From shelter to shelter, not the biggest tramping day, the sign said, err, 2.5 hours.

I managed to string it out for much of the day, an hour up on the Saddle, elevation 1000m or thereabouts, but I also stopped a few times on the way up to take a closer look at the shaggy silver beech forest, dripping with pale lichen, and later, the mountain cabbage trees that must be mentioned in some literature about the track because both the goat shooters and the Irish couple, bit older than me I guess, I met on the track just before emerging from the bush, spoke about them. The couple had shared accommodation last night at Taipo Hut with Mitch, who had been that 6th body at Belltown when I spent the night there.

Yikes. I’ll be at Taipo on the morning of Day 4 of my trip, I’ve rarely had a tramp with such minimal progress, nothing to do with terrain, although it was a sustained climb to the Saddle, I just like the idea of staying in these tiny huts, despite the lack of a firebox, and the condensation leaving the walls and ceiling dripping, they really are just my thing.

Stag Flat just slightly bigger than last night’s shelter and has a shovel rather than a toilet, and a small water tank as its major facility. This structure has a more traditional construction, plywood interior/ corrugated steel exterior, dropped here in 2007 as the old bivvy where I once stayed, not much bigger, was in a possible avalanche path. The double glazing is all very well but there’s a vent on the door and a permanent vent high up to avoid inhabitants suffering carbon monoxide poisoning.

A sign states we’re at 970m which I believe because it’s not so far down from the saddle and it’s feeling cool in here, my thermometer says 11ºC just before 5pm. That’s the reason I’m cooking dinner from inside my sleeping bag, again, this delicate body hasn’t adjusted to NZ temperatures just yet.

Instead of the forecast weather bomb there wasn’t much in the way of the proverbial in the sky when I opened the shelter door this morning, after what I presume was last night’s rain there was no frost, just a weka darting furtively around and a more gregarious robin who came to say gidday.

In fact it was a day of wildlife, up on the saddle I encountered a pair of, well what, they weren’t red deer that’s for sure, smaller and not too deerlike, two prongs indicating they were chamois, bobbing up the snowgrass and tussock from the saddle, somewhat affronted by my intrusion but at least from their perspective I’m not an armed goat shooter.

Another weka squawks in the distance.

A couple of candles in my plywood box, I’m feeling quite at home.

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