Every one was up at the same time which was good. I was making good progress on my morning routine but decided I wanted to leave well after Fred, Nev and Rachel so I wasn't tempted to race to catch up. To fill in the time I made some covers for my shoes to stop the grass seeds getting inside through the gap in my laces not covered by my gaiters. I folded duct tape and cut holes in it to thread the laces through.
I left at 0750 at the same time as the mother and daughter. We crossed the Swingbridge and then I started down the track.
This was mainly in beech forest and large parts was fantastic track. It was easy enough to make good time but interesting enough with roots and rocks to require attention. Not long after leaving the hut I heard a Kea above me but couldn't see it. After crossing another swingbridge the track continued the same as before though there were a couple of open bits. I saw more of the little birds and managed to take a photo but it was blurred There were several Robins and a Tomtit.
There was another swingbridge to cross and as I approached I heard a strange noise that I couldn't place. I started crossing and then saw what had made the noise. It was a large family of Canadian Geese. One went down the rapids with two youngsters and one crossed upstream with 6 youngsters. Mystery solved and I continued. The trees changed from beech forest to mature Manuka. It is not often you see Manuka this big and old.
Not long after I arrived at the car park and made my way to the Boyle Outdoor Centre to pick up my resupply parcel. They charge $10 to hold parcels for TA hikers which is not unreasonable given we don't spend any money with them so they don't benefit from holding our parcels. Fred and Nev had finished sorting their resupply and Rachel was not doing one.
I did my repacking and even though it was only 3 days supply it was still a lot when combined with my leftovers. I grunted as I put my pack on my back and it now seemed really heavy.
Rachel left at 1130 and I left at 1150 before Fred and Nev.
The track was quite overgrown through long grass beside the main road then crossed over and through Matagauri (native prickly short tree). I lost the trail markers after a few hundred metres so just headed for the river. As I reached it Fred and Nev appeared. They had lost the markers from the road.
We crossed the Boyle river which was fast flowing and came just above the bottom of my shorts legs. Then it was a mixture of river stones, long grassed open flats and swamp, some quite deep, until arriving at Doubtful River where I caught up to Rachel. We went upriver a little to get to a better crossing spot then bush bashed our way through stands of Matagauri to get back to the markers. We followed a few then lost them so we cut across to where we thought the track would emerge. This cutting across was not easy as it was through scrub and river stones.
Eventually we found a marker and were back on track. Rachel and I decided to walk together and talked as we walked. The track was on grass and went through some swampy bits until reaching a deer fence which we followed for a while. it then headed uphill through Manuka for longer than I expected. This was not the same route marked on the map but was the marked Tui route that was in the trail notes.
At the top we meandered through Manuka and open bits, often through swamp which were quite deep. Rachel only uses one walking pole so I loaned her one of mine for her to try out using two. Though I walked for years with one pole now I felt unbalanced and really missed the second pole. Rachel liked using both and will be investing in a second pole before her next long walk.
After what seemed like a long time we reached the junction and took a break. Now we were on the main track going through beech forest the condition improved significantly and we made ok time. I didn't feel like pushing the pace and Rachel was happy with this. Fred and Nev overtook us but were still at the Hope Half Way Shelter when we arrived.
After a break we all continued and after skirting the river it was largely in the open. We passed a herd of cows including some large bulls. The time seemed to pass quickly as we were talking the whole time. This is the longest I have walked with someone and it was fun.
At the hut Fred and Nev were there as well as Michael Reed who greeted me by name as he recognised me from my blog. He is section hiking large chunks at a time and this time is going all the way to Queenstown or possibly Bluff depending on how he goes.