We were away just before 0715 today to do what TA suggested was an 8-9 hour / 13km trip to Nichols Hut. We ended up doing 13.8km in just under 7h15 of walking time, arriving just before 1615 (i.e. 9 hours in total, including stops). Although Nichols Hut is only 260m higher than Te Matawai, to get there we, of course, had to ascend a total of about 1450m and descend 1200m to achieve the 260m height gain!!
The first 3km was a solid climb from the hut (883m) up to Pukematawai (1432m) over some steep ridges. We had cellphone reception still (as we had at Te Matawai Hut last night), so sent some pics to family and friends from the top before getting back into aeroplane mode. We had a bit of a rest here just before the top (western side) as there was a gentle southeasterly blowing. We arrived here at 0900 after 1h40 walking.
From here we turned south down another ridge and generally descended (although nothing is ever a simple descent!!) in tussock/scrub for about 3km before entering bush again for the last 2km or so to Dracophyllum Hut (1100m). There were still plenty of muddy spots in the more open areas although once we hit the bushline again the conditions got slightly better. Some of the ridges were quite narrow and steep on this section, but stunning to be up there amongst it all!! Another feature is that there are no flat bits here - it’s pretty much either up or down, with nothing in between. We arrived at Dracophyllum about 1150 having done 8km in total (in this case the Suunto agreed with the TA notes on distance!). Again we decided that we might as well have an early lunch, making use of the hut, as we would be reasonably early to Nichols Hut at the end of our day.
As the TA notes say, the next section to Nichols Hut was pretty much along more ridges in bush, although popping out a couple of times into the open, on Puketoro and Kelleher, for some views. From Kelleher we descended down a steep little face into more bush before rolling up and down along a ridge to eventually climb Nichols (1242m). From here it was a 100m or so down to the saddle where the signpost down to the hut (off trail) was located.
From the saddle/sign it was about another 130m (40m vertical descent) down to the hut in a rocky little washed-out track. At the time we arrived (1615), it was reasonably clear and we hung the socks and gaiters out to dry - but by 1715 or so the misty cloud had rolled back in, obscuring any view and ensuring that the socks would not get any drier. Figuring we could stand the smell, we hung them up inside instead!! B had wipe down of benches and general clean as I got the dinner ready. Another BCC Cooked Breakfast for dinner tonight (we love those!) - followed by an apricot crumble for dessert. Note that this is the first time on the whole TA journey we have taken a dehydrated dessert with us (it was only three days after all) - a rare “treat”. To top it all off, B had a couple of mini peanut slabs that we consumed as well. It was, after all, the last night we would be staying in a hut on our TA journey :-(
We got to bed at a reasonable hour only to be woken by mice (I was actually woken by B scrabbling around after the mice who were, in turn, scrabbling around!!! We had already hung up our food bags earlier but that didn't stop the little suckers checking everything out. B then hung her pack up (which I hadn't realised) but I could still hear something near mine so I got up and picked it up, whereupon a mouse jumped out and headed for the door! I then hung mine up as well. Yet again we heard rusting coming from the direction of B's pack so she took it down and took out all the drybags etc inside. One of the little suckers had got its way into the bag for the air mattress!! So B let that one out. This too-ing and fro-ing with the mice continued - B reckons she chased about 6 mice out of the hut. I reckon it was at least two that kept coming back :-) A mousetrap might be a good idea in future - although this was probably the most disturbed we had been by mice anytime on our whole TA trip. They were having a great laugh at our expense I'm sure. Eventually some sleep was had - but not the most restful night!
This is like journey to the end of the earth. I am sure it is very tiring to be on such trail. But absolutely worth it!
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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"!!