I was so concerned with the Waiau Pass yesterday that I really hadn’t spent much time thinking or reading about today’s walk over the Travers Saddle until last night. ‘Oh,’ I thought, ‘There’s quite a big climb tomorrow, too. At least it won’t be as difficult as the Waiau Pass’. Ha.
The day began chillily, with the hutmembers able to see their breath in front of them as they talked, even after the fire had been burning away overnight. The group was astounded at my choice of tramping attire for the day, shorts, but looking outside at the clear sky I knew I’d be hot soon enough, and I was just too lazy to change into shorts on the trail. I did begin with my gloves on, though.
Caroline and I walked together for the first part of the day, as Remy was taking a little longer to get ready. The track took us down the river for two hours, and being a fairly easy one, it gave us a chance to chat and get to know one another. Caroline is the same age as me and we get along very well, and this morning we discussed all sorts of interesting stuff from industrial design to work exchange programmes, from self driving cars and trucks to loneliness in elderly people, from the place of marriage in modern society to the current morality of having children. It was funny and interesting to find out that, like me, Caroline has begun having regular dreams about being pregnant or giving birth, even though that’s the last thing she wants right now. We chatted about the struggle going on in our bodies, the mind against our biology, and how it was fascinating to so clearly feel both sides of the fight.
We reached West Sabine Hut in two hours, at which time Caroline stopped to wait for Remy and I went on to attack the Saddle track. Today’s climb was an incredible mental challenge, nothing like yesterday’s. It had the same altitude difference, but it wasn’t as steep, which meant it was less of a fun climb and more of a hard walking slog up a hill. That, and the distance covered was much longer. The 1000m climb up to the saddle was 3km long and took me 4 hours. On top of all this, the track was in the bush most of the way – something that makes a climb difficult, I find. In the open, you’re able to look ahead and chart your course easily, set yourself small goals, and see your progress immediately. In the bush, it all looks the same, it’s difficult to gauge how far you’ve come, and the climb just seems endless.
Approaching the saddle, I felt the frustration and exhaustion of the climb melt away and the familiar happy, proud, that-was-all-worth-it feeling came over me, and I sang and boulder-hopped my way down the other side, reaching Upper Travers Hut in an hour.
I chatted to the one inhabitant for a while before Caroline and Remy showed up, with Caroline mouthing obscenities at me through the window, obviously having found the climb to the saddle as thrilling as I had.