Day 96 Tararua Ranges
Tuesday 14 January Poads Road to Te Matawai Hut Start 8.05am Finish 4.45pm Distance 14km Total 1,550km Elevation 1,300m Weather: initially sunny, progressively getting cloudy and cold. This section is the first real test of my fitness, combining steep climbs and descents with a muddy track, over four days. The weather started with clear, sunny skies and the first 4km was a very gentle climb. The DOC intentions book at the beginning of the track had 13 people walking yesterday. I was the first for today. My hope was any backlog caused by the weather went yesterday and just maybe I would have the trail near enough to myself.
The trail took a sharp incline. A climb of 800m over 4km. I was surprised at how well my body was doing. About 2 hours in a couple passed me. My hope was that they were walking so fast their aim was the following shelter. The bush was typical NZ fauna, lush and dense, and as I gained altitude the moss draped from the trees and it was like a scene from a hobbit movie.
Around lunch a French guy, Max, passed me. I was hopeful he would be the only one. I stopped dozens of times to take photos of the great views. I eventually just left the camera around my neck. The track then did a steep 200m descent through significant amounts a mud, which made it slow going, followed by more climbing. Cloud cover came in and the temperature dropped significantly.
As no one else had passed me so I thought the hut should be nice and quite. I arrived and the couple and Max were here. I thought not too bad for a hut that takes 18. I counted my chickens way too soon. Over the last 2 hours the hut has filled. There are about 14 people here now. The bunk arrangement has everyone lying side by side so I have people immediately on either side of me. Not my ideal and I fear this is how the trail will be from now on. One of the disadvantages of taking so long. Tomorrow's hut, only has 6 bunk beds! That will be interesting. I may just walk on by and camp in my tent. I don't think there is any chance of me getting to the following hut. That is an additional 8km including 380m ascent and more difficult, a 1240m descent over 3km. What's more I want to be on top of the ridge for sunrise and sunset, rather than down in the valley. I guess that will be dictated by the wind as the ridge is exposed without any tree cover.
I've just been out to watch the sun set over the ranges. In particular Pukematawai which we climb tomorrow. Pretty spectacular and very cold. It's the coldest I have experienced all trail so far. A bit of a taster of what it's going to be like in the South Island.