3ºC inside the hut this morning, big frost outside, but there’s only three hours with the almost food free pack on to St Arnaud, round the lake and so like a metronome I’m out of bed at the usual time, eating my last porridge and drinking my last coffee ration.

Nothing much left in the pack except empty plastic bags and some dirty laundry.

Day 14 and I’ve survived, no more food except some nibbles for morning tea.

I was supposed to head out to civilisation today and here I am, for all that lackadaisical attitude I do tend to keep to a plan, although this one is ending without the night up Angelus, I wouldn’t mind the walk up, it’s the down that’s giving my knees trouble. I don’t mind finishing with just your basic wander around Rotoiti.

This is an area that’s one of NZ’s “mainland islands”, 5000 hectares with hundreds of traps of various persuasions, bait stations, etc, to exterminate the stupidly introduced pests, possums, stoats, feral cats, rats, and believe it or not, wasps. These devices are actively monitored, I finally meet humanity, four DOC staff out checking the lines and hear a cat was caught this morning.

I see a small possum in one of the cat traps that will soon be dispatched, via .22 with a silencer. It’s extraordinarily intensive work to keep a small area pest free but the change in habitat is startling, at least in my mind. Going for around 15 years there’s considerable regrowth of vegetative species now only seen sporadically in the rest of the forest I’ve been walking through for the past two weeks.

The biggest difference is that there is so much sound: birdsong. That’s been almost absent in the desert of earlier travels. A Weka has just been released from one of the cat traps, they are a diminishing breed elsewhere, and Kiwi have been re-released here and are flourishing in the conditions.

It’s a remarkable transformation back to the landscape that once was, and should be, here but at a cost of the enormous efforts needed for the tiny oasis in the vastness of the South Island.

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