Brenda on the Gouland Downs
Ed checking out the boot post.
Brenda and Ed arriving at the Saxon Hut.
by Brenda Vowden
Waking up on day two of our Heaphy Track walk was a bit surreal.
No idea the time, except it was daylight. I think it was raining a bit. Nothing was pecking at the tent. Already dressed — an advantage of sleeping in your clothes — so no mucking about getting yourself sorted.
But unfortunately the usual morning routine still applied — loo and cuppa, which did need sorting. And neither of which was a simple matter. I decided to take one for the team and shuffle over to the stainless steel bench — ever so inviting in the cool and drizzle of early morning, damp air clinging to the trousers.
We were getting fairly good at packing so everything was pretty much at the ready. Billy on, hands rubbing together in front of the flame for a quick warm up, then stagger back with two cups of tea to enjoy in the comfort of the tent. Well, more like manoeuvre back in sideways, try not to upend the scalding hot drinks and find something to perch on.
Next task at hand was to unpeg the guy ropes, then flick the tent a few times and hang over a makeshift clothesline while we ate soaked muesli and sorted ourselves for the walk ahead. But then out of the blue — actually mainly green — who should come around the corner but the DoC warden.
"Nobody's booked this shelter," she bellowed.
With a quick satellite radio call to the right people, misunderstandings and over-bookings sorted, we were on our way, an officially signed slip of paper tucked into a ziplock for safe keeping.
From Aorere Shelter we walked an hour or so through podocarp-beech forest, stopping constantly to snap memories of this stunning place. We popped into the shelter by Perry Saddle Hut for a bite to eat and another drink before picking up the pace across the Gouland Downs, a complete change of scenery.
The track was now mainly flat, with expansive tussock plains, awe-inspiring mountain ranges looming in the distance and granite rock outcrops. We passed the famous tramping boot post, sporting a collection of tramping boots and other tramping equipment attached to it.
We crossed bridges, swingbridges and small streams, marvelling at the deep brown and gold coloured water, bubbling over large stones and under sweeping greenery.
One piece of advice we were given was if you see a toilet, use it. So when we arrived at the old Gouland Downs Hut I popped in for a quick stop. A swarm of visitors were waiting in the long drop, where I sat under attack, waving and swatting while doing my business before running out unscathed.
Our aim that day was to reach Saxon Hut, a favourite of many. The endangered and elusive takahe can be spotted on the Gouland Downs and although we kept an eye out, we were not rewarded with a sighting.
But seeing the Saxon Hut was a welcome sight. And what a welcoming. The fire was blazing, there were real life-sized mattresses and an actual stove. Other trampers had settled in, chosen their bunk spots for the night, socks were drying by the fire — it was bliss.
Maybe this tenting lark was a thing of the past.