February 23rd 1983

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
Steam near the top of the trail. Val can be seen (just) on the far right.

A very early start, woken by the alarm, + then busily dressing, packing, + dismantling the tent.  We even had time for some breakfast before rushing off to unload our surplus baggage in the Park HQ, + waiting for the bus, which supposedly arrived at 9.  Robert + Marion, 2 Canadians we’d already met in the kitchen, also arrived – they were off to do the same trek as us.  Which was unfortunate, as we didn’t like them very much.  Both, but especially Marion, were loud, talkative, self-opinionated.  Which sounds awful, + they’re not as bad as that, since their faults are leavened by a considerable chunk of humour.  But they’re still not the ideal travelling companions for us.  However.

A car stopped to give Val + I a ride, + R + M asked if they could come along too.  The bloke was going to National Park, so only 6 kms of his route was helpful to us, but Marion virtually took the poor chap over, + somehow shanghaied him, playing on his good nature, into taking us 25 kms out of his way, to as far as it was possible for a car to go along our route.  If the road had gone right to the cabin, I’m sure we would have been there.  He was interesting, a Pom, working in the film business, here looking for locations for an Anglo-French film about a bear terrorising the Canadian wilderness.  However, once he’d said goodbye + departed, we were off on our own into the New Zealand wilderness.

Somewhat to our relief, R + M decided to stop for a while to breakfast, so we were able to forge on alone.  We had just the one pack – Val’s new one – so we swapped it back + forth as we grew tired… quite frequently.  It was a pretty steep walk up thro’ a handsome little forest, + then we were lured on by the sight of the steam rising from Ketetahi hot springs.    When we arrived there, they were really interesting, the water in the stream coming down the mountain growing hotter + hotter as we climbed up towards the source, steam shooting out of holes in the rock, pools of water bubbling furiously.  We had hoped to bathe, but the water looked rather unappealing, being of a dark red mud colour, so having taken some photos, we pushed on the final half hour to the hut.

There was a school party there when we arrived, just about to leave, 12 young girls + 2 adults.  They informed us the springs could indeed be bathed in, + as they were leaving that way, they would show us the place.  The place turned out to be the stream that we had rejected as being too muddy.  Still, once the schoolgirls had disappeared over the hill, we stripped off + immersed ourselves.  It wasn’t quite deep enough, but still rather pleasant.

On returning to the hut, we discovered that a) it had been left rather dirty, and b) it was full of large + noisy blow-flies.  We left the dirt for the time being, but endeavoured to remove the flies.  And then we just sat + relaxed.  We thought for a while that it would be a quiet evening, but then 4 girls + a teacher arrived, advance guard, they announced, for a party of 41.  In a cabin with beds for 22.  And as various other, non-school trampers wandered in, it became more + more clear that it was going to get crowded.  Val + I cooked our dinner early, so as to get out of the way.  Bangers + mash we had (again!) + a splendid feast it was.  There ws a Kiwi couple we chatted with, plus a Canadian guy called Mike.  He was, to use a Kiwi expression, good value, + later on (after the horde of 41 arrived) there was a moderately interesting discussion between him, me, Val + Robert.  The 41 didn’t do too well – they’d transported 4 large billy-cans of stew all the way from the previous hut, only to discover, after they’d cooked them for about 2 hours, that they were off, + so had to be thrown away.  These poor buggers had to content themselves with a sandwich or 2.  Still, they had their consolation – the whole bunch of them slept in the same room – they were 2 or more to a bed, + tho’ I doubt that sex was part of the curriculum, it presented the opportunity for surreptitious cuddling.  We did have 2 girls billeted in our room, + tho’ they were undoubtedly more comfortable, they seemed understandably put out to be missing the fun.  Val, Mike and I also missed out on our own kind of fun – there was a strong marijuana small emanating from the lower bunks.

Well, some things don’t change, such as my instant judgments on people we meet (nearly always derogatory.) But it does seem as though they were, at the very least, pushy. An enjoyable walk, however,especially with the dramatic landscape, and even the chance for a bathe. For once, I did not seem to be too negative about our fellow hut-dwellers. I am far more tolerant of chioldren now (being further away gives me some perspective, I suppose.)

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