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February 11 2024, Stewart Island NWC Track Day 4, Long Harry Hut to East Ruggedy Hut:
We got lost in the morning taking a right turn up the mountain instead of a sharp left. It was hard to tell where the trail was due to a massive blowdown that was directly on the track. Footsteps were imprinted in both directions, so we picked our poison. We ended up bushwhacking up the mountain, but in the helps of Orange Man’s Garmin device we found our way.
The mud today was next level difficult to navigate through—falling down and slipping had become the norm of New Zealand trails. We were splattered with colors of burnt umber and raw sienna.
We looked for kiwis all day, finding their footprints stamped all over the mud along with clumps of their feathers, however we never spotted one. Still, it was fun to feel as if we were on a hunting mission!
We descended down to the beach but, because the rocks were the size of small boulders, we had very little sand to walk on. Therefore, we had to hug a thin strip of land between the shore and the hillside.
“Be careful,” I said to Orange as we rock hopped our way across. There came a point where it became difficult to maneuver due to the tide coming in. A wave splashed on me which caused me to panic. I turned around to him and whispered, “I peed myself a little bit.”
My adrenaline was at an all time high, especially when we had to traverse over a small cliff while the waves were slamming into it.
“Go go go!” I yelled, trying to avoid getting hit by more incoming water.
Orange got his legs all cut up, but when we made it back onto the grassy patch of land, he grabbed the blood and drew a couple of lines underneath his eyes, symbolizing himself as a warrior.
“That’s what us girls in Puna do except we use our moon cycle blood,” I said.
Again, we had to climb. The NWC track was pretty hilly, a nice balance of ups and downs. Orange knew I wasn’t a fan of side ventures but he snuck me up to various viewpoints knowing damn well I wasn’t focusing on sense of direction when someone was with me. I wasn’t too upset because each time we took a side venture, it was only about 50’ off trail with a dope ass view of the coast.
So, naturally, when one was around someone on trail for an extended period of time, deep thoughts would feel inspired to surface.
Since it had been on my mind, I asked, “Why did you let me back into your life after everything that happened?”
“Because I don’ like holdin’ onto shit,” Orange said, “and, I feel like I know ya better than ya know yaself sometimes.” He glided through the mud. “Plus, you’re still the coolest person I eva hiked with.”
Not sure what he meant by knowing me better than I knew myself. Did he see something I wasn’t ready to see?
Near the end of the day, we had a quicksand river crossing. The tide was coming in pretty fast so we had to think fast.
Orange went first, pulling his shorts up high.
“Ooo!” he yelled, getting nearly hip deep.
I could see the sand was nearly sucking him down, but he made it over fine.
I followed him through, feeling myself sinking near the very end. The water got up to my waist. I used extra strength to pull my feet out of the drawing suction and ended up getting across okay.
I experienced deep gratitude that Orange came to hike Stewart Island with me. It helped immensely that he carried so much confidence when it came to any water related obstacles.
We walked through more sand dunes and saw more kiwi footprints but no kiwis. We had hope every day to see one, and if we didn’t, we would just come back to Stewart Island until we did!
As we approached the hut, we spotted smoke coming out of the chimney which meant someone was making a fire for us, keeping it all cozy. God, I was going to have a hard time going back to ‘camping only’ in America.