Sheep.

In case I didn’t realise I was in New Zealand the first part of the day was dominated by them four legged creatures. 2500 ewes and their lambs, probably 6000 of the bleaters.

There had been vehicular movement just after 6am, I was camped adjacent to the farm road, three 4WDs in quick succession from the sound, then just as my porridge came to the boil I spotted the first sheep a few hundred metres up the road, streaming over the pass.

My camp was quickly packed up and moved up the hill 20m and I ate my porridge watching sheep make their way down the hill, dogs working vigorously, plenty of noise from them all, hundreds, all bleating either for mum, or for a lost lamb, unwilling travellers, the pressure from those moving away from the dogs at the rear causing abrupt and seemingly random motion from those in front.

Luckily my stationary presence was of no consequence. I had a chat to the shepherd, there were more on the way.

The next group were less inclined to exhibit forward progress, but the dogs did their work and they made it past me. Another lot was apparent on the pass, those took their time, plenty of effort in bleating and attempting to return from whence they had come, most of the ewes and lambs were separated with this lot.

A reluctant lot, I said to the guy on a quad bike. He agreed, and he stops for a yarn to let the flock settle. Often the tailenders just stared at the woofing dogs, face-to-face, more worried by their missing lab, before charging off wherever, often back up the road, dogs in pursuit.

Finally the coast was clear, I’m able to depart over the pass. It’s 9 15am.

At the top a few stragglers, then around the bend I strike bunch number four.

Hunh? Why didn’t he warn me about yet another mob?

I push my way through them, start a stampede back along the road, there’s sheep everywhere but eventually the dogs do their thing and stop them and I’m through, climb the bank to avoid more sheep, and notice a guy with a horse and cowboy hat some distance away looking distinctly unimpressed. I sit while the last stragglers make a break for freedom, not my fault this time, a bunch have broken through a fence, the tail enders distinctly belligerent, like teenagers told to tidy the room.

Eventually that’s all behind me and I think how lucky that I didn’t continue further yesterday afternoon, or I would’ve had sheep all around.

Plenty more farm road to wander along, I had seen there was a DOC campsite on the map and was making for that.

I can report that the Telford campsite is distinguished by simply having a long drop toilet over a fence in an open paddock. Fortunately just before the fence, still in the farmland, there’s some silver beech trees to camp under, not far from the substantial stream. Actually it’s a great campsite, just not technically official.

Perfect. No problems with water. A soft campsite under a decent spreading tree.

Early-ish, maybe, but I’m sure I won’t be needing to count sheep to go to sleep tonight.

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A guide to the night’s accommodation: Telford campsite

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