I decided to get an early start today as I wanted to get up the hill and off the open tops before it got too hot.
Nick had already said he would be awake so it was nice not to have to try to be quiet. I was on my way at 0700 and it was cooler to start but soon warmed up.
The trail notes say this section is challenging and they are right. I am glad I decided not to push on last night as this section required concentration and no tripping. The track followed the Wairoa River upstream and as this was a narrow valley that meant sidling most of the way. Unfortunately not much effort has gone into creating a flat path along the hill so a lot of the way it was a narrow ledge and frequently there was a good drop off do to the river. There were a few times my adrenalin was going.
Occasionally there would be a flatish spot where I could relax. Just as I was climbing out of one of these nice bits I was in a good mood. I could see the sun was shining on the hills above which meant I would get good views, the river was pretty below, the birds singing and AARRGH! I look down and there is a wasp with its rear end stuck into my leg gleefully pumping poison into me going "take that he he he, take that he he he" cue evil laugh " ma ha ha ha". Eventually it decided I had been punished enough and disengaged, flying off to continue its business and I am sure laughing at having such fun and glad it is not a bee.
In its defence I think that it got caught behind my knee as I was stepping up and was being squashed.
So now the top of calf just below back of knee was very sore. Luckily I am not allergic.
I continued on tiptoeing above the river until the track headed up out of the trees to the pretty Top Wairoa Hut. The hut has been renovated and is in its original Forest Service colour of bright orange with the hut number painted on the roof. It took 3 hours 30 minutes to get to this hut. I only stopped long enough to fill in the Hut Book and then up to Wairoa Pass.
This track gains height more gently than I expected but is hard work due to the rockhopping through large boulder fields.
From the pass the track followed the ridge and then sidled along a hill on a scree slope. Then it was a few more boulder fields and some tussock to the point where the descent started. I stopped for lunch here as I wanted to keep taking in the amazing views. In one direction was the ocean. In all of the other directions was mountains as far as I could see. There was not just one mountain in each direction but mountains stacked behind each other. Absolutely fantastic.
I dragged myself away from the views and started the descent. Normally I don't like downhills but this one was easy with grippy gravel and then in the trees the track was nice. From the junction in the middle of a rocky clearing the track started to drop steeper but I was still finding it okay. Unusually the treeline stopped and the rest of the descent was in the open. This is due to this being part of the Nelson Mineral Belt whuch contains some unusual minerals but not enough of the normal ones to allow normal vegetation to grow. The terrain looked more like desert than what I would expect and the change was nice, though hot with no shade. Also the hut was in sight early into the descent despite still being several km away.
By the bottom of the hill I was really hot when as the track crossed a streamand I saw a lovely pool I dropped my pack and jumped in, shoes and all. It was time my clothes got a rinse after the continual sweating up the hills.
Feeling nice and refreshed I followed the slightly overgrown track along the river then uphill to the Hunters Hut (4 hours 25 minutes). Already there was Fred and Nev who I had met in the Tararuas and a friend of theirs who was joining them for a section. I feel sorry for this guy trying to keep up with trail fit people. While the hills are hard work that is only due to the speed I am climbing them and once at the top my recovery is really fast.
I left there after a snack for the final section of the day to Porters Hut. The trail notes describe this section as "undulates" which is correct if you call 100 meter vertical climb and descent over and over undulating. The scenery continued to be amazing and this section covered a wide variety of terrain including tussock, scrub, boulder fields, scree slopes, beech forest and open moon like terrain.
As I came over a saddle the hut came into sight in the distance. The bright orange really stands out. Unfortunately I couldn't pick up the pace as the track was too rough but it didn't take long to reach the hut (3 hours 20 minutes from Hunters Hut).
The hut was nice and clean but there was no water. All huts have a water tank fed by rain on the roof so I was surprised that this didn't. There was a 20 litre container that had about 5 litres in it. I decided to leave that to someone arriving late and followed the directions in the front of the hut book to fill up my water bottles.
I was happy to have the hut to myself for the first time in the South Island. I had fun reading the hut book while eating dinner.
Knowing I would have mice tonight (from the hut book) I hung all my food out of reachand humg my pack as well. I then looked at all potential noise producing items and put them out of mouse reach or outside. Unfortunately I couldn't stop the noise they were making inside the fire. They were pretty brazen and came under the door before it was even dark.