Pines Camping Area to Lake Ohau
It is a chilly wake up this morning, but the reward is a brilliant neon sunrise, the colors reflecting off of the peaks and snowy faces ringing the lake. The bike trail leads forward as easily as yesterday, through several beautiful, clean, secluded clusters of pine trees, and then an expansive open meadow, and finally to the village of Twizel.
Twizel. The village I have been longing for, for multiplying reasons. I have been looking forward to it for weeks to replace my shoes, and now days to hopefully retrieve my fleece hat and headlamp, assuming Jenny mailed them, which I have faith that she did.
We wait for Bigfoot Mouse at the turn into town, where a cafe called the Musterer’s Hut looks inviting. “Do you think they will accept are backcountry hut passes there?” I ask in jest. “Good for some thick gritty musterer coffee?” It only takes a few seconds to locate the center of town, with a huge grass lawn, picnic tables, person sized-chess, multiple bakeries, multiple outdoor/hardware stores, and the I-site, acceptor and holder of all packages of my desire.
Justin and Caroline are having coffee in front of the the cafe with the best chalk artwork, and we chat with them a few minutes before scouring the stores for insoles for Prana, whose feet still cripple with shooting pain in unprovoked moments, and new Thermarests for both of us, as ours are back slowly flattening by morning. No luck on either.
We return to the cafe and order some brunch (veggie quiche, fish burgers, fries, cobbler, and coffee), plug in all the things, and I go to learn if the packages have indeed been delivered. They have! My fleece hat and headlamp, the box of extra food Prana forwarded from Methven, and my shoes are all here. Tucked in with my shoes is more toothpaste, sandfly repellant, a second pair of tights to hike in so I can keep my fleece ones always dry to sleep in, and a ultra light sleeping bag liner that should add 20 degrees of warmth to my sleeping bag. It’s probably still overkill for now, but maybe it won’t be up where all the snow is.
We go on a grocery run to boost our food box contents up to 4 days (Twizel prices are no less inflated than Tekapo’s) and repack it into the food bags. As we are lingering at the picnic table, milking a last few minutes of electricity from the inside of the cafe, I watch the hordes of every kind of tourist mill about, catching busses, resting in the sun, window shopping. I see a hiker out of the corner of my eye quickly change down to underwear, trading fleece pants for hiking shorts, in the middle of the crowd. I crack up to myself about the stark contrast of social convention, but their approach appears to work; no one offendable seems to have noticed.
Just over two hours in town, and time to get back in the saddle again. I’m riveted to my audiobook at this point, so I am stoked the cycleway continues. My shoes feel like moon boots, they are so tall and springy compared to the pair that had been walked into the ground. What an amazing feeling! My big toe still feels out of joint, and the arches and heels feel tender and beaten, but at least now there is hope in a few days they will improve for awhile, until this pair starts to wear down again in the endless cycle.
We walk past another large lake and then follow the looping river at its western end, trudging through the newly accumulating heat on a road surfaced with large gravel and cobbles. Prana and I stop for an indulgent break in the sparse grass in the sun, and Mouse must have passed without seeing us, because we come upon her not much later, also taking a break.
We hike together for a little ways after this, she and I talking about smoothie recipes, vegan cooking, and how much we are both looking forward to both of those categories once home. We pass a whole mess of mushrooms that I am almost 100% positive are porcini, but just not quite, so I pass them by. I’ll send a picture to a friend in the next town to confirm it, and probably kick myself. I need to get some serious mushroom education somewhere.
We descend to a weir at the upper end of Lake Ohau, and it’s already dinner time, the day having passed uneventfully and easily. Prana and I couldn’t find any of our standard fresh-out-of-town-dinner ingredients, so we have a haphazard combo of Laksa (some kind of Malaysian soup) and fresh egg fettuccini. Both components prove fantastic, although I’m not sure either actually benefits from the pairing.
We walk a few more k on the edge of Lake Ohau; I’ve really come to prefer walking after dinner. The mountain walls here are quite dramatic, diving straight into the edge of the lake, and the trail is tucked just along its edge, through tall ferns and thick rose bushes, secretive. We find a grassy meadow to pitch in, and go through all the evening chores as the clouds tinge pink above us. I snuggle into my sleeping bag liner, and of course, eat chocolate with Prana before falling asleep.