Bethany from Routeburn Falls Hut

If you can decipher the heading of this blog, you are aware of the results of yesterday’s dilemma.

I actually slept well last night in the tent. I had expected to wake in pain every time I rolled over. However, I was really quite comfortable. I woke optimistic that I would be able to tolerate our upcoming trek. We packed up our camping gear and I remained optimistic. Once I was moving around I did feel the occassional sharp pain. But nothing that was consistent or reproducible. It is still obvious to me that I fell off a horse but I’m functional. I did wonder if my pack would exacerbate my discomfort as the hip straps were going to rest over my bruise but it was okay.

So we caught the shuttle bus to the Routeburn Shelter. Unfortunately when we reached the shuttle we were told that we needed to take a bus that was going to first drop someone off at the beginning of the Rees-Dart Trail. Why they didn’t reverse the drop order I do not know. Now the drive to the start of the Rees-Dart is impressive. But it is also single-lane gravel, windy, and crosses water several times. After yesterday’s motion sickness experience, I tried to pre-empt today’s attack by taking gravol. It didn’t help. By the time that we were dropped off at our trailhead, both Bryan and I were nauseated and it took about an hour for us to feel ready to start our trek. At least the nausea distracted me from any pain my lower back was causing. It is a widely accepted belief in medicine that pain is preferred to nausea. I agree. I’m now officially terrified of travelling on New Zealand roads. Bryan and I will need to make our way around on our own power or rent a car so I can be in the driver’s seat.

Eventually we hit the Routeburn. The first leg of the trek to Routeburn Flats we expected to be about 1 to 1-1/2 hours long. Two hours into the walk we were getting concerned as we still hadn’t arrived. We knew we weren’t walking all that fast as we were fully loaded/overloaded but we weren’t that slow either. It was a relief when we reached the fork in the trail shortly afterwards which indicated the time back to where we had just come as 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours. Good! We were actually right on pace. All be it closer to the slower pace.

Today’s walk took us through beech forests and passed waterfalls and rock slides. Parts of the trail were steep but tolerable because we were in the shade of the trees the whole day. One rocky climbing section was accompanied by a handrail which turned what would have been a challenging path with a full pack to relatively easy.

When we reached the Routeburn Falls Hut at 5 pm we were ready to don our sandals and cook our Christmas Eve dinner: canned rice pudding, venison in a bag, and udon noodle soup with peas and corn. Dessert: fruit cake. It is hard to believe it is Christmas. This summer weather confuses the mind.

Tonight we sleep in a bunkhouse for 48. We have running cold water, toilets (no showers), and propane stoves in the cooking room. Above us on the hillside is where people on a guided hike are staying. I understand they get three-course meals and hot showers. Plus they only need a small daypack during the tramping. How I envied people today travelling with light bags. They were either day hiking or on tours. But there is a sense of accomplishment carrying all that we need to survive.

Tonight is relatively posh accommodations compared to tomorrow’s camping. We have not brought enough water for the whole tramp – there is untreated water available alone the trail. We are using chlorine tablets to treat for possible Giardia. We were told that most people don’t bother but we thought it might be too ironic if we came down with “beaver fever” in this part of the world. We also need to carry out all of our trash.

Tomorrow it is back in the saddle again. Harris Saddle, that is. We will spend most of tomorrow above the tree line as we do the alpine crossing part of the trail. The forecast is for rain tomorrow. Hopefully it’s just enough to keep the temperature down and the sun off of our sensitive skin and not much more! We can be optimistic – it will be Christmas after all.