18 Feb. There were a few drops of rain overnight, but the air is very dry and it was the first camp on the trail where I haven’t woken up with a wet tent due to condensation. Nice to pack away a dry tent. Up at 06:30. 07:45 departure, one of the first off.
I didn’t find the track markers at the start of the Hakatere valley, and trying to pick up the mapped track on the true right of the river, I ended up going high and skirting some rocky slopes to eventually fight my way back to the river through dense matagouri (bushes with spines). Not too badly scratched!
The route followed the river up for a couple of hours, lots of river bed travel and knee deep river crossings, so wet boots for the day again. Tim and Di did well on their bikes, pushing them more than riding them up the river section. They were looking forward to the downhill.
On the top of Clent Hills Saddle at 11:00 and within 30 mins nearly everyone else from the hut had arrived. It made for a social lunch stop. Off again at 12:00, for a gentle walk down the far side with some great long distance vistas. Tim and Di biked away into that distance. Once down to the Swinn River, it was a flat walk to Manuka Hut, very warm again but with a nice breeze.
Arrived Manuka Hut at 16:15, 23 km with 700m climb in 8:30 hours. It was early enough to get into the stream for a wash.
The hut already had two occupants. Sheila and Fiona from Christchurch. They were out on a three day tramping trip and were heading back to their car tomorrow. We compared Wellington and Christchurch tramping clubs. Walkers in the hut were Joe, Coey, Pablo with Svenja and myself in tents again outside. Jesse, Sarah, Jake, Cass , Sven and Leonie are probably camping along the trail.
Dinner was dehy spag-bol. Tomorrow we have a 30+km stretch to meet the shuttle at 17:00. It is relatively flat and a good track, but we will be aiming for an early start to avoid having to rush.