I had as poor a night's sleep as could be expected in a sagging hammock with my hips touching the ground. Mike and Becky left at first light as they had said they would. Sitting by the trail later, eating oatmeal and watching the forest come alive, I felt a twinge of desolation and loneliness at being left behind.
This morning would be a "make and mend" session, I decided. It was time to move on from 90 Mile Beach and prepare for the forests.
Hauling out all my gear, I removed as much sand and salt as possible and rinsed what I could with the water I had left.
I placed my solar charger in a patch of sunlight.
I went through my food bags, rationing and reorganising, pleased by the weight reduction and reassured that I had enough.
Then I bushwhacked 50 metres through thick brush down to a small stream, where I had a towel bath without soap.
Stripping off, I savoured the experience of being naked in the wild.
The water felt cold and invigorating when I planted my feet on the stream bed.
I filled my cooking pot and poured a clear stream over my head. I gasped at the shock, I did it again and again then towelled briskly.
My skin glowed.
The touch of warm sunlight filtering through the green canopy blessed it.
Fingering my beard, I longed for a razor but it had been left behind in Auckland.
No matter, I rinsed my socks, shorts, underwear and t-shirt, wrung them out and bundled them into the small towel.
I put on the thermal tights and top I had carried down, anticipating the return trip, and laced my shoes.
Then I retraced my steps, carrying back three litres of water.
At home, I reflected, you just turn on a tap. Most people don't even think about it, much less appreciate something so commonplace.
Here in the forest, so much more is involved.
You need to plan your route to the water source.
You need to think about the worst case scenario and what you need to bring with you in case of a fall (these hill streams are always steep-sided.)
Then, you need to navigate there and back. It takes physical effort to climb over fallen trees, move through or around dense patches of vegetation, clamber down and then back up the stream banks, paying close attention to your foot and handholds.
When you wash, you need to think about the effect on the life in the stream.
Finally, you need to boil or treat the water you have carried back.
Out here, simply getting water is an adventure, especially when you are on your own.
It's satisfying. You know you've done something. It's good for the brain and for the body.
I'd like to take people into places like this.
There's always so much to do.
In a place like this, a simple activity is interesting.
It's never boring although it can be testing.
It makes you feel alive.
It's where we belong.