17 Mar. Despite the forecast, there was little rain overnight, but the temperature was near frost levels. Svenja and Daisy had decided to take a rest day and avoid the rain. Richard and I were off at 08:40. After about 3km of road walking, the track took us across farmland to climb the Twinlaw hill we had seen for the last couple of days. It was a 400m steep climb and the rain started in earnest. Once on the top, the track followed service tracks through pine forest. The pine gave way to beech in the Woodlaw Conservation Area and finally the rain stopped about 13:00 just in time for a late lunch. A 30 min stop was enough as we were both wet and cold. John passed us as we lunched.
Continuing the descent we reached a 3 km section of gravel road before a short climb into Island Bush Forest, around the hill and out onto the Otautau-Tuatapere road. The Merivale Hut is another private hut on farm property, but no power or hot shower. It has only 5 bunks and was already full, so Richard and I set up our tents.
At the hut, Grant and Al from Kerikeri have been doing the trail by sections over many years. Richard and Al had briefly met in Kerikeri before. Another coincidence was that Grant had lived in Woodbridge, UK, about 5 years after I went to school there. Also in the hut were Anouk from a Netherlands, Jean and Anne-Marie, who I had last seen in Bush Stream. Frank and Maria were also camping.
Today we covered 30km in 8 hours with about 600m of climb. Good track surfaces helped with speed. Dinner was mash, mixed veg and tuna again, using up spare rations. Fresh farm eggs were available, so I hard boiled 4 eggs for the next couple of days.