9th August 2016
11am – 7:30pm (x2 15min breaks) 23km
Awaking a few times in the night I didn’t sleep as well as I had hoped.
At 7:00am I started packing my bag but my room companion was still sleeping.
7:30am came and I headed out to the breakfast hall where I consumed a hearty breakfast of cereal, a double continental breakfast, a boiled egg, orange juice and two coffees. That should keep me going for a bit!
Out in the lobby I took a moment to phone home. JoJo and Tilly are chatty and easy to talk to. Noah has obviously got more on his mind and says little. I do miss them. They’ll be alright though.
Back in my room, the other guys is still asleep so I quietly pack away my bag.
As I check out and leave, Janna mentions that they have too much food in their parcel. Their generosity is truly touching as they offer me a number of meals and snack bars which are surplus to requirements. In one sense I found it difficult to accept their generosity. But the thought crossed my mind that maybe this is a chance to accept help from others which I would otherwise readily give. I’m truly grateful.
I don’t hit the trail until 11am but my legs feel good and I trot along at a decent pace. The weather is overcast and grey but warm enough to walk in just a t-shirt. The trail is however very rocky, muddy, wet and at times the boardwalks are sunken below a torrent of water. They are certainly in the worst state I have seen. It must be a mammoth task keeping the trail in good condition. With less passing foot-traffic I guess I will have benefitted from better quality trail in the last few days.
As I pass the end of a lake I overtake a number of older men and women carrying lightweight day sacks. They will no doubt be doing a hut-to-hut trek without all the gear that is needed for wild camping. It’s good to see such diversity on the trail.
At Pårte the keeper comes out. We chat about the trail, facilities, river crossings and the area in general. I’m looking to press on to high ground but his advice suggests that the options of camping higher up, out of the forest, are few and you have to have the right equipment. Well the latter I’m happy with and I estimate its only another 12km-ish so I press on. If I don’t carry on it’ll feel like a short and somewhat lazy day.
200-meters down the trail there is a knee deep river which one is expected to wade across. I had been forewarned about this and stood for a moment contemplating the best route. Spotting some footprints leading into the bushes I trace the barest of a path to a set of logs that have been haphazardly lain across the river. It’s sketchy but I make it by carefully edge along a log and making an accurately placed foot-plant and leap for the bank.
The remaining walkers I pass are duly informed of the alternative river crossing. It feels good to offer a small token of help to others. I reflect on this as I walk. It’s something that is part of my character to want to help and I’m glad to see that it’s present here on the trail and not just a product of being cocooned in a modern western lifestyle.
On I climb through the forest. The ground underfoot becomes more rocky and strewn with boulders. You have to continually watch where each foot is going and be ready for the other one to slip on the wet rocks. It’s easy to get absorbed in your footwork and miss the passing scenery. I stop at a mountain stream, empty the contents of a dehydrated meal into my 1-litre bottle and top up with water. The quantity is a guess but it turns out that topping to the 700ml line was abut right.
After some time I look up and through the trees I can see the ridge where I had hoped I could pitch my tent for the night. The thought spurs me on and I surge upwards ever watchful of my footing lest I slip and bring and end to this trip with a broken knee.
The path has kicked-up sharply and I stop to take a breath. As I turn my head I let out an involuntary “wow”. The view behind is stupendous and stretches out across multiple valley floors as far as the eye can see. Even the grey overcast weather does nothing to distract from the vastness and beauty of the landscape.
I try to snap a picture but a single shot doesn’t adequately capture the expanse like a panoramic.
As I crest the apex of the path I start to look for a place to pitch my tent. As a fellow walker said, it won’t be easy with the rocks and I can see his point. I’m starting to get quite hungry and in need of some food. About a kilometre down the path, the tree line emerges and I pick a spot off the path. There were a few other options before but for some reason I got it into my head that my pitch should be away from a potential rock fall from the cliffs above. Given the freezing weather this place sees in winter its a tad irrational to think that a blustery summer eve would dislodge any rocks, but once the thought crosses your mind you’ve just got to run with it.
I find a pitch on the heather and cook up the now re-hydrated meal of noodles, veg and chickpeas. As the light dims, the sun casts long shadows through the valley and over the lake below. This will no doubt be a pitch to remember. With my tent facing east I look forward to the sunrise. Not that I’m intending to be awake around 3:53am!