2/2 A Serviced Hut

Anne Hut to Boyle Flat Hut

17 k

I slept so well last night- what a relief! I wake up ready to go at 7:15, so quietly get up to make coffee and write. Matthew, who slept out in the common area, is already awake and writing as well; the German couple is on their way out the door. The gray skies swirl outside of the hut windows, intermittently spitting down rain. It’s not long until everyone else is out and about for breakfast too. We all read and write and banter in turns, and the morning steadily ticks away. At one point the girls have all retreated to the bunk room to sit wrapped in our sleeping bags, reading and writing, and the boys are all out in the main room, dragging the furniture around and making a huge ruckus. (I find out later they were practicing climbing moves on the undersides of the tables and benches.) They also start a fire in the potbelly stove, which makes the cabin so pleasantly cosy that I can’t imagine leaving now. The air is damp and frigid outside, and we all sit at the tables, staring out the windows, reading snippets aloud from magazines and cartoons. “‘My Grandmom started walking 5 k a day when she turned 60. Now she would be 97, and we have no idea where the hell she is.’” Talk ranges from the trail to food to gear, to PLBs, or personal locator beacons. “We just bought one in Wellington,” confesses Mario. “As much for ourselves as coming upon someone else needing it.” “Mine is actually a sea rescue beacon, so I could only register it through Great Britain,” says Mouse. “Does that mean if you had pushed it on Waiua Pass, the helicopter would have come and dropped an inflatable life boat, and life jacket, and spare oars?” I ask in jest. “No,” counters Mario, “the rescue boat would be sailing around and around the island, looking at their radar, going ‘we can hear her, we just can’t find her!’” And so the morning goes.

At lunch, we all wait as long as we can to eat- even though we won’t kill our emergency food rations today, there is a pervasive mentality of what-if-it-needs-to-last-longer. Lunch consumed, Prana idly starts packing his gear to just have it tidied and ready, and everyone else leaps at the cue: apparently people are ready to make some moves. At 2:39 Matthew hikes north and we five hike south away from the warm hut, into the exhilarating crisp cold air.

The trail is mostly straight forward and flat, with a few areas of boggy holes and blown down trees. The thick high grass acts as a car wash, wet brushes slapping at our legs and bodies, leaving streams of water running down our rain pants, soaking our shoes. It does feel good to be walking, especially knowing that it’s a short day and that a warm hut waits at the end, now that we have discovered fire in the stoves.

Big swatches of grass are flattened, I suppose pushed over by the wind and plastered in place by the rain. After about two hours we reach the top of a little saddle, the only significant ascent of the day, and we stop and have a quick snack. It doesn’t take long to grow chilly, and then we are quick-stepping down the other side, the air cooling even more. I assume that the second half will take roughly the same amount of time as the first, but after 2 hours and change has elapsed with no sign of the hut, I start to come up with all the ways we could have missed the turn off to it. The GPS on my map set hasn’t been working due to the weather, but I am able to see from the contour lines that the bench the hut is located on is still upcoming. Not too much later I see a red and orange figure crossing a metal wire swing bridge. Huzzah! I pull out my camera and have it focused and framed for when Prana’s bright orange and lime green form crosses. I hurry on, happy the goal is in sight.

There are several different classes of huts in this incredible network of backcountry homes. We can never predict exactly what to expect, as so many of the huts even within the same class are so different, but according to the DoC website, the simplest tier is basic or bivvies- a shelter that may or may not have anything besides a roof to sleep under. Next step up is a standard hut- these will have mattresses of varying age and loft, an easily accessed water supply of some kind, toilets, and wood stoves if below bushline (bushline is timberline to non-NZers). The top tier is serviced huts- these have mattresses, a rain water tank or filtered water supply, toilets, and heating with stocked fuel.

The Boyle Flat Hut is a cute structure, reminiscent to me of A-frame clubhouses back home. There is a young mustached man pushing a wheelbarrow full of wood up to porch; this is Davy from Spain, and he appears to be momentarily living here. He is quite gracious and generous in certain ways- building a large fire, whether we want it or not (we do) making us tea whether we want it or not (most of us don’t) and sharing out slices of cheese. We joke that now this is what is meant by a serviced hut. While we appreciate the active welcome, Davy rattles and clangs until past one in the morning; between the serviced cheese and early silence, I would have forsaken the cheese.

We all cook dinner and Peach finds a pillar candle to light – it’s quite a pleasant little home. The fuzzy storm light trails on and on, and we crawl into our bunks for sleep after 9:00. It’s a double mattress treat night again.

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