Some fog over the lake.

The full panoply of stars on show.

Already the cicadas are doing their thing. Almost drowning out the sound of the river, the main body of which is close by. The section I have to cross again is fairly small in comparison, probably 5% of the total Hollyford River flow.

The Hollyford is a mighty big river.

The Darran Mountains to the west are partly on show. They look high popping up from sea level, and super abrupt.

No easy task getting up the bluffs that protect access to the tops.

Being so close, nestled under the bottom slopes almost, it’s hard to gain full appreciation of the ruggedness, but I guess I’ll get glimpses of my way to Hidden Falls Hut.

You might think that with the removal of 18 days’ food from my pack weight that my pack is feeling lighter.

It is, but my shoulders still feel bruised from earlier loads, and I have a general body weariness.

Plenty of enthusiasm for finding fresh food in Te Anau.

And some getting variety in diet. The ease of putting together my menu, just take 20 days of everything the same, more or less, has a downside in the monotony of each meal.

My theory that waiting for fine, or at least finer, dining once I have recontacted civilisation is clearly hard work once past the week mark. Hence the mussels.

Now only one night to go, and a popular hut.

Might be in my tent to pre-empt another Hokuri/Martins Bay style socialisation.

What? Me antisocial?

It’s just hard to deal with the different expectations of the usual population who inhabit a hut only two or so hours from the car park.

But it did turn into a social day after an introspective start.

Crossing the river was easier: it was way down. I’d left a stick at the evening river level, and the river looked down about 400 or 500 mm or thereabouts in the morning.

I bunched up my shorts and they received very little drenching.

Then it was meeting nine trampers, all off to Demon Trail Hut.

The last was Danilo Hegg, who I immediately recognised due to having read about him in the Federated Mountain Club magazine last night.

We had a good chat. I told him I followed him around the Northwest and Southern Circuits on Stewart Island/Rakiura last September. He had spent a lot of the summer there, taking his pack raft via the Tin Range over to Port Pegasus/Pikihatiti. Twice. He said that encounters with amorous sea lions while midstream was his greatest memory, as the enormous animals attempted to also board his small kayak.

Wish I’d had more time.

His photos at Southern Alps photography are extraordinary, a fantastic collection of images of mostly the southern South Island mountains. I’d used it to get inspiration for my Marlborough wanderings the previous summer.

He was lugging a huge pack with plenty of camera gear and his tent so he could spend a couple of weeks up in the Skippers Range, ie, the mountains between Lake McKerrow/Whakatipu Waitai and Lake Alabaster/Wāwāhi Waka.

Time to move on.

The Lake Alabaster/Wāwāhi Waka water level was up significantly, but then I was heading the other direction at pace.

Very little food board now.

As expected I found a few people in the hut. A family, then a fisherman turned up, and almost on dark a local hunter.

I had decided against my tent, to keep it dry.

Most were New Zealanders, so it was convivial company.

Just the two and a bit hours out to the road in the morning, then attempting to hitchhike down the 17 km to the Milford Highway to Te Anau, and waiting civilisation.

What craziness would await?

+++++horizontal rule+++++

A guide to the night’s accommodation: Hidden Falls Hut

The Darran Range is magnificent, with the sun out.  | Hidden Falls Hut, Hollyford Track
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