You can tell that by Day 9, yesterday, I’ve finally slipped fully into the tramping experience, more of the challenges of the previous day, ie, sliding down steep movable slopes, it was a day of zen-like trance, concentrating on breathing, the occasional tomtit, composing a response, now totally irrelevant, to some online forum issue, clearly it’s been on my mind.

Then the unreconstructed Mid Wairoa Hut, in mostly original condition, except the paint and a new set of bunks and standard pale green fireproof mattresses, there’s the original open fireplace once all huts had these, a new cap on the chimney, and the newish concrete hearth, barely adequate width for the purpose, but the inside bench is still galvanised steel sheet, there’s no windows of consequence, in fact the hut is all back to front, the bunks on the side with the view, no windows there, the dirty tongue in groove floor, a cupboard with a stack of five year old local newspapers still wrapped with twine for the most part, thoughtfully provided for fire lighting I guess.

The door has a flat sliding bolt, if it had a matching lock it would sit comfortably in jail, there’s one on the toilet as well, the unweathered plywood the dunny sits on showing it’s been recently relocated, the timber seat Number 8 wire toilet roll holder, with a short section of common garden hose added in a decorative flourish, showing the actual structure has been around as long as the hut.

Mid Wairoa Hut is on the edge of a clearing, a picnic table plonked down, but the open area is so lumpy that there is no spot to set up even a single tent other than for those who have the ability to sleep on a lumpy camel’s back. There’s a few mature lancewoods but the pervading atmosphere is the sweet, almost sickly odour of the honeydew from the red beech trees, the smell the word cloying was invented for. And the gorgeous river, better termed stream up here.

It hasn’t rained for 12 days so it’s perfect conditions for journeying up a steep sided river. It’s a day of sidling around near vertical slopes, at times the narrow track is a sheer 20 m drop off to the side, wouldn’t be so pleasant in the wet but you just concentrate on the track ahead and cruise on through.

There’s a few encounters with the gorgeous river, although at least at the start you are high above the gorges, small pools with clear water, a frothy white waterfall into that green-blue water, every pebble evident. There’s eight actual river crossings, the hut book at Mid Wairoa mentions knee-deep for some, but due to this local drought I skip across all without getting my feet wet. The track has been pruned between the two huts, a couple of months ago and it must have been needed towards the top judging by the amount of shrubbery lying by the side of the track. That means the infamous crossing, could’ve been jumped today, that’s the one just above a 4 m waterfall, has been sensibly moved another 50 m upstream where the consequences of a slip are not immediately as dire.

Just to reiterate, the section would be worrisome in the wet but just like Mt Rintoul most people express in exhilaration having completed it. Sure is purdy.

And just while we’re having a descriptive day with the huts, Top and Mid Wairoa Huts have a similarity, same plan, same open fireplace, etc, but where the Mid version is full on gloom, deep in the valley, back turned, Top is all light, for a start it’s painted “Emergency Orange” with the hut number, 513, painted in black on the roof, just like in the old NZFS days, the door opened to a 20°+C room, the windows face the sun and the view.

There’s a strange divide here to the vegetation, on one side of the stream it’s standard beech forest, on this, where the hut stands it’s clearly Red Hills territory, not unlike the Dun Mountain, scrubby manuka and dracophyllum.

Yes, the sun is shining, the view is just fine sitting perched above the hut, Day 10 of this jaunt, not a worry in the world.

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