Without giving the possible annihilation of Palmerston North a second thought (see yesterday's post) we left Red Hills Hut just after eight.
The morning sky had been a ghastly Barbie (TM) Pink (TM). It was either a shepherd's warning or vaporised particles of the recently refurbished clock tower that used to stand erect and throbbing (at night) in Palmy's vibrant city centre, The Square.
We would find out which, either later today when it rained, or in about a week when we returned to civilisation.
The plan was to split the day in two. We would walk the first eleven kilometres to Porters Creek Hut, have a nice long lunch, then walk on to Hunters.
On the map the track looked easy. In reality it was hard.
It started off flat, but soon degenerated into a rough rock slog. Up and down gullies. Along and around sometimes difficult sidles.
But it's a stunning track.
It follows an unusual geographical feature called The Nelson Mineral Belt.
Most of the track runs alongside almost bare sub-alpine scrubland dominated by small Manuka trees, but sometimes it crosses over a random line into beech forest.
I'd thought the two zones were the result of long abandoned farm clearance or an old bush fire. But no.
They are the result of a massive earthquake that involved the collision of tectonic plates a very long time ago.
The quake was strong enough to push the soft, hot and gooey side of the earth's mantle up through the earth's crusty outer layer.
The result looks volcanic but isn't. Very unusual red, rough and bubbly rocks litter the landscape. A landscape rich in some weird minerals and depleted in others.
Beech forest won't grow on mountainsides made of the red rock, but Manuka scrub does. Bellbirds sing from the beech side but not much chatter comes from the red rocks.
In the space of a few metres you can walk from an Australian-style landscape into a New Zealand one.
Unfortunately there is one large tree that seems to be perfectly at home in the depleted red rock...wilding pine. They dot their way across hillsides all the way to Hunters Hut.
Porters Creek Hut, our lunch stop, is a six bunk ex-Forest Service classic. It's just been given a new Rescue Orange paint job and has a nice big black number painted on the roof. It had a picnic table too.
Anna was waiting for us when we got there. We were all a bit shocked by how hard the morning's work had been.
Things didn't get any better in the afternoon.
The DoC notes described a fairly flat path. It was flat if you didn't include the five or six, steep creek cuttings we had to negotiate.
It wasn't just the constant ups and downs that got to us all, it was the raw rock we were walking on.
When walking in forest we take the cushioning effects of soil and leaves for granted. When they're absent the constant care and attention required for every footstep is draining.
The rain that arrived late in the day was almost a relief. It hadn't really rained on us since our last day in the Takitimus more than two months ago, so it was also quite novel.
We arrived at the hut exhausted but Anna had waited for us before she set the fire. It wasn't long before we were dry, warm and fed.
Day two in the Richmonds had been hard...but we'd pulled it off.