Going to a new place for the first time is like seeing a beautiful woman on the street. Returning to a place is like going on a date. If you’re drawn back again, you develop a real relationship to a place.
After a second trip to the Hump Ridge Track, this time with my nine-year-old son Leif, I think we might have a future together. I can honestly say the top of the Hump Ridge is now one of my favorite places, for the beautiful views, and the rock formations scattered around, and most of all for the strange plants that seem like something out of Dr. Seuss or a sci-fi movie.
I never would’ve gone a second time if I didn’t have the peculiar ability to forget pain. They say women forget how painful labor is; if they didn’t, they’d never have more than one kid.
I think men have developed a similar ability to forget. After all, if a stone age hunter knew how hard it would be to kill a wooly mammoth the second time, he’d never do it.
So when Leif said he wanted to do the Hump Ridge Track during his school holidays, I agreed, momentarily forgetting the screaming pain in my knees and feet the first time I went.
I remembered halfway up the hill on the first day. I knew I’d make it, but I wasn’t so sure about Leif, who was struggling. I took his pack up the steepest part of the hill, but once we saw the Okaka Hut in the distance, he got a burst of energy that lasted for the next three days.
On the second and third days — eight hours of hiking each — Leif had more energy than I did, even though I was better off than I had been on my previous trip to the Hump. My knees weren’t as sore as they’d been the first time, but my feet rebelled again. This time I had decent hiking boots instead of jogging shoes, but I hadn’t done a long hike in them yet, so I guess my feet were still adjusting. Either that or I’m just getting old.
The scenery was even more spectacular than the first time, since the weather was clear the first two days. We could see the entire 360-degree view from the top, including Lake Poteriteri, Lake Hauroko, and the Wairaurahiri River. Stewart Island was more clear than I’d ever seen it, and we could see the Solander Islands, 40k out. We could see about 50 miles of coastline, from Bluff, the port town south of Invercargill, to who-knows-where along the Fiordland coast to the west.
The third day was a minor letdown, since it was cloudy and windy. The surf and timing didn’t allow us to hiking the low-tide route, which added an hour of uneventful bush walking.
As we approached the carpark, we were approached by a deformed and apparently blind pig, which seemed to be looking for its mother. While we walked, it stuck its snout between our legs. We yelled at it, kicked it, and threw rocks at it until it finally found its way back inside the fence.