in to a beach for the day, and we are walking against the flow. We have a lot of time before the bus arrives, so we collect some water on the way.

We sit down at the kiosk with a full hour to spare. What a great National Park! Although we both had been dreaming longingly of pizza, we have so much food left in our foodbags we make lunch out our leftovers instead. When the bus pulls up, the driver is much crustier and grouchier than the one that had brought us here; he seems put out that people plan to purchase seats from him- “what would you do if the bus were full?!” he demands- even though more than 3/4 of the seats were empty. He gives us some vague information about a bus from Motueka to Nelson that we could have booked, but would now arrive after. After he causes a girl to burst into tears, he finally softens up.

Should we stay in Motueka? Should we stay in Nelson? Just get straight back to the Pelorus Bridge? What are the bus timetable options? Should we hitch? The options are many and the uncertainties are overwhelming.

By the time we arrive back in Motueka, we have mostly decided to stay there. As luck would have it, however, the bus to Nelson is sitting at the stop as we pull up, and there are still two seats available. We take it as a sign and jump on.

In Nelson, we are torn. I really want an evening in cell service to talk to family, Prana really wants to get back to the trail and have this suspension of main mission finished. Lodging options are pricier than I hoped, but by the time I finish researching all those options and the bus timetables, the one bus that passes the Pelorus has come and gone. I guess we stay in Nelson tonight.

We opt for the cheapest place, The Bug Inn, even though it is the furthest from everything. “It’s only a 10-15 minute walk,” reassures the girl who helps me make the reservation.

40 sweltering minutes across boiling asphalt later, we finally reach the inn, which is Bug as in VWs, not insects. I take this as a promising sign; it is cute, an old couple of houses converted into rooms, and there is a fish and chips shop around the corner. We put our packs in our room and go for the fish and chips, which turns out o be the kind of place where you order the type of fish you want (Prana goes for the fish burger, I order snapper), and has kumara (sweet potato) fries which carmelize in the fried. A massive win.

We find a picnic table in the park, and a lady dumps a loaf of bread on the ground for the birds not far away. The birds and we feast in parallel. We find triple scoop ice cream cones, and make our way back to our room, and showers, content.

We plug in all the dying electronics, and I journal until I can’t stand my smell in the closed clean room anymore. I collect all the laundry and throw it in; the detergent dispenser malfuntions, so I consider adding dish detergent. I’m not sure what’s in either, though, and there is a vague memory of a sort in the back of my mind of someone accidentally creating a caustic combination out of two benign cleaners, so I chicken out in the end, hoping the clothes will be cleaner enough just from hot water. The shower is adequate- one of those variable temperature showers that occasionally throws in a freezing or scalding second, just for fun. The dryer is only available set on industrial high heat, so I hang the laundry rather than risk melting it, even though it is meant to rain tonight.

The internet is fantastic at the Bug Inn, so I make great progress on journaling and putting up blogs until way too late into the night.

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