Dec 18 day 109 Princhester Creek Rd to Lower Wairaki Hut 7:45-8:15 (pm) 35 km
Although I was refreshed by big meals in Te Anau, I was not prepared for the sheer physical effort today required. As I look at my daily hiking numbers– time and kilometers, I’m struck by how they do not reflect effort. 40 km on a gravel road is a stroll compared to 10 km in the woods and marshlands I walked through today. Forests without trails (only blazes), open fields of tussock grass so high you could barely make out the trail marker poles, full of meandering streams you could not see because of the grass. Stepped into a few water holes and fell. I did bump into my friend Mike who I met on the Appalachian Trail. He’s just started the TA hiking northbound. Hope to keep in touch as he works his way to Wellington. The craziest part though were two falcons guarding a nest near a marshy tussock field. The hut log books had warned me about them. They call loudly, then fly at you. One dives low and comes straight at your face while the other comes in high from behind. They were relentless and once I ended up on my back ducking the one heading straight at me–intimidating as hell. Was an exceedingly long day to make it to the cabin, capped with the need to ford a decent sized river almost at the hut’s doorstep. Freshly soaked shoes, great way to end a long day.