Mr X's wife, Mrs X was writing his resignation letter almost as we spoke. He'd done his time and it was the right moment to make the break he reckoned.
Mr X had an uncannily parallel life to mine. We shared interests, skills and job history. It was weird. We could've yakked on for ages...but...
The Track Net bus dropped us at the spot we left the trail two days earlier. Te Anau had been good but it was great to be on the path again. We had full bellies and fuller packs as we set out along the side of the Mararoa River.
Along 10ks of some of the worst "track" we'd walked on since State Highway 1 from Bluff.
The grass was high and when we walked through it clouds of pollen erupted about our heads...yes...it was that high.
The track was often either invisible or not there at all. It'd also just rained a lot so all of the little tributaries to the river were babbling.
After a couple of kilometres we looked back and saw a figure...a small figure...walking a few hundred metres behind us.
It was Claire. A French walker who had just been dropped off by her sister at the start of an eight day walk. With her stilted English and Whiona's stilted French we struck up a bond for the day.
She was carrying what looked like a 75 litre pack. Amazing as it looked like her skin probably only contained about 50 litres of Claire.
When we asked her what she was up to she took a drag on her thickly rolled cigarette and said "I am in training".
We have decided to classify her as a Solo Nobo Sobo Sectioneer but don't really have a clue what she's up to.
We split up a couple of times on this section but would always gather each other up eventually.
At the 10k mark we gave up on the river and moved up to the road.
A well as being an appalling waste of energy the Mararoa track had been our first introduction to the dreaded Didymo. It's thought to have been the first river in the country to be graced with its ugly presence. The recent rain probably meant that it didn't look as bad as it could have, but it was still everywhere. "Flowing" white in the river.
There were heaps of signs telling people to clean their gear. Signs we've seen in the North Island. There were NO signs saying the river WAS infected.
At one stage I pulled Claire out of a section of bog. She said I didn't have to help as her feet are always wet. I cringed as I realised she would be walking all sorts of places and carrying Didymo in from river to lake to river in blissful ignorance. Even if she could understand the signs...which she couldn't...she was oblivious to them.
We still had 22ks to go and it was hell. Claire could barely see over the grass and my legs were almost completely covered in allergic welts from the pollen. I am currently writing this with 3 times my usual dose of antihistamines. It'll be interesting to see how it reads tomorrow.
Anyway...a word of advice. If you're thinking of walking this part of TeA - just walk the quiet farm road and avoid the river flats. We can't see any advantage in being trail staunch here...it's only a slight detour.
From what we can remember Willy and Dave had done the whole 32k section by the river the other day and had the same verdict. Don't.
As for the last 22ks of the day on gravel, it was fast, hard, hot and tiring. My feet have finally come right and Whiona was pretty shattered - but it all ended well.
I'm writing this in our tent above a small and roaring gorge on the Mararoa. In a clearing under beech trees Claire has collapsed in her tent. A couple of German Sobos, Lui and Kristina, are asleep in theirs.
A Robin is feeding on bugs around our tent. I've had to go out to retrieve and weigh down my foam rubber sitting mat* as the little bird keeps dragging it off across the forest floor.
It must have a building project in mind.
* Foam rubber sitting mat? What kind of pussies are we? FYI - These things are the best. They weigh so little a Robin can steal them and besides, the further we walk the skinnier or butts get. We need the padding.