With all these people in the hut, we were determined to make an early start, more to get out on our own than because we were worried about ensuring a bunk at the next hut – we were planning to walk on to Lake Howden, the last hut of the trail. Even so, people were up before us, before light even, so there was very little chance of oversleeping. We grabbed a quick cup of tea + a piece of bread, + then were off.
Our decision to delay going over for a day ws entirely justified by the weather, which, even at this ludicrous hour, was clear + bright. Wunderbahr, as they say (but don’t spell.) Our scheme worked, in that we were out in front of the bunch, but we couldn’t believe but that there were other bunches out in front of us, nor that we wouldn’t soon be overtaken by those fitter than ourselves…. Fitter to be out in front, that is. We had been told that this was the hardest part of the trail, the climb up to Harris Saddle, but in fact it was a piece of cake, + in what seemed like no time we were up there at the shelter. And from then on, downhill all the way. To our surprise, we weren’t overtaken, all the way down to the hut at Lake Mackenzie, + were delighted to discover that we were, in fact, right out in front of the pack.
Lake Mackenzie was very beautiful, very green, very peaceful – we climbed down to it thro’ a steep, heavy rain-forest, + then ate some lunch, washed down with milky coffee. We had taken about three and a half hours for a walk rated at 5 hrs – a matter for some pride. Pushed on then to Howden hut, another 3 hours. Not as dramatic as the first section had been, but still very pleasant. Passed by quite a few people heading for Mackenzie hut – they were certainly going to be busy there tonight.
Arrived at Howden early afternoon, + gradually others filtered in behind us, but we’d already decided to move on from there, + camp out at the shelter at the end of the trail, just an hour further on. Our reasons were partly financial, to save the $4 each for the hut, but also to steal a march on what looked like competition. Several others, like us, had expressed the intention of hitching in to Milford in the morning. However, before moving on, we took advantage of the facilities there (like the hut at Lake Mackenzie, this was the most luxuriously appointed hut – beds for 40, modern gas-rings, an elaborate + efficient coal-range) to cook our tea – kippers, peas, + mash, a veritable feast. Val also needed to massage my neck + shoulders – I’d enjoyed the walk, but the pack had been really heavy, + had made me very stiff.
An easy walk out, but we only just arrived before dark – time enough to set up in our sleeping bags, + then read by candlelight for a while. Not a good night tho’ – I’d have been better off on the floor, the bench being too narrow.
Seems like a pretty good day, all in all – out early to get ahead of the “competition” and staying there, and very much enjoying the walk too, it seemed, despite the chore of carrying (like snails) our entire possessions on our backs.