A few weeks ago, in the process of hut bagging, I did one of my mind-shattering solo “well, that was exciting, how can we make it less so?” trips. This is not that story.
This story is how, after having done that full-on trip recently, I was MORE than happy to sign up for South Ohau hut. I was feeling relatively fit, and was looking forward to something a bit easier. The email was received as to food etc, and I noted it was an all female group: Excellent! It also had two familiar names to me: Barbara and Anita. Anna was leading, there was one newby, the omens were fantastic.
When trip leader, I am aware that you have to constantly think, think, think. You are always on the look-out for foot placement, weather conditions, track conditions, navigation, comfort levels (particularly of newbies), whether anyone is falling behind, getting too far ahead or simply lost; the mind is a constant whirl until the trip is over. Apart from sticking with the group and ensuring I was on the right track (or on the wrong track but together..?) all the responsibility lay with Anna. I was VERY happy.
The one hiccup in the plan was that it was a Saturday morning start. I took my pack down to the Upper Hutt railway station the night before and by 6.30am (Aargh!) I was already on my bicycle, pedaling to the station for the 7am train. However, I don’t have to do this often, and it meant another hut off my bucket list. My happiness levels were not disturbed.
Barbara, Anita and I carpooled to the road-end, chatting and catching up on recent trips and club gossip. Off we set across the farmland and quickly into mud. However, my body was not hurting and I had spare breath to talk, even on the up hills! This was a rare occurrence and I did my best to keep up my word quota. Life was simply fab, darling!
We met a hunter on his way out of the bush. I’ve always thought it is better to be nice to a man with a gun than not, so as amiably as I knew how, I gently massaged his mind for information. He told us that in the higher reaches, the river flow was swift and too deep for crossing, and that he’d turned back. Before long, we were looking at the water making a decision. It looked pretty and inviting, but based on the hunter’s statement, and being an easy trip, not fanatical FE, we decided to take a sidle-path that Anna knew. This meant a lot fewer river crossings. I’m not overly fond of them, anyway. This trip was getting even better.
Sidle-paths have a reputation of being more gnarly than the main track, but this was generally very easy to follow. A supplejack vine insisted on doing a microphone impersonation (I simply had to use it) and, when I found myself swinging on a tree branch to get myself to a lower part of the track, I couldn’t resist a Tarzan call. There was no rain, no blustery wind and (on my part), no thinking. I was really enjoying myself.
The track started to change. There was still the occasional puddle of mud, of course, but now there were fallen trees to negotiate, a small slip or two and then, a big challenge. We were high up, hard against a bank on a narrow pathway, and the hillside dropped away 100m to the river far below, nothing to stop the fall, while at the same time having to duck under a log. It was nerve-wracking stuff, and I was very proud of our group that we got past it. It reminded me of a children’s story, “Can’t go over it, can’t go round it, can’t go under it, gotta go THROUGH it!”
Conversation revolved around Smartphones and their applications. Specifically, if there is a bear at the hut, we were safe in the knowledge that there exists an application resembling the sound of clapping to scare off the bear (presumably for people who can’t clap themselves). Personally, I don’t care how good the Smartphone is. If there is a bear at any NZ hut, I’d be absolutely terrified.
We trundled on, but it was slow going and eventually the path just disappeared. Scouting below revealed nothing, but the track reappeared above us to negotiate a slip. At this point, a group discussion was held. Track conditions, forward motion slower than we’d hoped for, another trial immediately before us (balancing on kie kie) and seemingly the pathway getting worse the further we went.
The retreat was called, and like the story, we had to do everything we’d just done in reverse. At the river, we enjoyed an accidental lolly-scramble and congratulated Anna on her new bicycle with a seat that she had to swap. We pondered the gripping power men must possess to stay on them.
The last leg out was pleasant and uneventful. I was in excellent spirits; my feet were dry, the rain and wind was still non-existent and my brain was still happily relaxed. Back at Poads Road, Barbara’s cellphone seemed to go berserk with a phone call every half minute. She had set it to the sound of sheep bleating!!!
From there Cindy decided to be dropped off back home and the rest of us drove to Anna’s hut in Korokoro. The meal was excellent, the view was great and I even got to sleep in my own bed that night! A perfect day trip.