Three weeks ago I suggested to a friend that I’d likely be in St Arnaud today. Maybe we could catch up.

Seemed like a good idea, see you there. St Arnaud is an hour and a bit away from Nelson. At sporadic times there’s been some text messaging, need anything?

Well, since you asked, how about . . . and there followed a few texts listing my food essentials for the last two weeks of Te Araroa: porridge, cheese, etc, all better not obtained from New Zealand’s, if not the world’s, most expensive grocery store at St Arnaud.

While still dark the Austrian doctor heads off up towards Blue Lake, two others have an early morning refreshing swim in Lake Rotoroa.

I’m next away.

There’s two choices for the route between Sabine to St Arnaud. The easy way, direct, mostly through forest via a low saddle and Speargrass Hut. The other begins with the steep climb to Angelus Hut, via Mount Cedric, then a wander down the long Robert Ridge with big views.

It’s misty but somehow I think the cloud will burn off and I could have an inspiring day at altitude.

As if I had a choice I take the alpine route, hours more walking, major extra energy expenditure.

About a quarter of the way to the bushline I hear two others huffing and puffing behind me, they are travelling at pace, but as it turns out they can’t maintain it. I tag along and we have an intense conversation of the type twenty-somethings practice on their travelling acquaintances, when they feel comfortable with each other. Two deep thinkers mapping the meaning of life.

I add something from the other end of the age scale, under discussion is the materialism and comfort pressures from family and friends, one is giving himself permission here to find his real calling, and to clock up some life experiences. He is athletic, with a charming smile and quiet charisma, like many who venture to the other side of the world a young age.

I add the cautionary note that there’s a difference between a aimless hedonism and true self exploration, but there’s no doubting which end of the pendulum we all swing, climbing 1400 m before lunch ain’t a picnic.

He can’t quite figure out New Zealand women. I say that sometimes overt friendliness is just friendliness. It’s clear here in this case the fact they are making selfie movies together, clutching at each other and both smiling happily, well, perhaps she actually likes him. I left it for him to figure out.

There’s a sense that he might have been me at the same age.

They follow my lead up across the foggy tops but once they spot the hut and it’s all downhill there’s some serious rock hopping and they burn me off. Almost.

They wait before the hut for us to have some photos together, more clutching, relaxed in each other’s company.

Shared adversity, it’s the fastest method to create friendship.

I leave them to have their second swim for the day, this time at a more chilly 1650 m, they are staying at Angelus Hut here, I’m racing on to a shower, food and my own friendship, not necessarily in that order.

Towards the end of Robert Ridge, a couple of text messages later, I’ve said I should be at the car park at 6 pm, the skies look threatening, it started to hail, sunlight still on Lake Rotoiti below.

I arrived at the car park 10 minutes early, big day, 1700 m climbing, plus the same down, more than 20 km and all is well, somehow still frisky, the downhill taken in my stride.

“Hi ya.”

There’s nearby thunder and lightning.

“I like to make a dramatic entrance.”

Looks like this might work out.

← TA Day 65 | dropping into the crowds at Sabine Hut TA Day 69 | a short stroll to Red Hills Hut →