River crossings (Day 24)

A long poem for a long and demanding day – things did change after this!

The story of river crossings to Top Wairoa Hut after a day’s rain; two days after my tumble.
The trail notes are ominous
For the Top Wairoa Hut section
At the best of times
The sky is adding its weight
In foreboding colours

Four of us trampers
set off

I call on
The powers of
and body-felt
Aided by the ever-present
Of the Wairoa River
Clearing my cells
Of tension and fear
With welcome success
Most of the time

The first of five, we think,
Goes well
The young couple
Sean and Kali
Learn fast

After three or four more

It starts to rain
We step up the pace
Somewhat anxiously
Knowing that rivers
Rise quickly when it rains
One more to go!

And another
And oh yes
There’s a waterfall
to cross
“If you lose your footing”
The notes say
“You go down the four meter fall”

We manage them,
The water IS rising..
We MUST be
Getting closer to the end now,

One more
A big
With many individual braids
By now

We try a few places
Without success
And decide to go back
Set up a bivvy
For a wet and uncomfortable

Tracing steps back
Sean sees one last chance
He gets across well
With his long legs
Leaves his pack
On the other side
Takes two more packs
And their owners across

Then comes back
For me
And my pack
All is well
Till the last step

The safe-haven
Last-step rock
Is fast starting
To disappear

I feel unable to jump
The gap
To the rock
And the two trees
To hold on to
When I get there

And feel with my foot
For another

This BIG mistake
Sees me
In a split second
With my legs
And up to my chest
Being pulled
By the rushing water
Hanging onto
The tree with one hand
Sean’s hand with the other
For dear life

We both struggle
To pull me up

With both hands
Around the two trees
My legs frantically
Trying to find
And Sean’s arm
Around my back

Just as the last-foothold rock
Starts rolling away
From underneath
Both of us

I am heaved
And Sean jumps
To safety

No time to lose
Soaking wet
Traumatised once more
Out of breath
We all clamber
Up the bushclad
Virtually vertical
Towards the
Bright orange
Of the hut
Sean and Kali
Had already seen
From the river.

Never has the sight of a
Been so welcome

Once in the hut
At a quarter to nine
Sandie springs into action
Dry and warm clothes
Hot drink
Warm sleeping bag
For me

We top and tail
So the other two
Don’t have to sleep on the floor
We have a restless
But very grateful

6 thoughts on “River crossings (Day 24)

  1. Melissa Evans

    Hi Marlies,
    This sounds incredibly scary. You have been through some tough challenges lately. Work when you return, will seem so tame. I really enjoy reading all your posts, as I feel as I’m walking the track with you. Take care, we want you back all in one peice! All the best


    1. Hi Melissa, yes I crtainly needed a full day of completely-doing-nothing-recovery once we got to st Arnaud. But like I said it has not continued like that, and we’re on day 44 today! Just not possible to keep up with posting. Sarah and I are doing a few short days from today due to her knee problems. Then we’ll join Sandie again in Arthurs Pass and I’ll be walking “the full monty” again. I’m having a wonderful time, and am feeling fitter (and leaner!), healthier and happier than ever before!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚


  2. Nancy wright

    Hi Marlies,
    I had no idea that your “walk” in the South Island would be as challenging and uplifting and terrifying as it is. What an adventure you and your friends are experiencing and I see your courage and you rising to the challenges and my admiration for your strength both physical and spiritual grows with every post. Take care


    1. Hi Nancy, hmm yes “walk” is a bit of a euphemism for the overall experience! However we have since had some “walking” days, as you’ll see in another post. It’s a good job sometimes that there is firstly no choice but to go forwards and onwards, and secondly that the next day we get up, move on and do more of the same. So any scary bits become part of the overall multivaried tapestry of experience, rather than the focus!! πŸ™‚ Feeling extremely fortunate and grateful to be able to do this at all! I am loving it.


    1. Hi Pauline, well if any of this can inspire anyone to get out and do something you really love, I will be happy. So i say “yes go for it!!”. We’re at the end of day 48 now and I have to regularly pinch myself to check whether this is really me doing this with two of my dear friends. Don’t know how far South we’ll get to, but that is well and truly immaterial by now. xx


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