Just through tunnel number two there was a handy stack of sleepers, just the place to join in with the other walkers and sit for a drink and a snack, and rest our weary bones for a little while. One couple told us they had driven down from Hastings, leaving early in the morning to arrive in time for the walk. Not only that, but they had previously tramped up and down the many track-ways on the road side of the gorge. That’s certainly commitment to getting a bit of exercise.
We were surprised to see so many dead possums on the track in various stages of decay. Guess they get mesmerised by the lights on the oncoming train before getting run over. It may seem unkind, but most Kiwi’s believe that the only good possum is a dead possum. Possums were originally introduced to New Zealand from Australia to establish a fur industry, and are voracious eaters. Possums can cause catastrophic dieback, the complete collapse of a forest canopy – especially tree species that possums prefer, such as rata and kamahi. Add in the fact that possums have been caught on film eating the eggs, chicks and even adults of our native bird species, these nasty little animals are reviled by the general public.
It was a matter of one foot in front of the other as we continued on our way. Some of the original hard wood sleepers were still in place, while others had been replaced with concrete sleepers. In some parts the track had recently been re-metalled, making walking difficult on the ankles, as I continued to slip and slide. What a shame I couldn’t track down my proper walking boots, those boots had previously seen a much younger version of me up and over the Milford Track some years ago.
Eventually the railway line left the gorge and we walked through the country-side for a short time. Nearly there now, we just have to cross the final bridge over the Pohangina River. What bliss – easy walking on timber.
We were guided down a steep track to the Domain grounds, and what a surprise, a water stop – which was really appreciated by this stage. Never seen Water in a Box before, but it sure tasted great.
It only took us another 5 minutes or so walking through the Ashhurst Domain and we were handed a certificate each. We had made it!
And look, they arranged for a Scotty band to serenade us as we walked by. How kind.
It was time for a late lunch, and Robin was drawn by his nose to the Sausage Sizzle tent. The smell of BBQed sausages and onions cooking proved irresistible. So it was sausage, onions and buttered bread twice, thanks. I seemed to cause a bit of bother when I asked for a well cooked sausage, and my sausage was returned to the BBQ for another few minutes to brown up more. The cook rolled his eyes at my request, Robin informed me later.
We were warned before we set off that the 8km walk might not be as easy as expected. That proved true in our case because of the loose stones we had to walk over. Obviously, those walking in proper boots did not have the same problem with their feet slipping as I did. As we sat eating our sausages and bread in the sunshine we watched the steady stream of participants walking by. Some looked as fresh as a daisy, while others plodded slowly by to get to their cars. One of the organisers had told us that the maximum allowable number of 1500 tickets had been sold. What an excellent fund raising event for Lions, and one more thing we can tick off our bucket list.
Returning to the caravan, we started packing up for our trip home. What a great day doing something different – wonderful scenery, great weather, and not a breath of wind. Certainly worth the various aches and pains, which just goes to show we are not as young as we used to be. It was early to bed after all that fresh air and exercise.