Loved my little campsite, soft grass, no condensation, rosy sunrise, two cups of coffee.

Life is good.

Seven minutes into my walk I run into a French couple, Loic and Sandi, and progress stops for a good while, they were having breakfast and expressed their mixed feelings about finishing their South Island walk. There’s plenty of smiles and general cheeriness, I like the other TA walkers, but as I am going the opposite direction to the majority of the walkers it means there’s seldom enough time for a full friendship to develop.

Once in motion it seemed I was somewhat further from the hut then I realised last night, plus there was some swampy territory to negotiate. Aparima is well located, perched above the river in a sunny spot, well, if Southland ever gets sunny. There are actually two huts, the old one has been retained, and in the other, the new version, not that new, a gruff couple were still in residence.

In the way this track is happened for me, my choice of course, I had no real idea how far the next hut was away, 16 km the sign said and of course there was plenty of time to continue.

After yesterday in the beech forest the track is out in the tussockland, I’m guessing that this might be something I see more of in the more immediate future. Coming out of the forest, the wind was a full on gale, me marching directly into said wind, the waist high tussock waving vigorously, if not wildly in the breeze, a zany experience, almost inducing motion sickness, no fixed points of reference.

I’m starting to find that often with marching through tussock there isn’t much immediate indication of the track, there’s a marker pole every few hundred metres, you just bash through the tussock clumps on you own path, mostly okay, occasionally at the small streams more care is required to avoid any hidden holes.

This goes on for hours but the views are stunning, rocky mountains around, down to a meandering creek, and more rocky outcrops, the route for much of the way is relatively flat. Then the clouds roll in, sunscreen no longer essential to be applied, drizzle at times, showers, the last three hours in rain as popularly defined.

I’m travelling in my overtrou and raincoat, no worries, this is the first serious daytime rain since I set out on Stewart Island four weeks ago. Well, that motivates forward motion, the bushes wet you, every now and again huge drops fall from the trees for my benefit. I generally do daily ablutions with my face cloth but this time the water is certainly penetrating to all parts of my anatomy.

There is a given in most tramping days you get some respite on the track, a few kilometres of easy walking, but while the last section in the forest is an old track, ie, you scarcely need the markers to follow the route, there’s an 800 metre high pass to climb, okay it is only a 400m ascent, but is now getting on in the day. Then, that negotiated, the last hour is the longest sidle for a while, steep slopes at the top, a 400m drop down to the hut, all that elevation lost, well, the last two minutes were easier.

You pop out to the hut, the typical NZFS six bunker, somewhat wet and what do you know, I’m on my lonesome.

Yay!

It’s 7 30pm.

I make a little movie and play it back, man, I look gaunt and even more wild eyed than usual, verging on insanity. It’s been another big day.

There’s a mirror on the wall, the first DOC hut I’ve been in with one, clearly I need to be eating more. And what about that rest day?

One of the people I met on the trail today, Dave, had said he lost 12kg in the North Island section of TA, which he claims he didn’t have to lose. It’s no wonder with the way Dave and Willi are gunning it, the last two days have both been a big 45km, today is just Day 97 from Cape Reinga.

I’m starting to see a pattern here with my fellow travellers, all determination, a fair level of discipline, but an entirely jovial disposition. We generally stop for a chat and swap hints for the next section and have a little five minute session on the meaning of life.

I might have a big day tomorrow as well, I’m now officially out of the Takitimus, there’s a gravel road outside the hut and it’s much flatter on the remaining 100km to the Greenstone Track roadend. 30 km of farms tomorrow.

Maybe stretching my own legs is a good idea.

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A guide to the night’s accommodation: Lower Princhester Hut

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