Phone Notes written about Day Two:
I didn’t sleep well the first night….not sure why. I was tired enough to fall asleep pretty quickly, but maybe my nerves were still a little anxious. Anyway, got up, and ready for the day. Apparently we got a later start than my rigid mental planning had in mind, but otherwise it was a relaxed morning. Packed up our gear, made and ate breakfast, cleaned that up, and got ready to hit the trail once again. Thankfully, even though at the end of each day my feet usually ached, the next morning they were always good to go.
We had a bit of a long day ahead of us… 18 kilometers to the McKeller Hut. It was going to be a pretty easy walk; not very hilly at all. We would be walking through/following the mountain valley. The weather report for the day was that clouds would be developing with chance of rain.
In the morning/first half of the day, I would start the hike at a pretty decent pace as we were fresh and could make quite a bit of progress. In the second half of the day, after lunch break, I know I usually slow down a little bit as I’m wearing out and my feet start hurting. It was pretty awesome; George and I found that we walk at the same pace. We would take turns walking in front. We were mostly silent while we hiked but occasionally chatted briefly while making tracks. Usually though we would fall silent again, leaving each other to think and hike in peace.
We came up to this very narrow suspension bridge that recommended one person cross at a time. George called “picture time.”
This bridge was basically chain link fence with little steel rectangular-hollow rods about 1.5-feet long along the narrow walkway of the bridge. I knew that whoever designed it had to have a factor of safety and so me and my backpack were nowhere near the weight limit, but it’s probably the most moveable suspension bridge I’ve ever been on (besides the one in Laos that we drove across – that wasn’t sketchy at all!!! hahahaha). After picture time, we continued on and crossed the bridge without incident. 🙂
In one part of the valley, a farmer kept his cows and so at one point we walked by a small herd. There was one cow that was looking at us intently and not in a good way. I’m not usually scared of cows either but that one had small horns and a slightly evil look to him. So, I gave that one cow a good amount of space and for several paces just kept looking back at it to make sure it wasn’t following us or preparing to charge. I’m not sure what I would have done; probably would have dropped my backpack and ran for the river. Hahaha, I’m giggling to myself that I’m even thinking about this, hahaa. Gotta watch out for evil cows. Anyway, we didn’t disturb the cows and the cows minded their own business as we passed by.
A couple of points in the trail crossed a clear rock slide area. To conserve battery, both my phones were off and so I really don’t have many pictures from the rock slides. But there was a clear path where others had walked across and so we crossed without any real worry or hesitation.
At one point in the valley, at about 11:45am or so, I could see in the distance what looked like a little bit of rain. I suggested we stop and eat lunch before the rain comes because we didn’t know how long it would last and we wouldn’t want to stop if it was raining. So we backtracked just a few steps to where there were some tree branches covering the trail and ate lunch: PB&J, trail mix, coffee, and an apple I think. Simple but yummy. While we were eating, it did start to rain very lightly (basically just sprinkling) and so didn’t cause any major worries. I did put my rain cover on my pack as I didn’t want my clothes or sleeping back getting damp. While we ate lunch, a couple of hiking couples passed us on the trail and said the rain wouldn’t last long and that it was very light. We waited a few extra minutes for the rain to stop and then we continued.
At one point in our hike, either right before or right after lunch, we were taking pictures on the trail when there was another young Dutch couple hiking the opposite direction as us.
We waited for them because George wanted to ask them to take a picture of us. As they approached, the girl and I noticed each other’s hats; we have the same “Wild Kiwi” gray with pink hat! So we basically immediately stood together to get a picture! 🙂
Then they chatted with George in Dutch so I couldn’t really understand but I’m used to that sort of thing with my Puerto Rican friends, German friends, etc… all speaking different languages leaving me dazed and confused (bahahahaha, not really – I’m joking). Good thing I can pick up main points of a conversation in both languages. 😀 Since Dutch is sort of similar to German, I can pick up words here and there as well! Did I mention George speaks 4 languages?
So, George (Jorgo is his real Greek first name with a Dutch last name) was born in Greece but his parents are both Dutch, so he knows Dutch, Greek, German, and English. Pretty awesome. I really need to learn German or Dutch; must spend some time over there.
That couple was hiking from McKeller Hut (or possibly all the way from the Divide at the beginning of the Routeburn) to the Mid-Caples hut (refer to my post about Queenstown and look at the route maps); that is a very, very long hiking day. They would be hiking for about 10 hours.
In the afternoon, time slowed down (for me anyway). We had been hiking since the end of our lunch time at about 1pm; it felt to me like we had been hiking for at least 2 hours. My feet were hurting because the trail was compacted gravel, hard on the feet. I asked George what time it was and it was only about an hour later, maybe a little less or a little more – I don’t remember exactly but I do know that it was a huge letdown. I was getting really tired out and so I just sat down for about 10 minutes to rest my feet and my hips and drink some water.
A little while after that, we came to an open mountain meadow, the sun had come back out, there was an amazing breeze blowing, and it was just beautiful! We stopped for some more pictures and then noticed a group of people on horseback riding towards us. Each of them had a rope leading a horse with no rider. I really wanted them to offer us rides back to McKeller Hut but I knew that would never really happen. The leader of the group looked like a middle-aged guy straight out of an old western movie. He was carrying a long rifle on the side of his saddle. The thought crossed my mind “what’cha huntin’ there, mister?” There’s no bears (that I know of) in these mountains and so I was really puzzled why he was carrying a rifle. I have no idea if it was loaded or not… but anyway, kinda funny.
Shortly after this, we reached a point where I again needed to take a break. It was a nice spot in some soft grass but with rocks. My feet were really tired and achy. I needed to eat a granola bar and replenish my blood sugar a little bit. We were about 3-4 kilometers away from McKeller hut; so close but yet so far. I took off my boots and socks to let my feet cool down a bit and give them some air. Pretty sure I put some more rock climbing tape on my heel as I saw that a layer of skin had been rubbing off and wanted to nip any potential blister in the bud. During our break, a young French couple came walking by (passing us) and were shouting at each other – well, the woman was shouting at the man – in French. The woman walked on and the man stayed behind for a little while…. just a little domestic dispute on the Greenstone track. There was another couple that took a rest just a short distance ahead of us that we passed when we got going again. They asked if we were going to McKeller Hut and we replied yes… “We’ll see you there” they replied. We met some really nice people while on this trail.
A couple of kilometers to go, George saw a tree he really liked and wanted to get some pictures with. 🙂 Made me chuckle but ok!
The last kilometer or so were kind of up and down, over little rock hills, mounds of tree roots, and just basically was the most challenging part of the trail. I took it carefully since my muscles were tired and could easily have given out or strained something or twisted an ankle. Finally, we walked up, saw a bridge over a creek, a clearing, several tents, a hut, and lots of people! It was so nice to see a bunch of people! At the Greenstone hut, there were a few people; a couple of guys from the US (one from New Jersey – yes we got chatting about my time living in NJ), and a couple of other people that we didn’t really talk to as they weren’t in the hut common area. But here at the McKeller Hut, there were a bunch of people, some English people, probably some German and/or Dutch people (because they’re everywhere!!), one lady from either NZ or AU that we had met and chatted with for a couple of minutes at the Greenstone car park – she was on our shuttle to the trailhead. She had done the Caples track and was on her way back to the car park via the Greenstone track.
This evening, it was George’s turn to not be hungry at all. I on the other hand was famished and wanted to eat a horse…not really, but I was very hungry. So unlike yesterday, we just cooked dinner once and ate together. Oh wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
So, we set up the tent, put our swimsuits on, and went to find this nice swimming hole that everyone was going to and talking about. Apparently in the creek we crossed to get to the hut, just a couple hundred meters or so further, there was a nice deep area in the creek and the water was reportedly not too cold. We brought body wash and our towels and went for a nice swim. It was super refreshing and felt so good to wash off some of the accumulated sweat from the previous two days of hiking. The water was bearably cold; not to freezing but not comfortably warm either. Let’s just stick with “super refreshing.”
After we swam, we put on fresh clothes (I put on my thermals for the night) and then we cooked dinner. Once dinner was done and cleaned up/packed up, I went to bed. Super tired (wonder why). 😀
We survived Day Two!