When Whiona was a kid she was a scout. I preferred to spend my time watching the Jetsons.
Whiona is also quite mathematically minded. I on the other hand struggle counting a pair of shoes.
With this in mind picture us in a tent in Southland. It's a still night...for a while. Then the winds come through. Big winds. Random winds. The tent shakes. We shuffle around a bit and snooze. Then the big one. It feels like the fly might get ripped away.
Whiona is out like a shot. I sit inside feeling about as useful as a donkey at a yoga class.
String theory is an advanced area of mathematics. That's why I struggle to put up and dismantle tents. Whiona really impressed me last night as she not only fixed the tent in the dark in a force ten gale...but she did it without her glasses on.
We woke the next morning and Graeme had gone.
No tent. Just a patch of bent grass.
There were several possibilities for his absence:
1: The sandflies had gotten him.
2: The protein powder was so good he decided to leave for Nelson at two in the morning.
3: His tent got blown away taking him with it.
4: He just got up early and left us sleeping in.
I made coffee and breakfast wearing an improvised sandfly balaclava. Whiona packed the tent.
We left camp at 9.40.
Overnight my right foot - the most damaged - miraculously cured itself. I was now only limping with one foot. Whiona's knee was a bit saw but otherwise we enjoyed the steep climb up to the Telford Tops.
Cloud slid across the sky close to us as we clambered over volcanic rocks, mountain daisies and the occasional mistletoe.
It was comfortable travel. Breathless, but satisfying in a way road travel can never be.
We had plenty of stops and crackers, cheese and marmite just before the top at noon. The occasional strong gust of wind would take our breath away, but often it was still.
Patches of sunlight and the shadows of clouds chased each other across nearby mountains. The same fast moving patches of light traced lime green trails over the thick young summer growth of the beech trees just below us.
Being on the tops is the best.
After lunch we wandered down and into the bush on the other side of the peak.
It was fast travel. Again the track was fresh. Hardly worn in and soft underfoot. Trees that would usually act as handholds still had moss on them. On older tracks these trees would have a greasy and worn patch on the trunk where hundreds of trampers had swung by.
The little yellow balls of fungus were something we'd never seen in beech forest up north before.
They are either something endemic to the region or some invasive and mutated foot fungus left behind by oblivious European trekkers.
We got to the Lower Wairaki Hut at ten past two. We'd made good time considering how laid back we'd been. Graeme had been through earlier in the day and left us a note.
The hut is an old tin-clad NZ Forest Service four bunker that sits above the Wairaki River.
It only sees a few hunters and TeA walkers, so it was a safe bet that we could fit in a chunky dunk without anyone interrupting.
As we stood gasping in the freezing water, Swallows did strafing runs at us up and down the river. A team of about 20 were doing their best to clear the area of sandflies for us...and they were doing a bloody good job of it too. We dried and dressed ourselves leisurely - something that would have left us drained of blood yesterday.
Back up at the hut we hung our clothes out to dry and had a cuppa. Almost sandfly free.
A keeing Kerearea fluttered over (they don't float like hawks) before taking lazy aim at a Swallow. It would've been an interesting dogfight if the Falcon could've been bothered.