Farewell sunny Nelson, hello gloom.

Oh, and Canterbury.

It might be gloom but there’s still no rain. I lay in bed, prior to get up time, not ever able to stretch out in those canvas bunks otherwise comfy enough, and listening to a couple of stag roars in the medium distance with a reply even more remote. It’s that time of year so I guess there’s hunters about.

I’d eliminated most of the sandflies in the bivvy last night, well, after each time I went out, opening the door was an invitation to the party within and like a flock of itinerant teenagers with not much to do those pests accepted my hospitality. Usually in the morning you have some respite, again similar as with teenagers, but on this occasion, the temperature inside the hut 13° C, ie, verging on tropical for 900 m elevation in the middle of autumn, those varmints were up and swarming before me.

I also sprang up early, just after the 5 am news, although the weather forecast sounded suspiciously like yesterday’s, maybe it gets updated at 6 am.

There was a feeling that it’s a 25 km walk today and so it transpired, but unlike yesterday’s ups and downs and the three days beforehand when I think about it, Angelus and Travers Saddle, I was able to stretch out and amble down that broad Waiau River valley. The river was not all that broad, the first two crossings splashed through, feet still dry, further down I repeat the dose to avoid a climb, okay the first time around but the return trip finally allows the rinsing of the feet although the river level was still lower than my gaiters. Managed to spot five large-ish trout in a convoy. Once they spotted my bright blue raincoat they shot by upstream at a great rate, I never realise they could sprint quite that fast, I hope any stray hunter can see me with similar alacrity and give me a wide birth. [Later I’m told these are probably migrating salmon.]

At least at this hut, on my lonesome again, I can stretch out, fully, with half the afternoon off, these early starts make the daylight as long as it can be.

A hunter strolls past, not too gregarious he doesn’t come in for a chat, but a stray fishermen, luckless, does and says there’re four of them, hunters mostly up at the nearby Cullers Hut, a tiny four bunker less than an hour up the valley, a tight squeeze, bench about half the size of a card table, they are in for 11 nights, leaving Friday. They have managed to shoot a pig and chamois, he kind of adds, each, but I’m not sure whether to believe that. Suppose it is more of a guys getting away from wives scenario, the actual killing side of things might not be a big deal. The weather has just been too good for hunting and that I can almost believe.

In the end it doesn’t look as if others will arrive in my spacious accommodation, 14 bunks, but the rain has. The fire is going, I’m down to jocks and singlet, it’s not going to be a cold night.

I might well be horizontal before it’s fully dark.

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