Nov 30 day 91 Bush Stream Car Park (from Geraldine) to Stone Hut 11:00-6:00 18 km
Late this afternoon I sat on a rock next to a stream drinking water that hours before had been snow. It tasted like snow. But that was not the best part of the day, which requires going back to last night. After I checked into the Geraldine Motels, I went up to try to arrange transport to the trail head– not an easy task as it is about an hour and a half from town, the second half on a seldom traveled gravel road (impossible to hitch hike). The Geraldine information center found a 4 wheel drive company who will make the trip, but the web site did not have direct contact information and they did not respond to my queries. Still, I was in a good mood because the town was so pleasant. They have the oldest purpose built movie theater in New Zealand, and across the street at the performing arts center I could hear dance practice going on. The restaurants, not elegant, but good. A town with a really good feel, and the owners of the motel–Ross and Sharon Mackenzie–are amazingly wonderful. She took me on a tour of some of the rooms, and when I came back from dinner, he caught me and offered to drive me to the trailhead in the morning. Classic kiwi generosity that never ceases to amaze me. After my breakfast at the cafe, we headed out. He took me through the back roads of his town, then the long drive up the river, eventually passing Mesopotamia, a station that was once owned Samuel Butler. Apparently he wrote early drafts of Erewhon there. We drove past the stone church built there for the people working at the station (and the owners who would have lived in a magnificent nearby house). The church had stained glass windows from England that were destroyed in the 2010 earthquake (the one that decimated Christchurch). The whole back wall of the church fell off. Still, an impressive little building surrounded by a graveyard and holly hedges, looks straight out of rural England. In a cloud of dust we arrived at the distant trailhead (I never could have gotten there hitchhiking). We said warm goodbyes, and I was off for a pretty hard day. The first part up Bush Stream which was high (mid-thigh) and running hard, making crossing tense, and there were many of them. There was no trail, just hiking pole marker to pole marker all day (even after getting off the stream) and they were often hard to see, so I had to trust I was heading the correct way. After leaving the stream it was up and over some high saddles, again, with no trail, just hopping from tussock to tussock avoiding the spear grass. This new desert terrain is not very forgiving and difficult to make time on. Got to the Stone Hut by 6:00. One of the walls is of stone, and it is surrounded by a rockslide. Here’s hoping they don’t decide to roll some more tonight.