The day had come – how was my phone??
We got up, had a little breakfast and went to town to drop off Anna at school. After that we went to the shop. I was prepared for anything. When Alphina came out of the backoffice with my phone she looked at me and said: “The photos are still downloading but the rest seems to be there.” I took the phone and had a look. It was all there! What a relief after two days of worrying! I happily paid my 60$ for the job and Lenka and I went back to the car. She offered me to take me back up to the trail so I would not loose time with hitchhiking. Isn’t that amazing. Even the Czech are infected here ?
Since Lenka was still tired I had to drive. 1.5h up to the entrance of Puketi Forest and when we arrived guess who was sitting in the sun relaxing – Rose! She had waited for me so we could start together.
The next 100km will lead us through different forests. They are made of thick bush and most of the TA SOBO have described them as the worst part of the TA. Mud up to your upper thighs. One of them called it “pointless suffering”. The trailnotes say for parts “do not attempt during heavy rain – flash floods in the rivers can rise waterlevels by one meter”. They also recommend to take a detour via the State Highway in wet conditions. All in all it sounds a little bit scary and very unpleasant. I thought about the stretch quite a few times and was also tempted to take the highway. On the other hand I really wanted to see it myself and experience it. Feels like not having done the TA without this part. The weather forecast for the next days didn’t help. Strong rain and winds and even thunderstorms for this night. And we needed to get through the gorge which was prone for spring floods.

We packed up and started with a mix of excitement and hesitation.

The trail began on a nice 4×4 track through the bush. For the first time I saw a trap actually catching a possum! Possums are a pest in NZ. Introduced by the Europen settlers for the fur they are the reason for many native animals being endangered. 70 million possums in NZ eat 150.000t of greens every night and also go for th eggs of breading birds. Therefore Kiwis put a lot of effort into trapping and poising to reduce the numbers. Not a very nice picture but showing the effectiveness of the traps.

Soon we entered the bush and were ready to expect the worst! But the trail was quite nice. We came down to the creek and the trail became a little bit steeper and slippery in parts – but still nothing which we were prepared for. I slipped on a little bit of clay – not badly but enough to hurt my left shoulder again. It didn’t dislocate completely, but maybe half way. All in all not to bad. Rose and I joked about me being prone for injuries. I think I have spent more time with injuries on the trail than without… ? I am to old for this s… ?

We progressed quite good and the weather was still nice and dry. So we decided to go through the gorge today to avoid being stuck here tomorrow after possible rainfalls during the night. It was 3.30pm and so we had 1.5h for the next 5km. What can I say. Beautiful river walk for a little bit more than an hour.

We filled up our water supplies and just wanted to find a place to pitch our tents. But the trail didn’t give any spaces we were satisfied with. We wanted to be sheltered since the thunderstorm was supposed to roll in at midnight. We continued and continued in the dark now with our head torches but no real good spot. We checked again the maps and saw that we had gone so far already that we were only 3km short of a basic campsite – we would at least find a bit of flat grass. So we continued and arrived at 7.30pm – finally. Pitched the tents, dinner and fell asleep.
I only woke up at night when the thunderstorm rolled over us. The first time I didn’t really feel safe in my tent… You could feel how the storm was getting closer and closer. Lightning and thunder moved together closer and closer until they happened at the same time right above us. It was bright as during daylight! Fortunately nothing happened and the storm moved on…