Distance today: 20.5km
Distance total: 3235.6km
Time hiked: 7h 28min
Time total: 984h 30min
Again a wet, windy and cold night.
Again I have a hard to get out of my comfy sleeping bag, packing my gear and stowing my soaked tent. 5 more days to go...
After a short walk to the road end, it's straight into a muddy but gradual climb up Bald Hill.
The beechforest is amazing - so mystic. Nearly surreal with the fog.
Reminds me of Pureora Forest. Just a bit more spectacular but a bit muddier as well.
I'm plow right through the mud - there's really no sense in avoiding the mud pools. There are just to many. I try to dodge the deepest sections though. Unfortunately I missed a super deep one. With my right leg up to my gentlemen's area in the mud, it's actually quite tricky to get out of awkward situation.
Above the tree line it's a walk through shrubs and tussock - muddy as well. Much more unpleasant is the cold wind though. In order to get out of the wind, I'm pushing up to the antenna and right down on the other side, now on gravel road.
Then it's back into the mud, eh forest for the climb up to Longwood Peak. Two NOBO's, one of them in Bedrock Sandals, seem to be a bit bewildered by the track conditions. Understandable. I felt the same in Raetea.
This was four months ago. Now it's only five more days to Bluff. Accordingly, I take it easy. Step by step. Enjoying the still stunning forest.
The smoke of a burning fire can be smelled from far away.
It's 2:30 and I'm in another boggy descent to Martin's Hut.
Great that someone lit a fire. But hopefully there's still space. No hiking poles outside this time - a good sign. The door is locked. I knock and the door opens. Only one guy in there. Perfect. Would have been a real bummer to camp outside. Especially as Martin's Hut is the last hut on Te Araroa.
While settling in, more and more trampers show up. All of them NOBO's. The first two get the remaining two bunks, the following three make themselves comfortable on the floor. Three others need to camp outside.
The hut is packed and it's certainly no fun. I'm actually glad that I started early in the hiking season and was able to enjoy empty or nearly empty huts most of the time.
I shudder to think how crowded it gets on the trail, when all these NOBO's come upon the SOBO's that are currently being held up further up north due to the bad weather.
I've been asked by two followers, what I feel when thinking about the fact that my 'journey' is going to end shortly: predominantly joy. My hikoi, my journey has been great. So many fantastic impressions. Lovely people, wonderful landscapes. Reducing life to the basics. As much as I enjoy Te Araroa however: it has often been a challenge. Both, mentally and physically. And right now, lying here in this ridiculously crowded hut, after spending the last 7 hours in ankle to knee deep mud, I'm actually looking forward for the end.