4.30pm Hikers Shangri La
We have discovered an angel and in this discovery opened the gates to the Shangri La that is the mythical trail walkers Haven that I’d dreamt about earlier in my TA journey. In my dreams it was called Takahuna, in reality it is called Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Centre. The trail angel is Sally Duxfield and we met her whilst walking down Gladstone road at the end of the Makahao Makahika track.
Sally came out to greet us and asked if we were TA walkers leaving it a bit late. I replied that we were indeed such walkers and that we were “lightweights” only walking as far as Wellington. Sally invited us to stay in “the cottage” as this is not being used this weekend. Still fearing I am in my Takahuna dream we have been provided with clean fresh towels and a hot shower, a bag of goodies including 6 ice cold beers, salted cashews, bacon, eggs, milk, butter and bread. There is already a fridge with lots of other stuff in. We have use of the laundry and Sally has even brought over books and maps on the Tararuas. There is a lounge, sun drenched deck, kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms galore (I’ll be sleeping as far away from snoring Chris as possible tonight!). There is even a TV and DVDs. And that is not all, Sally has invited us over for dinner with her and husband John at 7pm, she has mentioned using the internet when we want and is going to get us to Levin for resupply!
I’ll find out more later but Sally and John run this as a centre for schools and corporate retreats, team building and leadership development. They run overnight bush skills courses too. Www.makahika.co.nz. Go there.!
The walking today was good. The weather has really improved (please please stay nice for the Tararuas). The track was well marked and benched with plenty of ups and downs plus countless stream crossings. Nice and cool in the bush but we had a few openings for taking views of the west coast including a vague outline of Kapiti Island and Taranaki (on clearer days you can see the South Island).
Chris was in better spirits and started firing puzzles and conundrums at me to reinvigorate my grey matter. I did pretty well and will be posting a special blog of “Chris’s Conundrums” to see how you ,my dear reader, get on.
9.50pm in comfy bed (not near Chris)
Just had a very enjoyable evening with Sally and John. Sally insisted on doing the washing up despite me volunteering Chris to do it! We had home made steak pie with braised vegetables and creamy mash with some rustic locally baked bread. Sally made some delicious coffee which was served with cheese, dried fruits, chocolates, quince paste and crackers. And we watched rugby on TV! Magic!
Sally and John have had the centre for eight years now and are making a real go of it to extend the season beyond the usual 5 months. Sally bought it without John knowing (he was overseas at the time). Originally they went into a partnership with friends but bought them out after 2 years. They both have military backgrounds and Sally had run a business leadership consultancy prior to buying the centre. They have a lot of schools come every year for 4 day residentials which involves the children learning lots of different skills. Over 100 kids at a time are catered for and they learn about primary industries like farming, where food comes from, learn about native and invasive species, undertake a tramp and team building on an adventure circuit and abseiling. Sally and John also run community service courses for those who have been given the choice between going to prison or undertaking the course which involves an 8 day wilderness tramp with no outside contact. They are taught bush survival skills like how to skin a possum and how to shoot (strange option of skills to teach semi criminals). Seems to work for some of them but others just keep walking past the gates when they finally get back from the wild! Sally has taken in a few TA hikers including an autistic German with a time infatuation, a Belgian who thought he could walk the Tararuas in a day ( he took 4) and a French guy who only wanted water but ended up with beer, food and lodging and left in a daze wondering what happened. They have a lot of cats (3 including kitten Winnie who is 6 weeks old, was a stray found under the church and loved attacking Chris’s feet), Sam the lovable dog who craves attention and 5 horses. They have about thirty acres including a stream which has some massive “stay at home” eels (these are the big ones which don’t migrate back to Tonga).
John works for Customs in Wellington and is on a change management project which he is enjoying. Sally was suggesting we should stay at least a day here as weather for Sunday not looking great especially when we would be doing the most tricky and exposed bit of the route. We will recheck the weather but at the moment the plan is to resupply in the morning and get on the trail before 11am as it will be a 7 hour hike to the second hut.
I still think we are in a dream as they have been so nice to us.