Distance today: 22.6km (+10km until hitching a ride)
Distance total: 2623.2km
Time hiked: 6h 21min
Time total: 796h 19min
Little bit of rain during the night, nothing serious though. By the time I leave, most clouds have in fact already dissipated.
The day starts with a short, steep, slippery descent down the saddle. Pretty hard on my cold knees. Once down I follow the undulating track to an intersection:
To the left a shortcut to Clearwater Village, straight ahead the TA to Potts Bridge. Very tempting to take the shortcut and hitch a ride from the village. But I've got plenty of time and thus continue straight ahead on the TA-Trail to Potts Bridge, even though I know it's going to be hard to impossible to hitch a ride from there. Most probably I need to walk back 10 kilometer along the road to Clearwater Village.
Nevertheless, I think it's well worth the detour: in cracking morning light I pass a tarn, its blue water in a wonderful contrast to the golden shining tussock. The rain around the Divide in the background makes the scenery perfect.
After taking some mandatory photos, I follow Potts River to the Rangitata. An amazingly wide, braided river, with dozens of single stream... And far away on the other side: the trailhead of the Two Thumbs Track. So close, yet so far.
A deserted road leaves me no other choice than to walk back two hours to the village. A motorcycle is approaching from behind. I try my luck. Before I can lift my arm however, I realize the Socius is already occupied and they don't look like the want to do it South East Asian style (three people crammed on a bike ;)
It's hot, really hot and for once I'm actually thankful for the refreshing wind. Three cars pass me, non of them cares to stop though. Doesn't really matter anymore anyway, as I'm getting close to the village.
I was expecting a backwater - a quiet little place. But no. I can hardly believe what I see. New Years Day, fantastic weather - the place is packed. Hundred of people spread along the two lakes, water skiers, kids on trail bikes, an ice cream van (would be cool to hitch a ride with it ;) and a vintage fire engine driving around.
This is going to be ridiculously easy to hitch a ride. Before I do so, I go for a swim in one of the clear lakes. Refreshing!
When I get out of water a few minutes later, a lady offers me some cake and fresh water. Lovely.
It takes me 10 seconds to hitch a ride with an older couple and her even older dad. As it turns out they are farmers and members Geraldine Tramping Club. They hiked a few sections of the TA and provide me with valuable info about the upcoming sections.
We stop in Mount Somers for an Ice Cream before they take me to Peel Forest. She actually wants to drive me to Mesopotamia, the trail head of the Two Thumbs Track 50 kilometer further upstream. Her hubby however says no. That's fully okay, as I don't intend to head there today anyway but rather spend the night here in Peel Forest and ride with the Mail Run tomorrow morning.
I spot Jasmine, who is trying to hitch a ride up to Mesopotamia. She has been standing here for 6 hours. Without success.
Upon asking her why she doesn't want to go with the Mail Run, she replies that there's no run until Wednesday. 3 days away. Shit. This changes everything. Instead of spending the night at the camp here, we try to hitch a ride together.
Not easy at all! It's after 2 hours, close to four and I'm about to give up, when a small Hatchback with two trampers pulls over. Even though they are only headed for the campground 5 kilometer up the road, the feel pity for us and offer to take us all the way to the trail head. Wow. A whopping 90 kilometer detour for them. People here are so amazing. They really go out of their way!
The bumpy ride on the gravel road takes about an hour - it's cramped and dusty inside the car, which is struggling with the rough road.
We get dropped of at 4:45. To the next hut it's 4 hours. With the days currently being so long (sunset is around 9:20), there's still plenty of time to get there in daylight.
We are fighting a strong crosswind until entering the Bush Stream valley, which is very similar to the section after Comyns Hut. The crossings are a bit trickier though. Especially the ones around Sawtooth.
To avoid a gorged section, the well formed track climbs and drops steeply again to the river. After crossing bush stream for a last time it's another arduous ascent to Crooked Spur Hut, where I arrive 3.5 hours after leaving the car park.
With Jasmine, who arrives 45 minutes after me, two NOBO girls and three baby-hunters (all of them around 10 y/o) the tired hut is fairly cramped. But I don't care. All I need is sleep after a long, but fulfilling New Year's Day.