This far into a trip I’ve ceased with any anticipation, it’ll be just another day out here, but then you find, occasionally, you get a day out of the box where you just get one surprise after another.

A bit of lounging drinking coffee early on, after being the first up, not long after 6am. Half the team takes off for a view of Lake Minchin, the others, well, don’t.

Poulter Hut is remarkably comfortable and information gleaned from the Worsley hut book suggests that Minchin might not be, 1.5 X 2m supposedly, built for small types, not so sensibly sized for me, and I have no great ambition to progress beyond, I’ve three more nights food and only two huts.

The drizzle has stopped, mist around but you sense it will burn off, as it does. The boys stroll back from the lake, I make sure I have every bit of gear and take off into the forest. It’s all still mountain beech, not much undergrowth but there is more of the fluorescent coloured lichen and moss. The track doesn’t get much traffic, ie, it’s truly gorgeous, the gals really missed out by deleting the lake from their itinerary.

Before long, with not much of a climb, there’s the lake.

Unbelievable.

Pretty? Indeed.

It’s one of the most spectacular settings, and over the other side is a 30m waterfall dropping down the mountainside, the lake a green colour, the mountains close all around, still with some snow, mist around in wisps, paradise ducks, a single noisy Canada goose, and a group of some species that proves reticent, paddling over to the other side of the lake, maybe some sort of duck.

I spend an hour stationary, sitting on some scree, just soaking it all in.

There’s deer tracks at the head of the lake and I make tracks. Actually from here there’s not so much track, you stumble up the river, not quite wanting to get feet wet once again by crossing, actually an ankle deep stream despite yesterdays precipitation, but in the end it doesn’t matter, you need to cross the full river, knee deep to start. The only significant climb for the day, a modest 150m vertical distance to get around a gorge. That’s the end of the markers for a while.

In the distance I hear keas, actually they now seem to be circling me and when I stop at a vantage point they make my acquaintance more personally. One of them walks right up to me, a metre from my boot, then tries to get round behind. I want that big bird in my sight and it surprisingly obliges, the second one not quite so bold but close enough, 5m, I have quite a conversation with them, the close one nodding its head wisely at what I have to say and sometimes moving its head as if in disbelief. Personality plus and that crazy pigeon-toed walk. Quite stiff and awkward. So close encounters with inquisitive keas away from car parks, really made the day.

Then, I could have stayed there hours, I progressed up to the biv. Most give up on crashing through the mix of chest height tussock, aciphylla, hebes and dracophyllum. Some track cutting has been done around the bigger rocks on the river, Ie, house size ones, it’s serious rock hopping, might as well get into the river, having wet feet anyway, just bash straight up the river.

It’s not so far to the night’s accommodation, I had in mind I might as well continue if it’s before 1pm but but it’s almost half past, by the time I have a bite to eat it will be 2pm and I don’t really want to arrive at Kiwi Hut in the dark.

I’m staying.

Minchin is an historic bivvy, not many stay here for some reason, actually I can think of a few immediately, the location, not exactly a major tourist track, the size of the bivvy, let’s just say it’s like a timber tent. It’s bigger than estimated in the Worsley hut book, it’s more 1.8 × 2.4m than the 1.5 × 2m mentioned, but the door is only about 1.2m metres high, the ridge, 1.5 m. It’s tight and I read that six people stayed inside one dark and stormy night,. That would be cosy.

Another reason to find somewhere else is that there is one decent long bunk, The other, crossways, quite short, neither of them have mattresses. There’s a door, and a window looking up the valley. No toilet. Quite a walk to the creek for water. And it’s somewhat green in places inside, it leaks. Half the original building paper remains, with graffiti from the 1960s. Syd Stewart must have been here on 2 April 1963, L Purser and L Bullivant on 7 January 1966, an unknown NZFS shooter from summer 67 – 68, C McNay 1972. The oldest graffiti, somewhat indistinct, was a government shooter here in winter 1960. There’s others but they are too indistinct and in any case barely half the tar building paper remains. You can say it’s historic.

I turn out to be the first person to actually sleep here since 2 February, more than seven months ago, although a few others have had day trips up here.

I wrote in the hut book I’d be in bed by 5 30pm but I managed to get that wrong. By the time I had dinner it was almost an hour later and here am I trying not to look at those green and mouldy 50 × 50 timber rafters, they are just a few inches away from my head when horizontal. Actually the entire structure is 50 × 50, everything miniature. Condensation is already forming on the underside of the tin, no lining, certainly no insulation.

Just get to sleep in a hurry and don’t think about it. That’s not hard.

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