jen yu: new zealand 2004 - day 8

new zealand 2004 - day 8

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hike out, te anau
december 2, 2004
read about the day
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I don't know why we continue to do stupid things after 12 years of backpacking, but we do. At 3 am, I heard the now familiar blap blap blap of heavy rainfall. I instinctively felt around my sleeping bag for moisture. My bag was wet with drops. I shoved Jeremy awake and told him it was raining, hard. He moaned that he should have known better, being in New Zealand and all. I could hear him debating what to do. We have set up tarps before in the dark, in the pouring rain. It is miserable. Our rainfly was holding up from what I could see in the light of my headlamp, it was just a few seams near the velcro wind straps that were dripping water onto our mesh ceiling (remember, we thought it was going to be summer in NZ). We just didn't want our down bags getting too wet, but we were also hiking out that day. I grabbed my rainjacket and threw it over my bag. "Do this," I told Jeremy and went back to sleep.

It rained and rained. We woke up at 5:30 and determined that we were getting the hell out of Dodge. We packed up the wet tent and snuck over to the hut porch to ready our packs. It was quiet except for the rainfall and everyone else was sound asleep. We set off by 7 am down the trail toward the Mid Caples hut. The trail was a muddy mess rolling up and down across streams, over slick wet tangles of roots. We were coming close to grazing land because giant mounds of poo graced the track. We emerged from the trees into grassy meadows. Despite the rain, it felt airy and fresh alongside the Caples river.

It didn't stop raining, but the rain eased up a lot as we made our way through the fields. At a stream crossing, an adolescent sheep on the hill bleated at us and ran across. We followed (well, he was on the trail) and over the hill we could see the hut and a bunch of sheep milling about eyeing us suspiciously. At the hut, I wanted to lose some layers as we were getting very warm. The warden came out and greeted us in her non-Kiwi accent - she was from Canada! Warden by summer, ski instructor by winter. Good life. We didn't stay long and bid her farewell. She said it would be 2 hours to hike out.

The trail was definitely leveling out, but it wiggled in and out of the trees alongside the river. There were a few windfalls and a lot of cow and sheep poo on the trail. No wonder people were getting sick on the Caples track if they didn't filter or treat their water! When we finally arrived at the junction with the Greenstone track, it was another 30 minutes to the carpark. That's something that made me nuts in NZ - all of their signs give times and not distances. Sorry, but times are subjective, distances are not. The trail climbed steeply and for quite a while before we got to the carpark and shelter, but by then, the sun had come out (along with high winds). We guessed it had been 8 or 9 miles out from Upper Caples. We sat for 3 hours waiting for the shuttle while drying out everything we had. P&M hiked out 2 hours after we did and they too sat in the sun and dried out their tent.

The shuttle arrived at 2:15 and the driver informed us that the ferry wouldn't be running because of rough water. Bummer! So we got to drive back to Glenorchy. It felt weird to travel so fast and yet my feet weren't in pain. From Glenorchy we decided to drive to Te Anau early and take an extra motel stay to wash up (we smelled) and have a looksee. First we had a hot lunch of fish and chips and a kiwi burger (just a beef burger with tons of stuff piled on it) at the Glenorchy Hotel where I had Jeremy sweating bullets in a chess game until I met my untimely defeat. Te Anau was cold and wet, but preparing for the Kepler Challenge. More on that in day 9. We bought groceries in town and made dinner.

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