This morning was extremely cold and since party saver and I decided we weren’t going to get back on the divide, instead we’d hike to meet up with AJ again, we didn’t need to get up to early. I woke up to completely frozen boots so we gave them time for the sun to hit them and thaw them out a bit.
We finally did get up, after some coffee and waiting for the sun to warm us. We headed out, towards the nearest civilisation but realised soon we wouldn’t go far without crossing the river. The level was slightly lower because it was morning and there was less snow melt filling the river, however the river was still raging! We walked for quite a while trying to find a good spot to cross. The river was doing everything it could to say don’t cross, but we had to. It was either cross or go back. There was no way we were going back. In the end party saver managed to cross so I joined him along the river. He’d found a small rock bank that was less submerged than the river bed. I started across and immediately felt the current trying to pull me in. The water was thigh deep and flowing faster than was safe. Every step felt like it was going to knock me to the water. Pole, pole, step, step. Pole, pole, step step. Stop. Pole, pole, step, step. Party saver was yelling advice to me from the other side but I couldn’t hear him over my breathing and the roar of the river. Pole, pole, step, step, pole, pole, step, step. Half way there. My heart is pounding, the site still looks so far away. Pole, pole, step, step, pole, pole, step step. The current is stronger, the water is up to my hips now. The shore is half a metre away. There’s a deep dip before the shore, party saver grabs my arms and next thing I’m standing on the shore. My whole body is shaking. I can’t feel my legs. Shivering from the adrenaline, we both made our way further in shore where we took a few minutes to decompress and calm down.
After crossing the river we finally found a snow free trail and giddy with happiness we headed off towards the town, where we hoped to surprise AJ as he passed through.
After a 10 mile hike we finally made it into town and ordered some great but over priced food and amazing coffee. While we were eating we were chatting about meeting up with AJ. While chatting a guy overheard us and mentioned he’d seen a hiker in town the day before. When we showed him a picture of AJ, he confirmed that AJ was ahead of us. Damn! How could we catch up with him now. Party saver tried to get him on the radio (the two of them carry radios to communicate!!!) We couldn’t get hold of him and the guy, his name is bill, offered to drive us up the pass till we meet AJ. We jumped at the opportunity and he pulled his bakkie (pick up) up the to restaurant and we hopped in.
Bill was a character! He’d also brought his chihuahua along for the ride! He kept us entertained with stories and seemed far more interested in chatting than on watching the road. Party saver and I sat gribbing seats as we whirled around the sharp corners. Eventually we started to hit snow. The first batch of snow bill revved himself through. The second batch caught his back tyre. This was when we found out we were in a 2wd bakkie. The back tyres just kept spinning, digging themselves deeper and deeper into the mud. Nothing we could do would help. Bill eventfully dug such a deep hole that the bakkie had twisted sideways and was hanging off the road. Time to call for help.
The 3 of us and this ridiculous dog started hiking up the pass to find phone reception at the top. Now I should mention bill is 70, and he’s trying to do this walk at 11 000ft with a chihuahua. This poor dog could barely keep up with us. I thought old bill would have a heart attack the higher we got. After 2.25 miles of hiking we reached the pass, got reception and managed to call for help. We then had to walk 2.25 miles back. At this stage I picked the poor runt dog up and carried him back down.
We finally made it back to the bakkie and after a few minutes help arrived. A big Chevy with a front and back winch. His friends ragged and teased him but got him back on the road. At this point AJ got through on the radio and we were able to tell him to stop walking and wait for us. Back up the pass we went. Third time lucky.
6 miles later we came across AJ. Party saver and I were so tired, we just set up our tents, cooked food and fell asleep. Or tried to. The wind howled all night and we got hardly any sleep. Consolation – only 15 miles to town!