Start: Martins Hut
Finish: Merriview Hut
Distance: 27km

Today was an emotional rollercoaster.

The day started with putting on all my wet clothes from yesterday and climbing up a hill, including one false top, which was really not a good start to the day.

Eventually we came out onto the tussock ridgeline and my mood improved. The scenery was out of this world with misty mountains in the background. My photos really do not do it justice.

We passed the 100km mark and a trig marking the top of the ridge before descending back into the forest.

And then my mood darkened again. I thought I had been muddy yesterday but this was much worse.

Never-ending, suction-you-in, deep deep mud and bog.

I knew we only had less that 5km to go before reaching the old quarry and a gravel path but it took forever.

We were practically walking in a stream, the water cascading down the path, broken up by thigh-deep, unavoidable, stinky mud holes.

Jacqui and I managed a few laughs as we fell in along the way, but the laughs soon faded as the KMs went on.

After a long few hours we emerged into the old quarry, having a quick break before heading off again.

A group of cyclists then came whizzing past, 2 of them got off and walked with us. They were lovely and just the morale boost I needed before the 4km climb up to Bald Hill.

They bid us farewell and we continued the slog up the hill.

I hate climbing. Pretty soon I had to employ my special climbing technique. 100 steps, then stop and rest for 10 breaths, then do it again. I could see Jacqui’s pack cover ahead of me and didn’t want to slow her down even more, so limited it to 5 breaths.

We came to a rest stop just as the cyclists came whizzing back past. One of them stopped, told us we were nearly at the top and then took a photo of us.

I rounded the corner and could see the tower, we were nearly there!

We trudged up last the tower, barely stopping, and back through the tussock and swamp to rejoin the forest. We only had a few KMs to go before reaching the road end.

More mud, more frustration and now I feel sick.

Jacqui and I had a moan to each other about the state of our bodies, how we both fancy a rest day tomorrow and how tough we were finding it. Nice to know I’m not the only one struggling.

We decided to message the owner of the Merriview Hut to see if we could get picked up, and manifested a nice warm car waiting for us when we got out.

But when we came out of the forest, there was no car and not even a road. Only a barely-there gravel path, we still had to walk 3.6km to get to the actual road!

We decided to call her again just to check but she wasn’t able to pick us up. Double shit! We were looking at a roughly 10pm arrival time at the hut.

So down the road we walked, or hobbled more like when I look up and see an old man with a gun and hi-vis wandering up the path, and my heart jumps. I do a quick think of where my pocket knife is, how I could swing my walking poles when he smiles and asks if we’re doing the TA.

We stop and have a quick chat to him and then he says the most magical words I have ever heard. He offers us a ride to the hut if we’re still walking when he’s finished.

Alot of thank yous and yes please and we keep hobbling down the path, hoping whatever he’s doing won’t take too long.

About 1km up the road he walks back past, leaving us in his dust and telling us he’ll wait at the car.

We wander on a bit more, hoping that around each bend will be a comfy car with the lovely old gent.

But then I round a corner and see a hill, and I feel myself break. It wasn’t even a big hill, could barely be called an incline but I’d had enough. No more. We had we been walking for over 12 hours and I was done.

I start crossing the water at the bottom and hear the faint sound of tires. I look up and he’s here! He’s driven back to get us. He’s not what I would expect a guardian angel to look like and yet here he is.

He helps us load our packs into his boot and then introduces himself as Dave.

He takes off along the gravel road, bouncing over pot holes and skidding over fallen branches, his (hopefully unloaded) shotgun bouncing against my leg.

He talks to us about deer and pigs and the weather and we listen and hold on tightly.

He counts the KMs as we’re driving, 2km, 3.4km, 4.8km. We’re thankful for every 100m we don’t have to walk.

We arrive at the hut and he helps unload our packs, we thank him profusely before heading inside, getting into warm clothes and going to bed, already excited about the rest day tomorrow.