Sunday, February 03, 2019

New Zealand Adventure - Day 7

[Composed 1/12/2019]

At 5:45am, we stood ready to be picked up for our epic day of hiking. Sure, it was raining out, be we figured those would be passing showers. As we saw the van we'd scheduled for transportation to the start of the hike approach, we walked out to meet it. The driver turned us around and ushered us back to the dry overhang at the entrance of our hotel. This was our first clue that something wasn't right.

Over the next couple of minutes our driver laid out the following:

  1. The rain we were experiencing now wasn't a passing shower, it was the this afternoon's rain arriving hours early.
  2. As a result, this was not the day to hike the Alpine Crossing. We'd accomplish little more than hiking 12 miles in the fog, seeing nothing.
  3. She would check back in, in an hour and if the weather was still crappy, she'd cancel all scheduled transportation for the day.
  4. Eyeing me in my $1.00 plastic poncho, and Shira holding her umbrella, she added: and there's no way I'm taking you guys up there in a plastic poncho and an umbrella<.

It was like someone had knocked the wind out of me. For months we'd planning this hike, and just like that, it had been canceled.

The first three points I couldn't argue with; this was her backyard, ignoring her recommendations would almost certainly be a mistake. But the last point, that one left me baffled. Look, I get it: she must see people all the time who show up in jeans and flip-flops, thinking they can tackle a mountain traverse. But what was I supposed to do? Tell her I was an Eagle Scout? Should I have started ticking off backpacking trips we've done, a number of them in wretched weather? Should I have recounted mountains I've hiked in the past? Was I supposed to have a conversation with her about the fundamental challenge of rain gear: sure, you can bundle up, but that insures that you'll get drenched by sweat instead of by rain. Should I have explained that her thinking an umbrella was out of place in the backcountry was a sign that she was inexperienced, not the other way around? And what did I need to prove to this woman anyway? She was our transportation, not our guide or a ranger.

Ultimately, I said almost nothing. I took her at her word that this would be a dud of day, and we went back to our room to catch a couple hours of sleep and regroup. I'm still not sure what I should have said to her, though it is a conversation I've replayed countless times.

After a bit of sleep, we pulled out the trail map and decided on a new route: the 16km Whakapapaiti Valley trail. The trail was easy to find and follow. We passed through a forest and then entered the valley. Along the way, the overcast weather occasionally gave way to a bit of sunshine. Walking through the valley we encountered a massive bog, and I enjoyed grabbing snapshots of the quirky (to me) flora.

We reached the Whakapapaiti river,and due to the recent rain found it impassable. We had no choice but to backtrack miles to the closest trail junction. It was just that kind of day, nothing wanted to cooperate.

We finished our hike by passing next to Silica Rapids. This was a delightful section of trail, with wide open views and raging creeks.

After the rapids, we had a final road walk before we arrived back at our hotel. It had been 12+ miles of hiking, and while not the epic mountain traverse we were expecting, it was unique and beautiful in its own way.

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