09 March 2008
Descending down the winding path, the vegetation gradually returns. First lichen, thin smears of a bright ice-green and startling yellow become thick purple velvet that is soft under the fingers. Some of the first upright plants are these pretty white flowers, nestling under rocks or inside the alpine tussock grass. Gradually bog pines and (invasive) heathers emerge, getting bigger as you walk, reaching to your ankles by the time you reach the hut placed about a third of the way down. (This is particularly welcome as the first toilet since Soda Springs. For the last half-hour my bladder occupied more attention than the surroundings.)
From the hut, the path is cut into the bog, and slowly the plants grow until suddenly you realise that they are at head height and you no longer can see the view, nor indeed how far you have to go. Trees appear, and then, from a little rest point, you plunge into the bush, classic temperate rain forest growing lush on the fertile volcanic soil.
This is the last stretch but it is still at least an hour, and for those of us with very sore feet, nearly two. I was glad to find Pip and Puff waiting for me in the car park. Pip gave me a wonderful foot massage!
We drove off to Taumarunui, where there's a nice holiday park with (bliss) hot showers. By the time we got halfway there it was pouring with rain and I was extremely glad to be off the hill.