Day 145 A new kind of pain
Wednesday 4 March Comyns Hut to Lake Emily Start 7.45am Finish 4.40pm Distance 24km Total 2,286km Steps 35,334 Elevation: climbed at total of 800m, descended a lot, but mostly gently. Weather: Low cloud, drizzle and cold Extremely cold feet. That was today's 'Pain of the Day'. Within 5 minutes of leaving the hut this morning my feet and up to my shins were immersed in ice cold water. The first two hours of the day was following the Hakatere River which then became the Round Hill Creek. By follow it I mean cross it dozens and dozens of times. It is pretty much the trail. The river is in a narrow gorge so there is no way around it. On this kind of trail you want a hot, blistering day. I was presented with low mist and cold temperatures. I started with three layers including my raincoat and beanie, and ended the day with the same, having removed no layer all day.
As I progressed up the river my feet got colder and colder. The trail climbs the river up to Clent Hills Saddle. It's a mere 600m increase in altitude over 8km. So as I climbed higher it got even colder. The mist thickened and it drizzled. When I wasn't getting wet in the river, the tussock grass, which was saturated, dumped all the lovely droplets of water onto me. Therefore it didn't matter much that the river maxed out a knee height, because the wet tussock made sure the rest of my legs were soaked. Did I mention it was also drizzling. I think it was actually just the heavy mist. I know I have failed to mention the wind. That was saved until the other side of Clent Hill Saddle, just when there wasn't a dry patch on you, a bit of a really cold wind hammered home the misery. On one side of the Saddle I couldn't feel my feet, on the other side it was my hands. (Note to self: Why are some crossings over mountain ranges called Saddles and some called Passes?) Yet, there I was, loving it. Seriously cold and constantly checking for signs of hypothermia, but still feeling the thrill of what I was doing.
There are a couple of additional consequences of being wet. The first is you don't stop for breaks. I still took some quick photos, but you chill even more when you stop. No stopping means you don't eat properly. While I might give the impression a diet of nothing but snacking on chocolate is adequate, even my well adapted body needs a variety of fuel. I took my first sit down break down the valley, below the clouds at about 2.30pm. I had picked the spot in advance, thinking it should be lovely. Lake Seagull was its name. Well there were no Seagulls, and unfortunately no lake. All dried up. There were some ducks, and some lovely tiny blue flowers growing out of the cracked dry mud, but otherwise very unlake like. Still, it had a big rock for me to sit on, and my legs were desperate for a rest.
The remainder of the afternoon was continuing down the valley through the tussock and Spinney Spaniard Grass. Tussock is okay, and only tries to trip you up occasionally. Spaniard Grass is architecturally beautiful but lethal. It drew blood numerous times with its sharply tipped leaves.
Manuka Lake had suffered the same fate as Seagull Lake, so I was surprised to find water at Emily Lake where I have camped. Even more surprised to find two people fly fishing. The lake, which is pretty small, is also home to at least 50 swans, 200 or so ducks, and a flock of Canadian Geese keep flying over it looking for somewhere to land. However no seagulls that I can see. Not sure where they went when their lake dried up. I am camped about 3km beyond Manuka Hut, to give me a head start on tomorrow. It is a 29km day, and I need to be at the tracks end by 5pm to get the shuttle again. It is 7.45pm now. Is that too early to go to sleep?