Day 15: Russell Forest to Helena Bay

Day 15: Russell Forest to Helena Bay

Distance Covered: 27 km
Date: 2016-11-13

This was another tale of two separate feeling days. The first part was adventurous with streams and hills. But first! While we were eating breakfast, along comes two women hikers asking us if we were missing an umbrella! They had caught a ride with the early tide through the inlet and the captain gave them the umbrella to carry until they found us. They said he was very insistent that they would find us soon and pushed it on them. So Emily's umbrella, which was lost in Raetea, passed over by several hikers until picked up by a thoughtful group and carried for several days before being passed forward by two other groups found its way back home. Pretty amazing stuff.

Now in a great mood, we started by fording the stream. Some took their shoes off, but Emily and I figured we were going to be walking kms in a stream so might as well go for it now. Across we went, laughing about how cold the water was.

Then up the dirt road, winding around remote farms and houses owned by the Maori in secluded valleys. After a couple of km, the trail wound down towards the stream, paralleling it, and then finally crossing it. We weaved back and forth from side to side, sometimes scrambling up the banks to walk 100 meters or so on land before walking further in the water. We rarely walked in higher than knee deep and the cold water felt good as it chilled our feet. I very much enjoyed the 4 or so km walk up the stream. Remote, lush, and vibrant with cliffs and hidden waterfalls.

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At one point, we went up the trail to get around a tangle of logs. The trail just kind of died, though, and we were in the bush. The others turned around while Emily and I chose to bushwhack forward. A little sketchy in parts, but we found a little feeder stream and were able to push through and down.

After some time (longer than we expected), we finally came out to a bush road. Some mud pools were reminiscent of the Raetea mud and adrenaline automatically surged in both of us. We see mud and we are negatively triggered every time! Fortunately, it didn't go on too long and we were on solid footing with a better trail. At the junction, we watched the Chilean young woman cut open blisters and, on the advice of locals, pour rubbing alcohol on them to dry it out. As our feet were wet from the stream I wasn't sure how well it would go... suffice it to say that there was some venting of emotion and she isn't going to do that anymore...

Then it was up, up, up the dirt road, climbing for a long time and seeing great views of the valley that we had been winding through. Then down, down, down to the base of the large hill and the road we would take next. There, we found the two women who gave us the umbrella and talked with them more. They are New Zealanders who have walked parts of the trail around their home and decided to go ahead and do the whole trail. They moved on and we ate lunch, wondering how our Cyprus friend was doing since she had a late morning so was doing some tricky parts on her own.

Then it was onwards and forwards onto the road walking part of the day. This part of the overall trail for the next while is famous for its road walking. It's tough stuff on many levels, starting with the feet which starts the mental battle. I turned on an audio book (Journey to the Center of the Earth) and that helped quite a bit. Emily had her own book and we trudged on with one ear bud out listening for cars.

While taking a break on the side of the road, along came our Cyprus friend. We are falling into this pattern of finding each other at random parts of the day and it's always fun for us to share our days' experiences with each other. She walks just a little slower with a heavier pack, but we take more breaks. It kind of evens out.

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There wasn't a lot of promise for camping as all the beaches are private and the small settlements explicitly ban camping. When it's getting late and you're tired and sore from nearly 20 km of pavement walking it can be rough. We were also very low on water with all the sources behind fences.

A man on a bike found us as we started up the tall hills. He invited us back to his place where he and his wife had lobster they had been diving for that day. So tempting! But he was several km backwards and so we politely declined. Awfully nice of him, though!

So up, up, and away. We were getting pretty tired, trudging up the hill, looking for any kind of place on the side of the road that might be halfway suitable. Meanwhile, the sun was setting, creating wonderful contrasts of light and shadow.

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Finally, having gone several km more than expected, we reached the saddle point and there, with a stunning view of the valley, we found a small patch of sloping grass that we could just make work. We'll be sliding around a little bit, but you can't beat the view.

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Then a water rationed dinner, one last look outside, and we are ready to pass out!