In Holly Hut, after a four and a half-hour hike over landslides and along ridges on Mt. Taranaki in New Plymouth, we met six older folks who had been cooking, drinking, and farting up a storm. I have never met a group of people who farted more than these people. And man, there was no shame in it at all. We opened the doors to a warm room and were greeted by warm Kiwi hellos and good cheer.
The weather up ranged from bright hot sun to biting wind and finally to the insides of clouds–so when we arrived at Holly, we were thoroughly drenched. We had some soup and crackers and then were given marshmallows and Christmas Cake by our farty friends. The next day, our second day of the tramp, the skies were crystal clear and gorgeous for our two-hour leg. Up and down across a swamp with perfectly clear views of the mountain, which is actually a dormant volcano complete with snow-covered cone and rain forest beneath. We arrived at our next hut, Pouakai, just before more clouds rolled in and just before the old folks walked up the steps to join us for another night. This time, along with the farts, they provided more bathroom humor (indeed, one man’s nickname was Thunder Turd), and food. They shared MRE’s with us–beef satay and minted lamb–and hot chocolate. From Pouakai, one can apparently see the ocean. But that day the clouds were so thick we couldn’t see off the side of the mountain at all.
And then…the next day. It started raining in the middle of the night and didn’t stop until we were down from the mountain in the middle of the day. When I tell you I have never been as wet as I was hiking down off that freaking mountain, I am not lying. I swear to you…I am not that wet in the shower. For five hours, we hiked down off the ridge where Pouakai sat in the clouds, through wind and wet clouds, down through the muddy slips and washouts, and then through puddles in which my shoe got stuck. Try as I might, at first, to keep my feet relatively dry, after an hour it was kind of a joke to think about being dry. So eventually, I just splashed through puddles and mud and rivers–up to my knee–over rocks and moss-covered logs and whatnot. Through goblin forest, through sopping wet rain forest. And half way through the day, Dennis turns to me and says with complete seriousness, “G, I think this is a rain forest.” Even though I was sitting inside my head cursing all of the moisture in New Zealand and cursing the mountain that had soaked me wet straight through to my DNA, I guffawed right out loud at his comment.
We both really like New Plymouth, despite all the rain. New Plymouth has 50,000 people in it and it reminds me of a broad, spread out New Haven, except with out a college, and about ninety more feet of rain a year. But as much as we like it here, and as much as we love all the grocery stores and the view of the ocean and the view of the volcano that nearly drowned me, we are moving on today to Napier and Hastings i.e: wine country on the ocean. I think I should have nothing to complain about.
Things continue to be incredible–every day something wonderful, many things wonderful. It feels so good to be with Dennis again. I don’t even care that we’ve been eating porridge and cup-a-soups for a week straight. We’re together and that’s what’s making me happy.