Sara (another of Belinda's sisters - the advantage of a large family!!) picked us up at 0630 and dropped us off by the bridge at Poads Rd / Gladstone Rd intersection, where we had finished the previous section on 29/11/16. We ended up walking 17km today, arriving at 1600 or thereabouts, after 7 hours of walking time. Today also involved 1630m of ascent and 840m of descent - lucky we are still fit from our recent 700km stint in the South Island high country! The GPS track data for the day is here.
We weren't sure how we would go against the suggested times in the TA notes for this section so the first day would be an interesting test. As noted above, it ended up taking us 9 hours including stops (7 hours walking) against the TA's suggested 8-9 hours, so that gave us a pointer as to expected progress over the next couple of days.
The day started just after 0700 with a 1km walk up Poads Road to the carpark at the start of the track, followed by another 1km or so across private farmland, before arriving at the boundary of the Tararua Forest Park, and the beginning of our, mainly, bush walking for the day.
The going was not too bad for a tramping track standard, although lots of up and down and quite a few muddy spots - but OK overall. The bush mainly had a fairly “open” feel to it, which suited me as I am not one that really likes walking in the depths of a dark, dank forest!! Not long before Waiopehu Hut we did break out into more alpine tussock/scrub country for a bit. We had a couple of rest stops on the way in keeping with our usual 1.5-2hr stints, so arrived at the hut around 1150. It seemed silly to not stop for lunch, albeit a little earlier than we might usually, in the comfort of the hut - so that is what we did, for about 45 minutes!
From here it was supposed to be another 6km to Te Matawai Hut, where we planned to stop for the night. The first half of this was mostly in more open scrub and was very muddy, with trees down in places that required a scramble around or, in some cases, under. This wasn't such a pleasant section and at one stage Belinda was treated to some rather colourful language as I tried to get myself under a difficult tree in the middle of a mud patch - it made me feel better at least!!. We climbed up and over several peaks around the 1000 - 1100m mark and as we started to drop lower towards Butcher's Saddle (back down to 690m, at about the 15.3km mark), and reentered bush, the underfoot conditions improved a bit, although there was still a fair bit of up and down of course!
From Butcher's Saddle we followed another ridgeline up and down through the bush for about 1.7km, not getting above 900m, until we arrived at Te Matawai Hut (about 890m asl).
Arriving at the hut about 1600h meant we had time to clean up and relax a bit after a reasonably physical day. We cleaned ourselves off a little first - it had been a slightly muddy day - before I made a cuppa while B gave the hut a bit of a clean. The place was a bit of a tip with the floor not swept and benches covered in crumbs etc - a bit disappointing as it seems that only TA walkers have been in here in the last couple of days. It’s so easy to give the huts a quick tidy up before you leave and a bit sad that people can’t think of others - maybe they have mothers or partners to run round and clean up after them at home?
B decided this was another opportunity to sleep outside as there was a nice covered deck outside the front door - and we were the only two occupants in an 18-bunk hut! I, on the other hand, kept to the creature comforts of the inside bunks! Despite the earlier low cloud, B did get to see a few stars :-)
Belinda and Anthony (aka Tony) Hadfield made a decision, in their late 50's, to do something a "bit different" and walk New Zealand's 3000km Te Araroa Trail over summer 2015/16 - although updates will now tell you that this plan will take longer now!!. As the old saying goes - "don't leave home 'til you've seen the country"!!