Because our notes said the day's walk/mountain climb was going to be eleven hours we set the alarm for 6.00am.
Needless to say it was dark when it went off.
Breakfast was eaten by candlelight with the lights of Nelson's satellite towns twinkling below us.
Nelson...and the sea! The sea!
We managed to get our act together in time to start the trip up the side of Mount Rintoul by 7.40.
It was a steep climb, but we set a steady pace that was helped by the cool morning and the novelty of the weather.
We were in the Richmonds and the weather was clear. Woohoo!
Being able to see how far you have to travel may not make the distance shorter, but it helps make us feel in control of the journey.
And what a journey.
We reached the top of the mountain by the time Anna caught us which meant we got to watch her on the steep rocks we'd had to clamber up shortly before.
At one stage we had turned our backs and when we looked for her again she'd disappeared.
Don't tell her mum...but we thought she'd fallen.
I called out and got a reply from her as my voice echoed back to us. In the still air we could hear each other very clearly, but it sounded like a six way conversation.
The three of us stopped to enjoy the view for a while then went on to the next mountain...Little Rintoul. At only ninety metres shorter than its big sister we figured the name was a joke.
I wouldn't call it mountaineering, but we were definitely mountain climbing.
It wasn't the highest or most spectacular climb that we'd made on the trip but it was the most thrilling. Partly because of its height and precariousness, but also because of the weather. It was dead still and clear. We got to enjoy every step and take our time making them.
As we left Little Rintoul, both peaks got clouded in and the wind rose. Our early rise had been a good investment. The climb wouldn't have been quite the same in the 30 metre visibility of the day before.
At the end of the descent and at a point that was supposedly six hours into our journey, we stopped for a cuppa and a bite to eat.
It had only been four hours.
To quote Anna "We had smashed it!"
The time discrepancy is probably a safety thing. On a terrible day with strong winds, rain and low visibility, six hours would be a reasonable time.
Then again we'd probably think twice about doing it at all in those conditions.
Our notes said we had five hours to go but we were reasonably confident we'd smash that time too. Anna ran ahead and for the first time we got to watch her run on as most of the rest of the trip was on an almost semi-circular and treeless ridgeline that stretched out around us. A dress circle.
Two hours after lunch we bumped into Stu. A Sobo from Auckland, he reckons he'll be one of the last of the season to hit Bluff.
He'd really enjoyed the North Island section and it looked like the South was going to be just as pleasing for him. He had one of the biggest TeA smiles we'd come across...except for Golden Ray's a couple of days before.
Stu had started his trip from Cape Reinga at a similar time as we'd started from Bluff, so was meeting the North Bounders in the same way we'd met the people coming south.
The flow travelling north would've started with a trickle, built to a flood and was ending as a dribble - just as the southern flow was ending for us. Although on a different scale. There are heaps more South Bounders than North Bounders.
As he wandered contentedly off along the ridge I couldn't help but wonder what his days alone on the Thin Red Line would be like as winter closed in down south.
Stu told us we didn't have far to go, and he was right.
Within an hour we were home - another classic Forest Service six bunker on the side of another classic Richmond Range mountainside.
Our eleven hour day turned out to be an eight hour day.
Not bad for a couple of tired old wrinklies from the flatlands of the Manawatu.
Our great day ended on a bit of a sad note...our meal:
RUDE FOOD REVIEW:
(HT James from The Tomato)
If your ears burn at profundity, turn them away now. This review of Back Country Cuisine's (BCC) boiled-in-the-bag-dehydrated Lamb Fettuccine (or W ever TF they call it) is painfully honest.
Yes it's s bit harsh, but the sheer monotony of BCC's food over the last three months has driven me to it...
To be blunt...I just can't eat this shit anymore. And it's not just this bland "meat" dish that upsets me so much...it's almost BCC's whole range of outdoor cuisine.
Curries that don't taste like curries. Fettuccine that isn't fettuccine. Mushroom flavour that doesn't taste like mushroom.
The only realistic substance I've come across in any of Back Country's bland bags is their meat cube. These chewy rectangular blocks are masterpieces in the art of fake food that seems real. They have many things in common with actual meat.
The only problem with them is that the things they have in common with actual meat are the crap things.
Firstly...they're chewy. Very chewy. Like a block of gristle. Mmmmm...tendon...nice.
Secondly...they taste remarkably like meat. Old meat. Or more precisely, old... very old mutton. And not the good bits of old mutton either.
We're talking mutton nether regions. Tubes, stomach linings and unspeakable organs boiled up into a paste and dried into a substance BCC like to think of as flavouring. .
How BCC's food techs managed to pull this miracle off with what is in effect flavoured soy beans is beyond me.
But hats off to you...you are indeed feckin miracle workers. Seriously.
The true criticism for this sludge must be leveled at the men in grey suits at the Alliance Freezing works near Invercargill who ticked this cordong blur nightmare off before it hit the shelves of Outdoor Stores across the nation. .
Where were your tastebuds when the plate of awful was passed around the boardroom? Did you retire them in 1972 or something? Did you leave them in the glove box of your Ford Zodiacs with your Brylcream and Pall Malls?
The only flavouring BCC seems to know how to use properly is salt.
WAKE UP! It's 2015! Kiwis discovered the outside world in 1984. A rich world of smells, flavours and recipes.
A world sadly lacking in your plastic bags of Back Country blah.
I hate to say it...but we have just retired your sad excuse for food from our pack lists.
We'll be making our own, or buying instant noodles from now on.
A pity. We like supporting local food. Whitaker's chocolate and Cookie Time's One Square Meals have been an enjoyable mainstay of our Te Araroa trip.
Note: Slaty Hut sits on the side of Mount Slaty - a mountain that seems to be made largely of slate. Coincidence?