It was absolutely freezing this morning when we woke up so we moved quite a bit slower than usual. It certainly feels like I’m pushing the boundaries of my sleeping bag warmth (Heather’s is several degrees warmer so she was better off). It was pretty clear out and not much wind so we had a good view back to the mountains. It looked like they got a lot of snow last night so we were both glad we came over when we did. We did get a tiny bit of snow before setting off as well.
As the sun started to come out and warm us up we got going on the trail. We immediately entered farmland and followed a river bed for a few kms before crossing the river and climbing a 4WD track. The track was nice and the climb steady but we were starting to get pretty hot so stripped down to our usual hiking gear.
We continued up and around the hill before descending again on the other side to a river. It was all 4WD track so we were able to move pretty fast which was nice.
There were times when it felt like we should be able to see the ocean and even Bluff but there was just enough in the way to prevent a clear sight. The views up to the snowy mountains were pretty spectacular though and we enjoyed knowing we weren’t having to go up them again. After crossing the river we followed more farm track up towards another climb. This was a little weird as the track strangely turned off and climbed straight through a farmers field rather than using the 4WD road. It was the official trail but meant crushing some crops which was quite confusing.
Once at the top it re-met up with the 4WD track, which made it even more confusing. We then continued to follow that around the hill.
As we came around the final bend of the hill/field we started to get some drizzle and had to stop to put our pack covers on. We also noticed that a plane we’d heard for several hours was buzzing around near us and flying very low over the forest repeatedly. It didn’t look like it was dropping any spray but was constantly droning over us very close.
We’d started to head up Mt. Linton by now and the track degraded to a 4WD mudslide. There was nowhere to stand or walk without being in thick mud and any tread we had on our shoes quickly became irrelevant. We went around the edge of Mt. Linton on this without ever summiting and crossed through fields of sheep before finally finding a dry poo free rock to sit on for a quick lunch. It was at this point (close to 2pm) that we decided we might not make it through the next section before dark and would need to head to an earlier hut.
We started downhill on the other side and crossed through several fields, a few deep boggy patches, past two horses that followed Heather, and through a patch of pine before hitting the road.
It was quite early but we weren’t supposed to start the next track if it was close to dark and there was no camping allowed so we called up the Birchwood Station and asked to stay the night. They have a great little cabin with a fire place that we’ve been huddled up in all evening drying out. We even got some fresh vegetables and leftovers that the host bought down for us to eat. We also got a call from the American couple who we haven’t seen since Northland, they’ll be finishing tomorrow so about four or five days ahead of us, hopefully we’ll be able to meet up with them on Stewart Island when we’re finished as well. A little later in the evening I got a text from the host telling us to watch out for the rat.