The reason I had gotten ahead was that Bethany had detoured to visit a waterfall. Once again she earned her Trail Name, Mermaid, given her because I so often happen upon her, naked in the water. That girl sure loves to skinny-dip! (And she's probably cleaner than me thanks to her willingness to brave the icy water.) My own trail name is up for debate. One name could be Robin, because the New Zealand Robins, brazen little fellows with plumage like a smart, dark grey tuxedo, seem to love me. I've even had them land on my boots, pull at my backpack straps, and peck at my pant legs. They also eat sand flies, which I find to be an extremely endearing quality. The other trail name up for grabs is Ragamuffin. Ragamuffin came up in a conversation we had while hitchhiking. I stated that I hoped I was not to much of a ragamuffin to catch a ride and then, because we had had to share our last paltry granola bar for breakfast, added that I would also like to eat a ragamuffin. Bethany pictured a dirty rag baked into a muffin, but I was envisioning a delicious muffin recipe gone slightly awry. The muffins might look a bit odd, a bit grungy or dishevelled, but they would be good on the inside. Like me :) Feel free to weigh in on the trail name debate!
We only walked 6.7 km today, our shortest hike since Day 2. The shortness of this hike was not planned, and neither was it due to a particularly difficult trail. We arrived at Upper Travers Hut in the early afternoon with the plan to continue on after lunch, but it was too lovely to leave. There were two bedrooms and a common room - we could have our own space for a whole night! - and huge windows looking out on a spectacular valley framed by imposing mountains. Too difficult to pass up.
Later in the afternoon, we were joined by a Northbound TA hiker named Johannes, from Germany. Bethany had gone for a nap just before he arrived, but the two of us chatted for hours. He was a very interesting fellow, rather quiet but very smart and with similar interests to me. We discussed Buddhism, particularly mindfulness, and Plato. He said he'd been an avid atheist until his girlfriend did a retreat on Buddhism, and he found the logic of it to be compelling. Now, he said, he understands the compelling power of religion and accepts all of them as possibilities, but has stuck to Buddhist philosophy and meditation himself. We also discovered a mutual love of similar books (including Lord of the Rings and Patrick Rothfuss) and, of course, nature. After Bethany got up (actually, I suggested she get up because it was her turn to make dinner and I was hungry), we ate and then the three of us went outside to meditate as twilight descended on our beautiful valley. It was a good end to the day.