After three nights at Doughboy, two full days off, it seems strange to have another slack day, just walking up the beach, and then over to Freshwater, no hillclimbing required at all. Particularly when I left just on 7am, before breakfast, thought I’d cook it up in the sandfly free environs of Mason Bay Hut, an hour and a bit up the beach.

But I’m capable of finding any distractions and while I don’t bother with Cavalier Hunters Hut, been up there last visit, after following the deer tracks for most to the beach I head into Martin’s Creek hunter’s hut.

A bloke, Owen, is just leaving, barefoot, with a swimming mask attached to his pack, he’s been using it to gather paua and kina which is his staple diet currently, a few fish caught. I enthuse him about the Tin Range, he just done the Jackson Bay to Hollyford route, three nights at Big Bay, venison and massive crays a staple around there and now the North-west Circuit heading onto the Southern. He hands me his impressive business card, written on the back of a brachyglottis leaf in biro, he wants information on the Tin Range, I’m needing Jackson Bay advice.

At the hut is a gal who has been following a similar path, on the North-west Circuit, the adventure quotient scaled back a factor but subsisting off the same diet, no early start for her on Day 8, she’s off to Doughboy as well.

Then the hut warden from Mason Bay, off to stretch her legs for a few hours, Doughboy direction, has to be back by 5pm to check hut passes, a volunteer position for eight nights, a friend of the irrepressible Klaartje.

Eventually I roll into Mason Bay Hut around 10am for a late brekkie, have the place to myself and dry out my wet tent and damp sleeping bag, it’s going to be one of the warmer days of summer today, 30ºC predicted. I also wash a few things and they don’t take long to dry.

A couple, young New Zealanders, come past but don’t come over, I go out to chat for a while, talk about catching up on socialisation, they are heading down to near where we were camped last night, returning to Freshwater, then travelling water taxi style. I hang around some more time for lunch, not so early, and around 3 pm start towards Freshwater Hut, three to four hours away by DOC reckoning.

I’ve had a good run with the hunters’ huts, I decide to go on up to the Homestead Hunter’s Hut, a 10 minute side trip, but there are three hunters in residence so it’s time for another chat, another hour or so goes by, when I get back to where I left my pack it’s after 5 pm.

Despite some rain last night, I had slept through it all, the track is remarkably dry, today has been is as warm day as you get down here and windy and the pools of mud are sporadic. In times gone by I’ve walked waist deep here in places, water that is, when finishing the North-west Circuit. Nothing like that today, it’s a race track so I surprised the only residents of Freshwater Hut when I finally stumble in at around 7 30.

Frankly I’m over talking much more today, this is round six: Owen, Gabrielle, hut warden, young New Zealanders, hunters and I’m about out with anything of freshness and relevance. They are already in their sleeping bags and switch off around 9.

Sometimes you can just talk yourself to exhaustion.

I find I have walked 28 km today, but the total climbing is just 260m.

+++++horizontal rule+++++

A guide to the night’s accommodation: Freshwater Landing Hut

Freshwater Hut, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island
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