All three of us had a rough night's sleep. The fire had made the hut hot and as we tried to drift off, the mice came out to play or feed or whatever it is they do.
They are impressive beasties. If I could jump like them I reckon I'd be able to jump from the Manawatu River up to Pork Chop Hill (shameless plug).
Their ability to scale vertical and smooth wooden framing is awe inspiring.
The little buggers.
As we left the hut we came across the skin of a dead sheep on the side of the path. It seemed like it had been popped. All of its features were in tact, but it's body was just a sack. An empty dead sack...that...moved...
As we watched, mice poured from its various orifices. They had made their food their home in an innovative, but disturbing solution, to the overcrowding problem the beech mast and resulting mouse plague has created.
You'd think that after a bad night's sleep a 26 kilometre tramp would be difficult.
I'm about to give up trying to figure out why some trail days are easy and some are hard.
It's got nothing to do with pack weight. Although it's obviously easier carrying a light pack with little or no food, my worst day was an empty-pack day.
Does sleep affect performance? Too much or too little? Nah. I never have enough sleep.
Food? Yeah having enough food is a good thing...but again some days you can run well on hardly anything.
We use what we call go-juice to get us through really hard days. Sachets from the supermarket that promise to balance our natural salt levels to give us peak performance.
We've also started to mix our own go-juice. A Refresh or Tang sachet with ordinary table salt. It's cheap, tasty and works as well as the "real" stuff.
Good chemistry does help if we're having a really tough day, but it doesn't make the day good.
So will anything make a day good?
Rest? Water? Salts? The phase of the moon? Hormones? My star sign? A dip in a murky hot pool full of bush scum?
Could it be our brains and mental health that shape our days?
Is it all psychological?
I've decided to opt for a random combination of all of those things and any number of other half-baked and overcooked formulas with big dollops of luck to get me through the rest of the journey whilst feeling fit and well.
What I'm leading up to here is that our trip to the hideously mouse-infested Hope Kiwi Halfway Shelter was my best trail day yet.
Whiona also felt that her day was spent in "The Zone", and I'd have to agree. It wasn't an AWESOME or exciting day...but it was possibly the first day that almost everything went exceptionally smoothly for us.
We also felt fit and able the whole day. We had no aches, pains, blisters or sprains.
The journey was long but gentle. We paced it well, ate well and drank well.
There was plenty of shade, no rocks or road to walk on. There were some small climbs, but not too many.
This all helped, but there was something else that made it good...
One of life's mysteries.
The forest we walked through was full of Bellbirds - the most we've ever heard. We watched a Kerearea sit in a tree surrounded by them.
We met more Robins and found a group of Kakariki in a dense beech valley. Apparently the very rare Orange Fronted Kakariki live in these parts. We didn't get close enough for that kind of observation...but we can wish.
We walked through hot fields of swampy grassland as thunder broke overhead.
We picked more than a pot full of field mushrooms.
Anna was planning on spending the night at the shelter, but there were more sandflies inside than outside, so she bailed to the road-end for a night in her tent.
Yes, the hut was pretty bad. The toilet only had half a seat and was brimming with...you know what.
Yes, the hut was FULL of mice. Fearless marauding midgets. At one stage one popped out from under Whiona's book as she read it. When it realised it had been seen, it did hide...but only under her book again.
Then there was the one she found in her shorts.
The good news about Hope Halfway Hut is that DoC is fixing it up.
The day we arrived they'd just installed a brand new floor and steps up to the front door. The note they left in the hut book said they'd be returning soon to get rid of the mice and put in a new toilet.
Enough to make the place just about perfect.
Thanks again DoC for making the long walk just that little bit more pleasant.