In amongst the kerfuffle of the DOC team’s departure, a helicopter is involved, I decided to go up to the waterfall. I’d seen one from down by the river, not much flow with the paucity of rain in the last 48 hours and thought, oh well, just have to make that Moderate Effort, it’s marked as 20 minutes away and I’m in no particular hurry to throw on that pack again, I have the whole day to make it down the track to Moturau, no hills, basically flat.

I guess that waterfall should be classed as a highlight, but it turns out I wasn’t visiting that trickle coming down the side of the valley, the falls were in fact the main body of the river, ie, considerable, and while the actual drop was nothing particularly outstanding, maybe 10m in total, the volume of water certainly was, a tremendous cascade surrounded by silver beech forest.

There is some scuffling on the water, a blue duck paddling, then jumping out of the water up into the bush, and, yes, it was vigorously jumping, it’s nesting time of year and there must be a nest somewhere under a fallen log.

On the way back I spot the mate paddling rapidly downstream, maybe noticing the sound of a helicopter once again down by the hut.

Suddenly the hut and its environs are strangely empty, about 15 of us last night, others had returned home in the afternoon, now, just me. I briefly considered staying another night but after doing the calculations, that will be impinging on the other end of this season’s tramping, I’ve still got about 25 more nights on my planned tramps plus some rest days in Te Anau and instead think that today is more obvious a kind of rest day. The sign does say six hours to Moturau Hut but I’m thinking I can reduce that considerably by striding out.

The track is dry, totally easy, a few minor climbs but eventually I pop out at Lake Manapouri. And that gives another highlight, a view across to the Hunter Mountains, the Turret Range on either side of South Arm, miles away. The mountains might be modest dimension but they make up for it with an abruptness in the way that glaciated terrain just happens, ie, big on the steepness side of things.

Now, not a cloud in the sky, the sun gone down, dinner already scoffed and a useful conversation with one of the track cutters who are creating a division as the river, Iris Burn, cuts into the forest, the old track soon to plunge. He knows every track in the region, had a lot to do with them, reckons the Routeburn is much more of the avalanche risk than the Kepler, that the Hollyford is a beautifully maintained track, now almost flood proof, and that the Milford Track is clearly still too much of an avalanche risk to contemplate for a while. So, two out of three ain’t bad.

The three track cutters are accommodated in the adjacent staff building.

Me?

I’m finally on my own so it is might be quite the early night.

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