Everyone was up and away early, I was on my lonesome for the first time in days.

More coffee, writing my blog for yesterday, looked up and discovered it was just after 9am. Plenty of time so I went down to the Doughboy River looking for kiwi prints. These proved elusive but something else in the Fauna Department was down at the beach: a big sea lion.

I became quite somewhat emotional outside the hut when preparing to depart, realising this really is the zenith of my two year tramping career, I won’t be doing too many of these two week excursions in the future, I’m going to have to create a more normal life once I return to civilisation, job, etc, and also recognising from now on most places will be more populated.

I’ve quite a history with this hut, first staying in it as a 19 year old when it was in its original location at the old Long Harry site, before it was transported by the Navy using a barge and a couple of helicopter flights. This is my third trip here, the first two times had been two nights, this one three, and that all adds up to eight nights in total.

It’s a splendid location down here, there’s plenty to occupy your days off: the walk along the beach to the marvellous rock formations; the walk to the point with the powerful Southern Ocean swell crashing in; extensive views to the Tin Range; or from the lookout up Doughboy Hill.

This time round of I have met two sets of great people, so long conversations, getting into the nitty-gritty of life, some laughs. More popular huts, that take less effort to get to, make these connections harder to make, nothing like shared adversity to bring out the best in people.

Finally around 11 I’m all set and head off, pack way lighter. At the end of the beach of whitetail leaps over some bushes on their way to the shrubbery cover, white tail popping up and down. I saw one at the other end of the beach last night but these rate as separate sightings, now totaling six, make that seven deer on the trip. Zero kiwis of the ornithological variety.

There’s been no substantial rain for two weeks, at least well I’ve been here, so the mud isn’t the problem of some. The 400 m climb isn’t so bad, I zip up Adams Hill, then spend a couple of hours lounging in some sun. It’s breezy but it’s the best weather for days, the views are great up there, all the way to Mason Bay to Codfish/Whenau Hou and the Ruggedys, Mt Anglem/Hananui, half the island.

I’ve arranged to camp with a couple, Tim and Katie, down near the Kilbride homestead at the south end of that long Mason Bay Beach, they have gone swimming, but eventually another fine evening was spent in great company and perhaps some less great, swarms of sandflies, but we wrap up and apply a variety of lotions, my supertoxic if not fully carcinogenic, Bushman is the repellent to beat any repellent, problem being that it can dissolve your skin, and if you get it in your eyes or your lips, ain’t made for happy times.

Tomorrow, the tourists and daytrippers.

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