Oct 18 day 48 John Coull Hut to Tieke Kainga Hut 29 km (by canoe) 8:00-12:00
Left fairly early in a misty rain. Temperatures cool but the river water not cold at all. Felt good to be early on the water, switched places so we both have motor and steering experience, handled some difficult rapids well and made excellent time. Had Cory not left his life jacket behind and were we not already booked at this campsite, we probably would have pushed on. Instead we unloaded at the camp, got some warm clothes, and crossed over to the “Bridge to Nowhere” Lodge and spent the afternoon out of the rain, drinking Tui’s and reading. The other guests there were four older women who wanted to go up to the bridge, but the rain brought them in instead. Fascinating women from Hamilton, one a computer scientist at Waikato University. Another lived right on the road I passed when walking out to the arboretum near Hamilton. When the news came on and began showing highlights of the All Blacks/France rugby match, they knew most of the players by name, where they had played club rugby, etc. very serious fans who explained lots of things to me. After the rain let up, we canoed back to our side and met Wai, the hut warden and matriarch of the Maori group who occupy the Marai where the DoC hut is located. She explained how DoC had built the hut there claiming that the land had been abandoned. Of course it had not and they re-established their sovereignty of the area. She then told of her son who has learned to navigate by the stars so he can travel around the world on the big Waka they built to help understand possible south sea migration patterns. She also explained why you must remove you shoes in Maori houses: you may have stepped on something sacred outside, and it would be inappropriate to bring it into domestic space. On language, she explained how it was dialect differences that did or did not pronounce the “wh” as “f”. Maori on the river actually just used “w” as in Wanganui. There was also a really nice German couple there touring the country — she is studying philosophy in order to become a secondary school teacher. Wai was leaving the next day and didn’t want to carry out food, so she made a massive mince stew which the four of us had some difficulty finishing, such generosity.