The generator again wakes us too early. We head down to make sack lunches, for this our most difficult day. The McKinnon Pass is between us and the Quinton Lodge, and apparently sandwiches and chocolate are the only way to make it up and over. We are told to double whatever we had yesterday. If we had one sandwich we should make two. If we had two we should make four. The same goes for chocolate bars, including the newly added to our diet fudge slices.
To our normal breakfast of cereal and yogart, we add Eggs Benedict. It is raining lightly but the Kea birds are not detered. These mountain parrots are tearing away at every bolt, rivet, nail or piece of cloth. We had been warned to keep everything indoors, including our shoes, so as not to tempt these cheeky characters. We now clearly see why.
We head out into a light drizzle. Our jackets and rain pants, which we fear will overheat us to the point of spontaneous combustion, remain buried in our packs. The world renowned views from the top of the pass, seem destined to evade us. We stop at our last B&B before the pass, with B&B being bladder emptying and bottle filling spot. The amount of water coming from the sky makes filling bottles seem silly, but we comply.
We zig-zag our way towards the top, where we break down and put on light rain jackets. The rain and wind is growing and blowing. The mile markers in this area seem mysteriously further apart then they should. We finally reach the monument, where we are treated with warm Milo, but no views. The actual lunch shelter is another 30 minutes away, and the warmth of the drink is long gone before we arrive. We are now soaked to the quick of our quick drying underwear.
In the shelter we scramble for space. We stuff ourselves with food, in the hope that warming our belly will some how warm the rest of our body. Our ultimate fantasy is to warm our bodies so much that we warm our soaking clothes.
The crafty Kea birds, normally so common at the pass, are no where to be found. We were earlier told they have the intelligence and attitude of a three year old child. Given I do not see any three year old children dumb enough to be out in this weather, I think it might be true.
We rearrange some clothes, putting on more layers of wet. After one last hot drink, we head back out in the blowing wet clouds. We slip multiple times, some times in our wet shoes, and other times with our now loose tongues. Occasionally the clouds lift for brief but spectacular views of falls and cascades. Clear skies would make for incredible grand vistas, but pouring rain makes for unbelievable raging waters, which now seem to be sreaming out from everywhere.
By the time we finally reach Quinton Lodge, most walkers seem fine with not walking more of this finest walk in the world. The drying rooms are overflowing with fragrant fabric. After a hot drink, however, I press on the optional miles to and from Sutherland falls. The sun pokes out just long enough for me to get great views of the world’s fifth tallest waterfall, and New Zealand’s number one hit.
After dinner and a brief slide show, we retire. Tomorrow will be a much gentler 13 mile stroll to the boat launch, where we will catch a ride to Mitre Peak Lodge.