Date: 7 March 2021
Trail covered: 28km (kms 2874.4 to 2902.4)
Weather: very very blah
Ah Longwood Forest. The day I’d been dreading but also excited about for quite some time. The last major challenge before the South Coast and before my beer and burger at the Tavern.
It was raining through the night and still was while Nicola and I were making breakfast. I suggested that I will depart once the rain stops, or if it doesn’t stop before 9:30am, then just go then. She said she’s just going to go as soon as she’s packed. So I need to toughen up and go too because it would be nice to have two people for this section, plus my small gas canister might not last two more days and Nicola was nice and said I could borrow hers if I had to.
I could’ve picked a gas canister up at Birchwood Station. They had tons in the free food box.
I was feeling excited about today, well everything except the rain. Nicola said she was dreading it.
Today it seems to be 3km of road walk, then a steady climb from 100m up to 800m over 10km. Then a descent to 400m followed by a steep climb back to 800m. The distance is supposed to be 28km. It’s going to be a hard day there’s no denying it.
We left at 8:20am and well, that’s when the fun started. The rain was light rain at first, so as we walked down the gravel road…
…our spirits were high and we chatted about stuff. After the 3km of gravel road, the next 3km were a forestry road and it was quite beautiful, so that made me pleasantly surprised.
However the rain was getting heavier and there was no blue sky to be seen anywhere. It kept crossing my mind “it’s not too late to turn back ya know”, but we pressed on.
As we started into the actual forest, it soon became clear what we were in for today. Mud. Lots of mud. We were expecting the mud, and I guess you could say we weren’t disappointed.
What we weren’t expecting was for the rain to get harder, the wind to increase and the temperature to plummet. At 9:30am I had to stop and get my gloves because my hands were freezing, and at that time I also put my phone deep into my pack so it didn’t get damaged by the rain. So that means no more photos for the walk today, sadly. Even if I had my phone handy, my fingers were so cold and everything was so wet I couldn’t have taken the photo anyway.
Actually there is one more photo – the 11am picture. When I put my phone in my pack I didn’t disable the 11am alarm so I had to get the phone out of the pack and silence the alarm. So I at least took the 11am photo, and here it is.
There’s only a small amount of mud where we stopped there, compared to further on. Half the day was spend trying to get around giant mud puddles. We were prepared to walk through a lot of the mud since we were drenched anyway, but not when the mud was knee deep, which judging how deep our walking poles sunk into it, was how deep it was.
When we actually entered the forest itself, the rain didn’t hit us so hard and neither did the wind because we were sheltered. It was actually a nice forest apart from the mud.
There were three separate parts on the walk today which were above the tree-line – we called these bits the “exposed” bits. The first exposed bit was past a big radio tower of some kind and that was okay because the path from there was the 4WD access path to the tower. It lead to a cool quarry which had a burnt out car there. I wish I could’ve taken a photo.
The second exposed bit wasn’t bad too, as there was a temporary break in the rain then. We saw two more northbounders and we had a chat with them. They wondered if they would be able to reach Merrivale Hut since they started a bit late but we told them they’d be fine.
The third exposed bit was where all hell broke loose. It was three and a half kilometers of being pelted with what felt like pieces of ice from the side. It was during this bit where we got hammered by bitterly ice cold wind and sideways rain, and it was hard to see each marker because we were in cloud cover. The side of my face facing the wind felt like it had fully frozen and the wind was blowing me off the path. I actually got a bit nervous when I couldn’t see the next marker. I was glad that in general, the path was really well marked. But like most of the rest of the whole day, the tussock-filled grass was full of stagnant water and mud.
The whole day I hadn’t been able to look at my GPS watch, since it was under my jacket on my wrist and with my heavy gloves on I couldn’t see it. Plus I didn’t want it to tell me something I didn’t want to know, in particular that we still had miles to go, so I just pressed on.
I knew from checking the elevation this morning that Martin’s Hut was at the bottom of the second descent, which started after the third exposed bit. So as we were descending, I hoped that around every corner would be a clearing or the tell-tale signs of a building, but no it was just more mud, well at least for the first 50-ish times it was.
Eventually though, we rounded the corner to see this.
Martin’s Hut. What a sight for sore eyes! And I really mean it this time! And a sight for wet eyes! And wet everything else!
We gingerly ventured inside, as the hut was, shall we say, rustic. But it wasn’t as bad as we expected – the only thing is with its one tiny window it gets exactly zero natural light. We had to make our dinner with head torches at 5pm.
The hut is absolutely covered in graffiti, both inside and out, which is sad to see, and I hate to say that most of it appears to be TA hikers – one as recently as yesterday. STOP IT. Seriously.
It took us about 8 hours to get from Merriview Hut to here. That’s pretty good going but we only stopped very very briefly for food on the way during a very short break in the rain.
We tried to light a fire to assist with drying everything out and stopping shivering, but the tiny amount of wood that was inside wasn’t enough to do anything good and there was no point going outside to find firewood as all the wood is wet. So that means all our stuff will stay wet for a while until we have a chance to dry it out sometime, and we will remain cold.
But some positives have come out of today. The first is that we have passed the 2,900km mark – thats a great feeling. Secondly I have finally had one of those days where I walked in the rain all day and everything is now drenched. I don’t want one of those days but every hiker seems to have one of those days at some point so now I can say I have too. I mean… the Timber Trail day 2 and Comyns Hut to Manuka Hut were wet… But today was WET and freezing cold.
I got my phone out finally and saw we’d walked 28km. That’s a lot for one day for such a muddy part of the trail.
One thing I can say for sure is that putting on sopping wet socks and boots tomorrow morning is going to suck. It would be so great if the rain stopped overnight. As I write this at 9pm it is still raining hard.
Now back before I restarted the trail I was calling this hut “Abundance of Rats Hut”. Fortunately this seems to no longer be the case. There’s no sign of droppings and no recent talk of rats in the intentions book. That makes me very happy. Although I wish I didn’t look up at the ceiling… It’s full of cobwebs and things attached to those cobwebs which look like they’re ready to fall on my face.
If you want to see more photos, check out Alex’s blog post from this section. Seems he had similar weather for half the day… and he did encounter rats.
Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):