So this alpine journey has come to its conclusion and I’m back for some brief refreshment in civilisation.

There was the early-morning light on Gordon’s Knob, that’s the name of a hill, might not have been the actual summit because that was named from the Nelson side, I should say the Gordon Range.

The Red Hills hut is relatively near the highway, that’s State Highway 63, the main route between Blenheim, therefore the North Island, and the West Coast, where you just zip up the broad Wairau River valley, actually the major NZ Alpine Fault and then down the Buller.

I took a peek last night over the edge, you see the start of the Rainbow River valley, the major Wairau tributary.

Because of the proximity to the road and the lack of much substantial vegetation to contribute to the woodshed, there is no fire box in the newish hut, but additional heating is clearly not required today.

This morning’s trot down the hill was a 4WD track, a different type of track to which I’ve been recently accustomed, starting steep with rolly polly rocks to keep you alert and slowly levelling out until as a major shock near the bottom you reach an old two room cob house, no longer occupied but it must be getting on for 150 years old, many a story told in there no doubt. Then, despite what my map predicted, rather than making for the almost adjacent SH 63, the track turns back to a tramping track and I found myself once again in the ascent phase. I only had a tablespoon or so of powdered milk aboard as excess foodstuffs, somehow I did manage to allot my rations right on the money. Nothing else left. Oh, some coffee.

The last surprise was a creek with a log bridge as an alternative to getting the feet wet, I chanced my luck, it’s been so dry greasiness wasn’t any issue.

Suddenly I’m in a carpark and then out on the road. My experience with hitching has been variable and not being officially on Te Araroa there’s no guilt in accepting a ride, then again you have to get a ride. I decided to take off for St Arnaud, 10 or so k away, they say two or three hours for the dedicated, and make my way over the Wairau saddle and almost to the Top House turn off before a similarly conversation starved driver took pity and stopped. He’d taken to farming recently without prior training, and 25 cows of a certain breed on his 25 ha, but his major interest was in growing saffron about which I learned the intricacies, easy to grow, you need plenty of flowers though, his first harvest yielded 410 g, that’s $410, so there’s plenty of room for expansion, some interesting conversation.

The obligatory welcome back pie, then a banana and an orange.

It’s great to be back in civilisation.

The weather forecast for the next week remains excellent and it seems a pity to race back to Nelson when I could be appreciating that mountain sunshine and a surfeit of oxygen. I haven’t been up to Angelus Hut since it had been rebuilt and then I started thinking about wandering over to the D’Urville Valley, another week’s supply of food should do it.

There’s still the afternoon so I go over to DOC to book my spot in Angelus Hut tomorrow night, they direct me to a self-serve booking computer, I become confused by what date tomorrow might be and then there’s a complicated registration procedure that proves just too obscure so they have to book it for me.

For once I have some company, it’s been in 11 days since I had an evening with anyone, eight teenagers at Roebuck, so there’s some conversation to catch up with. My body is in surprisingly good nick although those toenails are looking rather smashed up.

I take to a comfy backpackers bunk after a long shower, the washing of my attire and a generous feed but true to form there’s no one else in my room. The staff may have sensed the room would turn into a catastrophe with drying clothes hanging from any possible spot.

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