From Rocks Hut you contemplate a reasonable view of Mt Richmond out the window, at least early on, but it wasn’t long before the clag enveloped the main ridge and, slowly the peak itself.

I’m in no particular hurry today, this will be the easiest day of this trip, just a quick drop down to Middy Hut and it ain’t such a long way. I can usually spin out this sort of thing, just sit in the forest to see what is around, a weka or two perhaps, but all I managed to see was a mouse scuttling around the base of the big red beech trees.

The red beech is magnificent here on the slopes of the Pelorus River valley, no clue as to why they are named red when the bark is completely black, a result of various species of fungus growing on what is exuded from the trunk by a honeydew insect. These little creatures burrow into the bark and create a sweet liquid that is food for birds, other insects, like the introduced wasps, or, if not consumed is washed over the tree exterior to feed those various black fungi that colour the trunk. Now you know.

I met a Te Araroa walker, going up to Rocks and then directly through to Totara Saddle and Hacket Hut. Then hitching to Nelson. I suggested going directly to Nelson the way I came yesterday, no hitching required. Well, he was doing it his way, said he was avoiding the Alpine Route. I stated, fairly categorically, that this was in fact the most enjoyable part of the entire 3000km walk but he said he would have to carry too much food. You could post your unneeded tent to St Arnaud, in any case nine days food should weigh around 5 to 6kg, how much weight do you need to save?

I’m not sure where people get their information, or decide on their itinerary, but, there you go. I don’t even bother too much these days, once people make a decision it can be a point of pride never to change it. Am I so flexible?

Actually on this trip I am, I’ve slowed to avoid bad weather on Mt Fell, as I continue there’s a few thunderclaps, the tops are completely shrouded. It starts raining as I get to the Roebuck Hut track junction, gets heavy as I cross the swing bridge and continues in true New Zealand fashion for an hour, I’m sitting in the hut by then.

Maybe it will be better tomorrow but by delaying I’ve given myself the best chance.

I also ran into another Nelson tramper, he’s off to the Brook and we talk about his experience on Mt Richmond, somehow his crew had spent time crashing around trying to find various huts in the dark.

The sign outside Middy says nine hours to the Mt Fell Hut. In my aged state I may take longer so I think early start is the way to go. If I leave at 7am then there’s 13 hours of daylight before I need to get a headlamp out.

Those two fellow trampers were in Middy last night. I note that there are quite a few people walking Te Araroa even at this time of year, 14 self described trekkers have come through since the beginning of October, all SOBOs, southbound, according to the hut book. I may meet them towards the end of their journey if I manage to get down to Bluff before Christmas to start my own trail north.

A few resident in Middy here for the night have indicated in the book they about to climb Mt Richmond: about ten saying they are heading up there in the last year, another, different ten coming down. Overall that isn’t a grand score considering the proximity to Nelson, a city with a population approaching 50,000 people.

I guess there’s too many alternatives that have a screen involved, maybe this tale will encourage a few to head off on their own Little Adventure.

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