It was the most freezing morning yet, camped deep in a valley, with alarms going off at 6.30 in the dark. The three of us were slow moving, given the temperature, but we managed to get fed, clothed, and packed by 7.45 and were off.
We had gathered from various versions of trail notes and southbounder stories that it would be a long day, so we wanted to get a bit of a jump start. The trail led us up the valley, through many small, ice-cold tributaries to the river, and the sunlight didn’t descend the valley to reach us until around 10am. When it did, the walk instantly turned from a mentally challenging slog into a pleasant stroll. The three of us gradually moved apart with our varied walking speeds, and I had the second half of the morning to myself.
As the track climbed slowly but steadily with the river, it got rockier and harder to negotiate. A new evil, spiky plant also started to appear. My legs were quite shocking to look at by lunchtime, covered in small dribbles of blood where the plant had struck. It was also while trying to avoid one of these that I made a careless step onto a loose rock and twisted my already painful knee. It made me a little anxious, as I’d already accepted some strong painkillers from Michael in the morning to deal with it, and now I wasn’t sure that I’d know the full extent of the twist’s damage.
After reaching the saddle, the track turned down the next valley and descended into some bush before reaching Lake Ohau.
There were a few flat kilometres along the road before I reached the campsite to find Michael already there nursing his sore knee. A while later, James showed up with apples for all of us, and we went for a refreshing dip in the lake! It was a hot, sunny, and all round great afternoon.
After a shared dinner at a picnic table and a quick spot of pushing someone’s camper van out of the mud, we retired at 7.30 ready for a good sleep.
It amazes me just how tired I still am at the end of every day, even after a month of walking. I’m definitely fitter, and thinner, but stronger. My appetite grew a little in the first week but has stayed the same since, and I can easily fall asleep at 8pm each night no matter the difficulty or length of the trail that day.
I’m excited to get out even earlier if possible tomorrow morning, since I will be meeting the whanau in town in the afternoon, after a 30km jaunt – one of the longer days so far.