We left the charmless Colac Bay camping ground (the attached pub was pretty good, but campers obviously play second fiddle to the boozers), and started the gentle road-walk to the start of Looooongwood Forest.
The freshly killed Ruru (Morepork) lay on the road a few metres from its already flattened mate. The only good thing about finding dead native birds on the road is getting to hold them and the chance to grab a souvenir feather. Whiona put the fresh bird under a flax.
Down the road a bit and we come across a dead Kereru.
I don't know whether it was from looking through Isobel's tartan catalogues yesterday or the fact that Whiona was wearing the kilt but the day's earworm was the Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond. A good walking song.
We were about to take the high road.
Just before we finished the 6k road walk Murray drove up - today's Nice Guy. He offered us a ride to the carpark at the base of the track. Unfortunately we had to refuse, but an unsolicited offer of help qualifies for a Nice Guy honorarium whether we take it up or not.
We meet Murray again at his workshop on the side of the road. He makes Jarrah furniture from old power pole cross bars. (On weekdays he's a kind of lineman for the county). He had just made the pub's outdoor tables and stools and was working on what looked like more. It's hard wood and his belt sander was playing up.
Murray's great great grandfather had logged the area way back when and his father and brothers still owned the adjacent properties. We were to meet his daughter and friends in the bush later that day.
On to the forest. The Long Hee Lee (Long Hilly) track follows a 23km tail race made by Chinese miners in the 1870s. The gold was considered low yield so the Chinese were given first dibs. Their ability to work cooperatively and their knowledge of managing complex waterways in the rice paddies back home, meant they got the most out of the area's minimal water, but it must have been incredibly hard work. The races were used to gather water in reservoirs for sluicing gold from the rock. They were successful enough that the European corporations soon moved in and muscled them out.
The engineering feat is amazing, but it makes for one of the country's (possibly world's) maddest tramping tracks.
21ks of hill track gave us a grand total of 160 metres of elevation. The track is so windy that a kilometre of walking would only give us 500 metres of crow flying. Often less.
At least it was shady and we didn't need hats, sunblock and sunnies.
A third of the way up, we met Murray's daughter and four friends as we ate lunch. They were coming the other way for fun and to give Sika the black lab some much needed exercise. She vigorously mouthed Whiona's hand for any left over lunch smears.
They gave us some instructions and happily wandered on.
The previous few days of walking and the unrelenting track were starting to take their toll. Our muscles and fitness were fine but our feet were killing us. The pain was becoming unbearable.
But the forest was beautiful. The track was littered with the red stamens of Rata flowers. The bird life was fairly prolific - not bad considering there didn't seem to be any trapping. Evidenced by the stoat tunnel we found on the side of the track with Kereru remnants at its entrance.
Otherwise the Bellbirds were everywhere. The standout birds of the day however were the Kerearea (Falcon), who screeched insanely around us all along the path.
Six hours in and we were exhausted. The track was getting more convoluted. Our feet were throbbing.
Time for some music. It's amazing how good an alternative rhythm to that of plodding can enliven you.
But then it happened. I'm not one for "public" acts of emotion but the cocktail of pain, exhaustion and gallons of endorphins finally made their presence felt. Half way through Jimi Hendrix' Voodoo Child, I burst into tears.
Walking and sobbing loudly. Tears streaming. By the time I gathered the nerve to tell Whiona, I was laughing just as hysterically. I'm glad I told her. She'd been doing the same to Mumford and Sons. She thinks the song was called You Are Not Alone.
I'd been thinking about something that had happened in Riverton the other day and Whiona was relating to the death-laden lyrics streaming out of her buds.
By the time we came out of the bush we were broken. We stopped for some water and food, but the break only enabled our feet to swell more. 3ks to go.
3ks of steep boggy track. Pure hell, but at least we were finally gaining height. We had started at sea level and finally got to 455 metres.
We reached the hut at 6.10 after a ten and a half hour day. We walked 29ks.
Martin's Hut is a beaut.
Tomorrow - some cabin porn.