15km, 5 hours

Fourth day of rain and we are walking into a strong head wind. We started at noon since we needed to sort supplies in Te Anau and hitch back to where we left the trail.

Rebecca is in her underwear (again). The days of wet walking have left her chaffed and it’s too painful for pants. She sent her rain pants back months ago as they didn’t work well. It’s just her bare legs versus the elements.

We’re back in wet. Real wet. Moss and mud everywhere, likely present even when it hasn’t been raining. It’s slow going. Up and down beech forest gives way to wet tussocks that are shoulder height. The trail is hard to find and the temperature is dropping. Rain gear only protects for so long before moisture is wicked through seams, cuffs, and zippers.

  How Rebecca is still moving in this cold with bare legs I don’t know. The tussocks are like whips, and matagouri like pins. And she’s sick.

After a while I’m too cold and I know she is. We’re not close enough to a hut to make it safely, so we choose a sheltered spot in the trees. It’s flat, but full of cow pies. Oh well, I guess they’re pretty old by now…

After pitching a tent and washing off the mud, we’re shivering. Our sleeping bags are rated to -1C. Even with all our clothes on, in the tent, and under the sleeping bag, it takes a full hour before hands and feet warm up. We were close to hypothermic, and it happened fast. You get cold, but don’t notice that it’s getting gradually colder until your thinking isn’t quite clear.

Rebecca’s been a bit sick for three days and I thought I might have acquired an immunity by now. The cold zaps strength however. My throat tickles and within an hour, it’s a sore throat. An hour later and I’m at that phase where you swear you’ll never take a healthy day for granted again.

After her shivers stop, Rebecca does a painting. She has to do one every day after all. And she is insanely devoted, for someone who has just recovered from a cold-to-the-bones case of mild hypothermia.

We spend the next 17 hours in the tent to stay warm.