3/7 The Lakes of Mavora

Greenstone Hut to Mavora Campsite

37 k

The alarm goes off at 6:00 am, a bit tricky considering the stacked communal sleeping, and even though Prana has the ringer turned off and his headphones plugged in, the phone still jangles loudly. We try to creep as quietly as we can into the kitchen space, hoping to not interfere with anyone else’s morning plan of sleeping in.

Someone has dragged their mattress out of a bunk room and is now sleeping on the floor of the community area. Even though I recognize my reaction is uncompassionate, my pre-coffee self finds this incredibly annoying as we now have nowhere to pack and eat breakfast that will not be disturbing others.  Except outside, which is cold and breezy, and which is where we go.

With no tent to dry and pack, we are fed and ready to go before 6:45, and with no options to entertain ourselves or linger in the warmth of the hut, we have nothing to do but start hiking. Which is what we do, into the dark, following the beams of our headlamps.  Mouse is still asleep inside the hut, but there is no way to wake her up without causing a ruckus, and I don’t doubt her ability to catch up.

We diverge almost immediately from the Greenstone River and head up the valley of the Pass Burn.  Today’s track, the Mavora Walkway, has an intriguing name and a messy tread. The forest is splintered and tumbled, leaving plenty of debris to crawl over.  We pick our way along the soggy trail, just this side of shivering, gathering elevation as the sun starts to tinge the world with light.

Most of the morning alternates between bog and tussock.  It’s actually kind of fun – there is no one else in sight, and the tread is rugged enough to be engaging without being demoralizing.  A cloudy fog blankets the sky, which slowly burns off as we chug along.  We have several walking snacks throughout the morning, and eventually it is warm enough that when I catch up to Prana again, we plop down for a break.  The sun bursts through the clouds as we are munching our oaty bars, sprawled out in the beautiful valley.

We turn a corner to learn our snack break was just short of Taipo Hut.  Less than a kilometer and around a bend is a little four bunk hut in a fenced in yard, the porch soaking in sunshine.  We are making better time than I had calculated.  The entry into the enclosure was via an old, weather-bleached, rimless wagon wheel, waist high, balanced horizontally on a pole, repurposed as a turnstile!  I find this to be irresistibly whimsical and brilliant.

We plan to go into the hut to peruse the hiker book, and Laura steps out of the front door, waving.  I swear, this girl must be able to teleport.  How did she get ahead of us again?Since we just had our break, we don’t linger long, and then we are off again.  A lovely swing bridge leads across a small entrenched creek, and suddenly….the hiking becomes mind numbingly tedious.  The tread is along a torn up farm track, muddy and pocked, intermittently blocked by large, intimidating bulls.  This is occasionally punctuated by side hilling on lumpy, loose, rocky ground, where the trail has a tendency to disappear in scratchy, tangled knee high bush.  I plug in my headphones, and finish the whole Embedded podcast series.

I fight my way up onto a flat table top of ground, and Prana is waiting.  There is, strangely, a bench, and even though it is a novelty and unexpected and civilized, I much prefer to just sprawl out on the grass.  Lunch is simply snacks today, with a powdered smoothie thing that Prana found somewhere and has been carrying as a surprise, a blissfully yummy surprise.  As we munch and slurp, Mouse appears over the knoll.

“That was not a very nice French leave today!” she declares, dropping her pack next to us, looking a bit flustered.  Even as I attempt to explain the reasoning that seemed sound this morning, remorse wells up in my throat to think that we hurt our good friend’s feelings.  She doesn’t appear to hold it against us, though, and we all pack up lunch and head on.

The track becomes easier, evolving from mucky cow track, to double track, to a four wheel drive road.  I listen to a binge of podcasts with the new attentionless freedom of my feet, Hold that Thought, Radiolab, and the most striking of which is an Outside podcast on biocontrol, the practice of reigning in an invasive species with its natural predator.  Turns out, more biocontrol measures have been successful than not in the grand total of attempts; apparently the media just loves to spread the horror stories.  Even a few that initially backfired have apparently redeemed themselves with later, unpredictable, unreported, positive contributions.  Hallelujah!  I feel uplifted by this news.

A gorgeous bridge spans the Mararoa River to reach Boundary Hut.  I stop and drink it in; the wilds are breathtaking, and one thing I love about the backcountry structures over here is that they often serve as a counterpoint that accentuates rather than detracts, a perfect foil to the inaccessible facade of the landscape. _8310314

The trail doesn’t lead to the hut itself, so I give the turnoff a pass and follow the 4wd on a climb up above a lake, the first of the Mavoras.  The road gently descends until it is following along the spacious shore.

Prana finds a place to cook dinner, in the hottest sun we have had all day. It’s slightly too hot, but in contrast to the constant dampness and chilly breezes up to now, it feels close enough to good to tolerate.  A guy buzzing through on a four wheeler parks to chat for a bit, and encourages us enthusiastically.

The last 6.7 k goes quickly, as does the light.  Mouse and I share embarrassing stories with each other, and laugh hard all the way to camp.

I’m glad we cooked dinner when we did, because once the sun dipped below the ridge, the cold air pooling off the lake became downright frigid.  Camp is tucked under some gracefully arching beeches the shore, and dinner done means the built up heat of walking is still smoldering when everything is pitched and fluffed and we burrow into our nests, done with chores.  Time to celebrate with some chocolate, some snuggling, and some starry views.

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