Monday, March 5, 2012

Rail Trail Walk. Day Two

Yesterday there was nowhere to stop for refreshment between Middlemarch and Hyde, but a very nice cafe (above) at the hotel when we got there. Today, in the whole 32 kms march from Hyde to Ranfurly, there is but one stop available, about 9 kms from the end. This is the hotel at Waipiata, which is, in Gay's words, "a cheerless hole". I have had coffee with some spilled into the saucer before, of course, but have never had the saucer full of coffee, without a word of apology, even after ostentatiously using a whole pile of tissues to mop it up. The only other customers who came in asked for some sort of milky coffee but received black. Again without apology, they were given a 2-litre carton of milk to go with it. They then pronounced the coffee undrinkable. Again, no apology, but a grudging offer to start again, which they wisely refused. The woman serving us was obviously new, she was being told what to do, rather than shown, and the proprietress did not see fit to speak to us as all this was going on. No wonder it was not very well patronised.

We have heard several times on this trip that rabbits are becoming a huge problem to farmers again, and this was very obvious in the first few kms after leaving Hyde. The critters were whizzing backwards and forwards and along the trail. seemingly oblivious to our presence.

Another big problem in New Zealand is the number of mustelids (stoats, ferrets and the like), which were introduced to keep down the rabbits and possums (another huge problem) but which like to munch on the native birds which are easy game because they have become used, over millions of years, to the complete absence of predators in New Zealand (until the recent coming of man, especially European man). We saw a big fat mustelid strolling across the track, not bothering to even look at the rabbits - probably because he was too full.

We were racing the threatened heavy rain, which kept trying all day. For most of the walk we were wearing our full-length rain-proof ponchos, but the rain did not start in earnest until about 20 seconds after we arrived in Ranfurly, which bills itself as an art deco place, although there is little in the town.

We were booked into the main hotel, which is for sale. Any buyer would have to spend a great deal of money bringing up to scratch and into this century. It would also be a good idea to have somebody on reception who could summon up a smile, even just a professional one. And to have food in the restaurant which could match up to the claim of having "the best chef in the Maniototo". Shaving mirrors somewhere near the washbasins would be a good idea as well. But the room doors do lock.

We went to bed early to prepare for a 7 am start tomorrow, when we shall be tramping 42 kms, which even at our fast pace will be 7 hours of walking, plus stoppages. There was very heavy rain for most of the evening and night. This was to give us a bit of a surprise in the morning.

We had also begun to hear dire warnings on the tv forecasts of some extra-specially horrendous weather - a weather "bomb" - which would hit New Zealand at the weekend.

Needless to say, all this weather is not doing much for the photographability of the wonderful terrain through which we are passing. We can still see how magnificent it is, but the distance shots are not coming out too well on the screen.

Today we walked 32 kms, so we have done 60 kms so far.

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