They evacuated the Pelorus Campground the morning we set out for the Richmond Range. Evacuated due to the rising river levels from last night's torrential downpour. This was going to be interesting. Three of us braved the storm and made it to the first hut in time to light a fire and dry out our clothes. Three independent 30-year-young women with enough chocolate to feed an entire rugby team... Suzi, Zebra and me.
The next day was hard. The river rose 1.5 meters by morning. We slept with our food and gear on the top bunks just in case. It was wet, miserable and full of new battle wounds to show off how slippery mossy tree roots can be. We took an alternate route, not technically on the Te Araroa, but still heading South through the Richmond Range. After some 11k's of struggle, a beautiful untouched hut appeared behind the sketchy wire footbridge. Sometimes, it's more difficult to choose comfort over pain, but with enough food in your pack, you can wait out the weather until the time feels right. We did just that at the Roebuck hut. Suzi and I spent hours planning out our futures, dreaming of the divinity we will most certainly build. I'm going to open a Bloody Mary bar, and she will have a sheep farm in Spain. We'll both sell scones and offer free beer to thru-hikers in exchange for their stories of the distant world they've seen.
We decided to hike out before sunrise to make up for some lost miles. It was my favorite morning ever... cooking porridge together in the dim candle light... watching the moon reflect off tiny rapids as you slide across a cable bridge.
The weather turned for the better. Onward to the mountain passes. The fucking fantastic mountain passes! My memory is blurry, but when I get above the tree line, it's clear as quartz why I do what I do. The high alpine feeds me with energy. Where few things survive, minus a shit ton of sand flies and pride. I dropped a happy tear at the top of Mt. Rintoul thinking about all the others before and behind me who stood and will stand in this very spot. A big fat thanks to you, Ian and Richard, for the delicious blueberries and slice of encouragement that got me to the top. I jogged into Tarn Hut, only to find some of my favorite hikers sitting outside by the campfire. We stayed up until midnight sharing stories, smokes and lemonade. Happy birthday Antoine!!!
How many times are you allowed to say "best day ever" in one week? By golly, it happened again. In this little life of mine, I've never seen more pristine swimming holes as those found crossing the Richmond Range. I had just two simple intentions for my Te Araroa hike, and one was to jump in the water as much as possible. Well, you can check that off the list and tie it up with a pretty red bow.
I was ready to call it a day at the Top Wairoa hut, but it was full and offered limited tent options, so Suzi and I pushed on after a cold cup of coffee and two ibuprofen to ease my new knee pain. Best decision ever! We crossed our last barren pass at sunset, with raging gusts of wind that forced us to smile like giddy little school girls. Epic, indeed.
I know I'm strong. I know I'm capable. I know I can cross 5 mountain passes in one day. But sometimes, I feel equally weak. Mentally depleted and alone. I still long for you to hold me and make the bad weather go away. I still think of our future plans to cause chaos around the world and bring smiles to all the crying children we see on the streets of San Jose. Who else can put up with my antics, or keep me in check like you do? Oh, I love you baby, more than ever especially on this day... But when I crossed this last mountain top all alone and ecstatic, I knew I was more than just OK.
(Hey weirdo... Stop trying to rhyme... You sound like a goofball)