Te Araroa Trail Birchwood to Merriview hut
I got a great night’s sleep at Birchwood Station last night. It was great to have a proper bed in the little hut. It rained constantly throughout the night, and hadn’t let up by the morning, and wasn’t going to stop all day. I was in two minds about what to do. Should I stay a day in our lovely hut or push on??
I (unwisely) decided to walk the 26kms to Merrivale (Merriview hut) in the pouring rain.
Day of the Downpour
I left at 9.20 am, marvelling at how hardy I was. Around 2.5 hours later of walking in the cold and rain, I seriously regretted my decision. Everything I was wearing was wet. I finished a steep climb to the top of Twinlaw hill, where it had got pretty windy, and by now I was absolutely freezing.
Last year when I was training for Te Araroa I would grumble to my work colleagues about having to go for a run at lunchtime when it looked like rain. I told myself then that “I had better harden up because there’s no backing out on-trail if it rains”. All those times were practice for today!!
I ducked into the forest and changed everything. I changed out of my soaking wet running shorts into undies and waterproof trousers and got out of my wet merino t-shirt and into a merino long-sleeve. It was lovely to be warm again.
I take my hat off to all the hardy souls who tramped Te Araroa trail over the 2016/17 season because I imagine that many of their days were like this – it was a terrible summer last year!
Amazingly I met 2 NOBOs also silly enough to be out in this weather too. From here the trail was pretty easy, along the 4wd track and down into beech forest. This time I was glad for the shelter of the forest, and I even temporarily forgot to be angry about the rain and cold any more!
From Scotts Gap to Merriview Hut
Once I reached the flat at Scotts Gap, there was no protection from the rain again. It was pouring, and I was walking into a headwind. All I could think on repeat, on repeat, on repeat… was “only 2.5 more hours of this to go… ” and despite the fact that I was again drenched through my waterproofs, and freezing cold, I had a laugh to myself about how I would look back on this and define it as ‘character building’.
After the flat came the Island Bush track, another little hill, with a nice 4wd track to follow. At one part there was a fallen tree across the track, so I had to walk to the side through a small lake up to my knees to get through… a little extra annoyance in what was turning out be a thoroughly tedious day!
After the hill, there was a final 3km road walk along a highway, to Merrivale Road. I reached the marvellous Merriview hut at around 3.30 pm. The hut was in the field just beyond the main house. It was a really cute 5 bunk hut, with outside loo and sink.
Laura (French/Swiss – NOBO) greeted me. She’d waited out the weather in the hut today. I have never been more glad to get into any accommodation EVER, and it was wonderful to have such a lovely hut buddy too!! My fingers were barely functioning as I got changed into my dry, bedtime clothes. I fumbled about with my long piece of cord, to make a washing line inside the hut. I was pleased to finally use the cord as that’s one unused item I’ve carried since the beginning.
There were a few items for sale in the little cupboard in the hut (noodles, tuna, oats etc..). I bought a packet of noodles and cooked them immediately as I hadn’t stopped for any lunch. I enjoyed them with a spinach wrap, with peanut butter and chunks of parmesan cheese.
Seriously regretting my decision to send my puffa jacket home, I got into my sleeping bag to warm up. I spent the rest of the day chatting with Laura. Darryl, our host popped over with some fresh eggs, so Laura boiled them and we had a couple each and saved two each for tomorrow. Darryl sold us a couple of beers, and we were all set. 7.30 pm was bedtime. I was really glad to get into bed and get toasty warm again…
One of the amazing things about Te Araroa Trail is the friends you make along the way. Despite our vastly different backgrounds, Laura and I clicked instantly. It was one of those times when you know you’ve met someone who would be your best friend – if only they didn’t live on the other side of the world. I was delighted to meet her and sad to say goodbye in the morning. After we swapped details Laura continued NOBO as I continued SOBO.
** By a miracle of perfect timing and/or fate, Laura and I accidentally met up again on my final night on Te Araroa trail. We caught up again when she visited NZ from Switzerland two years later 🙂