19km, 5 hours
Thunderstorms overnight. Big, booming crashes throughout the night. Lightning strikes nearby with only a few seconds until rolling thunder makes you wonder whether the earth is quaking.
At dawn, a kiwi squak is like a rooster at dawn. It’s no longer raining, but the grass and trees are oozing wet. One brush and you’re drenched yourself. The rivers are flowing. What were to be easy crossings are a bit more difficult, clear waters are milky, hiding depths. Some of these are mid thigh, with rapids swift enough that lifting a foot will push it downstream and knock you off balance. We are careful, holding together just in case.
The landscape changes. The mountains are rounded, each standing alone instead of in ranges. We are at the Rakaia river hazard zone and need to hitch out to avoid crossing, which in good weather is considered unsafe, and it’s not been good weather.