Nov 28 day 89 Comyns Hut to Manuka Hut 6:45-1:30 21 km
I packed as quietly as I could, remembering that Jan from the Czech Republic likes to sleep later than most thru hikers. The trail led out over the hill directly behind the hut to the north branch of Ashburton River which was rushing knee deep and very cold. At least today the sun was shining (when I wasn’t in the shadow of the mountain), but the trail crisis-crossed the river all morning. My toes were numb, and walking felt like I had boards strapped to my feet. Later the trail turned off onto Round Hill Creek which I still had to ford often, but at least it was smaller. Making things even more difficult were the bushes that crowded the bank– they had inch long thorns that made hiking through them impossible. At one time, much of the path probably went through that area, but now it is too overgrown to even try. Still, late morning I sat by the creek, filled my water bottle and just sat there looking at where I was, wondering where I would be a year from now, and completely reveling in the moment. The rest of the morning to early afternoon was spent stumbling along unformed paths, over thick clumps of grass that hid the holes where the streams ran beneath, and there were very happy and healthy clumps of spear grass — what seems a species of yucca that pierces pants and skin. After an up and over a saddle, followed by several scree crossings, I found myself in a completely different landscape (though it still populated by the same difficult plants). The world opened into big flat dessert-like valleys with lakes off in the distance. When I arrived at Manuka Hut, even though it was early, I decided to call it a day. The morning’s pathless hike, coupled with strong wind had pretty well worn me out, and there were no huts or camping opportunities for the next 10 + km. I hope a good night’s sleep will set me up for the big push to the end tomorrow which will also involve trying to hitch a ride down off the mountain and around the next big treacherous river–the Rangitata.