Above the clouds

Tuesday 23rd - Wednesday 31st January 2018
After a wonderful rest day at Pelorus Heights B&B (a place that we would highly recommend if you are looking for a B&B near Havelock, the owners are really nice people), we were ready for the next stretch to St Arnaud. The weather forecast were nice and our pack was super heavy, with 10 days of food.
We started hiking along the Pelorus River and its deep-blue waters. There were a few swing bridges that allowed us to cross the river without having to remove our shoes. And those swing bridges are always quite funny to cross.
By 3 PM, we were at Middy Hut, ready to swim in the beautiful waters and relax after our day. We are a few people in the hut, but it's not too crowded.
The next day, we wake up at 6. We start the day with a climb of 700 meters till Rocks Hut. The path goes then up and down till Browning Hut that we reach around 2:30 PM. 
There, we discover that we forgot our spoons at Middy hut... No way that we go back there! We decide to go further, to Hacket Hut. There, we see Paul and Cate, the 2 Australians that we met in the Tararuas. Tonight, we're staying at the hut with Karen (from Florida), Tom (from Germany, that started hiking on the southern island), Emma (from New York, with who we've hiked in the Tararuas), Darrel (from Vancouver) and Christian (a Swiss German guy).
We go to swim naked in a natural swimming pool near the hut. Marie-Laure has some hesitations to enter the cold water till 2 cyclists emerges from the nearby forest. She immediately plunges into the stream. "Hello"! The cyclists are already far away but we're still laughing!
Today, Thursday, we know that we'll have to climb about 1550 meters. It's quite a lot. It doesn't take us so much time, but we're so tired when we reach Slaty hut!
For the lunch, we stopped at the scenic Starveall hut, where we saw everyone arriving one by one. Most of our friends got lost at a river crossing (for the TA hikers on this trail : the trail is well marked so if you don't see the next marker after 1 or 2 minutes, you're on the wrong path).
After the long climb of Thursday, we decide to make a short day. We won't try to pass Mount Rintoul today and instead we will stop at Old Man hut.
The views on the valley are stunning. With the clouds, we feel like if we were above a white sea. With the morning light, it's so beautiful that we can't make anything else than stopping every 2 minutes for a picture.
By 11 AM, we reach Old Man hut with Karen and Darrel. We have plenty of time to rest and read.
It's already Saturday, the 27th. But no late wake up for us today : at 6, we are leaving the hut. We want to start early because today, we climb Mount Rintoul, the highest elevation we'll reach in the Richmond range (around 1730 meters). It's again a beautiful day with clouds below us.
We spend some time at the top before going down. We soon reach Rintoul Hut, where we don't stay because it's too early to stop walking. At 2:30 PM, we're at Tarn hut, near a lake where we go swimming as soon as we arrive there.
We're hiking quite fast. We're trained now and our hiking boots are really helpful when it comes to going down on a steep scree slope. Also, we always leave early and can enjoy a few hours of fresh air before the sun is high in the sky and the trail transform itself into a furnace.
From Tarn hut, we want to reach Top Wairoa hut. The path to Mid Wairoa hut is steep but it doesn't take us long. By 9:30, we join Karen that is already there. The hut is still in the shade. After a break during which we try to locate a cache of geocaching with Karen, we start climbing along a river. 
Another beautiful river, but what a dangerous path! I wouldn't like to be here when it's raining... But the sun is there and we enjoy the water. We cross the river 8 times before we finally reach Top Wairoa hut. That's when we hear thunder. Some drops start to hit the windows of our hut. 
At 8 PM, the last people reach the hut. We are happy that everyone is here, safe. 
On Monday 29th, we reach Hunters hut after a short hike of 5 hours. The hut is beautiful, with a terrace. As we arrived really early, we enjoy to be alone in the place during a few hours before the other hikers start arriving.
We end up being so many : 18 people for a hut of 6. We decide to pitch our tent, to make sure we'll have a peaceful night.
Our friends Sven and Sibylle from Switzerland arrive in the late afternoon. Huggggssss! We hadn't seen them since the Whanganui River, where we spent 7 days together. We exchange the last news and they tell us about their stay in Havelock.
The hike between Hunters hut and Red Hills hut is a long one and quite hard one, especially in the late morning and afternoon, with the sun that seems to crush us under the heat. 
But after some steep cree slopes and a few washouts, we cross a river where a beautiful natural emerald pool is awaiting for us. It takes us 2 minutes to get rid of our backpacks and clothes and jump in the deep blue water. We'll, it's not warm, but the water isn't icy cold either. We swim a few minutes. How refreshing!
We reach Red Hills around 3 PM, early enough to take a nap and read a little. An electronic book in the backpack is a must have for readers like us! 
And eventually, here we are, the 31st of January, last day in the Richmond range. We reach St Arnaud early morning and have plenty of time to enjoy the great restaurant of the Alpine Lodge. Vegetables, fruits, meat and even a beer or a glass of wine : that's luxury!
We'll stay here 2 nights, because a storm is expected tomorrow and we prefer to avoid walking under the rain the first day of a week of tramping in the mountains. Now that our clothes are clean and have a nice smell, let keep it like that as long as possible!

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