Inside a heavily insulated hut of the type DOC have been constructing this century rainfall is not easily appreciated, when compared with the older style NZFS tin boxes where even a light shower can sound like a deluge. During the night, on the occasions I woke, I could hear a faint sound on the veranda roof so who knows, maybe it rained all night, but in any event the rain wasn’t particularly heavy, just a gentle drizzle.

That’s the situation at first light and in view of the 5 am weather forecast reporting a Severe Weather Situation today, heavy rain predicted for the Southern Alps, clearing in the afternoon, it seems sensible to stay another day here in the cosy Poulter Hut, it’s clean, big timber supply, good windows, even if the view is almost entirely of mist. I have a spare day up my sleeve in terms of food supply, before rationing would need to take hold. There’s the hope a southerly change predicted will clear up the skies and once again make forward progress more pleasurable.

Across the valley is evidence of a massive historic slip which must have come close to blocking the valley. The mountain beech forest that covers it is uniform but of a distinctly different age than that elsewhere, maybe it’s taken 80 years for the new forest to become established. Much of the gravel in the slip has been washed away by the river through the years, you sense that when the river flows here it can get quite fearsome, the valley although wide is relatively steep. There’s a long exposed edge to the slip, maybe 500 m long, and, thinking cricket pitches here, around 20 to 30 m high, close to vertical which is remarkable when the majority of the slip consists of a mixed assortment of loose gravels.

There’s one cloud, covering the entire sky, down to a low altitude, dense, immovable, but I’m happy enough ensconced in this ply-lined hut, resting aged limbs, no need to whack wet boots on, just taking it easy.

The day is filled with staring out into the gloom, drinking occasional cups of tea, discharging same, having periodic sandfly killing sessions, they conveniently display themselves on the windows, how they enter I’m unaware but hundreds are purged during the day, adding wood to the fire and adjusting the vent to ensure it barely burns, heating water for a decent wash and shave, once more by Braille, re-reading the hut book, preparing lunch, scoffing it, that doesn’t take long, checking to see if the radio works in daylight hours, it doesn’t, just static, more tea, more toiletry, less sandflies, eventually settling for reading on iPod touch, in this case the splendid, hugely hilarious “Roughing It”, Mark Twain’s first major book, a story of his crossing, mostly, of the American continent in the late 1860s by stagecoach, of making and losing a fortune, but mostly recounting various exploits, some probably true, which had a timeless nature, like, for instance, travelling in some remote part with a friend in the snowstorm, losing the track, travelling in circles for a while before they realised they were following their own footprints, then the horses with all their gear still attached running off, leaving them to spend a bleak night in the snow, only to find in the morning the stage coach station was just 50m away and the horses had spent a cosy night in stables.

Then, to occupy more daylight hours, back to finding things to eat buried in my pack I didn’t realise I had, such as crystallised ginger, intense flavour appreciated, or looking at gloom and drizzle, and wondering when this change is going to sweep through.

One of those tramping days where at no point were boots installed, not even for a short walk to see if there was yet a river as normally defined, instead just watching a solitary wet black backed gull cruise up and down the valley over the river from time to time, must be finding something of interest out here as well.

I’m in the first hut resident for more than four months. Then, despairing of what to do I numerate the total nights in the last year from the hut book, exactly 100, boosted by two Auckland Tramping Club partys coming through with 27 nights between them. I guess there’s plenty who don’t write their name in the book thinking that someday DOC will track them down to pay their fees. There are a fair number who come on day trips from Casey, up to Lake Minchin, and a few tales of catching trout in both the river and the lake.

Still waiting for that change to come through, instead there’s the heaviest downpour all day.

20 minutes later a lycra clad guy with a bike helmet and cleated shoes comes in, a small pack on his back, five more are on their way. Seems it will be even cosy tonight. The National Park has opened up the Poulter from the Mount White Road to Trust/Poulter Hut, 27 km, to mountain bikes, seems being the weekend some people are out and about despite the weather forecast.

So after months without anyone taking advantage of the amenity here, then a night by myself, all of a sudden there’s seven of us, the fire cranked up, wine, Sambuca, Canadian Club out, none offered my direction, crackers, soft cheese, I scored there, conversation, my efforts met with indifference, seems I’m the odd one out with this self contained bunch.

I’m having one of those rare nights with others in a hut, indeed my first shared night for the last 11.

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