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Considering the conditions we'd hiked through the day before we slept remarkably well. We had heard snow falling in the night but had (incorrectly) assumed it wouldn't settle. We hadn't stirred by 8:30 when the hut warden came up to the tent and asked us if we were okay! We had heard that the hut wardens were fairly strict and some of our fellow campers had been kicked out of the hut the night before, so we were pleasantly surprised when the warden said we could come into the hut to warm up!
We finally braved the cold and crept out of our little tent. Much to our surprise the ground was completely covered in a couple of inches of snow and the tent had a good covering over most of the it! It was still bitterly cold and the valley was in shade so we took the warden up on her offer and took our breakfast things over to the hut. We were the last tent left up and our American friend had disappeared - he must have been super cold in his survival bag! It was great to fully thaw in the relative warmth, albeit around the two selfish Italians who thought it was fair game to sit right in front of the fire. They hadn't even been camping!
We got chatting to Richard (the first proper backpacker I think I've ever met - he hitch hiked everywhere he went and did all his tramps with all his gear, camping along the way!) and the hut warden who both thought we'd left early in the morning because our tent was so covered in snow! The freezing level was supposed to be at 600m and we were below 500m so were a little surprised! The warden said she hadn't seen snow at the hut in the 3 summers she had worked there.
We think we're ill-equipped, but Bernadette, an Austrian girl, was complaining about her lack of gloves. She was wearing socks then plastic bags. We said: "Oh, we've only got fingerless cycling gloves with mesh on the back!"; Richard then said: "I've got no gloves!" We laughed a lot. People are always telling us we're going to die on walks where we're obviously in no danger at all. Yesterday was a bit cold and hostile but here we all were happily through it all with no specialist equipment at all!
Safe in the knowledge that we were spending our last night on the Kepler Track in a hut we packed up the wet, icy tent and set off. The day was mostly spent walking through fairly flat beech forest along small rivers, with the snow quickly disappearing as the sun rose and we descended. We walked over "The Big Slip" which in 1984 fell from one of the sheer mountains in heavy rain. This destroyed a huge area which was good to walk through as there were no trees to obscure the views. The slip covered 2km of our walk and covered the full width of the valley floor! The most tricky section of the entire track was where the original track had slipped down a cliff into the river below, with the new detour taking us high over the original path. This wasn't the usual gravel pavement we were used to!
After getting a little bored of walking through similar forest all day we were relieved to finally reach Lake Manapouri and soon after the Moturau Hut which would be our home for the night. Oh, a flushing toilet! Hurray! Oh, a fire! Hurray! The hut is capable of accommodating 40 people but there were only 5 of us there which meant we had masses of room. We were greeted by popcorn care of the warden which was a nice surprise. The warden was a slightly wacky girl who liked the trees in the forest and explained where we could go and see a Rimu tree the next day.
We spent the evening huddling round the fire chatting to our hut mates: Bernadette and a couple from Australia (somewhere in NSW). The warden had said we could pull some mattresses into the kitchen by the fire (what she does in the back country huts) so Claire and I did. The others insisted on sleeping in the colder room upstairs!? I'd been holding off touching the fire as our Aussie friend had been tending it, but as soon as everyone went to bed I set to work and turned the fire into a raging inferno! Lots of coal and wood to keep us warm all night. After we turned out our head torches I noticed the flue glowing red hot so thought I'd better temper it a bit!
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