We woke to cloud in the valley below. As we ate breakfast it rose to block our view then fell away again as we left.
The plan for the day to come was similar to the day before. We'd split it in two with a lunch stop in a hut just past halfway.
The terrain was pretty similar too, although it didn't involve as many ups and downs...just one big one over Mount Ellis.
As we reached the bottom of our first valley we came across the remains of Bush Edge Hut. In 1995 two DoC hunters and their dog were asleep in the hut when a flash flood swept them and the hut away. Hunters Hut, where we had just spent the night, is the replacement shelter and it acts as a beautiful and functional memorial. It feels special to be in there...safe, warm and dry on the side of a mountain.
Again, much of the day was spent walking over soiless track, from Beech forest to Manuka scrub. Again we had to negotiate fields of impossibly shaped red rocks.
It was drizzling and the moisture seemed to illuminate the surface of the multicoloured rocks we walked on. Shiny orange, green, red and ochre hues lit our way.
But their beauty wasn't enough to distract us from the difficulty we were having walking over them. The difficulty for Whiona was sometimes extreme...she'd taken a couple of days worth of Ibuprofen for sore knees and her stomach was not happy...at all...
Just before lunch we were greeted by a huge rockalanche of the large red and weird rocks we'd had to deal with the day before.
We'd been warned about them by a slightly worried but very excited American Sobo called Golden Ray. He'd been traveling through the Richmonds by himself and seemed more than happy to tell us all about what we were in for. We left Golden and soon found ourselves in a moonscape thick with cloud.
Navigating the rugged landscape would be tricky at the best of times. In the murk we slowed to a snails pace. Marker poles were impossible to see, so one of us would walk ahead leaving the other waiting in safety. Once the next pole was found a call was sent back to whoever was last. More than once a pole was missed in the mist. We had a GPS or three, so weren't ever in any danger, but it was fun to test ourselves.
Anna was waiting at our lunch stop - another restored Forest Service hut. Its fresh coat of almost fluorescent orange paint welcomed us as we came over a rise and looked down into the soggy valley.
Top Wairoa Hut is a perfect example of the power of Rescue Orange. It was a murky day but the hut, and its toilet, stood out like painfully swollen and orange dog's testicles from over a kilometre away.
Perfect if you're lost in the bush and your Garmin has run out of batteries.
It would have been good to stay on, but we had four hours of walking ahead of us.
We left the mineral belt and spent the afternoon following the left branch of a young Wairoa River through dense, wet Beech forest.
It was a dark and misty day so walking under cover of the Beech forest should have been a dull experience - but no.
For some reason the moss and lichens were glowing like the luminous numbers on old clocks. Incandescent lime and mint greens lit the way down the track all the way to the hut.
With the red and purple mushrooms sprouting everywhere it was starting to get a bit out of hand and cookey...like a set from a Björk video...all fairytale psychedelic.
If the track itself hadn't been so traumatic it would have been the perfect opportunity to test the limits of my camera. By traumatic I mean intensely arduous and slightly treacherous. As Anna said later, "it would've been alright if it was an hour shorter".
At times the path moved around steep and slippery cliffs high above deep and narrow stream cuttings. There was one cliff-top length of steel cable to help us out close to the hut, but there were a couple of other places that could have done with the via ferrata touch.
As the river wound its way through the rock, the path faithfully followed. But whereas the river took a relatively flat route, we were forced to sidle up and down the whole way to our day's end.
Four kilometres seemed like eight.
That evening we bathed in a deep pool at the base of a stunning gorge. Crystal water slipped lazily through a deep cut beside a wall of rock that towered above our freezing bath. We dressed in a cloud of sandflies that had sniffed us out by the time we stepped out of the stream...blue with cold, but clean.
In another repeat of the day before Anna had prepared a fire. Mid Wairoa Hut has a fireplace with the homely touch of a Rimu mantelpiece.
We lit a candle and the fire before tea and bed.
There wasn't much heat but the warm glow of the flames cheered us up no end.
Note: I haven't used Photoshop to touch up many of the photos I've taken on our three month trip. Today's photos have been processed slightly to bring out the intensity of the colours we experienced on Day 63. I think they are a pretty accurate representation of what we saw that day.
Beautiful and tough...this was a day of exquisite suffering. This is why we go tramping.