Gusts of wind roared through the valley shaking the small A frame hut. My bed leaned against the wall and the flexing of the tent was so violent I was woken on many occasions. The hut provided shelter and warmth. When we woke in the morning it was rather cold outside.
After my 50 plus kilometer day yesterday I was tired and in no rush to leave. It took a bit under 2 hours of hiking to reach the next hut. Despite the trail being easy and downhill my body felt heavy, like two lead weights were strapped to each leg. I rested and cooked up a mid morning pasta. Maybe the injection of calories might rejuvenate my lost energy levels.
My big day yesterday had left me depleted and I had ample food to just rest in the rustic hut. I lingered in the hut for well over an hour, wondering if I should leave but my longing to keep matching south had me on the move.
10am photo below
The rest and food served me well and it wasn’t long before my senses picked up on all things new. The air was dry and clear. Each breath was unlike those of days and weeks past. It tasted different and smelled different. I sensed no humidity in the air. My skin agreed with me as it started to dry out. Like a crusty reptilian skin it felt like I had scales. I wonder how many other hikers are noticing these subtle changes to the trail. To remove my scales I stopped at a small stream and used my coarse cloth to a layer of skin. I scrubbed and scrubbed till my skin felt raw but smooth. The skin on my lips needed a layer of man lipstick to stop them cracking. My years of living in the humid tropics had me disliking this dry air.
The trail followed a river that cut a deep gorge into the ancient mountains. It was tiring work to climb from rock to rock on the river bed or pushing through the spikey bushes that lined the side of the river. These were harsh conditions that had more similarities with a desert than other sections of trail. I must admit that there is much more diversity to New Zealand and the Te Araroa trail than I expected.
The tough river gorge rose 600 meters. The saddle revealed extensive views of river valleys and dry desert like mountains. The last remnants of the white winter lingered on the protected sides of the distant mountains. Ancient dry river valleys cut a wide network of flat routes that made for easy hiking, much easier than the river gorge. A small hut was located in one of these valleys and became home for the night. Five other hikers joined me in the landscape that reminded me of a dry mountainous desert.