30km, 9 hours

Our last 1000m+ peak. We begin near freezing, wearing everything we have to stay warm. The hill does a better job and at its top we’re down to T-shirts.

It’s beautiful up here and affords our first glimpse of the Southern Ocean, our final destination now in sight, six days away.

It’s an up and down day, which under normal circumstances would be an okay challenge, but nothing to write about. It feels like one of my longest, hardest days on the trail, simply because being sick zaps your strength to climb mountains.

We come out of a 19km section entirely on a “station”: a massive cattle and sheep farm with thousands of livestock and thousands of hectares of land.

Having been frozen the last two nights outside, we hitch into town, if you can call it that, for accommodation.

No motels, no B&Bs, this is farming country and the only place to stay is pub accommodation: essentially a dorm above a country bar. The place is full of characters. Real “townies” as they’re called here (in the US they might be called rednecks). They’re as curious as a cows to see two not-from-around-here folks in their bar. The kind of bar where there are muddy gumboots lined up outside the door, and old coal miners drinking pints in their thick woolen socks.

The town drunk sidles up to Rebecca. I contemplate that he’s drunker than I am sick, but I’d rather not have any trouble tonight. Obnoxious, but harmless. Everyone else is actually amazingly friendly. I have a way too long discussion about the quality of coal. It’s the town industry and judging by the town is a quarter of what it used to be.

The bed is warm but the sleep could be better. It’s March 17th, St. Patrick’s day, and the pub and area out our window are full of country boys being boys until the wee hours.