Katie and I spent the morning in the cosy cafe reading dated Wilderness magazines. One amusing article from a 2003 edition told the story of Geoff Chapple, who had just completed a journey on foot running the length of New Zealand, linking up popular and scenic tramping tracks where possible. He called his pioneered route Te Araroa and hoped to make the track official in the coming years.
As I sat there, rain pounding down outside, I wondered if Geoff had ever had any second thoughts along the way. This section in particular seems incredibly sensitive to weather, with large, powerful rivers to ford at every step. I certainly feel small in regard to the forces of nature here.
Deciding that a night at a hut was better than a night camping in the rain, Katie and I decided to begin around lunchtime and complete the short four hour stint up to Goat Pass this afternoon, and have a day off at the hut, waiting out the rain under a sturdy shelter, at least. That’s exactly what we did, and it worked out to be a fun, albeit wet, afternoon. The trail worked its way up the Mingha Valley, crossing a few small rivers, and up to Goat Pass. The track was boarded over the top of the pass, something that felt luxuriously out of place after so much time spent sloshing through bogs.
Just as we reached the pass, Goat Pass Hut came into view, and we hurriedly got inside and tried to get dry as quick as possible, knowing that we would cool down quickly at this altitude and in the absence of a fireplace.
A few minutes after we arrived, a kiwi southbounder called Josh walked through the door. The three of us milled around making dinner wearing all of our clothes, and sleeping bags. We swapped various trail stories and gave the usual advice and warnings about things coming up, and then settled in for an evening playing cards, with Josh hopping over to the bench in his sleeping bag to cook himself another dinner every hour or so.
Tomorrow looks to be a chilly one, but I’m still glad we didn’t try to camp at the start of the track tonight!