Saturday, 4 January 2014
Palmerston North to Turitea Rd (8.5 km)
From Palmerston North CBD, where the Intercity disgorged us, we walked southeast to the university and then into farmlands. We had only a few hours left of the day, so the distance covered was minimal, but it was important to make a start. Our packs were heavier than usual because we expected to be tramping for more than a week, so were carrying extra food. At twilight, we found a cow paddock without any stock in it, so that was our bivouac site.
It started to rain. We could hear it tapping on the leathery, dried cow pats, giving them new life, flexibility and odour. “Isn’t this pleasant?” I remarked to Hannah. She gave me a uni-digital sign of affirmation, so I grabbed her finger and kissed it. Her face crumpled. “Stop it Mom, you’re really creeping me out now.”
It rained all night.
Sunday, 5 January
Turitea Rd to Burtton’s Track head (19 km)
We didn’t take photographs because it rained almost all day. Oh goodie. Little streams of water trickled off the tent as we rolled and packed it. We started the long and slow uphill through bush and farmland.
Within an hour, Hannah was lagging behind. “What is wrong with you?” I asked. She wanted to stop and lie down in the tent. However, to spend three days getting to the head of Burtton’s Track was not an option. We had enough food for a very specific schedule to be covered in wilderness without resupply access. “We have to keep walking,” I said.
“I feel dizzy and nauseated,” she said. “I can feel my heart thumping from the inside.” I took her pulse. It was at the right speed for walking. She gazed dopily at me. “It’s so confusing. The ground keeps going in and out of focus when I look down.” “Have you felt like this before?” “Only that time when I took an overdose.” “Have you done something different with your medication now?” I asked, with a feeling of doom. “Well, I haven’t taken any for a week,” she admitted. Ah. She was in unsupervised cold turkey.
I had to think what was best to do in the circumstances. Although much of today’s track was on the road margin, at that moment we were in a place inaccessible to vehicles and out of cell phone reception. Also, here, the track was narrow and there was a steep cliff drop-off on the left.
She took her pills, the effect of which would take a while to kick in. I walked on the drop-off side of the path and held her hand. Where the path was too narrow for two abreast, we walked really slowly in single file while I maintained my grip on her hand. Eventually, we took eight hours to cover a distance which should have taken us four hours, but that was too bad.
“Why did you stop,” I asked, “when you’ve been doing well on this cocktail?” “I just didn’t want to be medicated anymore,” she replied. “I don’t know how much of myself I am not when I take the prescription.”
I noticed that my waterproof pants looked unusual. Last time I washed the mud off them I didn’t rinse the soap out properly, and now in the wet there was a lovely lather on my legs. Oh well, better to foam on the thighs than at the mouth.
Between fierce gusts of rain there were moments when the precipitation was briefly drawn aside to expose the view. We were at the intersection of farmland and mountain bush at one of these moments, and in a perfect position. The pastures were sheep-cropped short, and the land voluptuous. Curvaceous hills folded against each other like rolls of exuberant fat in a Beryl Cook uninhibited lady painting. This lady lay nestled against the mountain range; we stood on her serene and dimpled thighs, gazing down at Palmerston North, which was worshipfully flat on its face.
Well, that was the highlight of the day. After we entered the bush again, it was all a sodden and rather sad uphill slog. It was with some relief that we reached the head of Burtton’s Track. It was a lonely place, but we could see hunters had been there before us. They had blasted the signboard map with shotgun pellets. Someone had also scratched out the “no shooting” and “no motorcycles” icons. “Gosh but you need to be brave to shoot a map!” I said to Hannah. “Maps are pretty dangerous,” she responded, “and hitting a large, stationary object requires a keen eye and a steady aim.”
We set up the tent under pine trees, where we were thoroughly supervised by a fluffy fantail, which flurried from branch to branch beside us in a very bossy way. We were clearly on his private property.
At 4.00 pm the sun emerged like a spoilt celebrity arriving unforgivably tardily at a fundraising party and expecting everyone to be thrilled and gratified. Pffft!