we pack our bags the evening before, stuffing them with sleeping bags, gas cookers, pots, cups and a change of clothes. we rise, in the early morning, before the sun shows her face over the horizon. in the van, we head back from patons rock towards the takaka hill. i stare out the window, watching the quiet light of the morning moving mist across the farmlands. we rise up through the gravel roads of the cobb valley, the narrow road rewarding us with views of river and forest. we’re here with two of my closest siblings and their partners, the six of us together for another jocund adventure. our destination is the 12-bunk sylvester hut in the kahurangi national park. it’s a short, but steep walk to the top, zig-zagging up through beautiful beech forests to the hut.
there’s a couple of other people there and we chat to them as we eat lunch. they’ve been in the night before us, but leave not long after we arrive and we have the whole hut to ourselves. after claiming our sleeping spaces, we head out again for the short walk to lake sylvester. it’s a sunny afternoon and we make the most of it, moving around the hut and each other in slow patterns, doing puzzles, reading, indulging in the immeasurably splendid, 360 degree views.
we’ve all brought our own meals, making dinner prep easy. we’ve got a vegan mac n’ cheese which we adorn with steamed broccoli — a nice quick meal that is deliciously easy and fulfilling. come nightfall, the sound of rustling as people get comfy in their sleeping bags is the last thing i hear before i drop off to sleep.
the morning greets us with crimson skies and a blanket of clouds on the hills beneath us. it’s a cool morning, quite different from yesterday’s heat and i hurry to dress in the chill of the morning air. we’d made our breakfast before we came up to the hut, so it’s just a matter of warming it over the fire and making a cup of coffee, packing our bags and we’re ready to go. the mist shrouds the landscape today, bringing with it a holy hush that settles over everything. the walk back down to the van through the foggy forest as magical as the sunshine that warmed us the day before.