Luckily for me Paul was coming with me for the Harper Pass/Mingha section and he was fresh, brim full of enthusiasm and had lots and lots of snacks and yummy food. Hurrah! Paul is the ideal tramping companion, personable, easy going to a fault and unfazed by the vagaries of staying in huts with people who go to sleep at 9pm, talk incessantly about tramping routes and sobo/nobo and all of the many, many long distance hikes that they have done in the world and know exactly to the gram what their gear weighs and are happy to (over) share that knowledge with anyone who expresses a passing interest…
At the end of the Harper Pass route, the TA Trail fortunately avoids a crossing of the by-now very swollen Otira River, by hanging a right via the so-called flood or ‘alternative’ route between Aitkens corner and the start of the Deception track. However, despite avoiding a river crossing, this section still turned out to be a commando-like obstacle course, marked only occasionally by doc markers - which might have been orange once-upon-a-time but with the assistance of lichen, time and low or no maintenance, now merge seamlessly with their host trees.
Adding to the fun, it was also raining heavily. Luckily however, I was kitted out in my new Nano rain jacket, a very welcome gift from my brothers/sisters in law. Thus attired, I didn’t really throw the toys out until we reached the highway east of Otira – The continuing downpour and rising rivers had clearly signalled the Deception-Mingha TA Route wasn’t likely to be the most prudent choice at this point and the parallel road alternative via Arthurs Pass would be a lot more sensible – particularly as this could be reached via a cross-river footbridge…Phew!
Given that I had rolled my ankle and buggered my back earlier in the tramp, was soaked and nearly hypothermic, I invoked the well-known temporary substitute-runner rule from cricket: Paul valiantly carried on up the gloomy, mist shrouded and very wet environs of the Otira gorge, in my stead.
He arrived to meet me in Arthurs Pass, just as the whole village was closing, including the YHA and at this point he uttered the immortal words, ‘Rache, you’re not yourself when you kick the dryer because it won’t work, maybe you need a proper break?’
Having made the decision to do exactly that, we enjoyed a pleasant walk the next day the short distance from Arthurs Pass to the Bealey turn off at the eastern end of the Cass-Lagoon track, accompanied by a slowly- emerging sun and Peter from the UK - A fellow ‘TA-sobo’, yomping through at a great rate of knots. …Including, apparently, not suffering to the same degree as Ms Kirkbride. Possibly assisted by more youth, and a slightly higher budget and even bigger appetite, that opportunities permitting can easily handle the six meals a day demanded by hobbits in these parts….
This is the point from where we bid goodbye to Peter and from where I’ll take off again soon…A few days in Christchurch should see me right. Now I have the added incentive of some of Lisa’s lollies waiting for further encouragement on the next section through to Lake Coleridge!
....So I am now very much on my way to happiness….