I enjoyed staying at West Harper, despite the dirt floor and the saggy old canvas bunk. It was so calm and peaceful in there, the type of silence you rarely experience in this modern world, the kind when your mind stops racing, agitation dissipated, anticipation pointless, feeling the beat of your heart, hearing the flow of the river, and, occasionally the lonesome squawk of a kea as the sky darkened.

Early to bed, what else is there to do, I listen to the radio for awhile, the Racing Channel and Radio Rhema are clear, but now and again I can find something of more substance coming out of the static.

This morning there was hardly a frost and after the dense clouds of yesterday, err, not a cloud once again. How long can this go on?

The trek up to Lagoon Shelter required somewhat more effort than the last couple of days even with the perfectly benched track. Some patches of bog here and there all day, and also short stretches of solid ice, white and a couple of inches thick. I found a stick for the trip to help with my balance in river crossings of which there were quite a few, but the rain has been a long time coming, three weeks almost, the water mostly snowmelt, I skipped over the rocks and the feet remained dry.

The sun was sure strong when I came out of the shadows, very tempting to sit and snooze but I had more of a sense of urgency today, eventually stumbling into Lagoon Shelter, the strange and tiny A frame structure, a large patch of solid ice at the porch, plenty of snow around. Up at 1160 m it was cold even at lunchtime. I wandered across the creek to the accompanying Lagoon Hut, although shed is a more accurate description. No windows, no fire, no mattresses for the two bunks although there is dunny a short distance away.

I’m moving onto Bealey Hut to make tomorrow into a reasonable day.

On the way up the track, you climb way above the lagoon and Lagoon Saddle, I ran into two keen blokes, the opposite of me. I’m clad in raincoat with a vest under, over-trou, gaiters, boots and hefting a pack that still has ten days food inside. They have runners and tiny packs, I didn’t tell them they will need the runners if they want to get to Hamilton tonight, it’s about 20km away and while almost all down hill there’s plenty of standard tramping track, ie, not so easy to make pace.

Half an hour later some day trippers catch up, a couple with day packs, ice axes and crampons, who have come up this way this morning and now hitting car-wards and then Christchurch tonight. I keep up for a while, 72 hours without conversation can do that to me, but eventually I realise I should save the knees, they have to be out of here quickly for some reason, maybe running away from me, the female able and willing to talk, the bloke, well, just not. I almost break out with you know, I have everything I need, I don’t want anything from you other than some polite conversation, but instead, when we catch up to another group I decide to take a break, in any case it’s pretty nice forest and there’s little point in running on. I also passed another couple making their way towards Lagoon Shelter for the night, there’s a lovely sheltered spot in the sunlight. I didn’t mention that their accommodation is still a fair hike, I wouldn’t be sitting on my choof for too much longer. Then again, who am I to say?

Actually, before I met this lot, I sat up above the saddle for a goodly while by myself, just contemplating that massive view over the Waimak and directly opposite the Bealey River.

And contemplating my next move. One thought was the Bealey Spur Hut, but in some ways it would be a repeat of today’s views. I noticed that the Waimak, a massive river at times, had completely disappeared out in the middle of the valley and had the thought that rather than attempting to hitch a ride tomorrow with a car on the highway I might just head directly for the Hawden River and zip up to the Hawden Hut. The river is so low it shouldn’t be any problem getting across. Then I’ll move over further east to the Poulter for a few days, maybe if the weather keeps up, I might be able to get up to Minchin Pass.

One thing for sure, there’s still nine nights of food aboard, even after tonight’s feed, so there’s plenty of options available. Just need this perfect weather to continue.

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