Start: Royal Hut
Finish: Forest Creek
Distance: 15km

It’s New Year’s Eve baby! And what a way to spend the last day of 2021! We set off shortly after Pete and Jeremy and headed through the tussock. Oh and I almost forgot, we had our party hats on!

We came to the turn off for the Forest Creek Track and started the climb up to the saddle. We passed a couple of beautiful yarns reflecting the mountains and I stopped to take in the view.

We kept climbing up the saddle, and the view kept getting better. We felt small next to all these giant mountains. Jacqui took a photo of me walking up to show the scale of where we were, see if you can see me in the second photo.

As we were climbing I found myself reflecting on the year that has been. I spent New Year’s 2021 in Te Anau before finishing my road trip and heading back to my mundane life. I’ve dealt with mental illness issues and work issues. I moved back home for a while, saw my sister in her last year at primary school and watched the world deal with new COVID variants, all the while counting down to November when I could finally start the journey of a lifetime. And that journey has bought me here, walking up Bullock Bow Saddle on New Year’s Eve.

Reflecting on the year made the time go fast and suddenly we were at the top (1692m). We took some photos and chatted to the gents before starting the steep descent down to the valley.

My knees started getting a bit shaky on the descent but soon enough we were heading through flat tussock again, passing a dead smelly tahr. We continued down to the private Felt Hut for lunch, but without a solid track the hut proved difficult to find.

Eventually we found it and enjoyed some lunch and a warm cider in the sun with the lovely gents.

After lunch we all set off together, with us happily following Pete and Jeremy along the kind-of track through the forest before a steep and slippery descent down to Forest Creek. We started calling the gents our ‘trail dads’ as we felt so safe with them, I even said at one point “I’d follow them anywhere, they could walk right off a cliff and I’d walk right off after them.” They were so lovely, checking to make sure we were alright after the gnarly bits.

Eventually we got down onto the rocky riverbed and took some celebratory photos before heading alongside the river.

We followed the river for another couple of KMs, crossing it a few times and while it was strong, it was only knee deep so the crossings were alright. We found somewhere nice to stay for the night and then the fun began.

Jacqui and I enjoyed our second and final cider and we all decided that the NYE uniform was stripes so Jeremy and Jacqui put on their striped tights, I had my striped thermal and Pete had a striped beanie. I wish we’d taken a photo.

We shared stories and enjoyed the sun before heading to bed at about 8.30pm as we had an early start the next day to catch our shuttle out to Geraldine.

I lay in bed, watching the sky turn pink through the window and reminisce on not only this year but all the years I’ve lived, grateful for all the wonderful people and things in my life.