The Mingha Deception.
The best named route in New Zealand.
It was a two day trek for us and about a three hour run for the Coast To Coast racers who had been through a couple of weeks before.
It must've been a weird experience for those TeA walkers who were on the trail while the race was passing through.
Imagine you've been walking through the bush for a month. You haven't watched the news or read a newspaper for weeks. If you're lucky (or unlucky) you only meet two or three other trekkers a day.
Suddenly hundreds of runners bounce past with their carbo-protein drinks and spando-lurex-compression tights.
At the hut, where the Mingha and Deception tracks meet, there are queues outside the longdrop. There's even a didymo shoe bath for them to run through.
Race officials and first aid crews must've been hovering all over the place.
The only signs of the race we noticed, as we walked up the beautiful Mingha Track, was the recently weedeaten and widened path - as well as notices asking us if we had any observations about the effects of the race on the area.
Nope. We didn't.
The bush was glorious. The bird life was quite rich and loud.
Bellbirds must be close to pulling off a bit of a dawn chorus up the Mingha. Nearby Kea did whatever they do when they aren't bumming cigarettes at the Otira Viaduct carpark. Riflemen and Tom Tits peeped around us. We saw our first "black" Fantail.
Even though there is a stoat trapping programme being run up the valley we didn't get to see any Whio...but we know they're there.
The beech forest was thick and varied, and eventually made its way right to the river's banks.
We had finally made it back to something approaching "real" New Zealand. The drought was a distant - about 40 kilometres back - memory.
But I'm getting carried away...
We started the day at the Bealey Hotel which meant we had to walk across the wide shingle beds of the Waimakariri and Bealey Rivers. The Waimak river crossing was knee deep but only about 10 metres wide. The Bealey was empty.
As we approached the Mingha Valley and River it wasn't looking good. The river bed was completely dry. It appeared that our day walking alongside the mountain stream we were looking forward to wasn't going to happen. The drought had hit the Southern Alps.
One of the most interesting things we've observed on our walk is how water behaves in the mountains.
The driest mountain of schist can produce crystal clear water in abundance all year around.
Even on our hottest, dryest days we've had access to mountain streams. Water is so plentiful in the highlands we've walked through, we're carrying little and sometimes no water.
Unlike many of our fellow TeA walkers we hardly ever treat our water with tablets or UV light. It's tasted murky a couple of times, but we haven't got sick...yet.
Water doesn't only appear magically from nowhere...it disappears magically too.
The Mingha dries up as it meets the Bealey, but it doesn't evaporate. It just sinks into the river bed. No doubt to appear again a few hundred metres lower and 20ks closer to the coast. Just in time to be sucked up and used to clean out a dairy shed down near Ashburton.
As we walked up the river valley we were pleased to see that the Mingha River was in good health.
We finished our day at Goat Pass Hut just above the next day's river track.
Tomorrow's walk, the Deception River appropriately starts as an empty channel - a deep dry path that soon becomes a steep mountain stream.
But that's tomorrow.