Day 9: Merivale to Birchwood Station

I spent my day off yesterday sleeping, eating, washing, drying, and reading. It was wonderful! Around 4pm a kiwi guy showed up at the hut, and we spent a relaxed evening chatting.

This morning I left bright and early, knowing I had ahead of me the biggest (read: physically longest) day since day one. The sun rose as I headed out along the highway and turned through farmland into pine forest. Despite the easy path, my feet were already killing me and I took it slow.

Heading out early.

This was more or less the theme of the day – fairly easy walking, but slow and painful walking. The trail took me up and down pine forest and farmland. I began to spot portobello mushrooms here and there and excitedly gathered some for dinner.

A warning?

Near the end of the day I encountered a paddock full of cows, calves, and a large number of bulls. I had to walk down a fence line dividing two paddocks, and there were bulls in both. My heart raced as I moved slowly, unconfrontationally, through the paddock with my eyes down, and sticking to the fence. I told myself that the bulls probably knew the fence was electric, so if I stayed right next to it they probably wouldn’t approach me. It was nerve-racking to say the least, and I swiftly moved through the gate at the bottom of the paddock, sat down, and appreciated life for a little while.

Out to a farm road and along it for a while, I found myself at Birchwood Station, a large farm station that smelled like my grandparents’ old farm and brought waves of nostalgia.

The cabin was busy that evening with another gang of southbounders and some ferret trappers from Dunedin. A fellow hiker also cooked up a wild mushroom stew from his day’s foragings, and I quizzed some American hikers in places to visit in this year’s coming road trip from Tennessee to California with my mum and sister.

Mushroom stew!

I had a much-looked-forward-to Skype with my partner, since I had both service and electricity, set my coffee and oats soaking for the next morning, and went happily to bed.

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