Spine of the Fish  Day 15: what a difference a day makes

Why rush? A quick trip to the next hut was in order after our big tramp the day before.

Ngamoko Hut to Leon Kinvig Hut

We’d expected a run of pretty good weather but woke to find the day cold and cloudy. A slight wind blew up the valley. As we crossed the river for the first time that day we could sense that the force of its flow had lessened.

Really big rock!

Mountain rivers can drain and drop quite fast and overnight the Pohangina River had done just that. Not much, but enough to mean we didn’t need to link arms for the deeper crossings.

Our packs were also getting lighter…the OTHER good thing about eating food on a tramp. We’d also found our tramping legs again. Our balance was back and our judgement was in tune with where we were. Admittedly we were in for a much shorter trip than the day before, but everything about the whole day seemed easier.

Even on a good day river walking is tiring, though. Brains are in overdrive trying to calculate some complex applied physics.

Calculations like: packweight, speed, slipperyness, perceived and actual water depth (two quite different things), muscle fatigue, dodgy knee function, stick strength and flexibility, momentum…and that’s just one step. What about the next…and the next? I’m exhausted writing about it. How my pathetic grey matter copes is beyond me.

As we stopped for lunch the day’s first Whio flew silently past, making us wonder how many more we’d missed over the years.

With our pitiful meal of cheese and marmite crackers came some much needed sun. Along the side of the river Goodnature A24 self setting traps have been placed in an attempt to protect Whio and other birds from rats and stoats. As we walked upstream a cheerful trail of pink ribbons marked the way. They’re usually in relatively easy-to-access places so acted as clues for the next direction we should take.

We knew our hut wasn’t too far away when we came to the gorge. Impenetrable by foot we had to climb 70 metres up and over it’s true left side. Our knees had been a bit cold and creaky in the river but really enjoyed the chance to warm up over the steep climb and drop to the other side.

A detour

Really big Weta!

River crossing

gorges are often impossible to walk through. ..

..so the only option is the up-and-over. Note Fiona on the upper left between 2 orange triangles.

As we approached the hut we heard the familiar whistle of a male Whio coming from an old log jam. We had a close look but saw nothing. Whio live and nest deep inside these chaotic labyrinths which is why they’re usually so hard to find. Trained sniffer dogs and stoats are about the only things that can locate them with any sort of surety. Soon after another Whio flew by. It was starting to feel like Whio Central.

Really big (8cm) spider!

Coming to Leon Kinvig Hut

We got to Leon Kinvig Hut at about 2.30. We’d made good time. We sat around in what was left of the sun reading the New Zealand Alpine Club magazine Climber. We marvelled at the photos of New Zealanders dangling off cliffs while we ate bhuja and drank hot chocolate.

I wrote and edited my photos -it’s bloody hard work you know- while Fiona ‘filled the dishwasher, ran to the dairy for a litre of milk and ironed our work clothes’ for the next day.

As night feel fell a pair of Whio chattered, or whatever it is they do, on a rock in the river outside the hut.

The Pohangina River really is Whio Central.

(Note: male Whio say ‘Whio’ all the time while female Whio just make a rattly growling noise.)

Wilderlife