Stodys Hut (km2573) – Clutha River (km2610)
The rats were up and about all night. Running to and fro. They definitely have a nest in the roof. Fortunately, their dismantling of one of the mattresses was enough to keep them occupied and they left my stuff alone. I hung it from lines but they can be adept tightrope walkers. It also rained most of the night, which helped to drown out the rat noise. The possums were shrieking outside. The hut was lonely but I was definitely not alone.
I slept in until 07:30 am. That is a new record for me. It was very dark in the hut and the days are getting shorter, so I’m not waking as early anymore. As much as I wanted to get away from there, I dragged my feet in getting ready. It was still raining lightly outside. I finally left at 9 am and could see blue skies in the vicinity. But there was still a bit of rain to contend with, so the umbrella was up and down. It’s so much easier than having to deal with a jacket, though. There was an easy 4WD road to follow all the way to Breast Hill, which from the backside is like a round, rolling hill. When viewed from the Lake Hawea valley, it is a jagged mountain. I was glad for the easy track after yesterday afternoon. Despite the clouds, there were plenty of good views to admire. In fact, it was because of the clouds that everything looked so dramatic and mystic. Lake Hawea was revealed at the edge of the ridge as if a magician had rolled back the smoke. The mist clung to all the valleys but would occasionally rise up to engulf areas I was walking through. I was going to take lunch at Pakituhi hut (new 2011) but it had turned sunny and the ridgeline was more delightful. I did visit the hut and lamented that there wasn’t more time yesterday to make it to there. The difference between it and Stodys hut was night and day. What a nice hut it was. I would have been the only one there, too. I began the steep goat trail down to the valley, which lived up to all the hype from other blogs. It follows a jagged ridgeline down, going up all the little peaks on the way. So there was a lot of climbing as well as descending. It was really fun but my knees would beg to disagree. I had to just keep telling them to shut-up and enjoy the great views. I passed about 7 people on their way up. For a Saturday, that isn’t a lot. Some were NOBO’s, a few trail runners, and the rest weekend trampers. At last, I was back on a road and then a lakeside multi-use trail, enjoying flat, easy tread. It had gotten hot and humid on the way down and I really was not enjoying my smell. So I went for a swim in the lake, clothes and all. I didn’t think I could handle another night of my reek, but the lake cured me! Yes, I’m so gross that a mere dunk in freshwater was a vast improvement. The lake was also beautiful. There were only a handful of people out swimming, paddleboarding, and boating. Think clear waters of Miami beach but with no people, on a Saturday! I even heard someone remark that it was like a secret gem that should be kept secret…so shhh! Don’t say anything! I dried as I walked on and came to a general store in town. I got a yummy chicken sandwich and, of course, a passionfruit ice cream cone for just $1.50. The clerk let slip that I could get a kid’s cone for half the price of a regular, but then made sure to give me a big scoop. Not a very good salesperson but maybe he felt sorry for me given my damp and disheveled appearance. Think wet-dog look and smell.
It was already 4 pm or so when I left town along the Hawea river path. I wanted to make it another 15 kms or so past Albert Town and this was the perfect path to just roll. It is a wide multi-use gravel path that appeared to mostly be used by mountain bikes. About 20 riders passed me, some going pretty fast, so I was careful to stay way over to the side. Especially since I was jamming to my music. The distance passed quickly and I greatly enjoyed this peaceful afternoon stroll. I was struck by just how happy this walking makes me. I was listening to a podcast about an ultra-runner who had to have a part of her brain removed to cure her frequent seizures. After the surgery, she no longer had much sense of passing time. She was driven by the rhythms of her body in motion, hence her ability to sustain 28 hours or more at an 8 minute per mile pace. I sometimes feel like this when walking, only aware of my feet keeping a beat and the world slowly changing around me.
It was after 7 pm when I finally found a secluded spot under some pines to pitch my tent. What a perfect spot to end the day, with the sound of the river running by. So many things in constant movement but it was time for me to be still.