Unusually we were the first to leave the hut. The weather was cold but clear-ish.
Joe had checked the weather forecast the night before and the day was going to be good...but the next day was going to be bad. Wet, windy, cold.
So we changed our plan. We were originally just going to take the 11km trek to the historic Stody's Hut.
But Stody's to the next hut, Top Timaru Creek, is a river trail. Not something you want to do in the rain.
We ambled down gentle alpine farm track to Stody's. It was a breeze.
Just before the hut we met a couple of Belgians and their two American buddies. They'd spent a fair bit of the trail together but one of them was about to fly home to the States. They were off to Wanaka for a party night.
Hut lunch: Cuppa soup. Flatbread, marmite and cheese.
Ron had spent the night there and was working on repairs when we arrived. He'd cut steps down to the water source. Fixed the stream-fed water shoot. Made and hung a sign that told us where the water was and was up above the hut fixing a washout as we arrived.
As I said earlier he's 65.
The track we were on is on the Hawea Faultline. Mountains of schist jut into the sky at unfeasible angles. Angles that mean the brittle rock breaks and falls into great piles.
After lunch we walked down one of these great almost vertical piles.
Goat-track scale paths.
It was hard on the feet, ankles and knees but at least we were gong down.
The Timaru Creek runs down to Lake Hawea through beech forest. It wasn't running clear, but it wasn't muddy. It was a creamy colour. Silica? It tasted fine but it was hard to see how deep it ran. Our long Lancewood walking poles were going to earn their keep today.
The TeA time for this part of the track said 7 hours. The DoC time is 8. Including breaks we have been consistently on DoC time since we started...so expected to get to the hut about 7pm. It was going to be a long and tiring day.
The official path runs "beside" the river. This means it has to take steep detours up and down gullies, and slips. One was about a 250 metre climb and descent.
River sidles are frustratingly hard work for very little gain.
Much of the stoat trap maintenance we do back home is up and through the Oroua River. It's tiring work but is also kind of fun. Rock hopping is way more enjoyable than track walking.
The Timaru Creek is very similar to the Oroua. We couldn't help but wonder where the Whio had gone.
We also wondered why we weren't walking in the river that day? The Timaru looked easy and safe. Why were we wasting energy sidling up and down hill sides?
With every step I got more annoyed.
Then around the corner came Jory.
We'd been following Jory's blog since he'd set out from Cape Reinga in September last year.
He's done much of the trail in bare feet and carries gear he's made himself. A woven flax pack with a wooden frame. A handmade bow and arrow.
He admits he's a crappy weaver so isn't too happy with his pack...but it's done the job.
He caught a Turkey and a Pheasant with his bow and arrow before giving it away.
About halfway down the South Island he'd got himself some shoes.
"I just wanted to get it [the trail] over and done with," he said.
He had a nice kind of serenity about him. I think he's got what he wanted out of his journey.
As we talked Anna came through.
"I'll put the pot on!", she called out as she left.
Down at the next river crossing we decided to leave the track and take the fun route. But first we needed our daily wash and a second "lunch".
As we got our gear off Fred and Neville - a couple of Kiwis - came round the corner.
You wouldn't stand round half undressed and yakking on a street corner but it seemed fine there on the side of the Timaru. At least Fred and Neville never said anything.
We walked most of the rest of the track up the river. It was manageable, cool, enjoyable and often simply beautiful.
Small gorges. Giant boulders. Waterfalls.
Another world entirely from the ugly grunt of the flood track that struggled beside us.
As the sun sunk behind the mountains and the wind came up we got to the hut.
Anna hadn't put the pot on but she was there safe and sound.
She was in the hut with Kirstine...another Kiwi Sobo. She's ex-army logistics. If you check out her blog you'll find some amazing spread sheets. She's fast and carrying an amazingly light kit. It had a base weight of 6.5kgs. This is seriously light.
Through the evening Andrew, Peter and Ron arrived. The hut was full so Ron slept on the deck after he serenaded is to sleep with classics like:
John Denver's Country Road.
Rolf Harris's Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport. Ron thought Rolf had died 30 years ago and was shocked to hear he was actually in jail.
Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues.
Knock Three Times by Dawn. What a creepy song.
And a couple more...
We felt bad that Ron had entertained us then had to retire to the deck...but that's the way he likes it.