We had the hut to ourselves for the night and decided to wake up early and hitch to town.
Princhester Hut is a goody considering how close to a road end it is. It's so close there's a car park. The Otago University Tramping Club says this about it: "if you want to go tramping but can't be f*****, go to Princhester Hut."
In the Manawatu a hut like this would be target practice. They're a more civilized bunch round here but probably not as much fun after a few pints...
Before we left I copied this from the hut log book:
"A visit back to our New Zealand Forest Service base hut we built about 1967. Always great to be here again. Had a good sweep up of porch area where there was an accumulation of twigs and leaves. The porch is NOT a wood shed!"
John and Rhie von Tunzelman. Te Anau and Perth Australia.
The walk to the road was short and sweet. We got herded by a family of Paradise Ducks and chased along the fence line by a herd of rising bulls - Hereford with a good dose of Angus. They bucked, snorted and galloped along beside us. A couple tried to challenge us. A field of testosterone and meat. It was good to see a bit of spirit...well I enjoyed it. Whiona on the other hand...
It was raining pretty heavily when we got to the road.
A road full of tour buses that soaked us as they drove past. Big. Fast. Full. They didn't slow or alter their course. We were foreigners on their turf. Ironic really.
The Kiwi Experience. Real Journeys. Company names that seemed slightly inappropriate as they forced us into the ditch.
We walked along a long straight until we got to the Mararoa School at a place called The Key.
We were soaking and must have looked pretty uninviting. Whiona told me off for not trying hard enough as I rested my outstretched arm on my walking stick...my hitching post.
Nek minute...there he was...across the road and waving to us to get in "his car".
It was Mike. Half of the legendary Track Hopper team. There motto: You Walk. We Drive.
Now if I was a finickity kind of guy I would say that this was deceptive advertising. Because the thing about Mike and his partner Kiyomi is that they also run.
You walk. We drive. We run.
For 250 bucks Mike or Kiyomi will pick your car up from the start of your tramp over the Routeburn and deliver it to the end for you. A 250km drive. Quite often this means that one and occasionally both of them is stuck at the end of the track without any transport except their running shoes.
So they run back to the start of the track north of Glenorchy. 32ks. Over the Routeburn.
He does the run about 30 times a year. Sometimes several days in a row. Mike doesn't like to eat breakfast before he goes. It slows him down.
While we were in the car he got a call from one of the hut radios on the track from some clients who had taken their six year old on the track. They were worried because it was snowing. Mike was worried too but the reception was bad. He would ring them when he got into Te Anau.
Mike saved us a miserable walk into town today. He seemed to be going in the other direction when he picked us up, but he could have turned back.
Mike isn't only a legend. He's now a TeA Nice Guy.
Te Anau is like being in a foreign town. It's Queenstown without the hype. But the place is crawling with tourists of all ages and all nationalities. It was pissing down so they all looked lost, bedraggled and disappointed.
The Internet room at the library was a sea of young, broke and good looking backpackers all furiously tapping their tablets and phones.
I went down to the Te Anau Photo Shop to update and fix all the weird things my phone had done to the blog. The guy behind the counter spent the whole time I was in their acting as a sort of I.T. therapist for the other demographic of Te Anau temps...the well-off and techno illiterate. He didn't sell much but was busy and patient.
After that it was back to base camp. Food. A clean. And a couple of armchairs.