Day 160 – Lower Princhester Hut to Aparima Hut

Date: 3 March 2021
Trail covered: 16.2km (kms 2783.2 to 2799.4)
Weather: warm

After two big days I forced myself to leave later so that I wasn’t tempted to have another big day. It definitely wasn’t any kind of hardship. The other two left early and so it was very nice to chill out a bit in the hut.

Hut to myself

I took a little bit of time to read the Reader’s Digest from 1987 that was on the table. It featured an article about Bill Cosby, and also another article about the benefits of writing a daily diary (although unsurprisingly blogs weren’t mentioned).

COSBY!

I also read back through the hut’s Intentions Book from a year ago. There were some familiar names in there. I saw Alex, Peter, Charlie, Kay, Agneta, Rowan, Mark, Jolanda, Eirik, Robert, Nick, Florian, Ben and Antoine. I didn’t see Rhydian’s name, but maybe I just didn’t look hard enough.

There’s Peter, Charlie and Alex

There was a big gap in the book between 27 March (three days after the national lockdown last year) and 14 May.

I tried to do something with the three blisters that have developed on my right foot. Two days ago I tried plasters and yesterday I tried duct tape. Nothing sticks – there’s just no product out there that holds to skin when you have wet feet.

I left at 9am, about an hour after the others. The map showed an immediate 350m elevation from the hut, which isn’t a lot compared to previous sections of the trail but it’s my first real hill since restarting. For the next couple of days I’m walking through the Takitimu Forest.

Starting out

The forest reminds me of walking up Pirongia mountain – although possibly slightly steeper at first. And my feet started the day off dry. The plants in the forest were all dry as there wasn’t any rain overnight. It was really nice.

But since I was going uphill, I would sweat a bit and at the slightest bit of sweat, like always, my sunglasses fog up. I wonder if one day, somebody will invent lenses for glasses that don’t fog up. I feel like that person will make a billion dollars overnight.

But one thing I did encounter on this track which I haven’t encountered on the trail before is these little black things that stick to your leg hair as you brush past them. They feel like very tiny but very real razor blades. It might be worth shaving your leg hair before walking this section!

I’ve never known what this evil thing is called
A very efficient seed dispersal mechanism

The path was well formed all the time, although there were some parts that were a little challenging.

The roots make for good steps at least

I met up with Nicola at the saddle. We had a snack here and chatted about stuff. We hoped there would be a nice view but there were too many trees so we couldn’t see much.

Nicola talked about how she spent 6 days in Blue Lake Hut, because there was too much snow to cross the Waiau Pass. On the fourth day she tried to cross but too much snow meant she had to turn back. She said she was going nuts after spending that long in one hut. I can’t imagine spending that long in a hut… although I did spend the week in the small cabin in the Methven campground.

Snack break at the top of the first bit

The red Guthook line was really far away from the path through this part of the forest. When the app said we had gone 2.5km my GPS watch said we had gone 5km. That’s quite a big difference and it made it a lot harder to know how far I was away from things… Although I realised later that my watch lost the GPS signal through here for some reason, and when that happens it tries to guess your distance based on your step count. When we are hiking we take small steps so that will be why the watch hugely over-estimated the distance.

We left just before 11am. My 11am picture is Nicola coming down the other side of the hill. It looks like there’s no obvious path down through the plants but it was easy to see when you’re there.

11am picture

Despite some mud every now and again…

Some mud

It was nice walking through the forest.

After a while walking through the forest, we came out into tussock. Alternating between forest and tussock was to be our day for the rest of the day.

The first tussock field
This tussock is not higher than the markers

At first it didn’t seem bad. The markers were prominent and the tussock was only waist height.

And cute home-made signs

And occasionally the trail went back into the forest where it was always well formed and easy to follow.

Back into the forest
Back out of the forest

But as the day went on the tussock got higher and the ground got swampier. It was always easy to find the markers but sometimes reaching them was another thing altogether.

No shortage of markers here
Or here

Towards the end you simply couldn’t avoid the mud and it was often stinky. This section was particularly nasty.

Mud hidden in the grass
Tricky terrain, also with mud

This rock formation was cool though.

And I moaned about going over this hill, which really on the grand scheme of things was tiny.

This guy knows my pain….

Nicola and I stuck together for most of the day but she had to stop and tend to blisters at one point and so I left her as the sandflies started biting. Fortunately my blisters aren’t giving me any troubles today.

Progress got harder and slower as the day went on. It got to the point where the tussock was as high as my shoulders and you couldn’t see the ground, which meant I stepped in mud and holes because I couldn’t see them easily.

High tussock

I was getting really frustrated with the slow progress. Each kilometer started taking 30 minutes, and the 5-6 hours suggested by the trail notes for this section came and went. I kept thinking to myself that I hope I don’t have to do this again tomorrow. I think I’d lose the will to live.

I had a look at the map and tomorrow the topographical map does seem to put us in the forest all day. I hope that’s true.

2km before the hut the train joins up with a more “touristy” path and so the going becomes a lot easier.

I walked along the top of this slip and then further up the hill.

And past a dilapidated trig point.

The path looked similar for the last bit but there was no mud and no pushing through high tussock so I was fine with it.

Last bit

Got down the hill to find Aparima Hut. What a sight for sore eyes!

Aparima Hut on the left and its older brother on the right

It took us just over 7 hours to walk the 20km. That’s slow going. Today was supposed to be an “easy day” and tomorrow was supposed to be harder. And it’s especially annoying when the trail notes say 5-6 hours, it never feels good to take longer than the trail notes say!

There appear to be two huts. An old one and a new one. The old one had just a few bunks and nothing else.

There is lots of stuff outside the hut. Uh oh… is there some kind of big party here? No, it’s all stuff labelled with Department of Conservation. Nobody was around when I arrived but a few sleeping bags have been claimed in both huts.

Had a decent chance to rest. Nothing was hurting this time, but it had been a frustrating day. It was an hour or so before Nicola and the DOC staff joined me.

According to the hut book, the DOC staff are giving out food. I can see their boxes of food are still mostly full. I wonder if we will get lucky!

Boxes of tempting food

There turned out to be four DOC staff who were doing maintenance on nearby tracks. It was good to talk to some new people and they shared their saveloys with us. I don’t eat a lot of meat usually but saveloys tasted great after a long day. They made nachos for dinner and they looked and smelled fantastic but Nicola and I didn’t partake in those, sadly!

They said that each night they make an expensive satellite phone call back to head office to report on their progress. One of the guys made the phone call, and we overheard the conversation. It revolved entirely around saveloys and sport. Nothing about the weather forecast, or the work they had to do, or anything like that!

The six of us talked about all sorts of things. They get helicoptered in along with all their giant bins of food and supplies. They also apparently don’t know any card games.

They said they didn’t experience any mouse problems last night so that was nice to hear… although as I was trying to fall asleep I kept hearing a strange noise coming from an animal of some kind. But hopefully if there is a mouse in here it prefers all the big bins of DOC food to my small bag of food.

Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):

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