I woke at 2 am to thunderous rain that was continuing when I finally dropped back to sleep after an hour.

By 6 am when I woke again the rain had stopped but the sound of the river was raging.

But when I went down it wasn’t that furious.

My plan was to leave by 11 am at the latest, and I had to make a decision by 10 if the river was still high. It was a five-hour walk to the road end.

Somehow on this first day of 2017 I had a good feeling.

The rain had stopped, packing was speedy with not much food remaining, maybe a few days’ breakfast, not coffee however, lunches still good as well, one last dinner. For once I haven’t been starving in the last days.

Before 11 am I was off, thinking that it was an easy walkout, other than a couple of large creeks to cross. As it turned out the creeks were entirely crossable, if you didn’t mind getting your feet wet.

And while there was a useful benched track for a lot of the way, there were also the usual washouts, ups and downs, etc.

And a section adjacent to the flooded river that required the type of gymnastic pirouetting that I’ve recently become accustomed. I’m not really a rock to rock jumper, the consequence of slipping serious, so resign myself to the full rinsing of my already damp feet. While the forest provided some shelter to the constant mizzle, the bush was dripping. Wetness was the order of the day.

But did I care?

I was finally heading to a warm shower and civilisation.

About 3 pm as I was leaving the river I encountered a university student type group intent on Cedar Flat, feet still dry. They stared at me with some apprehension, I guess I was looking somewhat dishevelled and entirely wet. Still smiling. They were a little surprised it may still take them a further four hours.

Soon I encountered three kayakers, humping their plastic kayaks up to where I’d met the other trampers, with an entourage of children and very large dogs. They mentioned the live electric fences to cross, but that didn’t help me avoid a decent shock while standing ankle deep in water.

An hour later I had trundled down a long farm road, and hit the sealed Kaniere Road. Yay!

Oh, it was completely deserted, except for a couple of disinterested cows over an electric fence, and a stray farm dog who wouldn’t help with me getting a ride.

A farmer on a quad bike stopped for a chat, saying that he was going to Kaniere, 5 km before Hokitika, in half an hour, but before he returned I was picked up by the first car past.

Yay! An elderly couple, with a combined age in excess of 160 years, they had married in 1963, and spoke of possuming in the 1950s. On the straights he managed a maximum of about 37 km an hour, mostly on the wrong side of the road, his erratic wandering had me worried. Somehow we made it down to the highway and they let me out on the edge of town.

Almost immediately I was picked up by a guy who had just finished a shift at the dairy factory in Hokitika. After a while he realised he was turning off 8 km before Greymouth, which would be awkward for me. Greymouth is strung out along the highway and it would be hard to get such a short ride. Suddenly he whipped out his phone and started dialling someone, his mate who was travelling immediately behind, and arranged for me to swap cars. We had to stop at the one-way bridge over the Taramakau River and I jumped out, grabbed my pack off the back of the ute, and bundled into my third car. The smiling second bloke dropped me right outside the front of where I had booked to stay.

Too easy, it had taken less than two hours since I hit the originally deserted road to get about 70 km. Looks like hitching is working for me this year, to make up for the past four years.

So, I finished the truncated first leg of my tramping summer. Not many would say it’s been an unqualified success.

Three major downpours, plenty of gloom, and altogether overly energetic. A five-day tramp I managed to turn into 16 days.

A couple of days in Greymouth and then I would be heading back to Nelson to dry out, before embarking on the next leg of my summer adventures. I was hoping for better weather.

← Day 15 | Cedar Flat, people come, people go