April 14th 1983

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1

It rained overnight, so not only was I soaked, I was also doubtful as to whether our trip would still be on, so after consuming a hasty breakfast, I popped down the hill to check.  Everything was A-OK, so back to pack, + then returning.  The taxi arrived in good time, in we piled and away.  Felt no apprehension at the coming trip this time, but can’t really offer an explanation for that.  The taxi cost $14 each, but was worth it, being 80 kms on unsealed road practically all the way.  It took us about 2 hours, so started on the track at 12.30.

A good, well-marked track all the way, only a little bit on the wet side.  Towards the beginning Val annoyed me by barking that it wasn’t a race, ie telling me to slow down.  Not that I was bothered by the slowing down – it was the peremptory nature of the order.  I should say something about our walking speed.  Fortunately, for most of the time we are pretty compatible, with Val being quicker along the flat, + me being perhaps a touch nippier up the hills.  However, from time to time, because of mood or circumstance, one or other of us will alter their pace, either up or down, + become unreasonably annoyed at the other person for not immediately responding to this.  Various self-justifying phrases are used (eg”I hate to dawdle,” or “This isn’t a race,”) but really there is  no consistency.  It’s rather like justifying a bad temper by complaining of tiredness.

The last stretch of the walk was the toughest, a steep climb up from the Routeburn Flats, but we pushed on + arrived at the hut at about 3.  Just in time too.  The weather had been grey + misty all the way along, but once we were inside it absolutely threw the water down.  Still, there’s  not much that’s cosier than sitting in a dry hut with a cup of coffee, the pot-belly stove rumbling away, + the rain pouring down.  Other than we 5, there were 2 other people in the hut, + it was with these 2 we spent the evening, chatting about casinos, education (they were both teachers), + then, after our dinner, playing bridge.  That was most enjoyable.  They are about on our level, but (I think) we played very well, + beat them.  It made an extremely pleasant evening.  We also spent some time chatting with the warden, an intelligent + interesting bloke, prepared to listen as well as to talk.

A little curious that I have nothing to say about our fellow-travellers, when usually I include every detail (at times to mind-numbing effect, I imagine.) And pretty well-balanced comments about the problems of walking together too, I’d say. That happens whoever you walk with, of course, but Val and I are so used to each other, spending very nearly every hour in each other’s company, that we can be inclined to be snappier than we should. And actually that hasn’t changed, forty years on.

I ought to add, since it seems to have been left out of the diary, that we are embarking on our final long trail, the Routeburn. I think we might have encountered the joys of walking/tramping in New Zealand at a very good time, when the infrastructure was pretty well-established, but without the crowds that now afflict it, I believe. Not that I know this for certain – we have not been back. Now that I come to think of it, we have not returned to virtually all of the places we passed through on our trip. Just excepting North America, and four other places yet to come – that’s Australia, since you already know about that, and three others I’m keeping quiet about for fear of plot-spoilers.

  1. Pamela Blair

    I loved your description in this morning’s read. Mary Ann and I are hikers–I’m the fast one and she’s much slower, but we’ve solved it by going our own speed. I’ll hike for a bit, then wait up for her and usually take a photo of her, plodding up whatever mountain we’re on, walking poles in hand and a smile on her face. I actually made a book of all those photos, entitled, creatively, “Mary Ann Hiking.” We both love the solitude of hiking in mountains, so we get something out of it we wouldn’t, if we were together.

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