12 Feb. Outdoor time kicking in again so up at 06:30, said goodbyes to Katrina and Mark as they were departing later with a destination of Goat Pass Hut, but I was going further. I was walking at 08:10 and the river bed route continued getting steeper towards the head of the valley. I reached Deception Hut at 10:45 where I met Fabian from Germany on a break travelling in the opposite direction. He warned me that the next 2km to Goat Pass Hut was hard with very big river boulders. He was right and it took me 1:40to cover that distance. On the way I met Eigill, a DOC ranger who was in the valley for a week re-bating the traps, mainly aimed at stoats. We had a long chat about DOC stuff. In his job he unfortunately sees the worst of a very few walkers. He caught one pooing right outside huts in plain sight of the toilet and he has brought out used sanitary products left in huts. These few spoil the outdoors for the many, but I suspect these are not trail walkers who in my experience know the backcountry rules well.
I arrived at Goat Pass Hut at 12:30. Alex and Corali from France travelling in the opposite direction also arrived for a lunch break. After an hours break I got into my wet socks and boots again to head over the pass and down the Mingha valley to the south. The terrain changed completely from tight Bush in the north to open alpine terrain in the south. Initially going was easy on tracks but the decent took me back to river bed walking. The knees were feeling it by the time I reached state highway 73 at Mingha corner. A group passing the other way me the tip that the Bealey Hotel 4km further down the road has good food and rooms so I headed there. I was lucky that Louisa and Harrison from Brisbane stopped to give me a short lift. They were over for a wedding and were taking the opportunity to get some walks in NZ’s open country.
Unfortunately the Bealey Hotel had no room vacancies but I got talking to another walker, Tyler from Colorado, over dinner of venison pie and chips with a couple of beers. Tyler was walking Northbound and gave me info on the track coming up. Tyler was walking the whole trail after 6 months in Vietnam and hoping to find some career direction after a number of service industry jobs. He has his own blog hosted on a Linux server he manages, so we got talking about IT. It is his main interest and he has taught himself a lot of Open Source languages. He is a bright guy so I suggested he drops in to Catalyst IT when he reaches Wellington and finds out what it is like working for an Open Source company. Pete and Anne, ask reception to watch out for him in about a month.
Tyler suggested spending the night at Bealey Hut about 4 km further on, so after sorting out yesterday’s blog post and uploading over the bar WiFi, I set off at 21:30 for some road and track walking with head torch on.
Got to Bealey Hut at 22:30. One person already sleeping who I learned in the morning was Allison from Washington DC. I got settled as quietly as I could and listened to the sound of mice trying to get in my pack through the night. A long day so I slept well.
22km with 700m climb in 9.5 hours. And then a further 4km to Bealey Hut.