Waking early after my impromptu stayover in the mine-studded forests of Longwood, I made plans to get the hell out. Hopelessly lost and off path, and map seeming worse than useless, I breakfasted on chocolate and made the decision to head east. East was out, at any rate. So, with the helpful warnings of the Colac Bay pub-goers in my mind (“don’t get off track, there are old mines 50 foot deep you can plunge to your screaming death into”) I set off – being very careful about where I put my feet.
In a stroke of luck that I still can’t understand (having very stupidly wandered lost for a good hour the night before) within the hour I had stumbled onto the PWR track again. Unfortunately, it was a bit I’d already travelled – which meant that I still had the path of confusion before me. You’d think it would be fairly easy to follow a bloody great ditch, even when the path petered out, wouldn’t you? But if the thing is clogged, or there’s been a slip, or the path is for some reason impassable and you have to force your way through the bush around it and somehow hope for the best, well, things happen.
Coming again to the mystery spot, I somehow stumbled on the correct path. You see, you get to this river. On one side is a path that has obviously – from the state of the path itself, which is quite evident – led many unsuspecting people off into darkness and terror, while the real route, marked with a small scrap of cloth, is on the other side of the river, heading up a steep and overgrown bank with no evidence of a path at all. Again, it was force and hope – a theme to be repeated through much of the afternoon.
Then, stumbling along, a miracle. Cascade Road (a deserted farm track) appeared through the trees. No signage, of course. (And what Southlanders have against decent signage I don’t know – did it get them to a mother-in-law’s birthday party on time? – but there is apparently an immoveable regional grudge against it.) 31 hours after I started that supposedly 8 hour track I stumbled free of it, with a determined resolve never to take any Te Araroa guidelines seriously in future. 8 hours, bullshit.
I stumbled up Cascade towards Martin’s Hut, only to find that the promised clear signage was non-existent. I eventually found the track to Turnbull Hut, but only because the sign had not been removed entirely. Rather, it had been broken off and thrust head first into a gorse bush of gargantuan proportion. 1/2 hour to the hut, it said, and again: bullshit. I arrived 2 hours later, muddy to the bone, just as it was getting too dark to see, and you know what?
Turnbull Hut was worth it to the core.