DAY 327...Water Under the Bridge

Well, thank goodness for being parked in some kind of shelter and up high up on tar-sealed ground, as it rained so intensely and heavily last night, with gusts of wind so strong that I almost felt I was back down South in Fiordland. Although we were parked up high in a safe location, we both admitted to waking up and listening to the continuous storm as it raged overhead most of the night. As always, I was thankful not to be in a tent and to have had the internal roof leaks sorted out in Cuzzie. But holy heck did it rain and, when we got up this morning, the car park was awash, with streams cascading down the hillside. We both wanted to go out for a hike but, it was so wet, it was hard to get motivated, knowing that if we went out, we would be soaking wet on our return and there was not a chance of anything staying dry. Nevertheless, I drag on my hiking clothes that are already slightly muddy, my faithful red rain jacket and my wet weather shoes (my crocs!). Anna also dressed accordingly and, with her Tevas on, we zipped up, pulled the rain hoods up over our woollen hats and headed out into the storm.

Wilkies Pools, the Kaituni Track and Dawson’s Falls. I know I had been there before but this time, we were walking along in streams of water, with waterfalls cascading down steps and banks on all the tracks. But the great thing was that we actually had a plan for afterwards, and we sure needed one as I was in no doubt at all that we would be wet, cold and needing to eat and get stuff dry on our return.

Our first creek crossing was a bit tense but we made sure we were safe and helped each other get across. There was a lot of water racing down what had once been a small creek but, this time, we were knee-deep in rapids! Along, up and round, then down through the most enchanting magical native bush. To be honest, I think the rain actually made this hike even more special. I discovered that Anna liked to jump in the many puddles and to skip and hop along this track. We both had mud and stones in our shoes and had to stop often to remove them. Then, as we got to our second crossing, we both looked at each other! Holy crap, this really was flooded and, as it poured with rain, we clambered up and down the side of the raging creek, trying to find a crossing that wasn’t too scary or dangerous.

What I didn’t want to see was Anna washed downriver! As we clambered back up the metal steps, so as to have a look along a higher bank, to begin with we thought we had it sussed out; plank-walking out over a flooded creek and sliding along a large green pipe and then walking along a higher cliff, hoping to find access to the river rocks further downstream. But that idea was foiled so it was back to the metal steps and back to the plank. Then Anna said “Why not use the stray plank to get across the swollen raging waters?” Now this was a mission in itself because it was a long, very heavy moss-covered length of wood. But, somehow, we managed to carry, drag, push and shove it down the steps, across the rocks, in and out of the shallow rapids, almost getting dragged downstream at one stage by accidentally letting the end of it go down and into the water and the rapids. However, while Anna sat on one end of it, I heaved and lifted it up and out.

At one stage it seemed impossible, but no way were we giving up and turning back until we had no other option than losing the plank down the rapids!! Eventually, we got it resting on a huge rock close to the rapids then, ever so slowly, we heaved it out across the waters onto the other side. Again, it took a heck of a lot of energy and between many fits of hysterical laughter, we got that plank set up for the rapid crossing, weighing it down with a huge rock and also with me sitting on the end of the plank and getting Anna to crawl across. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was best for her to go first but she got over safely and then it was my turn. As we both sat on the rock on the other side, having got safely across the rapids, it was high fives for both of us for the fantastic effort from the Girl-Grylls team!

Off we headed on the rest of our hike, happy not to have had to re-trek back over already covered ground. Along the way, we walked over small sections of rain-soaked moss and grass and down slippery slopes. I was the first to land with a great “thump” on the ground, putting my hands out to try and break my fall but it felt like I’d nearly broken my wrist as well! Thankfully, all was well and onwards we headed. Then a squeal from Anna, as she went down in a slippery heap onto her butt and into a huge puddle. Now both of us were soaking wet. We did, nonetheless, make it safely to Dawson’s Falls but let me tell you, there were a few more slippery moments along the way.

As we climbed back along the road towards the car park, I pulled my rain jacket sleeves up and looked down at my cold, wet, numb hands and, to my horror, the knuckles of my right hand were bruised, distorted and had a huge swelling the size of an orange. It gave me a real shock as apart from my hand being cold and numb, it had felt okay. Having pushed and prodded it, I finally decided it was okay. There’s a picture of it (in all its technicolour glory) but, maybe I’ll share that with you some other time.

Once we got back to Cuzzie, got warmed and dried off, we headed back to civilisation for food, for a local laundry to do some washing and dry off some gear. Then we ate lunch at the side of a busy main road before, finally, escaping back to a quiet, much-loved campsite for a Mexican dinner, hot showers and a well-deserved rest. The rain has at last stopped and there’s an air of calm tonight, both internally and externally! Everyone seems to be in their camper-vans watching TV, getting ready to watch some rugby match or other (!) but we have our books to read and our heater on.

My smiles today:
Torrential, horizontal rain.
Only one other person on the track today!
Laughter and shared funny stories.
Hot chocolate drinks.
Small towns shut by midday on Saturday.
People always seem grumpy when it rains, but it only makes me smile more.

My thoughts today:
Go for a walk in the native bush and listen to the magical whispers of the old trees.

Goodnight from Red and Anna. Ma Te Wa.

Bridge building by Team Girl-Grylls.

Bridge building by Team Girl-Grylls.

Red and Anna's plank bridge.

Red and Anna's plank bridge.

Our "trails" for today.

Our "trails" for today.