We'd stayed at Hamilton Hut a couple of years ago and had also walked in to the hut on the track we were about to go out on. We knew what our day held for us.
The hut is a beaut. 20 bunks with a huge stone fireplace that surrounds a wood burner. DoC also supply real firewood.
We spent the night with five other TeA walkers, including two Nobos we hadn't met before.
There was also a young Aussie fisherman in the hut. When he'd heard that the area was having a mouse plague he'd flown over straight away.
And he wasn't disappointed. The trout he was catching were huge. He was releasing them once he'd caught them (weird), so didn't have any to show us, but he said their stomachs were lumpy and full of mice.
The hut is a modern one (with no holes in the walls or floors) so we weren't entertained by their presence the night before, but the Sobos in the hut reported that many of the huts up the line were infested with Ninja Mice. Fat, acrobatic and fearless rodents that jumped from rafters onto and into hanging food bags. There's no way anyone's keeping food on the floor around here at the moment.
Bealey Hut, our planned destination was supposed to be one of the worst.
Because it was raining everyone except us decided to take a Zero Day. The fire was lit...we were tempted.
I started off the walk feeling pretty good - I love tramping in forest in gentle rain and my pack was light.
But I soon got really lethargic. I had no energy and every step was a struggle. It was like being stuck in fourth gear all day.
It's happened once before on the trail. Just before we got to a hut in the Takitimu Ranges I'd lost it...only to be snapped out of it by an approaching storm.
But today my fug just went on...and on. Passed Lagoon Saddle Hut and Shelter then all the way up to Lagoon Saddle where we met Sobo Rod, who reckons he could be the trail's oldest Through Walker (someone who is doing the whole trail in one go) this year.
What more can I say. Except that after a good chat with him my energy returned.
Mind over body? Probably.
I just need to figure out how to make the same thing happen without the hell of a random storm or stranger next time.
We left Rod to his epic trek and dropped off the spur onto an annoyingly circuitous track down to the mouse infested hut...where we chickened out and decided to walk an extra five kilometres to the "historic" Bealey Hotel instead.
"Since 1850 something-or-other" the sign up the road from the pub said. It sounded charming.
We had two choices:
Some history, beer and chips?
Or a mouse infested hell hole?
The plan went well. The hotel had a vacancy, a kitchen serving chips and nachos, and a bar serving cider.
The only thing wrong with the picture was that the Bealey Hotel has less history than me. It's a soulless eighties or nineties monolith with the charm of an eighties or nineties mobile home.
Nice people and food...shame about the marketing.